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Old 08-06-2019, 07:39 AM
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Food ingredients now essential that were unavailable before Columbian exchange


There seem to be a lot of food ingredients that now seem essential to Old World cuisine that were unavailable before the Colombian exchange. Can we discuss what some of the most important and what they replaced?

Corn (maize)
Potatoes
Sweet potatoes
Tomatoes
Chilis (including sweet peppers/capsicum)
Turkeys
Chocolate/cocoa
Vanilla
Tobacco (stretching the definition of food ingredients to consumables)
Cassavas
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Old 08-06-2019, 07:44 AM
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Ok, I'll start with potatoes.

In England, potatoes have long been a staple. Before that (and post, I think) it was heavily based on grains, made into bread and vegetable/grain stews (pottage).
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Old 08-06-2019, 07:49 AM
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Wild rice
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Old 08-06-2019, 07:51 AM
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Sunflowers. Sunflower seed oil is a staple in many places.
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Old 08-06-2019, 07:51 AM
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I'm surprised at how popular corn is in Korea; it's in every salad and on most pizzas, and the steamed ears they sell at street vendors is a weird kind that's unpopular in America. By contrast, during the Berlin Airlift, Germans were insulted to get corn in their care packages because they regarded it as food for pigs and cows, not something humans would eat. I think the English feel about halfway between these extremes about it.
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Old 08-06-2019, 07:54 AM
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Originally Posted by SanVito View Post
Ok, I'll start with potatoes.

In England, potatoes have long been a staple. Before that (and post, I think) it was heavily based on grains, made into bread and vegetable/grain stews (pottage).
I think turnips served in the "potato" role pre-Columbian exchange. Probably other root vegetables like rutabagas/swedes, too.
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Old 08-06-2019, 08:18 AM
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It's hard to imagine a world without french fries (potatoes). They're available in so many countries with burgers. Burgers & fries seemed to arrive at similar times. I can't think of anything else that would be paired with a burger.

I eat a lot of sweet potatoes.

Thank you so much to the Colombian exchange.

Last edited by aceplace57; 08-06-2019 at 08:20 AM.
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Old 08-06-2019, 08:54 AM
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Are sweet potatoes really that important an addition? Many parts of the old world had a variety of sweetish, starch-laden tubers. Taro root in the far east and yams from southern Africa are two examples that had spread widely prior to standardized contact with the new world.
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Old 08-06-2019, 09:06 AM
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Vanilla didn't really replace anything. The kind of thing where it's used, like custards and baked goods, used to be spiced with a variety of flavours but no one dominant one. So cookies might be lightly spiced with cinnamon and ginger, a custard may be flavoured with elderflower, or a creme would just be eggs and sugar and cream. If anything, possibly "treacly" would be what it replaced, since a lot of sugar would have been less refined.

3 old world plant foods the OP missed:
common (Phaseolus) beans (which largely replaced broad beans in a lot of cuisines)
Peanuts, which have largely replaced other ground nuts
Squashes and pumpkins (Cucurbita pepo) mostly replaced other gourds

Oh, and turkeys largely replaced Guinea fowl.

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Originally Posted by Broomstick View Post
I think turnips served in the "potato" role pre-Columbian exchange. Probably other root vegetables like rutabagas/swedes, too.
Parsnips were quite common.

Last edited by MrDibble; 08-06-2019 at 09:07 AM.
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Old 08-06-2019, 09:10 AM
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Tobacco. Not a food but an enormously important plant.
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Old 08-06-2019, 09:11 AM
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Vanilla didn't really replace anything. The kind of thing where it's used, like custards and baked goods, used to be spiced with a variety of flavours but no one dominant one. So cookies might be lightly spiced with cinnamon and ginger, a custard may be flavoured with elderflower, or a creme would just be eggs and sugar and cream. If anything, possibly "treacly" would be what it replaced, since a lot of sugar would have been less refined.

