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Food For Thought

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
Was just reading “Cuisine and Culture,” Linda Civitello’s book subtitled “a history of food and people.”

Frankly, it isn’t written very well. There are some serious historical and research errors in it. And it wouldn’t have suffered, any, by having a professional editor take a look. But her premise is interesting.

What Civitello maintains is that, because of the continual movement of peoples, and the melding of cultures, all cuisines consist of fusion foods, and the very idea of fusion being new is somewhat of a joke.

I can relate to that. My people come from a part of the world where raiders raped their way through every 20 years or so. Thus, I really have no idea what I am, in terms of nationality. And the same applies to the food of that region.

So, while she makes a good case, it got me to wondering. What, exactly, are the hallmarks of a specific cuisine. What, for instance, makes Italian cuisine what it is. Or French. Or Russian. Or African.

I thought this might make a good topic for discussion.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #2 of 26
Its kind of interesting to imagine Italian food long ago......can
you imagine it without coffee, chocolate, tomatoes, corn, perhaps
rice.....makes you wonder....it surely does....
post #3 of 26
Thread Starter 
Especially when you consider how many "Italian" foods were imported and introduced by the Romans.

And then, of course, all the New World items you mention
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #4 of 26
We should start a list of all the "New World Items"......I must
admit...I don't know all of them.....Interesting tidbit....Jamaica
was almost void of fruit before it was introduced by outsiders.
post #5 of 26
Interesting premise indeed. How far back does one go, or can we only count it as what is generally accepted as being "typical" of a country's cuisine at this point in time? For example, Italy, think pasta. France, foie de gras. Germany, Sauerkraut. China, stirfry. Britain - fish and chips/roast beef. India, curries. On and on ad infinitum for various countries.

As for Australia, we're just too much of a mix to have a definable "typical" cuisine. Too many backgrounds, and our original people were migrants too in the long long ago. But according to theory everyone came from Africa in the extreme long ago.

Is it defined by the commonly accepted "national dishes"? I guarantee everyone has a different idea of what each country's cuisine is described by. I don't believe its a question that can be answered, except by what is generally accepted as being native to that country. This will also vary from country to country as to what perception people have of particular cuisines, due to the local interpretation.

Very good food for thought.
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #6 of 26
And how many were introduced by the Jews ... especially during Roman times <LOL>
post #7 of 26
Thread Starter 
Shel, I don't think there was a Jewish cuisine at that point.

Consistent with the kashruth laws, they pretty much ate what their neighbors did. So, while there were Mideastern influences on the Roman palette (and vice-versa---we sometimes forget that Rome exported its culture), they would not have been particularly Jewish.

When people say "Jewish" in terms of cuisine, two thoughts come to mind. The mixed-Middle European/Russian Pale Ashkenasi cuisine (which, in the U.S., is mostly thought of as "New York cuisine"), and the Moorish-influenced Sephardic cuisine.

Both of these are more products of the middle ages than of the Roman Empire.

One difference is that Sephardic cuisine, at the time, was not thought of as another cause for persecution, because Kashruth and Halal are so akin you really need a microscope to tell them apart, the only significant difference being that the Jews drank alcohol and the Muslims did not.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #8 of 26
Thread Starter 
"How far back does one go,"

As far back as one wishes, DC. Civitello contends that even in Neolithic times there was the combining and melding of cultures.

However, she quotes Michael freeman's definiton of cuisine, to differentiate it from mere cooking. Cuisine is "a self-conscious tradition of cooking and eating...with a set of attitudes about food and its place in the life of man."

In other words, cuisine implies a "this is the way we do it" attitude, with some cultures more open to new ideas and foodstuffs than others.

Interesting that in your list you put Italy first. It kind of proves the point. If we skip ahead from Roman times, each of the Italian city-states developed it's own cuisines, based on local agricultural conditions, proximity to its neighbors, and what invaders left behind.

