There’s something wonderful and fascinating about experiencing American culture refracted through someone else’s, I realized. All food is the product of a million and one influences, including the centuries-old cuisines I hold in such esteem. American food hasn’t had as much time to marinate, but its merits are multifold. Why else would so many world cultures adopt so many bits and pieces of it?
There’s probably something to be said about, as the song goes, “not knowing what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.” Also, the grass being greener. Also, much of the food we have built here, in American kitchens, truly laboratories of the unorthodox, is actually good.
I could wax poetic on the subject, but I’d rather meditate on the perfect BLT, the sandwich that danced in my mind as if I were a castaway on a barren island, instead of a tourist chewing my way through the world’s greatest food regions. Here it is: fresh and fluffy white bread, barely toasted, which gives way under your fingers. Crisp, springy lettuce, a perfect foil for salty, crunchy bacon riddled with caramelized fat. Tomatoes, bursting with juice and acid. Creamy mayonnaise slathered liberally. They’re everywhere, from roadside diners to country clubs to lunch counters to automats. As with anything, some versions are better than others. But you’ll never appreciate your 24-hour diner BLT more than when you’re hunched on the floor of Singapore hotel room.