3 old world plant foods the OP missed:
common (Phaseolus) beans (which largely replaced broad beans in a lot of cuisines)
Peanuts, which have largely replaced other ground nuts
Squashes and pumpkins (Cucurbita pepo) mostly replaced other gourds

Oh, and turkeys largely replaced Guinea fowl.


Parsnips were quite common.
You mean New World plants?
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Old 08-06-2019, 09:32 AM
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Peanuts, which have largely replaced other ground nuts
That's one I definitely meant to put on the list!

Quote:
Squashes and pumpkins (Cucurbita pepo) mostly replaced other gourds
Ah, right, I completely forgot about those.
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Old 08-06-2019, 09:32 AM
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Quote:
Quoth Jonathan Chance:

Are sweet potatoes really that important an addition? Many parts of the old world had a variety of sweetish, starch-laden tubers. Taro root in the far east and yams from southern Africa are two examples that had spread widely prior to standardized contact with the new world.
In fact, a lot of modern American sweet potato recipes are actually adaptations of yam recipes. They were eaten by native Americans, but their popularity is largely from Africans (especially in the Caribbean) attempting to re-create their traditional cuisine using local ingredients.
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Old 08-06-2019, 10:32 AM
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As an Australian, thinking about the Columbian Exchange, I wondered what my part of the world contributed to world cuisines.

Macadamia nuts. And that's it. I couldn't identify any other native Australian food that's commonly consumed outside of this country.
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Old 08-06-2019, 11:47 AM
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Pineapples are native to South America.

Quinine is not just a drug but also the flavoring agent in tonic water.

Coca with the cocaine removed is still an ingredient of Coca-Cola, though I don't know if it really contributes significantly to the flavor.

Agave is used to make tequila and mezcal.

Chicle, the base of traditional chewing gum, is a New World product. It has now been largely replaced by synthetic materials though.
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Old 08-06-2019, 11:49 AM
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As an Australian, thinking about the Columbian Exchange, I wondered what my part of the world contributed to world cuisines.

Macadamia nuts. And that's it. I couldn't identify any other native Australian food that's commonly consumed outside of this country.
Bananas came from that general area.

I wonder if tomatoes "replaced" anything in Europe, or if they were just a whole new thing that eventually took hold.
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Old 08-06-2019, 12:01 PM
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Most strawberries varieties grown commercially everywhere in the world are hybrids of New World species. They have largely replaced wild-type European strawberries in cuisine.
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Old 08-06-2019, 12:06 PM
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If you're going that route... most of Europe's wine grapes grow on North American root stock, because the North American grapes are immune to a pest that nearly wiped out Europe's grapes (a negative trade of the Columbia Exchange). The only way to save the grapes of Europe was to graft them to American roots.
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Old 08-06-2019, 12:08 PM
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Sunflowers. Sunflower seed oil is a staple in many places.
*goes off in search of her salted sunflower seeds* Excuse me, I just got the crunchies.
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Old 08-06-2019, 01:17 PM
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Please change thread title to "Columbian" Exchange. This has nothing to do with "Colombia".
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Old 08-06-2019, 01:22 PM
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Coffee anyone?
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Old 08-06-2019, 01:25 PM
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Please change thread title to "Columbian" Exchange. This has nothing to do with "Colombia".
Fixed.
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Old 08-06-2019, 02:03 PM
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A lot of medieval recipes make larger use of almonds than we would ever imagine. Almond milk was a standard, paste, flour, extract, almonds in every form permeate the cookbooks I've seen. There was also a far greater use of "pulses" as side dishes (basically cooked mesclun,whatever leafy greens were available) and they ate a whole lot more cabbage than we do. Carrots were allowed to grow really large and roasted as we would a sweet potato; this is delicious, and I'm always thrilled when I find some at the farmer's market.

To get a quick and comprehensive look at what they used and how, you might browse this glossary of cooking terms.

ETA: Turkeys have largely replaced geese, obviously.

