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The American tradition of modifying, tweaking, and customizing our meals




The value we put on freedom and individuality extends to what we eat.
The value we put on freedom and individuality extends to what we eat.
SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images

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Apparently there’s something we Americans do with food that dazzles tourists when they visit and frustrates chefs when we leave: The value we put on freedom and individuality extends to what we eat.

Think about it: “Lightly salted” and “dressing on the side” are basically inalienable rights when it comes to dining out. Can you even imagine a table setting without salt, pepper, or ketchup? More restaurants low and high have been using technology and tweaking their models to cater to picky customers… while some are laying down firm rules.

Just like clothing and cars, food is another thing we consume that can show off who we think we are. Are you the one who can’t order a dish without a modification? Or are you the one rolling your eyes at your picky friend?

Guest:

Sophie Egan, author of  "Devoured" (HarperCollins), program director at the Culinary Institute of America, contributor to the New York Times Well blog.