Venice and Florance were, at various times, the gateways to world trade, and all sorts of foodstuffs---particularly from the Far East---were introduced that way.

Then came the Crusades, which embarked and returned via Italy, bringing a whole new set of influences and foodstuffs. There was a Turkish occupation; and a Germanic one as well. And......

Seems to me that modern Italy, in terms of culinary fusion, is the great melting pot. Except that there are still vast regional differences. How they do things in Sicily and how they do them in, say, Tuscony, are not necessarily the same.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #9 of 26
I'll beg to differ with you. There was a large Jewish population in Rome at the time, living and working in their ghetto, and many of the foods they used and prepared were ultimately assimilated into Roman culture. Please note that I did not say "Jewish cuisine," but, rather, said that there were foods that the Jews introduced to the Romans.
post #10 of 26
Thread Starter 
Interesting.

Do you know what any of those foods were? And how they differed from general "Mid-eastern" foods that the Romans discovered on scene?

I had no idea there was a Jewish ghetto in ancient Rome. Maybe the only time in history when "blame the Jews" wasn't the watchword of the day (they were too busy persecuting Christians, donchaknow :lips:)
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #11 of 26
Yes, KYH, there was a large and vibrant Jewish culture in the Rome ghetto. It's a vestige of its former self now, but you can still find restaurants there serving foods like Jewish style artichokes. No clue where those originated though.

I think that cultures which had travel as critical parts of their histories are responsible for much of the culinary cross-pollination: Romans and others for conquest; Jews who resorted to trade because other occupations were closed to them; adventurers like the Norse; and others that I can't think of at the moment (but I hope someone will add to the list). Peoples who can adapt and think outside of the boxes of their traditions are better because of it, IMHO. As much evil as the Roman Empire was capable of, remember that they didn't universally crush local cultures- preserving much of a locality's culture was part of the concept of Pax Romana. Sadly, this was a brief part of their longer history.

When EvenStephen mentioned the lack of fruit in Jamaica, for some reason I thought of Spam being imported to Hawaii and becoming a signature staple! :lol: These days it's processed foods that seem to show up. I was stunned in 1998 to see Pop Tarts in a Tesco in London, and Old El Paso Tex-Mex canned products on the shelves in a LeClerc in Paris....

This kind of cultural diffusion I can do without. :rolleyes:
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post #12 of 26
Spam....great for putting a shine on copper and brass....also is flammable and
slow burning....great substitute for sterno....Americas indigenous foods............ chile pepper, peppers, pepper, cactus, tomato, corn, vanilla,
potatoes, yams, pumpkins and the majority of large hard squash, peanuts, turkey, cacao beans(chocolate), coffee.
post #13 of 26
Carfciofi alla Giudia (artichokes in the Jewish style) was originally a Jewish dish called Carciofi Arrosto by the Roman Jews and only recently (within the last 90 years or so) was changed to alla Giudia. I will be happy to post the technique and recipe for this dish later on.

More later on this interesting subject, other than to say both fennel and eggplant were, at one time, considered "vile foods of the Jews."

Gotta do some work - will talk more later.

Shel
post #14 of 26
There's a point in "It's a Wonderful Life" where Mr. Potter tells George to get help from his friends "the garlic eaters". I always thought, Yep, those people know how to eat, help and be friends.

And they did.

Now most of us enjoy garlic.

Phil
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #15 of 26
Thread Starter 
Goodness gracious, Stephen, how could you leave common beans off that list? All the Phaseolus vulgaris can be traced to the new world. So too can runner beans, and limas.

Also other grains, besides corn, such as amarenth and quinoa. Possibly sunflowers.

Coffee? I don't think so. Doesn't coffee come from Anatolia, or somewhere in the Caucasus Mountains? All those legends about the Armenean goatherd and the dancing rams.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #16 of 26
Coffee originated in Ethiopia. The most commonly accepted account revolving around an Abyssinian goatherder around 850 AD.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #17 of 26
I think that story has been debunked ... it's just a fairy tale, but as good as any other.