Last edited by TruCelt; 08-06-2019 at 02:06 PM.
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Old 08-06-2019, 02:12 PM
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Coffee anyone?
Coffee is an Old World plant
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Old 08-06-2019, 02:14 PM
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There was also a far greater use of "pulses" as side dishes (basically cooked mesclun,whatever leafy greens were available)
I know of the term "pulse" as indicating legumes, like lentils.
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Old 08-06-2019, 02:56 PM
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Can we also submit examples from the other half of the exchange, i.e., Old World ingredients that replaced ones in New World cuisine? Okay, I get that there's a huge list of modern New World staple foods like rice and beef and chicken that weren't known pre-Columbus, so that might be broadening the remit too much.

But what I'm thinking of is specific examples such as the now-widespread use of Asian coriander, Coriandrum sativum or cilantro, in Mexican and other Americas cuisines instead of the native culantro or Eryngium foetidum (not that culantro isn't still widely used, but the non-native cilantro or coriander leaf appears to be far more common).

Likewise, Mediterranean grape varieties have largely displaced native fox grapes or muscadine grapes in the Americas, and same thing for Asian persimmons.

Returning to the New -> Old half of the exchange, how about blueberries (Cyanococcus)? Would you say they're now an "essential" ingredient outside the New World, and if so, did they "replace" another food?
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Old 08-06-2019, 03:15 PM
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I'm surprised at how popular corn is in Korea; it's in every salad and on most pizzas, and the steamed ears they sell at street vendors is a weird kind that's unpopular in America. By contrast, during the Berlin Airlift, Germans were insulted to get corn in their care packages because they regarded it as food for pigs and cows, not something humans would eat. I think the English feel about halfway between these extremes about it.
"Oats: A grain that in England is fed principally to horses, but in Scotland supports the population." -Samuel Johnsono.
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Old 08-06-2019, 03:17 PM
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I think turnips served in the "potato" role pre-Columbian exchange. Probably other root vegetables like rutabagas/swedes, too.
Potatoes were on the table in filming the Robert Taylor Ivanhoe. Realizing the error, baked apples were substituted.
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Old 08-06-2019, 03:23 PM
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You mean New World plants?
Yes, good catch, thanks.
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Old 08-06-2019, 03:45 PM
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There was also a far greater use of "pulses" as side dishes (basically cooked mesclun,whatever leafy greens were available)
Pulses are legumes, not greens.
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Old 08-06-2019, 04:16 PM
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Pulses are legumes, not greens.
Yeah, I wonder if maybe TruCelt was thinking of leafy greens like purslane and parsley (which I discovered with some surprise are not in fact etymologically related, slap my ass and call me Sally), and momentarily confused them with pulses.
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Old 08-06-2019, 04:25 PM
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"Oats: A grain that in England is fed principally to horses, but in Scotland supports the population." -Samuel Johnsono.
Of course, the traditional come-back is some variant on "That's why England has the finest horses, and Scotland the finest men."

I always had the impression that the big 4 (tomatoes, corn, potatoes and chiles) didn't actually replace anything per-se, but were just adopted as new staples over time. I suppose you could argue that potatoes replaced turnips as the poverty food of choice, but I don't know that it really displaced them in a culinary sense.

Last edited by bump; 08-06-2019 at 04:27 PM.
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Old 08-06-2019, 04:47 PM
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Here's the list so far --

