A couple of weeks ago, I had a priest as a guest: Fr. Leo, a priest from Uganda, studying in Pittsburgh. He was in our parish as a "mission" speaker, inviting my parishioners to support the work of his home diocese.
After the Saturday evening Mass, I took him out to dinner, and I took him to one of the nicest restaurants around, an Italian restaurant in the next town to the south. As we sat outside, enjoying a very nice evening and a nice meal, he commented, "I'd like to try 'American food'--but I never get the chance. Always German, Italian, Chinese, Mexican..."
Hmmm, I thought; then I told him, well, I guess "Soul Food" would be true "American Food"; and I thought of ribs, and told him I'd have loved to take him somewhere for ribs, but alas, that would be a long drive. I also mentioned fried chicken, but I found myself still thinking about it now a couple of weeks later.
What is American food?
One thought occurs to me: we Americans are like the Romans of old; we absorb all sorts of things from other cultures, and give them our own flavor, and style, and often, make them better. I don't know if the ancient Romans were innovators in cuisine, but they were accomplished in the sorts of things at which we Americans excel: power, government, technology, and efficiency.
My other thought is that we haven't been around -- as a distinct culture -- all that long, so our cuisine hasn't had enough time to develop.
Of course, having said that, I realize we have many interesting regional cuisines; but is there a national, "American" cuisine?