I’ve never been much of a history buff. In fact, history was always the lowest subject on the totem pole in school. I just could not have cared less about something that happened hundreds of years ago. It seemed boring and pointless to me.
Then, I moved up in years, had a family and started a business. History wasn’t even on the map for me.
But now that I’m in culinary school, for the first time in my life, I’m finding history extremely interesting. Not because of what happened all those decades ago, but because of how it all relates to the food we eat today.
The creation of the railway would never have knocked my socks off until I learned about the affect it had on our food supply. In fact, pretty much every major event in history has had a significant impact on our food, how we cook it and how we eat it.
Culinary arts, as we know them today, were created by a man named Antonin Careme. He invented what we know as “haute cuisine” (grande cuisine) and created the standard culinary terminology that we still use today. He did all of this waaaaaaay back in 1784. The man was a genius. But while he certainly accomplished much in his short 48 years of living, he didn’t get a ton of “exposure” for what he did to alter the course of history (at least not until after his death). That particular honor went to a man by the name of Auguste Escoffier.
Escoffier continued Careme’s work, refining it as he went. He made the art of French cooking into what we know today. He organized the kitchen into what you will typically see in restaurants and “codified the recipes for the five mother sauces“.
Escoffier published Le Guide Culinaire, which is still used as a major reference work, both in the form of a cookbook and a textbook on cooking. Escoffier’s recipes, techniques and approaches to kitchen management remain highly influential today, and have been adopted by chefs and restaurants not only in France, but also throughout the world. Source.
OTHER SIGNIFICANT HAPPENINGS
Somewhere in between Careme and Escoffer (about 1815), the US also saw an influx of millions of European immigrants. This would impact our cuisine significantly with immigrants trying to recreate the dishes they loved so much back home, with the ingredients available to them here.
In 1826, transportation by railway began. This was an incredible time in our culinary history because now foods that were in season in one area, could be shipped to another part of the country where they were not yet in season. (Sound familiar?)
Each war we fought (and fight today) altered our food supply as well. Men, living overseas for any extended period of time became accustomed to foreign foods and wanted to continue to enjoy them back home. And each war we fought taught us new ways to package foods for longer periods of time in order to feed our troops.
In 1886, we saw the invention of Coca Cola, and in 1898, Pepsi Cola came into being. (I think we all know the current impact of that!) In fact, prohibition in the 1920’s increased public consumption of soda considerably. But ironically, more than half (about 70%!) of the alcoholic mixed drinks we have today were created during prohibition!
At about the same time, we find homes finally getting electricity for the first time, forever altering how (and if) we cooked at home.
TOO MANY TO LIST
The number of historical events that affected our food supply and cooking styles are far too numerous to account for here. But I think it’s pretty safe to say that nothing much happens in history without some effect taking place on what and how we eat.
Want to know when certain food products were invented or entered the market place? Here’s a quick “food-product-at-a-glance” list.
Those of you who know me from my other blog will note that the food products below were “invented”, and are therefore probably not the healthiest things to be eating. Nuff’ said.
1840 – White bread became very popular thanks to mechanization an industry.
1851 – The first ice cream factory was built
1859 – The first grocery store opens (A&P)
1869 – Margarine was invented (in France) and brought to the US in 1874
1897 – Jell-O was invented.
1905 – The first Pizzeria opens.
1921 – Wonder Bread was invented
1928 – Velveeta was invented
1931 – Bisquik was invented
1937 – Kraft Mac & Cheese became available in grocery stores
1939 – Nestle unveiled the first chocolate chips
1946 – Cheerios were invented
1947 – Cake mix hit store shelves
1954 – Burger King opened it’s first store and McDonald’s was born
1965 – Cool Whip was born
1964 – Pop Tarts were invented
1982 – The word “Foodie” was born in a London newspaper and we begin to see celebrity chefs
1986 – The slow food movement is begun
1993 – The Food Network launches
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