Corn (maize)
Potatoes
Sweet potatoes
Tomatoes
Chilis (including sweet peppers/capsicum)
Turkeys
Chocolate/cocoa
Vanilla
Tobacco (stretching the definition of food ingredients to consumables)
Cassavas
Wild rice
Sunflowers (seeds)
Common (Phaseolus) beans
Peanuts
Squashes and pumpkins (Cucurbita pepo)
Pineapples
Quinine
Coca
Agave
Chicle
Strawberries
Blueberries
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Old 08-06-2019, 08:11 PM
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I gotta say, in that list only potatoes, tomatoes, chilies, chocolate, vanilla and beans qualify as what I think of as essential ingredients in any Old World cuisine as practiced today.
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Old 08-06-2019, 09:01 PM
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Likewise, Mediterranean grape varieties have largely displaced native fox grapes or muscadine grapes in the Americas, and same thing for Asian persimmons.
I recall muscadines growing wild on my Grandfather's farm. What are they used for? The ones I tasted as a child were nasty.
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Old 08-06-2019, 10:20 PM
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Avocados are native to the Americas. Not a vital crop but I'd miss them if they were gone.
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Old 08-06-2019, 10:25 PM
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Chocolate/cocoa
Vanilla
Strawberries
I guess this explains why ice cream wasn't popular in the Middle Ages.
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Old 08-06-2019, 10:28 PM
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I recall muscadines growing wild on my Grandfather's farm. What are they used for? The ones I tasted as a child were nasty.
They're a wine making grape.
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Old 08-06-2019, 11:17 PM
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cranberries
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Old 08-07-2019, 01:20 AM
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I guess this explains why ice cream wasn't popular in the Middle Ages.
Oh, but it was! Just expensive and difficult to make/get, but both the courts of Olite and Istambul happened to have access to it (different versions, the one from Istambul was more like a modern sherbet and the one from Olite more like frozen juice); Istambul's was famous throughout the known world (and anybody who hadn't heard of it was officially in the boondocks), Olite was more of a local reputation (its own realm being a lot smaller and less important, and spending a lot of time doing our best to look innocent and non-threatening).
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Old 08-07-2019, 01:26 AM
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As an Australian, thinking about the Columbian Exchange, I wondered what my part of the world contributed to world cuisines.

Macadamia nuts. And that's it. I couldn't identify any other native Australian food that's commonly consumed outside of this country.
BBQ prawns and grilled lamb chops?
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Old 08-07-2019, 03:12 AM
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Returning to the New -> Old half of the exchange, how about blueberries (Cyanococcus)? Would you say they're now an "essential" ingredient outside the New World, and if so, did they "replace" another food?
I wouldn't call them essential, and there are native Old World "blueberries" : bilberries.
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I wonder if tomatoes "replaced" anything in Europe, or if they were just a whole new thing that eventually took hold.
I can't really think of a common Medieval ingredient it replaced. There did used to be a lot more fruit used in meat dishes, but I'm not sure if tomato could be said to replace that, or just came in as styles were changing anyway.

Last edited by MrDibble; 08-07-2019 at 03:15 AM.
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Old 08-07-2019, 07:36 AM
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It's hard to imagine a world without french fries (potatoes). They're available in so many countries with burgers. Burgers & fries seemed to arrive at similar times. I can't think of anything else that would be paired with a burger..
Different countries have their different traditions for food pairings with chips/fries - in Belgium, it was fish and mussels, in the UK, fried fish, in France, with steak.
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Old 08-07-2019, 07:40 AM
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I think turnips served in the "potato" role pre-Columbian exchange. Probably other root vegetables like rutabagas/swedes, too.
Turnips were certainly eaten a lot, but I'd argue that, for a year-round staple, bread and pottage would be the go to.
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Old 08-07-2019, 07:48 AM
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They're a wine making grape.
Thanks, Nemo.
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Old 08-07-2019, 08:34 AM
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cranberries
Cranberries are an interesting example. As far as I can tell, cranberries and cranberry products were basically unavailable outside North America a few decades ago. I couldn't get them in Asia or Africa in the 1980s or 1990s. But then they started to show up...by the 2000s, it was easy to buy cranberry juice in Cairo and Jakarta, and at least in Jakarta it was not unheard of to see frozen cranberries for sale, though I suspect most buyers were North Americans living in Asia.

I've always figured that the cranberry co-op folks decided it was time to tackle international markets, and gradually became more successful at doing so.
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Old 08-07-2019, 08:57 AM
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Were cranberries eaten as subsistence food by North American settlers? I wouldn't think that native Americans would cultivate them.
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Old 08-07-2019, 10:58 AM
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Yeah, I wonder if maybe TruCelt was thinking of leafy greens like purslane and parsley (which I discovered with some surprise are not in fact etymologically related, slap my ass and call me Sally), and momentarily confused them with pulses.
Cheers, Kimstu; thank you for your very kind and charitable take on the question. It's clear though, that I was just using the word incorrectly. I'm constantly uncrossing my eyes when trying to understand these recipes. (example below)

Nonetheless, our current use of the highly concentrated starch vegetables maize and potato replaced stewed leafy veg and higher fiber/starch ratio root veg like turnip and parsnip.



