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Sierran cuisine reflects the variety of foods, beverages, and culinary practices of Sierra and Sierrans. Contemporary Sierran cuisine has drawn influence from a number of culinary traditions, including Anglo-American, Continental, Mediterranean, Latin American (especially Mexican), East Asian, Southeast Asian, and African American cuisines. Although Sierran cuisine is mainly fusion cuisine reflecting global cuisine, there are distinct regional cuisines which have developed based on historical, political, and socioeconomic conditions, as well as ethnic composition, including Channelier cuisine, Hawaiian cuisine, Salsipuedes cuisine, Sierran Creole cuisine, and Styx cuisine.
Pre-Columbian Amerindian cuisine in Sierra was historically based on the plants and animals available on the land. Various tribes obtained their basic sustenance needs on nuts, berries, mushrooms, and acorns. Acorns were central to some Amerindian peoples and were commonly grounded into flour using mortar and pestles. The primary sources of protein were small birds, insects, and game including rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks. Occasionally, larger game animals such as deer, elk, mountain sheep, and bears were also hunted and eaten. Ciders and teas made out of berries, herbs, and teas were also commonly prepared. Dried foods were prevalent, especially in the more semiarid regions of Sierra. The arrival of the Spanish, French, Dutch, and English between the 17th and 18th centuries introduced European methods of cooking, ingredients, and spices. Grazing animals such as cattle and sheep were brought over and were prepared in the same manner on the European continent.
A new form of unique cuisine emerged during the 19th century as Sierran cuisine reflected the culinary interactions and admixture of various ethnic and linguistic groups in the region. Anglo-American, Mexican, and French cuisines were central to the gastrogenesis of early modern Sierran cuisine. Beef and chicken became staple features in insular Sierran cuisine while fish and other seafood were more favored along the coast. The California Gold Rush resulted in Sierra becoming exposed to a larger, more diverse community of peoples, including those from East Asia and Southern Europe. Chinese and Japanese cuisine became introduced, initially in ethnic enclaves, but began to spread as immigrants moved throughout the country. During the Sierran Cultural Revolution, as industrialization accelerated and cosmopolitan views towards international culture grew, Sierran cuisine experienced an explosion of culinary experimentalism and innovation. Rice became a new, permanent source of carbohydrate alongside the traditional wheat and corn, and food became more processed and canned.
Between the Great Wars, Sierran food production was becoming effectively streamlined and its products were highly accessible to working-class and middle class consumers. Frozen foods, instant dinners, and other highly processed foods became mainstream, while fast food emerged and its model was exported internationally. Towards the end of the 20th century, Sierran cuisine experienced another culinary revolution, pushing back against processed foods and a return to organic, natural foods. Contemporary Sierran cuisine re-emphasized the fruits and vegetables grown in Sierra, as well as leaner sources of protein, fats, and oils. Fresh, locally sourced, and health-conscious foods reflected shift in culinary tastes, as well as broader socioeconomic and political attitudes.
Sierran cuisine has both influenced and been influenced by global cuisine. Various Sierran dishes and beverages have become internationally well-known, including animal-style fries, Caesar salad, California roll, Cobb salad, carne asada, cheeseburger, cioppino, dessiné, fish tacos, hot boxes, mayarí, Salsi shawarma, the Shirley Temple, Sierran pizza, and yellow pancakes.
History[edit | edit source]
Pre-colonial cuisine[edit | edit source]
Early Amerindian cooking varied throughout Sierra but most commonly involved grilling or spit roasting meat over campfires or dug pit ovens, while vegetables and nuts were cooked directly in the ashes of the fire. Acorns were usually grounded into a fine flour-like substance using a pestle and mortar. In Eastern Sierra, cooking was commonly done in adobe ovens (known as hornos in Spanish) for baking.