Intoduction to Food & Society
Peasant Cookery
Restaurant History

Introduction to Food & Society

Ancient Greece
1. Skeletons found of aristocrats in ancient Greece, who ate more meat and a wider variety of food, showed their bones to be nearly 3” taller than those of common folk who ate little more than coarse bread.
2. Lucullus Story
3. Food also played an interesting role in the political development of the era. Europe’s desire for spices, for example, stimulated the discovery of new lands and brought whole nations into keen competition. Why this passion for spices?
  A. Spices preserved foods
  B. Spices disguised the flavor of bad foods ( Paris – cream sauces vs. country vegetables)
  C. Spices used as status symbols among the rich
  D. Acted as currency
  E. Believed to cure diseases
  F. Thought to improve sexual functioning

When Europe’s desire for spices was frustrated by the high cost of bringing them out of the East, a more direct route was sought. However, the political barriers of the Ottoman Turks, who wouldn’t let anyone travel their lands to look for spices, and the geographical one of Africa where no one knew how far south Africa stretched, made it necessary to search into new directions.

We all know how Marco Polo returned home to Venice from China with tantalizing descriptions of ginger, nutmeg, pepper, and cloves. And, of course, there was Columbus. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain financed hisd trip westward in hopes of finding a direct route to the Spice Islands in order to escalate their royal treasury. To his dying day, Columbus swore that it was not a new continent he had reached, but, rather, the islands off the coast of Asia. Instead of pepper, ginger, and nutmeg, however, he returned with the pineapple that refused to grow in European soil, and the pimento that didn’t exactly please his financiers.

The power struggle for spice control between the nations went from the Turks and Italians to the Portuguese, the Dutch, and then to all seafaring nations. The English entered the competition by forming the East India Company in hopes of driving down the cost of pepper. Although they didn’t succeed in breaking the Dutch hold on the spice trade, the rivalry played an important role in spurring the race to colonize new countries.

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