What is “American” food?
American food culture is made up of recipes from all corners of the globe. On any average day we can choose between Greek falafels, Italian pasta, Thai stir-fry, and beyond. While majority of what we eat has foreign origins, the following “American classics” by AtEdge photographers Noel Barnhurst, Burkle Hagen, Kathryn Barnard, Tadd Myers, Stephen Devries, and Jody Horton showcase recipes that do in fact have historical roots in the United States.
So where exactly did these foods first come from and how did they gain popularity here?
Potato Chips – Noel Barnhurst
Potato chips were invented in 1853 by Native American chef George Crum. While french fries had become fairly popular at the resort he cooked for in Saratoga Springs, New York, one day a diner complained that the restaurant’s fries were too thick. Annoyed by the fussy customer, Crum thought it would be funny to send out fries that were too thin to eat with a fork. The joke backfired when their diner fell in love with his crunchy snack. Thus, the potato chip was invented.
Noel Barnhurst is known as a master of light and shadow in the food photography industry. Using only natural light and a fine-tuned sense of composition, he aims to communicate the emotional power of food through his images. Noel is partnered with a team of in-house producers, digital technicians, photo assistants, stylists, and production specialists to offer only the most exceptional visuals and motion graphics. Operating out of his sophisticated studio in Oakland, California, the team shoots primarily in two commercial kitchen designed with optimal lighting techniques in mind. Check out more of their food imagery here.
Hot Dogs – Burkle Hagen
While sausage can be dated as far back a 9th Century B.C, hot dogs first became popular in the United States with the help of German food vendor Charles Feltman in 1871. Legend has it that Coney Island hotdogs had gained so much national attention that when President Franklin Roosevelt hosted King George VI of England at a picnic, Eleanor made sure grilled hotdogs were on the menu. The King enjoyed them so much he asked for seconds.
Burkle Hagen is a food photography studio that unites the shared visions of its creative founders: Andrew Burkle and David Hagen. Their team of specialists aims to always provide a refreshingly unconventional approach to still life photography, utilising their decades of experience alongside a proficiency in humorous food banter to produce captivating imagery. View Burkle Hagen’s portfolio here.
Kathryn Barnard – S’Mores
Girl Scout Troop Leader Loretta Scott Crew published the first recipe of “Some Mores” in 1927. Over time, the popular camping treat, made up of a toasted marshmallow and slice of chocolate sandwiched between two graham crackers, somehow became shortened to S’Mores. While graham crackers were invented in the U.S. by vegetarian activist Sylvester Graham, chocolate was first created from cacao trees in Latin America and marshmallows were first made in Egypt from the sap of marshmallow plants.
Photographer Kathryn Barnard specializes in shooting intricate food textures. Her eye for meticulous detail translates into strikingly bold visuals that combine splashes, swirls, and visual patterns to capture culinary styling at its finest. View Kathryn’s portfolio here.
Kentucky Bourbon – Tadd Myers
Bourbon was invented by Baptist preacher Elijah Craig in 1789. As the son of European religious settlers in Kentucky, Craig eventually discovered that his true calling was actually distilling high-quality spirits, where he then became known as “the Father of Bourbon.” Bourbon was later declared “America’s only Native Spirit” by Congress in 1964. Today, strict regulations require the liquor to be made with a minimum of 51% corn, aged in only charred white oak barrels, and entered into the barrel at no higher than 125 proof.
Photographer Tadd Myers enjoys documenting the artistry in authentic craftsmanship, where his arresting imagery captures fine detail using a sharp and authentic style. Tadd’s “Portraits of the American Craftsman” book examines thirty products still being handcrafted in the U.S. After going on a cross-country trip to capture both behind-the-scenes footage and the fascinating perspectives of those still producing artisan goods, he developed a storytelling project that explores the value in preserving handicraft trades. For more photography samples by Tadd Myers, view his portfolio here.
Doughnuts – Stephen Devries
While “oily cakes” were originally brought to America by Dutch settlers, the first doughnuts to be made with a hole in the center were invented by Captain Hanson Gregory aboard his ship in 1842. By 1938, the Salvation Army had established June 7th as *National Doughnut Day* to honor the “Doughnut Girls” that served along the front lines during WWI to feed soldiers. Doughnuts have been known as a patriotic delicacy ever since.
Photographer Stephen Devries balances lighting and composition with expert ease, uniting an admirable understanding of technicality with with his own artistic flavor to produce imagery that captures the unique character of an interesting eatery. Devries loves the spontaneity of being on the road for a travel shoot, where his high-quality visuals intertwine food photography with adventurous taste-testing. View more of Stephen’s portfolio here.
BBQ – Jody Horton
Archaeological evidence found in a cave at South Africa’s Northern Cape suggests that this American classic was actually invented 1.8 million years ago. Barbecue was first brought to America in the early 16th century by Spanish conquistadors that learned the Caribbean cooking style from indigenous tribes. The tradition of slowly cooking meat over a low flame has evolved into a delicate art form over the years, where a variety of BBQ techniques can now be found across the country.
Photographer Jody Horton knows grilled meats like the back of his hand, using mouthwatering visuals to capture culinary delights with just the right combination of angles and mood lighting. Jody’s *Smoke +Fire* gallery of barbecue imagery encompasses everything from chicken, fish, and even squirrel, offering thought-provoking insights into cultural influences that surround our regional dietary habits. View more of Jody’s portfolio here.
America’s archive of global recipes unites international dishes from all parts of the world under one umbrella, where the interwoven cooking traditions that make up “American food culture” have established an all-inclusive flavor palette of unparalleled pleasure. As majority of our favorite foods can be traced back to different regions across the globe, we continue to experience the many benefits of living in a multicultural society. To all of the citizens, immigrants, and refuges that helped add new cuisines onto America’s menu, thanks for sharing your culinary secrets with us. Happy Independence Day!