Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

A Brief History of Foreign Food in the U.S.


President Nixon inspects his food during a banquet in Hangzhou, China.  © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
President Nixon inspects his food during a banquet in Hangzhou, China. © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

One of the most diverse things about the U.S. is its food industry. Foodies obsessively seek out the “authentic” flavors of any given culture. But many of the foods brought to the U.S. via immigration were initially viewed with suspicion and disdain.

Holly's Research:

  • “An act to execute certain treaty stipulations relating to the Chinese.” May 6, 1882; Enrolled Acts and Resolutions of Congress, 1789-1996; General Records of the United States Government; Record Group 11; National Archives. Accessed online: https://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=47
  • Arellano, Gustavo. “Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America.” Scribner; Reprint edition. April 10, 2012
  • “The Asian Population.” 2010 Census Briefs. March 2012. https://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-11.pdf
  • Cannato, Vincent J. “How America became Italian.” Washington Post. Oct. 9, 2015. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/how-america-became-italian/2015/10/09/4c93b1be-6ddd-11e5-9bfe-e59f5e244f92_story.html?utm_term=.4b5e780772b1
  • Chen, Yong. “Chop Suey: The Story of Chinese Food in America.” Columbia University Press; Reprint edition. October 28, 2014.
  • Cheney, Ian. “The Search for General Tso.” (Documentary) Sundance Selects, Wicked Delicate Films. 2015.
  • Dotinga, Randy. “How did Mexican food become so popular in the US?” Christian Science Monitor. October 9, 2014. http://www.csmonitor.com/Books/chapter-and-verse/2014/1009/How-did-Mexican-food-become-so-popular-in-the-US
  • Green, Rayna. “Let’s Talk Taco: How did Mexican food conquer the world?” Smithsonian Blog. Feb. 6, 2013. http://americanhistory.si.edu/blog/2013/02/lets-talk-taco-how-did-mexican-american-food-conquer-the-world.html
  • NPR. “How 'Italian Food' Became A Global Sensation.” Fresh Air. March 24, 2011. http://www.npr.org/2011/03/24/134628158/how-italian-food-became-a-global-sensation
  • Shapiro, Michael. “Top 10 Foods of the Maya World.” National Geographic. SEPT, 12, 2012. http://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/top-10/maya-foods/
  • Lee, Jee Hye, et al. "Popular Ethnic Foods in the United States: A Historical and Safety Perspective." Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety. Vol. 13, Issue 1. pages 2–17. January 2014. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1541-4337.12044/references

Topics in this Podcast: 19th century, immigration, culinary history, U.S. history, 20th century, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage


More to Explore