History of Food


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History of pasta part - I

 Italy, the country with many cities is also the country with many cuisines and recipes. Italy has a very rich culinary heritage. Italy was greatly influenced by the Romans during the middle ages. Italian cuisine was the first fully developed cuisine in Europe. Italian cuisine became a mother cuisine to France when, Caterina de’ Medici married king Henry II, and bought team of expert cooks to France. Exotic eating was a rule during imperial Roman times. Many authors like Petronius, Juvenal, Lucian and many more have mentioned in their writings about peacock, flamingos and herons been served, during the Roman rule in Italy. Other animals like puppies, wolves and hedgehogs were also eaten.

Maecenas was the first to serve ass’s meat, in the first century B.C. Romans originally were shepherds and farmers. They learned how to get salt from sea water. Salt was used as a base for trade between the Romans and the Greeks for grain. Any food made from grain was the staple food for Romans at that time. As time passed on, grain changed from millet to barley and latter to corn meal. Polenta, which is made of corn meal is still remains one of the national dish of Italy. Other source of nourishment was cottage cheese made from ewe’s milk. As wine being expensive at that time, poorer people drank what was left over, an unappetizing beverage derived from steeping the crushed residue of the grapes in water.
Utensils used for cooking were usually made of bronze and iron. As Romans started to become more sophisticated in their life with time, food was been served at the table. Romans developed a system of importing, food production and marketing food from other countries. Pork was preferred more than mutton. Herbs and spices being at their disposal, they were able to make a variety of flavours in their dishes. Apple was the favourite fruit among the Romans. Other fruits like Peaches and Apricots were imported from Persia and America. Various kinds of fishes were salted and preserved in leaves, either smoked or stored in brine for trading. At the end of third century, barbarians moved to Rome and for next four or five centuries there was no progress in Italian cuisine. But, in ninth century, due to Islamic invasion in southern Italy for two centuries, there was a slight change in Italian cuisine.
Italian people learned desserts from the Arabs. Spices were back in favor. In the late middle ages in Italy, true bread appeared once more. It was not until the twelfth century did Italian cuisine gained popularity. Italy’s culinary heritage is usually asserted and recognized through references to city-based identities. The cities and the countryside of Italy play a leading role in the identification of a particular product form particular region. For example, Treviso Chicory or Bitonto Oil is a product of the region they are produced from. It is understood that the strongest typical products in the history of Italian food are those with the strongest industrial support, namely pasta, parmesan cheese, and tomato sauce. These food products have crossed the boarder line of Italy and are recognized all over the world today.
A social and economic exchange of information and techniques took place between the rich and poor masses of culture in Italy. During the first half of the twentieth century, that is 1940 to 1946 there was food restriction linked to the war in Italy. The traces of a culinary tradition that came into being in the face on hunger are abundantly evident even in patterns of elite consumption and in recipe books of haute cuisine. But, there are many recipes and products in the culinary tradition of Italy that identify the taste of ordinary people, both food of rich and food of the poor. The culinary identity of Italy emerged due to the exchange between the city and countryside with in Italy. The exchanged caused new experiences which were changed constantly, through social and economic and they reached to a common experience. This experience was called ‘ITALIAN’.
In a culinary repertory favoring designations such as “risotto alla Milanese”,
“Florentine steak”, and “Neapolitan pizza”, the adjective Italian, liken the expression “all’ Italian” (Italian style), is not typically applied to the name dish, whether a pasta,
a pastry or any other kind of food
Recepies from Italy are known and copied in homes and restaurants all over the world. The recognizable food products like pasta or pizza create the image of Italian tradition in all the other countries of the world. These products represent the culture of commerce based on taste, skill, and knowledge. Along with the exchange of food products, dishes and flavors, there is also an exchange of documents and recepies. This lively traffic has been going on since ancient times and is vital for good taste. Italian culinary history has distinguished itself form other countries culinary history through its unique traditions and culture. The regional cuisine was created in the late nineteenth century. The dishes were prepared with locally available ingredients, family traditions, and market patterns. Even though there were political, economical and cultural changes in the nineteenth century, it did not affect the regional so much.
The Italian culture was considered as the Mediterranean rather than north European. Exported products like almonds, walnuts and above all figs, which were the part of peasant diet, indicated the backward ness of Italy in terms of diet and trade. But, at the same time when there was no word heard about canned food, sun-dried products were common in Italy. The first ever product to be sun-dried and preserved were tomatoes. In between 1897-1908, the exports of sun-dried tomato increased by ten times. Emilia and Campania were the two major regions for sun-dried tomatoes.

During the nineteenth century, Francesco Cirio had set up a factory for the preservation of most vegetables and pluses. He was first to export large quantities of agricultural produce from south to the north of Europe. A cookery book written by the anonymous author mentioned vegetables that were used in the thirteenth century. The latest date at which this book could have appeared is 1290, five years before Marco Polo returned from his historical journey across Asia to China-which should dispose of the fable that he bought back the art of making pasta from Cathay.

Rahul Wali


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