Dining in America

May 18, 1984

Report Outline
A Varied Menu
Regional Cooking
Grocery Shopping
Fast-Food Trends
Special Focus

A Varied Menu

American Cooking: Fine Food to Fast Food

Fine dining, once the province of the rich, has become an obsession for millions of middle-class Americans. Tens of thousands are enrolled in cooking classes, learning everything from how to boil water to how to make Chinese wontons. Culinary schools are flooded with applications. Newspapers have expanded their food sections. Celebrity, once accorded only to well-known television cooks and authors such as James Beard and Julia Child, now accrues to chefs of individual restaurants.

Currently a great debate in the food world concerns the definition of the New American Cuisine. One faction takes a “Roots”-like approach, emphasizing America's culinary heritage, particularly regional cooking. The other faction borrows its style from French nouvelle cuisine, preparing simple, lightly cooked dishes from unusual but American-produced meats, vegetables and dairy products.

This schism may liven up conversations among the condo crowd and the soon-to-be-affluent “yumpies” (for young upwardly mobile persons, or professionals). But this growing interest in “gourmet” food has had little effect on the tastes of the average American. “We're talking about a very small percentage of the population that's involved in all this upscale eating, and that's not going to change,” said New York Times restaurant critic Marian Burros. While culinarians were arguing the relative merits of Cajun gumbo vs. smoked salmon pizza, the rest of America was turning a fast-food advertising slogan, “Where's The Beef?” into an instant cliché.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Nutrition and Health
Jul. 07, 2017  Hunger in America
Oct. 30, 2015  Dietary Supplements
Aug. 08, 2014  Global Hunger
Oct. 01, 2010  Preventing Obesity
Apr. 07, 2006  Rising Health Costs
Feb. 10, 2006  Eating Disorders Updated
Sep. 03, 2004  Dietary Supplements
Jan. 31, 2003  Obesity Epidemic
Feb. 23, 2001  Diet and Health
Jan. 15, 1999  Obesity and Health
Sep. 26, 1997  Youth Fitness
Apr. 14, 1995  Dieting and Health
Jul. 08, 1994  Dietary Supplements
Dec. 18, 1992  Eating Disorders
Nov. 06, 1992  Physical Fitness
Jul. 31, 1992  Infant Mortality
Oct. 25, 1991  World Hunger
Mar. 16, 1990  Public-Health Campaigns: Do They Go Too Far?
Apr. 29, 1988  How America Eats
Sep. 06, 1985  Anorexia and Other Eating Disorders
May 18, 1984  Dining in America
Aug. 26, 1983  Staying Healthy
Nov. 19, 1982  Weight Control: A National Obsession
Oct. 17, 1980  Caffeine Controversy
Apr. 14, 1978  Physical Fitness Boom
Jun. 17, 1977  Obesity and Health
Feb. 22, 1974  Heart Research
Aug. 01, 1973  Nutrition in America
Dec. 02, 1970  Infant Health
Nov. 15, 1967  Overweight and Health
Aug. 10, 1966  Dental Health
Jul. 13, 1966  Prolongation of Life
May 09, 1962  Outdoor Recreation
Nov. 26, 1958  Dieting and Health
Jul. 13, 1949  Recreation for Millions
May 13, 1941  Nutrition and National Health
Popular Culture