The cuisines of many nations would not be what they are today, but for various ingredients that have circumnavigated the globe over the last millennium.
Tofu is an important part of traditional Japanese cuisine. They learnt the technique for producing Tofu from the Chinese. People from Korea and China passed on ingredients and food preparation techniques to the Japanese. In 1782, a cook book featuring 100 Tofu recipes was released in Japan. It was so popular that the second volume containing 138 recipes was released the very next year.
Indian cuisine has a very long history of flavoured curries. Chilli- the prominent ingredient was not available until the beginning of the 16th Century until the trade links with the Americas was established. Chilli is indigenous to the modern day Mexico. Interestingly Indians were harvesting Turmeric and Cardamom since 3500 BC. They had trade links with Sumerians, who gave them access to Cumin.
The French Dessert menu today wouldn’t be the same without Chocolate. It was introduced to France around the 17th Century by the Spaniards. Initially it was suspicious as being ‘potentially poisonous’. But this fear soon subsided when the Spanish royalty married into the French court and bought with them the love for drinking chocolate. It was associated with sensuality in art & literature of that period. It was even prescribed by doctors as a cure for ‘frigidity’.
Today, Tea is the unofficial drink of England. But it was not until the latter half of the 17th c, when tea completed its migration from China. The English were actually one of the last people in Europe to begin drinking tea. Initially it was consumed only by the wealthy who frequented London’s elite coffee houses. In 1662 Catherine of Braganza, a Portuguese Princess, married the English King and bought with her ‘a love of tea’. Immediately it became a feature of the English court and slowly spread to the rest of the population.
Pizza, Lasagne, Spaghetti & Bolognese are iconic Italian dishes that have been embraced by people all over the world. Tomato- the principal ingredient was not known in Italy until 16th century. It was considered toxic as the tomatoes that came to Italy were small, pale, had an acidic flavour and an unpleasant smell. Credit to be given to the Italian gardeners who played a pivotal role in reshaping it into a red, juicy fruit/vegetable, we all know today. During the 18th century it gained popularity and became a permanent addition to pastas and pizzas.
Brazil first cultivated coffee in 1727 and it remains as the world largest producer. The Portuguese first colonised in the early 16th century and the first product they exported was ‘ Brazil Wood’- a large tree. Then Sugar was an established crop by 17th century. Incidentally coffee originated from Africa.
Potato originated in South America and was introduced to Europe as an ‘anti-famine’ food. Gained popularity in Ireland. The Irish were so dependent on it that it was unofficially declared as the national vegetable. Even today Ireland’s per capita consumption of potato is one of the highest. Tragically between 1845-50 the failure of multiple potato crops caused wide spread famine which resulted in millions of people dying of starvation.
Kiwifruit is an icon of New Zealand. It has been growing there since 1904 only. China is the original home of the Kiwifruit. it was referred to as ‘monkey peach’ because it were a favourite to the local wild monkeys. In the beginning of the 19th century the plant was exported to various parts of the world from Ichang port. So the name ‘Ichang currant’ gained popularity for a short time. It was also known as ‘ Chinese Gooseberry’, though the precise origin of the name is unknown. The name kiwifruit was devised when New Zealanders began exporting the fruit to USA. The name was chosen purely because of the bird- Kiwi.
The vast majority of foods that sustained the Aborigines of Australia for thousands of years are no longer eaten today. Though gradually becoming popular. Only Macadamia nut is produced commercially since the 19th Century. The first commercial Macadamia nut orchard was established in 1882. Since then this nut has become popular all over the world.