Here's one that I thought would be cookies, see if you can guess what we call it now. ROFL!

Makerouns

PERIOD: England, 14th century | SOURCE: Forme of Cury | CLASS: Authentic

ORIGINAL RECEIPT:

95. Makerouns. Take and make a thynne foyle of dowh, and kerue it on pieces, and cast hym on boiling water & seež it wele. Take chese and grate it, and butter imelte, cast bynethen and abouven as losyns; and serue forth.

- Hieatt, Constance B. and Sharon Butler. Curye on Inglish: English Culinary Manuscripts of the Fourteenth-Century (Including the Forme of Cury). New York: for The Early English Text Society by the Oxford University Press, 1985.

SPOILER:
It's Mac-n-cheese.

GODE COOKERY TRANSLATION:

Macaroni. Take a piece of thin pastry dough and cut it in pieces, place in boiling water and cook. Take grated cheese, melted butter, and arrange in layers like lasagna; serve.

MODERN RECIPE:

3-4 lb. freshly home-made, undried noodles OR 1 lb. dried egg noodles*
1 tbs. oil
large pinch salt
2 cups grated cheese (see: How to Cook Medieval - Cheese)
1 stick butter
Boil noodles with oil & salt until al dente (tender-crisp). Drain well. In a serving bowl or platter place some melted butter and cheese. Lay noodles on top and add more butter and cheese. Serve as is or continue adding layers of butter, cheese, and noodles. Use extra cheese as necessary. Serve immediately, or place in a hot oven for several minutes and then serve. Serves 8.

Makerouns appears to be the ancestor of macaroni, and this dish may best be described as "medieval mac-n-cheese." The period receipt advises to prepare it like "losyns" (lasagna), with layers of noodles, butter, and cheese. I find Cheddar cheese the tastiest, but feel free to try other varieties. The dish is wonderful when prepared with undried freshly made noodles, but works with a dried purchased variety as well.

*The original recipe noodles are essentially boiled pastry dough; if you have a pasta maker, feel free to use it in making your makerouns, boiling them while still fresh and undried. Egg noodles are probably the best to use when purchasing a commercial brand. Keep in mind the difference in weight between dried and undried noodles.


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Old 08-07-2019, 11:25 AM
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Cranberries are an interesting example. As far as I can tell, cranberries and cranberry products were basically unavailable outside North America a few decades ago. I couldn't get them in Asia or Africa in the 1980s or 1990s. But then they started to show up...by the 2000s, it was easy to buy cranberry juice in Cairo and Jakarta, and at least in Jakarta it was not unheard of to see frozen cranberries for sale, though I suspect most buyers were North Americans living in Asia.

I've always figured that the cranberry co-op folks decided it was time to tackle international markets, and gradually became more successful at doing so.
Funnily enough I grew up with cranberries in the 1970s as a native species of them grows wild in parts of Scotland (and elsewhere in northern latitudes). We would pick them and make cranberry sauce. The only difference is that the berries were smaller than the commercial American type.

A native species of blueberry also grows in many parts of Britain, called bilberry or blaeberry. They're also smaller than the American type, possibly tastier. Lots of people pick them for jam or eating fresh.
  #50  
Old 08-07-2019, 11:25 AM
D_Odds is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonathan Chance View Post
Are sweet potatoes really that important an addition? Many parts of the old world had a variety of sweetish, starch-laden tubers. Taro root in the far east and yams from southern Africa are two examples that had spread widely prior to standardized contact with the new world.
Charles C. Mann, in 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, posited that sweet potatoes helped fuel the Chinese population explosion, as the yield per acre at the time was far greater than rice or other grains, though it turned out the farming methods were much more environmentally unfriendly in the longer term.
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