Think of “American food” and there’s a good chance you will visualize a hamburger, French fries and a milk shake. But why? Why have chopped beefcakes on buns paired with strings of fried potatoes and ice cream puréed with milk and syrup become the iconic symbols of what Americans eat?From the mom-and-pop soda fountains and diners of the 1950s through the rise of fast-food chains and even into the current era of premium ingredients and increasingly frequent nods to nutrition, those three ...

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