Top ten "ethnic" foods that aren't really ethnic at all

Categories: The List

What's for dinner? Whatever the answer, it's probably got an ethnic origin--or a supposedly ethnic origin. Because many of the foreign foods that we all enjoy aren't really very foreign at all. In other words, you can cross these ten dishes off your list, because, frankly, they're all just as American as apple pie (which is actually British).

10. General Tsao's Chicken

Born in the USA, baby. General Tsao's (or Tao's, or Cho's, or Chu's... the name is about as variable as the accreditation) is as Chinese as gefilte fish. There was a General Tso (or Zuo Zontang) in the early 1800s, but how, exactly, his name became connected with this dish, with which he almost certainly had no experience, is fuzzy at best. Most likely, it was a dish created for the sweets-loving American palate by some New York City restaurant run by Chinese immigrants. The same is probably true for chow mein noodles. But like most of the dishes on this list, the alleged history has overshadowed whatever really happened.

9. Pizza

Pizza was invented a long time ago, but not in Italy. Instead, it was probably a Greek invention that would have featured dates as a very likely choice for a topping. There were no tomatoes, and definitely a lot less cheese -- if, indeed, there was cheese at all. Italy borrowed the form, changed it up a little and eventually added tomatoes and cheese, which is the pizza that American soldiers in WWII enjoyed and brought stateside. We went nuts over it, piled on a lot more cheese and many more toppings, which just proves that the overindulgence of the American diet is nothing new.

8. Nachos

Nachos are pretty popular in America and throughout the world -- everywhere, that is, except Mexico. But nachos themselves were invented there, at least technically, in the border town of Piedras Negras, near the Texas border. But the dish was invented for Americans -- specifically, soldiers from a nearby base. The dish itself, even if it was officially made on Mexican soil, is the soul of Tex-Mex cooking, especially if you include plastic nacho cheese, which is an American travesty invention. Essentially, nachos have an American soul--and this goes double if the term "nachos" is followed by "Bell Grande."

7. Baguettes

You might know that French fries aren't really French (they're Belgian -- or, if you watch Fox News, "Freedom"), but you probably think that the staple of French cuisine, the baguette, is, well, French. Nope. These originated in Austria, actually, and came to France as late as the 1800s. American baguettes, of course, are primarily used in movie scenes to jut up and out of a paper sack, an aha! sign that someone has just come back from the market.

6. Garlic Bread/Spaghetti & Meatballs

It might be a staple on checkered tablecloths next to straw Chianti bottles, but that basket of garlic bread isn't exactly Italian. The closest thing that traditional Italian cuisine offers to garlic bread is bruschetta. Garlic bread was, at the very least, invented by Italian restaurateurs to serve the new demand for Italian food after the Second World War. The same goes for spaghetti and meatballs, though to a less dramatic degree. While spaghetti, meatballs and red sauce are all common in Italy, the specific combination of the three--especially the size of the meatball -- is much more American than Italian. Also: "Boyardee" is not an Italian name. Duh.

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