Food History

Hopefully you all are still with me! I know when you see the word History it may remind you of your school days and many of us want to stay as far away as possible. While I am not normally one for a history lesson (just ask my husband…he is always trying to impart some history knowledge on me to no avail), I actually enjoyed learning about how food played a part throughout world history in culinary school. For those of you who are not history buffs, I will keep this post short and sweet. However, there are a few interesting tidbits you might enjoy.

Food History

Ancient Greeks: 

  • They enjoyed the aspects of dining out and set up different places or clubs where people ate depending on their social level

Roman Empire: 

  • They conquered many lands in search of exotic spices for their cooking.
  • They started throwing lavish banquets to show off their wealth and gain political support.

Spread of Christianity: 

  • Before this era, people believed that the ground, trees, rivers, etc were sacred and did not use any of it to help provide food.
  • Once the people learned about Christianity and realized the land was made by God to be used by the people, they started farming and irrigation systems to bring food to individual’s homes.

Renaissance: 

  • After Europe was open for trade again, nobleman had cooks use exotic spices as a way to show off their wealth.
  • At the time, Venice was the capital of the spice trade because it was the most central destination for distribution.
  • In 1650, the first coffeehouse opened in Oxford, England.
  • Artisans of this era began making utensils out of iron, brass and pewter.
  • It was also during this time that the first restaurant in America was opened — The White Horse Tavern in Newport, Rhode Island, established 1673. By the way, the tavern is still open and serving patrons today…now that’s some history!

French Revolution: 

  • Guilds were established where people of similar interests and professions created standards of how their products were to be made, served, sold, etc. These established standards are still used today in associations like the Screen Actors Guild.
  • The most notable event of this time was in 1765 when a man named Boulanger opened the first restaurant in Paris where he served hot soups.
  • After the revolution, many chefs followed in Boulanger’s footsteps and there were approximately 500 restaurants in Paris within the next 30 years.

Industrial Revolution: 

  • A large number of people moved to cities to work in factories so the need for lodging and food services increased.
  • The railroad was invented in 1825 which expanded the need for lodging and food services across the country resulting in the establishment of many small cafes and diners.

Gilded Age: 

  • Industrial leaders progress was measured in production and profit which resulted in workers being subject to long hours at low wages.
  • While high society dined out on multiple course meals (18 courses were not uncommon), cafeterias were invented as an assembly line process to serve workers a low-cost, quick meal.
  • A Swedish family in New York City opened the first Delmonico’s fine-dining restaurant and it is still serving patrons today.
  • The discovery of gold in 1840 brought wealth and the desire for fine dining to California.

20th Century: 

  • At the beginning of the century, employment was at an all-time high so many workers dined out for lunch.
  • The employment rate along with the availability of the automobile was the catapult for the creation of the fast food industry.
  • In 1921, White Castle opened the first fast food restaurant in history in the small town of Wichita, Kansas. 

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