Eating the American Way: Hot dogs, Burgers, Shakes and Tex-Mex Cuisines

Sukanya takes us through a journey of becoming Americanised. She learnt about hot dogs and shakes from Archie comics. When she came to America, she found a fast food joint at every step. The lure of the junk food was great. Whenever she did not feel like cooking, there were the burgers and shakes. An interesting account in her weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.

My first introduction to hot dogs and shakes were from those Archie comics I used to read. Jughead going to Pop’s store and digging into a big banana split. It looked so lovely in print. I dreamt of it.

And then I come to this country, and every step you take you see a fast food joint. McDonald’s. Burger King, Jack-in- the-box and the all famous Burger chain in Texas, Whataburger and for the hot dogs we have Sonic and James Coney. And that is how it started, the evenings I didn’t feel like cooking, we went for burgers. And not feeling like cooking became a familiar feeling. In the beginning, finishing a meal was an impossibility, but slowly the stomach started stretching. Not only did I finish the meal, I even added a shake to it. How I loved those strawberry shakes with bits of strawberries in it. And when we didn’t feel like going out, there were the microwaveable hot dogs in a bun with mustard sauce and ketchup.

Getting all Americanised was not hard, since it meant easy meals. And, of course, there were days when I did cook the dal-bhaat (lentil and rice) or a chicken curry.

Now, poor eating habit had its repercussions, it meant gaining ungainly weight. At first you don’t realise, and then one day you get the feeling that you are getting too snug in your loose fitting clothes. That is when the need to take stock of the situation arises. It means working out, it means cutting down on the junk food and pay more attention to the nutrition. In the initial phase it is a little tough, but as you increase the intake of proper food, it becomes less and less of a difficulty to continue with the routine. Eating healthy doesn’t mean starving, just eating the right kind and amount.

Let me confess, eating healthy can be boring, so that is when you indulge. Texas has a variety of food. Mainly its hot dogs, burgers and chicken wings, but we also have Tex-Mex food — that is Mexican food, catering to the American palate. Which actually means less spicy and cheesier. Tex-Mex is always cheesy. And a typical Tex-Mex comprises beans, rice, guacamole, lots of cheese and a fair amount of meat – beef or chicken. Tex-Mex has imported flavors from other spicy cuisines, such as the use of cumin introduced by Spanish immigrants to Texas and used in Berber cuisine but used in only a few central Mexican recipes.

Fajita is a very popular Tex-Mex dish. So is chili con carne. We also have Cajun and Creole food from neighbouring Louisiana. A popular Cajun food is the gumbo. A southern food, gumbo is basically a stew consisting primarily of meat or shellfish, with celery, bell peppers, and onions. Étouffée is another Cajun/Creole food and is made with crayfish, locally referred to as “crawfish”. A sauce is made from a light or blond roux, seasoned with the seafood.

Étouffée is usually served over rice. Another favourite of ours is the Creole Jambalaya. It is a mix of meat, vegetable and rice. Traditionally, the meat always includes sausage of some sort, often Andouille, along with some other meat or seafood. The vegetables is usually the “holy trinity” in Creole and Cajun cooking, consisting of onion, celery, and green bell pepper, though other vegetables like carrots, tomatoes and garlic are added.

Now, these food are definitely better than the hot dogs (I personally dislike hot dogs and never eat them).

In my opinion the best fast food burger place in Texas is Whataburger. Their burger is the best. Not that you can do anything very different with burgers, maybe throw in more cheese, pickles, onions, lettuce and tomatoes. Even then I feel that Whataburger has a distinctive taste.

And then if you want a taste of a different cuisine we have an array of restaurants. There is something of everything all around.

Various kinds of food and people mingle and mix and acquire an identity that is distinctly Americano.

©Sukanya Juno Biswas

Pix from Net.

Sukanya Juno Biswas

Sukanya Juno Biswas

Sukanya Juno Biswas grew up in Kolkata, India. She did MA in English from Calcutta University. She loves books, Bob Dylan, Baez and Boxer dogs. When she gets time away from two human kids and two animals, she writes. A complete realist, off and on romantic, an atheist – in the present climate of uncertainty, would have loved a perfect world, though aware it’s not possible. She has been living in Texas for last 17 years.
Sukanya Juno Biswas