I realize that any “greatest” list making is a hackneyed ploy to get people debating/talking about the list rather than actually conveying anything resembling insight or knowledge. But let me suggest something…
If you’re going to write a list determining the “100 Greatest Moments in Food History“, it might help if the writer actually knew anything about food history.
Let’s take a look at the list for some quick examples… oh look! Item number 2!!
1762 The sandwich is created as gambler John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, calls for his dinner to be put between two slices of bread so he can continue his card game with one hand and eat with the other. Lunchtimes would never be the same again.
Let’s ignore the fact that the invention of the sandwich is the second most relevant even in food history, and instead point out that the idea of putting meat in between two slices of bread didn’t first happen in 1762. People had been doing it for centuries prior to Earl Montagu. It simply became socially acceptable for all classes to eat it once royalty had been seen ordering it.
1904 The hamburger, popular in the USA, is served at the St Louis World Fair – crucially, in a bun. It soon becomes the world’s favourite fast food. Some might suggest the burger’s impact has been greater than the sandwich’s; but where would it be without its bread/filling/ bread template?
According to the Los Angeles, CA Metropolitan New-Enterprise newspaper article, Old Menus Tell the History of Hamburgers in L.A., by Roger M. Grace:
From 1871-1884, “Hamburg Beefsteak” was on the “Breakfast and Supper Menu” of the Clipper Restaurant at 311/313 Pacific Street in San Fernando. It cost 10 cents—the same price as mutton chops, pig’s feet in batter, and stewed veal. It was not, however, on the dinner menu; “Pig’s Head” “Calf Tongue” and “Stewed Kidneys” were. (found here)
Item 11 –
1499 Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama sails to India aboard the São Gabriel, with the aim of breaking the Venetian monopoly on the spice market. Da Gama’s seaborne route kick-starts an international trade in spices that bankrolls European expansionism for centuries to follow.
While this event is relevant in food history, the spice trade that instigated da Gama’s trip had a far more important affect upon history.
I could go on, but let me put in items that are missing from the list.
- Man’s quest/need for salt. Simply put, any civilization that had limited to no access to salt (either through trade or production) was at a severe disadvantage developmentally when compared to those civilizations that had ready access.
- Man’s discovery of fermentation has led to the development of the wine, beer, and spirits industries. It also has affected everything from tax codes to religious movements.
- Britain’s quest for Tea and the “Honourable East India Company”, which was likely the first global corporation, before the idea of corporations was codified.
- East Asia’s immigration to North America (and immigration in general) which introduced new foods to different parts of the world.
I’m sure I could think of others but instead I will leave it up to you readers out there. What, in your opinion, were the greatest moments in Food History?