Food: International Pot Luck Variety Spices the Country's Rich Culinary Life

To prepare her favorite appetizer, Susan Maurer fills won ton wrappers with goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, cilantro and some chili fried in peanut oil. "It's fast to do Asian things," says Maurer, a Berkeley travel agent. It does not occur to her that in her Asian "thing" Maurer envelops influences that reach from the Rio Grande to the Mediterranean. Call it Chinese ravioli, Italian won ton or Mexican kreplach, the result is a wholly new, wholly American creation.

Such culinary adaptations started as soon as the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock and began trading recipes with the Pamet Indians. When Mayflower...

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