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Author Topic: learning about history through food
periyar
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posted 18 January 2005 01:37 PM      Profile for periyar   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Food is one of my great preoccupations. At any point in the day I'm thinking about what to eat or what to cook.
I also love history and a few years ago i found this great book that combines these two interests.

It's called: Indian Food- A historical companion, by K.T. Achaya.

It covers the history of the various communities in India by focusing on what people ate- it also talks about the origin of different foods and how they arrived in India, and through this we read about the impressions of chinese travellers, arab traders, Alexander the Great, the portuguese, british etc.

There's so many interesting facts. For example, chili pepper which my mother used in every dish she made is originally from mexico. It was brought by the portugese in the 16th century. It's such an integral part of indian cooking and its only been around about five hundred years.
So many of the yummy things I like and always associated with india was brought over by the portugese from south or central america. The list includes cashewnuts, guava, papaya, cassava.

Anyone else interested or know about other food origins? I find this topic fascinating, also how certain foods are adapted into the cuisine of different cultures.


From: toronto | Registered: Oct 2004  |  IP: Logged
faith
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posted 18 January 2005 01:44 PM      Profile for faith     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Food is one of the great topics that connects everyone.
I recently watched a special on Henry the VIII and one of the things I learned was the unusual adventerous appetites of the English way back when.
Anything seemed to go , peacocks with their feathers still on when serving was one dish I remembered.Copious amounts of unusually spiced food seemed to be required for a proper table. One wonders what on earth happened to tame the English palette.

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Reality. Bites.
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posted 18 January 2005 01:50 PM      Profile for Reality. Bites.        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
It's unlikely the food served to the aristocracy has ever had much in common with what ordinary people were eating.
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kuri
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posted 18 January 2005 01:50 PM      Profile for kuri   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Another English food change.

I used to be wary of these during my vegetarian days and for no reason - because they no longer contain meat. But I guess I was right (sort of) to think that mincemeat pies would actually have meat in them, because they once did.


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Mr. Magoo
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posted 18 January 2005 01:54 PM      Profile for Mr. Magoo   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
One wonders what on earth happened to tame the English palette.

Refrigeration.

The heavy spices were to conceal the fact that much of the food was past its "Best by" date. Likewise, serving a roast with the head sewn back on or feathers and skin reattached was "proof" that the game was fresh.

Cooks would also have a little fun with it, creating mythical characters out of body parts, eg: a roast pig with a goose's head stiched on. I believe these were known as a Cockentrice:

Vegans, look away!


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periyar
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posted 18 January 2005 02:01 PM      Profile for periyar   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I recently read that the idea of spices being used to perserve meat during that time period in europe is actually a myth. Before the europeans gained direct access to the spice trade, they were very costly and only the rich could afford it and would not have 'wasted' it on meat perservation. An australian scholar, i can't remember his name, is in the process of writng a book about spices and this is someting he mentioned in the interview that i read.
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lagatta
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posted 18 January 2005 02:02 PM      Profile for lagatta     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
One of the great food historians is Claudia Roden, whose extraordinary Book of Jewish Food is the most extensive of her many works on Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Italian and Jewish cookery and many other food-related topics with a historical and cultural stamp.

Periyar, how I'd love to find your Indian cookery book! I've noted it. This is a wonderful topic to warm our foodie and historians' hearts on a cold January day.


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periyar
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posted 18 January 2005 02:14 PM      Profile for periyar   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Laggatta,
My husband ordered it online. I'll find out from where and let you know. It's an incredible book- well researched, covering many topics- he writes about the food of the tribal communities and how that was incorporated into the food of the aryans. Also included, the food preferences and practices of the many religious communities one finds in India, poetry about food- it's really exhaustive and captivating- to me anyway.

Thanks for the interesting link. The Indian jewish community she speaks of is situated close to my home town and fish curry is delicious and eaten by people of all religious persuasions(exception of vegetarians).

[ 18 January 2005: Message edited by: periyar ]


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Reality. Bites.
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posted 18 January 2005 02:45 PM      Profile for Reality. Bites.        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Mr. Magoo:
Cooks would also have a little fun with it, creating mythical characters out of body parts, eg: a roast pig with a goose's head stiched on. I believe these were known as a Cockentrice:[/IMG]

Today they do that with photographs of live animals and photoshop. Some of them are very disturbing.


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Contrarian
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posted 18 January 2005 02:49 PM      Profile for Contrarian     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
You might want to check the souvenir shop at your local museum. They tend to have interesting and different books; the Glenbow Museum shop in Calgary has pioneer cookbooks and ranch recipes.

Googling 'historical' & 'cookbooks' brings up many interesting links.

Also, are some of Margaret Visser's books in this area?


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skdadl
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posted 18 January 2005 03:18 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I thought of Margaret Visser too, Contrarian.

A very happy memory for me is of my Fang spending one winter reading the first book of Visser's that we knew about, Much Depends on Dinner, and deciding then and there that he would reconfigure his vegetable garden to recreate a Central American cornfield.

And in the spring, I was conscripted. I went out and got a bag of wee frozen smelts (?), which we put into each corn plant mound as fertilizer, since the plants take so many nutrients out. And then we built the mounds up, planting beans around the mound so that they would grow up the cornstalks, and zucchini in the aisles, to keep weeds down.

It was so much fun to do, and it worked ... for a time. The corn grew; the beans grew up the cornstalks, and the squashes kept the weeds down. Very clever intensive farming in a tiny plot.

Bet they don't have racoons in Central America, though.


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Contrarian
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posted 18 January 2005 04:01 PM      Profile for Contrarian     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
According to the Amazon archaeologists, if you had included some charcoal with your smelt, the fertility would have made 800% more raccoons happy. link to thread
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skdadl
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posted 18 January 2005 04:19 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
The racoons were happy enough!

