Food History in the News

Feast Service, Lutrell Psalter
Feast Service, Lutrell Psalter

I will admit it, I am a Food History Nerd.  I am fascinated by the way people have not only put food on the table throughout history, but also by the ways that food affects our interactions, celebrations, and culture at large.  We had a great discussion out in San Francisco a few nights before IACP about “Cultural Healing Cinema” and the Southern Foodways Alliance stand that cultural healing starts at the dinner table.  The history of breaking bread together to seal a new friendship or make a deal is long and well documented.

Millie Coleman

Millie Coleman told a wonderful story about an initiative in Chicago taking used tires and planting tomatoes and basil in them.  Every so often the neighborhood folks get together and harvest the plants, make tomato sauce, and have a big dinner.  Evidently the spaghetti  is popular enough to get all of the neighborhood folks of varying backgrounds together for a fantastic experience of sharing in a delicious community effort.  What a great way to forge friendships and build communities for Cultural Healing.

Today there is news of a group of scholars at Durham University in England that have translated a series of recipes from the 12th century, a full 150 years older than any previously known source.  They are going to be holding two events at Blackfriar’s Restaurant to try some of the dishes out.

“The recipes are for sauces to accompany mutton, chicken, duck, pork and beef. There’s even a seasonal version of the chicken recipe, charmingly called “hen in winter”. We believe this recipe is simply a seasonal variation, using ingredients available in the colder months and specifying “hen” rather than “chicken”, meaning it was an older bird as it would be by that time of year. The sauces typically feature parsley, sage, pepper, garlic, mustard and coriander which I suspect may give them a middle eastern, Lebanese feel when we recreate them. According to the text, one of the recipes comes from the Poitou region of what is now modern central western France. This proves international travellers to Durham brought recipes with them.”

This is a flavor profile I am very familiar with, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with out of this manuscript.  It just makes my little food history nerdy self all happy inside.

The history of our food and food pathways is important and needs to continue to be identified and documented.  Food trends come and go and before you know it, they have become part of history too.

What is your food history?  How does it shape the way you feel about food today?

1 thought on “Food History in the News”

  1. The world best kept secret
    In the 1980’s I discovered lump in my breast. My roommate at the time handed me a book on Macrobiotics (A vegan lifestyle that could be custom designed for your particular health issues). Since I did not have the money or insurance to go the usual medical route, I tried it. My tumor disappeared after a month on this diet. My whole world changed. I saw food in a totally different light than previously imagined. Food became my medicine. I am so much more body aware than I was as a young adult. I started to eat to live, rather than live to eat.

    I then sought out other people practicing Macrobiotics and heard their stories and realized that the cure for Cancer had been found. When I try to educate people about this, people turned on me asking for empirical evidence. HA! That would mean that someone would have to do a study… that takes money, and the medical community would do anything to stop that because Cancer Research is a billion dollar industry. God forbid that the pharmaceutical giants and Monsanto (GMO’s) could not profit from something so simple as eating right. The politics are overwhelmingly against that secret getting around.
    Now, years later, with cancer at epidemic proportions and our rights to clean food being stripped from us, the world is finally starting to wake up and see the connection between what we eat and our general health. It is about time. Hopefully, it is not too late. GMO’s, pesticides, and antibiotics are firmly entrenched into our food supply. It will take a Herculean effort as a nation to change our food supply back to the basics of our forefathers. I pray it can be done before our children have to suffer too.

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