America has often been called a melting pot. Immigrant families from all over the world brought their hopes, dreams, and culinary heritage to their brand new country, and so many of our favorite foods have their roots around the globe. Pizza, burritos, and almost all of our staples are merely the genius prodigy of our ancestors’ foodways.
But that’s not to say that the U.S. hasn’t produced its fair share of home-grown delights over the years. In celebration of Independence Day, we’ve rounded up the best dishes that actually took form in this country, thanks the gastronomic ingenuity of our forefathers.
Of course, a taco is every bit as “American” as a corn dog, but when people claim that the U.S. doesn’t actually have its own culinary creations, hit ’em off with a little history.
Raise your flags, hold onto your PBRs, and read about some of the tastiest foods born in the USA
Key Lime Pie
What it is: No ordinary pie—key lime juice, egg yolks, and sweetened condensed milk make this dessert a true classic.
Invented by: Aunt Sally, personal cook for William Curry, Florida’s first self-made millionaire. Local legend has it that Sally first put the pie together in the 1800s. History didn’t record much about Aunt Sally, but its safe to say she is responsible for some of our best summer dinners.
Comes from: Florida, land of the lime (Photo: Flickr/Ralph Daily)
What it is: Heated, deli-sliced roast beef on French bread. The sandwich is then dipped into roast-beef juice.
Invented by: Philippe Mathieu, who accidentally dropped a baguette into a roasting pan filled with beef juice. He took the opportunity to recreate the dish at his restaurant, Philippe, in 1918. His sandwich is a lunchtime staple in diners across the country.
Comes from: Los Angeles (Photo: Flickr/Stu_spivack)
What it is: A jack-of-all-trades salad that includes avocado, cheese, chicken, tomatoes, bacon, a hard-boiled egg, and French dressing.
Invented by: Bob Cobb, owner of the Brown Derby, in 1937. The story goes that one night Cobb got hungry after work. Instead of cooking something new, he and friend Sid Grauman threw together the kitchen’s leftovers. The resulting salad became the dish diners order when they are pretending to diet but are not quite committed enough. No one buys it.
Comes from: California (Photo: Flickr/David Huang)
What it is: A cornmeal-breaded, deep-fried hotdog on a stick. It is often dipped in ketchup and mustard.
Invented by: Neil Fletcher, Texas State Fair entrepreneur, in 1942. He thought it would make his hot dogs sell more quickly, and he was right. Americans love nothing more than to munch on deep fried, fatty foods while multitasking. It’s pretty much a national sport.Comes from: Texas (Photo: Flickr/Adreannna Moya)
Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich
What it is: Glorious peanut butter and gooey grape or strawberry jelly smushed between two slices of bread.
Invented by: The cooking staff of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg’s sanatorium, who mixed hydrogenated vegetable oil with peanut paste to make it easier to feed patients. The result? Skippy. The next time you are fighting to get peanut butter off the roof of your mouth, remember that asylum patients were doing the same thing years before it became popular.
Comes from: Michigan (Photo: Flickr/Connie Ma)
What it is: A mixture of corn and beans served in a cream or milk sauce.
Invented by: Native Americans, according to popular history. They may have been responsible for teaching the English colonists how to prepare the staple dish. Let’s face i: The colonists were probably starving and the Native Americans felt bad.
Comes from: Across the country (Photo: Flickr/ TheBittenWord)
What it is: A cooked mixture of pork, dried peas, and rice.
Invented by: West African Slaves, who brought their knowledge of rice growing to the United States. Many believe that the name Hoppin’ John belongs to a crippled old man who sold peas and rice throughout Charleston. To this day, Hoppin’ John remains one of the most quintessentially Southern dishes.
Comes from: South Carolina (Photo: Flickr/ Urbanfoodie33)
Salt Water Taffy
What it is: Corn syrup, butter, salt, and flavoring melted at around 270 degrees Fahrenheit. After cooling, candymakers stretch the taffy, adding air into the gooey sweet.
Invented by: David Bradley, enterprising Atlantic City business owner, in 1883. After a huge storm soaked the boardwalk, a young girl entered Bradley’s shop looking for taffy. Bradley joked that the only thing left after that water had doused the store was “salt water taffy.” If a marketing executive had been on the scene, he would have hired Bradley on the spot.Comes from: New Jersey (Photo: Flickr/Steven Depolo)
What it is: A melty, toasted marshmallow paired with a piece of chocolate. The combination is then mashed between two graham crackers and eaten like a delicious, sticky sandwich.
Invented by: The Girl Scouts, who printed the combination in their 1927 guidebook. The name comes from the phrase “gimme some more.” The tasty treat is still popular around campfires across the country. Its gooey consistency makes it the perfect food for hordes of sticky, summer vacation children everywhere.
Comes from: Across the country (Photo: Flickr/Kim Love)
What it is: Dry wheat crackers flavored with sugar or honey, often used in desserts.
Invented by: Presbyterian minister Sylvester Graham, to keep teenagers from thinking about sex. He believed that a high fiber, whole wheat diet could calm the hormones of the youth. The Graham diet temporarily took off. It was even Oberlin’s mandatory dining policy in 1838. Unsurprisingly, whole-wheat flour didn’t stop anyone from getting it on.
Comes from: The Northeast (Photo: Flickr/Windell Oskay)