Questions tagged [food]

Any nourishing substance that is eaten, drunk, or otherwise taken into the body to sustain life, provide energy, promote growth. Questions with this tag should be about the historical practices of growing, preparing, and eating food, or about the historical origins of modern foods.

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89
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6answers
20k views

What is the origin of 3 meals a day?

Wondering if there is an origin of the "3 meals a day" concept. For example, in English we have specific words for them: Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. But we have a few more for other meals in the day (...
72
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7answers
19k views

Is it true that “All spicy food is from Latin America”?

Nancy Qian, economist who has studied the Columbian Exchange (2018): There really was no spicy food in the world before the Columbian Exchange. Denver Nicks, author of Hot Sauce Nation (2016): ...
56
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1answer
13k views

Did the Romans eat breakfast?

This BBC article, citing the food historian Caroline Yeldham, says Breakfast as we know it didn't exist for large parts of history. The Romans didn't really eat it, usually consuming only one ...
50
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5answers
13k views

How did they cook on ancient ships?

In ancient times, ships would often be at sea for extended periods of time. During this time, I'm assuming they must have done some form of cooking, otherwise they would have just eaten cold, pre-...
48
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5answers
16k views

What did babies eat before the advent of modern blenders?

Modern baby foods are commonly made using various strengths of blender, but what was used before then? I assume something like a potato masher, but that would only work for a few foods. So what was ...
45
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3answers
5k views

What was the typical peasant's diet like in Europe during the High Middle Ages?

I know that wheat, barley, rye, onions, lettuce-like plants and turnips were common but how common were other things like meat or cheese? I've heard the "plowman's lunch" was a concoction of the dairy ...
41
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7answers
38k views

Why did Greeks and Romans dilute their wine?

I’ve gathered that ancient Greeks and Romans watered their wine heavily, up to 90% water. Roman-era Talmudic sources speak of wine not being fit to drink until it had been watered (although mixtures ...
32
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3answers
3k views

How did people put down a drinking horn?

It's easy to put down a glass. You just put it on the table. It won't spill unless somebody tips it over. How did people put a full drinking horn on the table? Did they have some sort of thingy to ...
31
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2answers
6k views

Why did early attempts to transport milk to London by rail meet with 'much criticism'?

According to the Wikipedia article on milk (referring to transporting milk to London by rail), The Great Western Railway was an early and enthusiastic adopter, and began to transport milk into ...
27
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1answer
2k views

How did people react to Cavendish bananas when they first replaced the Gros Michel strain?

I was reading that the bananas we eat today (Cavendish) weren't particularly popular until the 50s, when the more popular Gros Michel variety was virtually wiped out by a nasty disease. Apparently ...
24
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4answers
9k views

Why was there lack of food during WW2 in the UK?

Why was there lack of food during the WW2 in the UK? I understand the lack of food in the countries occupied by Germans, as they recruited a lot of agricultural products for their war machinery. But ...
24
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3answers
8k views

Which cultures did *not* produce alcohol?

I've been reading Harold McGee's fascinating On Food and Cooking, and the chapter on alcohol has some interesting historical notes. He describes the widely varied and creative methods used in various ...
23
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4answers
9k views

Why didn't cheese spoil when it was given as rations to soldiers?

I've come across many mentions of cheese when talking about rations for soldiers and those who would be hiking for long stretches of time. What kind of cheese would we be talking about? I'm mainly ...
21
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3answers
9k views

What was the liquor that was based on petrol which was produced in the USSR during the Second World War?

I have a 1971 Spanish edition of the book "Stuka Pilot" by Hans-Ulrich Rudel where he recounts his memories of war. In the second chapter, in which he talks about the first combats of "Operation ...
21
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1answer
8k views

How prevalent was pork in Arabia before Arabs conversion to Islam?

Before Islam and its prohibition of pork, was it a commonly eaten food? Or was it already prohibited by other religions/cultures? Or was it a kind of uncommon food, which was then prohibited? We also ...
20
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2answers
3k views

When and how did classic “Italian” cuisine come to be?

