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The first idea that comes to my mind when I think of American culture is uniqueness. Our culture is drastically different from so many others around the globe and those differences (some good and some bad) are what make our unique country what it is.
Culture is defined by The American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third edition as “The sum of attitudes, customs, and beliefs that distinguishes one group of people from another. Culture is transmitted, through language, material objects, ritual, institutions, and art, from one generation to the next.” American cultural traits are vast because of the diversity of its population. Key American cultural traits are outlined in the textbook Global Issues and Change by B. Johnson and J.S. Johnson they are listed as 1) Freedom, 2) Individualism, 3) Self-Reliance, 4) Achievement and 5) Pragmatism. All five of these characteristics have played an important role in the shaping of the American culture but the one that stands out the most is freedom. Without freedom none of the other characteristics would have developed. Freedom is what has made the entire American experience possible. The individualist idea developed as a result of the larger goal of freedom, they are offshoots of each other. Individualism requires a freedom of the individual, which was not possible under colonial rule where England took precedence over the individual. Furthermore self-reliance, achievement and pragmatism all were made possible by America’s freedom.
Progress is what always has and continues to drive America both in business and its citizen’s personal life. We are always looking for ways to improve a product, or develop a new one and similarly are always looking to improve our lives. Optimism permeates American culture, and is the motivating force for so many looking to improve their lives. A fundamental core to the American dream is that anyone, from anywhere, can be anything they want to be if they work hard and have the motivation to accomplish the tasks needed to reach their goals. America historically is a nation of progress, with its humble beginnings in The American Revolution it has developed through the colonial period, into the frontier days, to the industrial revolution and into modern times. We have constantly moved steadily higher as a civilization and have always overcome any obstacle placed in our path (Great Depression for example). Progress always has been and always will be a part of the American character. As we continue to progress into a world economy which continues to become increasingly Americanized it will be interesting to see how the American culture progresses and is accepted into the twenty first century.
The American culture has produced one of the most economically booming eras in history. The fact that we have created more wealth in the past 50 years than has been created in all the centuries of the world before 1950 speaks volumes. (Global Issues and Change, B. Johnson and J.S. Johnson) and (Global Fortune: The Stumble and Rise of World Capitalism by Ian Vasquez). Our unique culture has shaped both us as individuals and our country as a whole into the superpower we are today.
culture. (n.d.). The American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. Retrieved August 14, 2007, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/culture
Johnson, B., Johnson, J.S. (2004). Global Issues and Change. Nappanee, IN: EvangelPress.
Vasquez, I. (2000). Global Fortune: The Stumble and Rise of World Capitalism. Washington D.C.: Cato Institute.
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The term ‘all American food’ doesn’t really apply to the 21st century. This is a phrase coined in the post-World War II era, describing the rather limited fare served beginning in the early 1950s and going well into the 1960s. In the mid to late sixties, the next generation started branching out to more exotic and exciting menus, with foods from foreign lands that Grandma wouldn’t have dreamed of serving for dinner. However, even today, these old time, favorite all American foods persist in our weekly menus, at least occasionally. No longer regarded highly by the health food crowd and nutritionists, they still make for a great 1950s retro party menu. Let’s take a look at some of these, in all of their artery-clogging glory.
Surely, a great big juicy burger tops the list. The hamburger was an American invention, dating back to the early 1900s. So delicious did Americans find this new and innovative sandwich, that it became an instant hit. It was especially popular during the 1950s, found at every backyard barbecue event, with Dad presiding over the grill. The hamburger was the original all American food. By the 1960s, marketers knew that the hamburger joint would succeed in the long term. The burger franchises were the start of American fast food.
The hot dog, of Coney Island fame, were another American invention, a take off of more sophisticated sausages served in Europe for hundreds of years. The plain all American hot dog was distinguished by its special bun, loaded with yellow mustard, relish and onions.
The American french fries were derived from the French frites. The French version is usually cut thicker, in wedges, than the American fast food style which is thin and a bit heavier on the oil. As a matter of fact, today’s American fries are first cooked, mashed and put through a machine that turns out a uniformly shaped product which is then submerged in oil and crisped to perfection, at least by the all American food standard.
What would a 1950s party be without mashed potatoes and gravy? This combination appeared on the 1950s meat and potato menu as regularly as apple pie. A special 1950s dinner might consist of a steak, mashed potatoes with gravy and an ear of garden grown corn, liberally slathered with butter. You’ve doubtless heard the phrase, ‘as American as apple pie’. Unbelievably, the rather large appetite of the average American of the time, could easily down all of this at a single sitting!
Meatloaf was another eagerly consumed all American food. Every household of the time had their own special concoction of this beef based loaf. One of the most unusual meatloaf recipes I’ve come across is one served by a friend’s Mom, consisting of layers of beef and sliced pickles, topped off with the usual ketchup, in quantity! My friend could not abide the taste of this work of love, so the family dog reaped the benefits. His Mom never knew.
All of these menu items are so thoroughly all American foods, I doubt that any American needs a recipe. If you prepare all of these foods ” including the apple pie, your 1950s retro party menu will leave your guests gasping for breath and undeniably full! Now you can send them home with a doggie bag, another great American tradition.