Saturday, June 10, 2023

How Americans Learned To Love Exotic Food

The 70s were a wild, wild time. Punk music was just starting to be born. KISS was making metal riffs and getting with groupies. Western music was mainstream and muscle cars were, too. Yes, the 70s were a wild time–but they also were very homogenized time.

America was still very new to international foods like Chinese takeout, sushi, and even tacos. You see, prior to the 70s and 80s, Americans didn’t have the deep interest that we now have for global fare. It was a time when most American diners would balk at Chinese food–let alone more exotic offerings like sushi.

Thai noodle

So, what happened?

Can’t imagine life with bland food? Well, if you love tacos, sushi, Thai noodles, or blinies, you can thank your introduction to foreign foods from immigrants and an evolving attitude towards new cultures.

Most of the food that we now love originally was introduced to American culture through immigrant communities. Our love of pasta came from Italian immigrants in the earlier part of the 20th century. Cuban fare, a staple in Florida, came from people who escaped Castro’s grips. Chinese food often found itself on California and New York menus as a result of immigration from China.

However, in many cases, authentic foreign recipes weren’t quite suitable for American palates. Even when they were, getting the right ingredients quickly proved to be a major hassle. So, what usually happened to foods was that they initially were marketed as Americanized versions. Those small tweaks quickly got daring Americans curious.


Believe it or not, the stigma towards trying new foods was one that was fairly persistent. In many parts of the country, eating exotic fare continued to be an act met with derision up until the 1990s. However, there was something that helped people get comfortable with trying new food: pop culture.

The more media started to mention exotic foods and praise people for having an adventurous palate, the more popular this became. By the time the foodie craze hit the 2000s, people rapidly began to seek out the most adventurous flavors they could find. Since then, trying new food became a badge of honor among many–as has enjoying authentic flavor.

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Ossiana Tepfenhart
Ossiana Tepfenhart
Ossiana Tepfenhart is a food critic, writer, and at home culinary enthusiast!


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