Friday, June 21, 2013

Influences of the world on European Cuisine

Influences of the world on European Cuisine

Globalization has led to increased interaction between individuals and nations. The tourism industry is the greatest beneficiary of globalization as it has led to increased travel across the world. Tourists move from one country to the other for various reasons. This directly impacts on the types of cuisines that are prepared in different parts of the world. Tourists travelling to foreign countries sample the local cuisines and they transfer some of them to their home countries. Similarly, some tourists would prefer feeding on their traditional cuisine when they travel to other countries. This motivates the food providers to offer a wide variety of local and foreign meals with an aim of satisfying various customer needs. This has greatly influenced cuisines offered in different parts of the world. This essay seeks to analyze the influences of the world on European Cuisine.

Increased interaction between people from different parts of the world has altered the original European cuisine to a large extent. The early modern European cuisine consisted of a mixture of dishes that were inherited from the medieval cuisines which were combined with modern innovations (Albala, 2003). Even though there was an increase in foreign trade, arrival of new ideas and scientific revolution, the Europeans still preserved their foods traditionally. This involved drying, smoking and salting or pickling in vinegar.

The cuisine was highly dependant on the season. However, the discovery of the new world so new trade routes being established with Asia and there was an increase in foreign influences from the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. The Europeans familiarized with several new foodstuffs from other parts. Some of the spices that were previously very expensive such as nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper, ginger and cloves became readily available to many people at a lower price. The European cuisine was also transformed by the introduction of new plants from India and the new world such as maize, sweet potato, cocoa, tomato, potato, chili pepper, vanilla, tea and coffee. There was increased prosperity within Europe at that time which reached all areas and classes causing considerable changes in the eating patterns (Braudel,1981).

Both chefs and doctors continued to characterize various foodstuffs on the basis of their effects on the four humors. Nationalism was conceived for the first time during the early modern period. However, the idea of national cuisine emerged during the 19th century. Differences in class were the major dividing lines and in most cases only the upper-class food was described in the cookbooks and recipe collections.

Two meals were eaten in a day in most parts of Europe, one being early in the morning and the other one late in the afternoon (Albala, 2003). The exact time of taking meals varied according to the region and period. In Spain and parts of Italy like Venice and Genoa, the first meal was usually lighter while supper was always heavier. However, the first meal was more substantial in the rest of Europe. There has been a gradual shift in mealtimes over the years whereby the first meal which was called dinner in English was shifted from being taken before noon to between two and three in the afternoon in the 17th century.

This was later moved to around five or six in the evening during the 18th century. This created a necessity for another meal in midday called luncheon which was later shortened as lunch. The initial breakfast consisted of coffee, chocolate or tea and it was not considered a substantial meal in Europe up until the 19th century (Albala, 2003). In some parts like the south where supper was a heavy meal, there was little need for breakfast. This trend still continues up to today whereby the southern Europe breakfasts are normally light consisting only tea or coffee with pastry or bread. The three-meal-regimen was not common in Europe until after the modern era.

When nations started forming in Europe, there were some foundations of cuisine. These consisted of attributes such as professional chefs, educated diners, professional kitchens and printing of the codified culinary texts. In France, change was caused by specialization of the culinary skills through guilds. The guilds were divided into two categories; those who were supplying the raw materials and those were preparing them (Wheaton,1996). Members of the guilds specialized in particular forms of cookery such as pastry cooks, caterers, bakers, poulterers and sauce makers. This specialization contributed to the adoption of many French dishes in different parts of the world. The France`s haute cuisine was codified in the 17th century by La Varenne who is credited for publishing the first French cookbook. His recipes led to the change from the cooking styles known in middle Ages to the new techniques that were aimed at creating lighter dishes together with modest presentations of pies as turnovers and individual pastries.

The French cuisine assimilated several new food items from the New World in the 15th and 16th centuries. Dishes such as turkeys were brought into France by foreigners. Cassoulet also has its roots in the New World through discovery of the haricot beans that are central to creation of the dish but did not exist outside the New World until it was explored by Christopher Columbus (Wheaton,1996).

Italy has also undergone a shift towards the national cuisine. A significant shift was experienced in the early modern era whereby the cuisine was changed from a high court cuisine to the local cuisine (Capatti & Montanari, 2003). In the beginning, courts played a very important role in the creation of fine cooking and high-cuisine within Italy. The cookbook called Opera that was published in 1570 consisted of comprehensive Italian cooking. This text led to the shift from game meat in favor of the domesticated animals.

It also included alternative animal cuts of animals like tongue, shoulder and head on the recipes. There was seasonality on seafood and fish dishes as more emphasis was put on Lenten cookery. The early version of Neapolitan pizza was sweet as opposed to the current one which is savory. Maize and turkey were brought to Italy from other parts of the world and they appeared in Opera for the first time. Italy changed towards simple cooking and regionalism in the 17th century. The Italian cookery books started showing regionalism in the 18th century so that the Italian chefs could show pride in their regions as opposed to the France`s high cuisine.

References Albala, Ken, 2003. Food in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1800. Greenwood Press. Westport, CT Braudel, Fernand,1981. Civilization & Capitalism, 15-18th Centuries, Vol 1: The Structures of Everyday Life. William Collins & Sons, London. Capatti, Alberto and Montanari, 2003, Massimo. Italian Cuisine: a Cultural History. Columbia University Press, New York. Wheaton, Barbara Ketcham, 1996. Savoring the Past: The French Kitchen and Table from 1300 to 1789. First Touchstone, New York.