In the small city in which I grew up for the most part, there was a single Italian “themed” restaurant which served spaghetti with three different sauces. There was no Mexican, Indian, or Chinese cuisine available, unless you bought a “kit” at the store. Canned chop suey was as close as we could get to a Chinese meal. My parents waxed nostalgic for the sort of Chinese restaurant in which they ate while they lived in Cleveland just after World War II. Once a year, my father (who is now 90), bought a Chef Boyardee pizza in-a-box and mixed the dough, let it rise, rolled it out and then poured on the canned sauce and added powdered Parmesan cheese from the box. Start to finish, it took the whole afternoon. The scent from the oven where it baked was fabulous and we thought we were exotic gourmands compared to our neighbors. The one thing my family did do was to cook spaghetti sauce from scratch, simmered all afternoon on the back of the stove, filling the house with a wonderful aroma. It was from a recipe they’d learned in Cleveland from a family they’d roomed with during the great post-war housing shortage. When I was about 16, a friend’s family served canned spaghetti sauce and I could taste the sugar in it.
Today of course, America is awash in foreign cuisine. The array of fresh ingredients to produce around-the-world recipes is astounding. As a for instance, cookware producers make and sell tangine dishes, along with recipes from the Middle East that are mouthwatering. In the 1950s, the big spices were salt, pepper (already ground of course), chili powder and cinnamon. There are countless recipe books and hundreds of thousands of recipes which allow the cook a chance to experience foods from all around the world. Most even town of more than a couple of thousand population has at least a Chinese buffet (I’ll not comment on the quality of the food in such a place) and a Hispanic theme eating place.
In short, it is a lot easier to be adventuresome in one’s eating habits today than it was just a couple of decades ago.