On November 25, we celebrated Thanksgiving. Most people had turkey and dressing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. While most people think of foods like pecan pie and cornbread stuffing as being southern in origin, they don't realize that what their eating has it's roots in the native American culture. I intend to show how much of the food we eat today was first cultivated by the native people of the Americas.
Moreover, the impact this food has had upon the world. When the early explorers sailed back to Europe, they took with them plants and food native to the new world. Foods like the tomato, corn, potatoes, chili peppers and chocolate. Through Spain, they made their way through the rest of Europe changing the culinary landscape forever. The potato made a large impact after getting off to a slow start. The potato originated in Peru, and was acquired from the Inca.
It is a member of the Nightshade family. The potato not only influenced everyday life, it also affected economies, and created lasting cultural habits. It took about one hundred years after its discovery before its use began to spread. It became the chief crop in Ireland, Poland, and Russia.
The great potato famine in 1845 in Ireland caused mass immigration to America. Today there are many more Irish in America than in Ireland all thanks to the potato. In Poland and Russia, the potato had an extremely large impact; it replaced rye as the key ingredient in Vodka. This enabled the common man to make his own Vodka. Vodka became a facet of everyday life in Russia.
Vodka today commands 20% of the U. S. liquor market, and is one of the most popular drinks worldwide. In America today the potato is a facet of everyday life from the mashed potatoes we eat with our fast food chicken, to the potato that is a staple with pot roast, to everybody's favorite McDonalds french fries.
The tomato is another plant that has acquired global prominence from humble origins. It originated with the Inca and migrated north to the Maya and the Aztecs, where the Spanish brought it to Europe, and like its cousin the potato, it is a member of the Nightshade family. The tomato took sometime to gain a foothold as people believed it to be poisonous, but when it took off, it took off energetically. The Italians and French were the first to embrace it. Today the tomato is taken for granted as a common menu item. We consume it everyday in pizza, Italian food, and in almost any salad you can think of.
It is the main ingredient of two of the world's most popular condiment's ketchup and salsa. There is another member of the Nightshade family that has made an incredible journey from its humble origins member is the capsicum or chili pepper. When the Spanish came to the new world there were only four types of pepper the Cayenne, Bell, Jalapeno, and the Tabasco. The pepper then began its long strange journey of transformation, and worldwide dissemination. It moved backwards from other plants that were discovered in the new world. It went first to Asia and then made its way to Europe, and finally to North America.
It greatly influenced the local cuisine wherever it went. Each culture that adopted the pepper also adapted it, as is evident by the variety of different types of peppers available today. Their adaptation varies from milder, as the paprika used in Hungarian cuisine, to the fiery, like the habanera currently the world's hottest pepper. The plant that has become so commonplace that no one thinks twice about it is the cacao bean. This bean is the source of chocolate. It was worshipped by the Maya, and used as currency by the Aztecs.
Both cultures also used it in various culinary ways. It made its way to Spain, and from there, it spread to France and the rest of the world. Today chocolate is everywhere. Everywhere you turn, there is chocolate from convenience stores, to supermarkets, to specialty stores devoted to nothing but chocolate. It has moved from drink to candy and now dominates the world. These four foods are just some of the most widespread.
Many foods we consume daily have their origins with Native American cultures. Corn, cinnamon, vanilla, pecans, peanuts, squashes, were all crops cultivated by Native American peoples. The discovery of the Americas led to the conquest of the Aztecs, and the Incas, but their legacy lives on today. Every time you eat a candy bar, get a bag of popcorn at the movies, put ketchup on your fries, you are eating food discovered and cultivated by Native Americans. Sources Foster, Nelson and Cordell, Linda S. Editors, Chilies to Chocolate: Food the Americas gave the world, The University of Arizona Press, Tuscon and London, 1992 Ver rill, A.
Hyatt, Foods America Gave the World, L. C. Page and Company, Boston, 1937"The History of Vodka", December 2004, web. htm " History of the Tomato", December 2004, web.