They got all the corn!

That was partly because I made a stupid mistake, though. They would get the outer row one night. I would come out in morning, rant and scream and cry, but then, stupidly, I would take out the stripped row.

Thus making it easier for them the next night to get the next row, eh?

Och. Midway through the whole disaster, we slept outside one night, on ground sheets and sleeping bags. (Ground sheets very bad idea; gives the dew worms ideas. Icky sight in morning.)

About 2 a.m., the brilliant Oyster alerted Fang to intruder presence by jumping, hard, upon his chest. Fang nudged me; we shone flashlight on corn patch; and sure 'nough, there was the bandit. And briefly, he ran.

For the rest of the night, we didn't sleep deeply, Fang, Oyster, and moi. And about 4 a.m., just before we perceived the first light, we heard the calls beginning, up and down the street: "Hit the fence, kids! It's dawn!" It was so lovely and eerie, racoon mums calling the kids in.

So we got up and walked down to the back fence, the officious Oyster marching along with us. (The fearsome Redcliff took off to hide in the basement.) We shone the light up at the fence, and there they were, entire families of coons, big, little, and the occasional lone teenager, trucking down that 401 of fences, paying no attention to us, heading god knows where.

Oyster was so annoyed.

We were quite charmed, actually. But then, stupidly, I went and cleaned out the next corn row. I bet a Central American wouldn't have done that. The whole patch was gone before I realized how stupid I had been.

[ 18 January 2005: Message edited by: skdadl ]


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Contrarian
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posted 18 January 2005 05:02 PM      Profile for Contrarian     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Good story! Gourmet raccoons.
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idontandwontevergolf
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posted 18 January 2005 06:27 PM      Profile for idontandwontevergolf     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I love listening to Margaret Visser on the radio talking about food.

I always look for interesting cookbooks in secondhand bookstores buying those that contain "stories" as well as recipes. I read them like books. I have one I bought in Vermont - "Soul Food, Recipes and Reflections from African-American Churches" with three pages of writing about the importance of cornbread in their lives. The "Mennonite Community Cookbook" with food for a barn raising - 115 lemon pies, 3 gallons rice pudding, 6 pounds dried prunes etc. The Tassajara Breadbook - I looked for this book for twenty years and found it two weeks ago - a Zen Buddhist's book on making bread. "Cooking Like Mummyji" - Indian food - each recipe includes the writer's memories of how her mother, grandmother et al cooked. "Table Talk, Appalachian Meals and Memories" - recipes and stories from everyday people of Appalachia.

I was listening to Shelagh Rogers one day and she was speaking to a most interesting man about the food his mother cooked. I didn't hear his name and wondered who he was until I found a book about food by Austin Clark (The Polished Hoe). He was wonderful to listen to.

I think it's really interesting to find the similarities in food across cultures. Follow the lowly dumpling from Chin a to India (samosas) to Poland (Perogies). I was given Anthony Bourdaine's book for Christmas. The one in which he travels the world - his Food TV show is based on the book. Though, I believe he was drunk throughout the entire journey. And one wonders how he can taste anything given that he smokes a couple of packs a day.

I had been told by my husband's family that Indians spiced meat to mask the taste of spoiled meat. In the south, where it is hotter the meat is spicier than it is in the north.

I love the everyday food from all over the world. But sometimes my favourite meal is a grilled cheese sandwich (white bread only! and "processed cheese food") with Campbell's tomato soup and a movie.

My mother has a recipe from her Mennonite gg grandmother for Chicken Pot Pie. No pie is involved. This is a great meal.

Right now I have a beef stew in the slow cooker and I will be making dumplings in an hour. MMMMMM. For some reason, all of the vegetables that I just hate on their own are perfect in a stew - celery, big ugly carrots, turnips, parsnips. Oops, forgot the bay leaf - gotta go!


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periyar
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posted 18 January 2005 06:34 PM      Profile for periyar   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
What a coincidence, last night i made beef pies with parsnips, celery and carrots. I used the pressure cooker for the filling.
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idontandwontevergolf
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posted 18 January 2005 06:56 PM      Profile for idontandwontevergolf     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
It is the beef pie and stew season. When you say you used a pressure cooker, is that the pot on the stove with the complicated lid apparatus? I have never used one.
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periyar
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posted 18 January 2005 07:03 PM      Profile for periyar   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 

[ 18 January 2005: Message edited by: periyar ]


From: toronto | Registered: Oct 2004  |  IP: Logged
periyar
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posted 18 January 2005 07:07 PM      Profile for periyar   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
[QUOTE]Originally posted by periyar:
[QB]yes, the pressure cooker used to scare me for a long time because it would make that hissing noise and lots of steam would come out and i had this fear that it would just blow up and hit me in the face. My husband used it all the time and I only started using it a few months ago. It cuts cooking time down by more than half and meat comes out so tender. Once i got over my fear of the noise and steam, it was really quite simple. You can even make steamed puddings in it although i've never tried, it'll
be my next experiment.

Also, it significantly reduces the cooking time for chickpeas and other beans.


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periyar
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posted 18 January 2005 07:08 PM      Profile for periyar   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
oops, sorry about the double post.
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aRoused
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posted 19 January 2005 12:19 PM      Profile for aRoused     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Not quite the same thing as periyar was asking about, but I recommend Prehistoric Cooking, by Jacqui Wood, the director of Cornwall Celtic Village, an ongoing experimental archaeology site in the UK. Lots of info on seasonal greens and recipes from bread/beer to stews and desserts. Even some vegetarian ones in there.
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