Most people can recognize "Italian" food. Pasta, tomatoes, basil, etc. But many of the plants used in Italian food, didn't actually originate in Italy. Or even anywhere in the Old World. The ...
18
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5answers
3k views

When did the English and Americans realize that vegetables were healthy?

I've recently come across two quotes in very unrelated sources implying that for centuries, the English and their colonial offspring did not appreciate the role of vegetables in a healthy diet. From "...
18
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4answers
3k views

How was beer production affected by the war during WW2?

How did the war affect beer production during World War II? This is a follow-up question to this question at Seasoned Advice, which is gathering interesting food-science answers but which are are ...
17
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3answers
8k views

Where did Southern Fried Chicken come from?

Wikipedia claims origins both in Scottish and West African cuisine. The problem I have with that is that the story I tend to see about the Scots-Irish who immigrated to North America is that they ...
16
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5answers
11k views

Why are the Portuguese so obsessed with salted codfish?

Portugal nowadays catches only a small amount of codfish annually but imports huge amounts (especially from Norway), sometimes already salted, sometimes not. Salted cod or bacalhau is a very common ...
16
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8answers
21k views

How did societies adapt to using alcohol to make water safer?

I've heard that there were two common methods to disinfecting water in the past: boiling water or turning it into alcohol. Presumably, those in the East relied on boiling water, while those in the ...
15
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2answers
5k views

Why wouldn't the South make salt from seawater during the American Civil War?

This article goes into some detail about the state of cooking in the Union and the Confederacy during the American Civil War. One of its interesting claims is that the South was suffering from a lack ...
15
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1answer
302 views

How exactly were beer/bread made in Ancient Egypt?

I'm writing a novel set in large part in Ancient Egypt and am incorporating many tasks of everyday living into the narrative. The one I'm stuck on is the making of bread and beer (which were ...
15
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1answer
2k views

Which fruits and vegetables did Chinese migrants introduce to Australia during the gold rush?

The gold rush in Australia saw many Chinese migrate to the country, with the Chinese population in Australia reaching around 40000 in the 1860s. Many brought with them vegetable seeds to grow near ...
14
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4answers
18k views

When Adam Smith discusses “corn” to what crop does he refer?

In "The Wealth Of Nations", Adam Smith discusses the price of corn in ancient times. Apparently, books such as "Chronicon Preciosum: or An Account of English Money, the Price of Corn and Other ...
14
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2answers
691 views

Easter Islands: were the Islanders starving when found?

I was working on wording a food question for Pitcairn islanders (settlers from the Bounty mutiny) when I happened across this article. It suggests that the 'commonly known' theories of the Easter ...
13
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4answers
5k views

How did corn become the most produced crop in the world?

This article has corn listed as the most important crop produced in the world. For some reason I feel like rice, or wheat is the more logical choice. So what were the conditions, and events, that led ...
13
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1answer
2k views

When was tofu invented? Was it specifically for vegetarian consumption from the beginning?

The Wikipedia page on tofu states that this food was first produced in Han dynasty China. However, the source cited seems to me quite doubtful: The oldest evidence of tofu production is a Chinese ...
13
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3answers
405 views

Which is the first culinary book ever written?

I strongly believe that food is a fundamental part of a country's tradition, so which is the first culinary book ever written?
13
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2answers
1k views

Evidence of diets that were exclusively vegetarian

What evidence, provided by archaeological anthropology, is there in regards to diets that were exclusively vegetarian by choice from Ancient history (4th millennium BC) to Classical antiquity (5th ...
13
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1answer
870 views

How much salt did people in agricultural societies eat?

Industrialisation has made many commodities extremely cheap, including salt. These days we eat more than enough salt for our dietary needs, probably more due to its presence in processed foods. ...
13
votes
1answer
948 views

Did Ben Franklin actually make any tofu?

It is well documented that Franklin was interested in tofu, which he called a sort of cheese made from beans, and he got a recipe for making it that he sent on to others. But no source that I have ...
13
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1answer
3k views

Origins of knife and fork language etiquette

There is an etiquette of placing knife and fork on a plate while resting or after finishing. For example this cheat-sheet (there are a lot of texts and images like this on the web): I found this ...
12
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5answers
1k views

Have any armies equipped/fed their officers and enlisted men equally?

