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America's food is as diverse as its culture

July 1, 1999
Web posted at: 11:02 a.m. EDT (1502 GMT)

By Sue Hoye
CNN Interactive Features Writer

(CNN) -- As the 4th of July approaches, Americans get ready to celebrate independence. And what better way to celebrate than with food?

The grill will be lit this weekend as families gather to eat and celebrate before heading to the fireworks.

We decided to take a look at a few cookbooks that focus on American food, the many ways it can be prepared and the many cultures that have contributed to the vast menu that has come to be American.

saveur book cover
  • Pasta with Clams and Basil

  • Sam's Apple Pie
  • 'Saveur Cooks Authentic American'

    This year's winner of the James Beard cookbook award in the Americana category, "Saveur Cooks Authentic American" (Chronicle Books), takes a unique look at how food reflects culture.

    This is the first cookbook to come from the magazine that has itself won six James Beard Awards and two National Magazine Awards.

    The big glossy book, by Saveur Magazine editors Colman Andrews and Dorothy Kalins, contains 175 never-before-published recipes and more than 400 photographs. The book plays heavily on the immigrant theme, proving that American food itself is a combination of the many cultures that have made the United States their home.

    "We are all immigrants here, or the children of immigrants -- even those 'native' Americans whose ancestors walked down from Siberia," Andrews writes in the book's introduction. "And as each generation of newcomers to this country discovered in its turn, if our streets weren't exactly paved with gold, they were certainly lined with food shops."

    As much as it is a cookbook, it is a history and sociology book. Each recipe is put in a geographical, historical and social context. The accompanying photos and text make this book one that could sit on a coffee table as easily as it sits in the kitchen.

    From the carne picada burritos to corned beef and cabbage, "Saveur Cooks Authentic American" seeks to capture all that is America.

    saveur book cover
  • Creamy Sweet & Sour Coleslaw

  • Baby Back Sizzlers
  • 'Famous Dave's Backroads & Sidestreets'

    Dave Anderson too is fascinated with American cooking. His new book, "Famous Dave's Backroads & Sidestreets" (Mino-Giizhig Fund), takes a closer look at the "down-home eateries" that can be found across the United States.

    Like "Saveur Cooks Authentic American," Anderson's book isn't simply a cookbook. He shared his philosophy on cooking, food and life through the photos and text.

    Beautiful images by photojournalist Mike Rutherford accompany the collection of 100 comfort-food recipes. From blues joints and country kitchens to rowdy roadhouses and lakeside lodges, Anderson shares the recipes for the meals he's enjoyed in his travels on the backroads of America.

    Anderson himself is a rib-shack owner. His Famous Dave's of America Inc. has 22 locations in Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

    The collection has a lot of barbecue, of course, as well as seafood, soups, sauces, sides and desserts.

    All the proceeds from the cookbook will be donated to the Mino-Giizhig Fund, a non-profit foundation to benefit disadvantaged youth. Anderson is a Native American, and Mino-Giizhig is a Native American word from the Ojibway tribe. It means good sky or nice day.

    From the creamy sweet and sour coleslaw and the Route 66 truck stop chili to the kahlúa fudge brownies and his famous bread pudding, Anderson's recipes aren't for the calorie counter. But if you are looking for some good down-home cookin', Famous Dave has the recipe.

  • Roasted Chicken and Basil Salad

  • Turkey Burgers with Orange Zest and Fresh Cranberry Sauce
  • 'American Favorites'

    If you are looking to eat American but don't want all the calories, check out cooking teacher Betty Rosbottom's "American Favorites: All-American Cooking for a New Generation" (Houghton Mifflin). The book of 200 recipes (just released in paperback) gives some old American favorites an update that streamlines cooking techniques and times and reduces the fat.

    For summer Rosbottom recommends the salads. "There are so many good ones, especially the roasted chicken with basil salad," she says. "It's so summery and quick, I love that one."

    For those who like to grill, she offers an alternative to the standard American burger with her turkey burgers with orange zest and fresh cranberry sauce.

    The recipes are not too complicated and offer nice alternatives to older dishes that may have previously taken a long time to cook and had too much fat for the more health-conscious.

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    Chronicle Books
    The Mino-Giizhig Fund
    Houghton Mifflin
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