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A brief history of food
A History of Food
A BRIEF HISTORY OF FOOD
By Tim Lambert
Food In Ancient Egypt
For most people in ancient Egypt food was plain and dull. The staple food of the Egyptians was bread and beer. Bread was baked outside and because of the desert sand was often blown into dough. In time eating bread with grains of sand in it wore down peoples teeth.
In ancient Egypt as in all early civilisations meat was a luxury and only the rich could afford to eat it frequently. Nevertheless the Egyptians ate sheep, pigs, cows and goats but meat often came from ducks and geese. However fish were plentiful in Egypt.
Egyptian food included many vegetables, such as marrows, beans, onions, lentils, leeks, radishes, garlic and lettuces. They also ate fruit like melons, dates and figs. Pomegranates were quite expensive and were eaten mainly by the rich. The Egyptians grew herbs and spices and they made cooking oil.
Beer was made from crumbled barley bread and barley with water so it was lumpy. It was strained before it was drunk. Even so it was still lumpy so it had to be drunk through a wooden straw with a filter. Better off Egyptians drank wine.
Life in Ancient Egypt
Food in Ancient Greece
Like Egyptians ordinary Greeks ate plain food. They lived on a staple diet of bread (made from barley or, if you could afford it, wheat) and goats cheese. Meat was a luxury but fish and vegetables were plentiful. Ordinary Greeks ate pulses, onions, garlic and olives. They also ate hens eggs. Peasants caught small birds to eat.
The Greeks also ate fruit such as raisins, apricots, figs, apples, pears and pomegranates.
Rich Greeks ate many different types of food such as roasted hare, peacocks eggs or iris bulbs in vinegar.
Poor people drank mainly water. If they could afford it they added honey to sweeten it. Wine was also a popular drink. Usually wine was drunk diluted with water.
Life in Ancient Greece
Food in Roman Britain
For poor Romans food was basic and unappatising.
Nevertheless the Romans introduced new foods into Britain, among them celery, cabbages, radishes, carrots, cucumbers, broad beans, asparagus, pears and walnuts. Romans cooked on charcoal stoves. Olive oil was imported. So were olives, figs and grapes. Wine was also imported (although the Romans grew vines in Britain).
The Romans were also very fond of fish sauce called liquamen. They also liked oysters, which were exported from Britain.
A Roman dining room was called a triclinium. The Romans ate a breakfast of bread and fruit called the ientaculum. At midday they ate a meal called the prandium of fish, cold meat, bread and vegetables. The main meal was called the cena and was eaten in the evening.
Life in Roman Britain
Life was hard and rough in Saxon England and food was basic. Saxon women brewed beer. Another Saxon drink was mead, made from fermented honey. (Honey was very important to the Saxons as there was no sugar for sweetening food. Bees were kept in every village). Upper class Saxons sometimes drank wine. The women cooked in iron cauldrons over open fires or in pottery vessels. They also made butter and cheese. Saxons ate from wooden bowls. There were no forks only knives and wooden spoons. Cups were made from cow horn.
Saxons were fond of meat and fish. However meat was a luxury and only the rich could eat it frequently. The ordinary people usually ate plain food such as bread, cheese and eggs. They ate not just chickens eggs but eggs from ducks, geese and wild birds.
Food in the Middle Ages
During the Middle Ages the rich very good food. They ate beef, mutton, pork and venison. They also ate a great variety of birds, swans, herons, ducks, blackbirds, pigeons and greenfinches. However the church decreed that Wednesday, Friday and Saturday were fast days when people were not allowed to eat meat. Rich people usually had fishponds so they could eat pike and carp. They also ate fish caught in rivers or the sea.
The rich also used spices. In the Early Middle Ages a new spice arrived in England. It was called sugar.
The rich ate breakfast in private but they ate dinner at mid-morning and supper at 5 or 6 in the great hall. On special occasions they had huge feasts. The Lord and his lady sat at a table on a raised wooden platform so they could look down on the rest of the household. Often musicians entertained them while they ate. Rich people ate their food from slices of stale bread called trenchers. Afterwards they were given to the poor.
Poor people ate simple and monotonous food. For them meat was a luxury. If they were lucky they had rabbit or pork. They also ate lots of coarse, dark bread and cheese. They only had one cooked meal a day. In the evening they ate pottage That was a kind of stew. It was made by boiling grain in water to make a kind of porridge. You added vegetables and (if you could afford it) pieces of meat or fish. In the autumn peasants gathered fruit and nuts. In normal years the peasants had enough food but if there was a famine they might starve.
Life in the Middle Ages
Meanwhile in Central America maize was the staple food of the Aztecs. Aztec women ground the maize into flour on a stone slab with a stone roller. It was then made into flour and baked into a kind of pancake called a tortilla. Aztec women cooked on a clay disc called a comal, which stood on stones above.
Also maize was made into a kind of porridge called atole. The Aztecs ate 'envelopes' of steamed maize called tamales stuffed with vegetables, meat or eggs.
The Aztecs also ate tomatoes, avocados, beans and peppers, as well as pumpkins, squashes, peanuts and amaranth seeds. They also ate fruit such as limes and cactus fruits.
Aztec food also included rabbits, turkeys and armadillos. They also ate dogs. However meat was a luxury for the Aztecs and ordinary people only ate it infrequently.
The Aztec nobles drank an alcoholic drink called octli, from fermented maguey juice. Upper class Aztecs drank chocolate made from cocoa beans. It was flavoured with vanilla and honey.
Poor people drank water or sometimes an alcoholic drink called pulque.
The Incas lived in the highlands and lowlands of what is now Peru. In the lowlands the staple food was maize. In the highlands the main food was potatoes. Incas also ate peppers, tomatoes and avocadoes. They also ate peanuts and a grain called quinoa.
Llamas and alpacas were kept for wool and for carrying loads but they sometimes provided meat. Incas also ate guinea pigs. They also fished and ate birds. However for most Incas meat was a luxury.
Incas drank a fermented drink called chicha. Ordinary Incas drank from bowls carved from gourds. Rich Incas drank from pottery vessels or even ones made from gold or silver.
Poor people ate food off dishes placed on the ground. Inca nobles ate off a cloth on the ground. There were no tables.
Maize was the staple food of the Maya but they also grew beans, chillies, sweet potatoes and squashes. The Maya also ate fruit like papaya, watermelon and avocados.
The Maya ate animals like deer, turkeys, dogs, peccaries (wild pigs) and a kind of rodent called an agouti. They also fished.
The Maya also kept bees for honey.
In the mornings people ate a 'porridge' made of maize and chillies called saka. During the day they ate 'dumplings' made of maize dough with vegetables or meat inside them. The 'dumplings' were called tamales and they were wrapped in leaves from maize plants. The main meal was in the evening. People ate maize 'pancakes' called tortillas. They were eaten with 'stew' made with vegetable and (sometimes) meat.
The Maya drank an alcoholic drink called blache. Maya nobles drank chocolate.
Last edited by VitoVino; 02-12-2012 at 03:17 AM.