In the Soviet army during WW2 the officers had bigger food rations. They also had better boots (kirza vs. leather). The air force pilots were fed even better (but that is not very relevant). What ...
12
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7answers
2k views

Was there a Japanese Exchange, à la Columbian Exchange?

After the European (re-)discovery of the Americas, there was a widespread transfer of animals, plants, culture, human populations, communicable diseases, technology and ideas between the Americas and ...
12
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3answers
3k views

What was the staple food of the natives of South East Asia before rice?

According to Wikipedia, history of rice, rice was first brought to South East Asia region across the caravan routes of the central Asian steppes. Now many of the subcontinental people of South East ...
12
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3answers
1k views

Why did the dominance of maize last so long in North America?

In North America the native corn, maize, was the dominant grain and flour and an important mainstay in the diet. At first it was obviously the only available grain crop, with Old World cereals such as ...
12
votes
1answer
646 views

Was the Granny Smith Apple the first green skinned apple widely propagated?

In my hometown (Eastwood NSW, Australia) we annually celebrate the Granny Smith Apple, which is assumed by many to be the first green apple widely propagated. How true is it that it was the first ...
12
votes
1answer
385 views

Are species introduced to England and Wales by the Romans still found near Roman settlements?

Anecdotally, it seems as though species of fauna and flora introduced to England and Wales during the Roman occupation are still more likely to be found near Roman settlements. Obviously, some ...
11
votes
2answers
496 views

What did European people of the 5th century AD eat during spring and what was the availability?

It is commonly believed that winter during that age was a period of starvation, with very limited means of procuring food. If the above is true, what did the commoners (peasants, serfs, etc) had to ...
11
votes
2answers
429 views

Are there instances where collective farming has actually brought benefit to the population

I was reading a few articles about population growth and famines and thereby discovered that some of the recent famines where caused by government policies, among which I read at least twice (USSR and ...
11
votes
1answer
1k views

What's the historical origin of drinking champagne on New Year's Eve?

With the new year right around the corner, I got wondering: what's the historical origin of drinking champagne on New Year's Eve? How did it become such a global trend? Where did this trend originate ...
11
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3answers
346 views

Were tobacco and marijuana ever competing products?

My question is whether tobacco and marijuana were ever competing products in Europe. It occurred to me that marijuana is an Old World plant, whereas tobacco is a New World plant, and therefore had to ...
10
votes
1answer
440 views

Why are doughnuts toroidal?

I study maths and torii come up a bit, and same goes for physics with tokamak fusion reactors, for instance. In popular science talks, sometimes people say "torus" but most people are familiar with ...
10
votes
3answers
373 views

What gave rise to the widespread popularity of coffee?

What gave rise to the widespread popularity of coffee? For example, was it a marketing effort by countries with colonies that were suitable for growing coffee? Were there supposed health benefits that ...
10
votes
2answers
601 views

How widespread was the consumption of rabbit meat by the poor in Medieval and Early-Modern Britain?

The Romans raised rabbits as livestock in Spain in the 2nd century BC and later brought them to Britain. French monks are believed to have domesticated them in the 5th century AD for their meat and ...
9
votes
2answers
377 views

How and why buttermilk was added to English medieval butter?

My question engages in the history of butter. I'm not sure if this is the right place to ask but I will give it a try. I read an old Jewish text (Sharei Dura 78) dated to the 13th century that ...
9
votes
1answer
380 views

how did the Cynics of Greece and Rome eat

How did the Ancient Cynics like Diogenes eat during their time? I know they only believed in eating natural foods but don't know how they procured it. If they didn't believe in wealth, they could not ...
9
votes
1answer
228 views

What are Kottabos players holding in their left hand?

What are these Kottabos players holding in their left hand? It is seen in a lot of similar pictures. It is as if the player refills the kylix from it. Is it a skyphos? Any info on this?
8
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2answers
930 views

Was “the modern cocktail” intended to mask the foul taste of Prohibition-era liquor?

I have long suspected that what we know today as a "cocktail" was invented to mask the taste of bad liquor. Indeed I've found several unsupported assertions to this effect online, generally pointing ...