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American Food History: A Work In Progress
By:Andrew Krause

It's a clich, although a true one, that America is a nation of immigrants. A huge proportion of the country's population either was not born within its borders, or has parents or grandparents who were not. Thus, American food history is as yet a fairly short book, with the exception of Indian fry bread and certain other Native American dishes.

However, it's not a completely blank book. Let's look at one example in particular, the 1904 World's Fair, the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, Mo.

At the turn of the 20th century, the World's Fair was the event to go to nationwide. People came from all over on trains, horseback and in cars (which were limited to 10 mph). Of course, they got hungry while they were there, and there was a panoply of edible items available to sate their hunger.

There are any number of food items claimed to have been invented at the world's fair. The hot dog is one, although it's well documented that Germans were eating a sandwich they called a "dachshund" for years. However, it was the first time most people in the general public had seen or tasted them.

The same goes for iced tea, cotton candy and hamburgers. None of these food items were actually invented at the fair, but the fair is where they came to the national consciousness. It's hard to believe that a megalithic corporation like McDonald's owes its very existence to something as humble as "fair food," but a case could be made that it's true.

One food that really was invented at the fair was the ice cream cone. People had experimented with portable containers before, but the waffle cone was first sold publicly at the World's Fair, and it was an instant hit. An edible container? Who wouldn't want it?

That's just over a hundred years ago, now. While Europe's food history stretches back centuries, American food history is still being written but more every day!

Andrew Krause

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