Shel
post #18 of 26
KY,
Thanks for the correction....I must have had coffee on the brain....beans,
beans, the magical fruit.....correctamundo.......the whole Jewish thing really
touched a nerve......fun post, though......What is Christian food like??????
Is it similar to Jewish food......or more like Muslim food??? Before anyone replies in anger....I'm just kidding......I tend to match food with people and places more than with religions.....In the true nature of this post...What foods were indigenous to Hawaii?
post #19 of 26
I think I listed Italy first because you did :) But Italy does spring to mind as one of the more defined cuisines, and the resilience of Italian cuisine as it has been taken around the world. And Italians i know are also of the "this is the way we do it" attitude in many other walks of life - and I love them for it. Even to the fact of a grapevine, an orange tree and a lemon tree in the back yard of every one of their households I would visit as a child - including the vegie patch taking over the backyard, full of tomatoes, capsicum, garlic, beans, eggplants etc etc.

What I would love to know - who first invented the noodle? (speaking of Italians...) Did Marco Polo take it to Asia, or bring it back? Its always intrigued me.

DC
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #20 of 26
post #21 of 26
Great link. That's the only way the history of the "noodle" can be traced that far back, by that sort of evidence. I'll leave it to the scientists among us to argue the finer points. As long as there's been flour, there's prob been pasta/paste, fashioned in one form or another.

Has bread been around longer? It would appear to be more wide spread amongst various cultures/cuisines for a longer time than noodles (uneducated guess)

(Sorry for all the questions, KYH started a good thread here :) )
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #22 of 26
"Fragments of unleavened bread made of grain have been unearthed in the ruins of the Swiss lake dwellers, builders of the earliest-known civilized communities of Europe, going back to about 4,000 BCE. Among the Egyptians, baking was known before the 20th century BCE, and it is thought they may have discovered fermentation accidentally. "

Shel
post #23 of 26
Thread Starter 
"What foods were indigenous to Hawaii?"

Sandwiches? :lol:

Seriously, breadfruit, for sure.

Maybe coconuts---except they originated in polynesia, if I recall correctly, so must have been brought there.

Tara root? Again, not sure if it was native, or imported from elsewhere.

Getting back to indigenous New World foods: avocados and sunchokes should be added to the list.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #24 of 26
The origin of coconuts is still in dispute. the Sallier Papyrus states that a species of coconut palm existed in Egypt in the 14th century BC ! The coconut floats well, and the embryo of the seed can remain viable for many months, perhaps up to a year or so, so it's possibe - and possibly quite likely - that Polynesia was only a stop along the way for the venerable coconut.

Thor Hyerdahl (sp?) in his book, Kon-Tiki, may have had something to say about how the coconut travelled based on his own drifting across the Pacific on a raft, and the vegetation he found while making his journey from Peru. I don't remember clearly - would have to look it up.

Shel
post #25 of 26
Thread Starter 
>Among the Egyptians, [COLOR=#006666! important][FONT=verdana, geneva, lucida, 'lucida grande', arial, helvetica, sans-serif][COLOR=#006666! important][FONT=verdana, geneva, lucida, 'lucida grande', arial, helvetica, sans-serif]baking[/FONT][/FONT][/COLOR][/COLOR] was known before the 20th century BCE, and it is thought they may have discovered fermentation accidentally. <

Probably quite a bit before the 20th century, Shel. The Old Kingdom dates to 2686 BCE, and breadmaking is depicted on the walls of the great pyramids---which would indicate that bread making had been around a long time before that.

In ancient Egyption, the word "bread" is the same as the word "life."

They were likely one of several independent "discoverers" of fermentation. But there's little doubt we can lay the development of leavened bread solidly in their court.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #26 of 26
That's what I said - "before the 20th century BCE" - 2000 years before Christ. I think we agree - just saying the same thing differently.

Shel
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