"Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men, whose labours and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world. Americans are the western pilgrims, who are carrying along with them that great mass of arts, sciences, vigour, and industry which began long since in the east..." More than two centuries after J. Hector St. Jean de Crevecoeur made his bid to define Americas national character, the answer to the question, What is an American? remains maddeningly elusive. Since we cant easily sum up who we are, its no surprise that we cant easily sum up what we eat. Ask 20 people at random, What is American cuisine? and youll quickly start 20 different arguments. There is, of course, no single true American cuisine. Our food is the product of different climates, crops, cultural influences and cooking techniques favored in various U.S. regions. And there are at least seven distinct strains that can now be readily identified and celebrated for their uniqueness and creativity. Consider the cuisine of Napa Valley, Calif., for instance. Northern Californias wine country for years has been the epicenter of a culinary revolution that champions procuring the freshest, highest-quality locally grown or raised ingredients available and getting those ingredients from farm to fork as soon as possible. Simple preparations--grilling, baking, pan-frying--are favored over more complex ones. Mediterranean influences abound, as do pure, clean flavor profiles.Like the region that inspired it, Napa Valley fare is at once elegant and relaxed, earthy and sophisticated, and absolutely sure of itself. Thomas Kellers world-renowned French Laundry in Yountville is, for many, the very embodiment of Napa cuisine, with dishes such as a sautÃ©ed sirloin of Cloverdale Farms rabbit served with a ragout of baby garlic, fava beans, chorizo, green almonds and extra virgin olive oil.