Food is the basis of survival. Hunter-gatherers quickly experimented with it, then hunting came to expand the diet. Today, we just have to dip into the fridge, go to a restaurant, or even order a cooked meal. Moreover, cooking has evolved to become an art, and almost a science in some cases. Various cultural and geographical influences have established rites and practices.
Then crockery and table linens appeared, along with good manners, and food became codified. It has also been enriched with new foods over the course of discoveries. Gastronomy has also made its appearance. We take you on a culinary journey, tracing the history of food through the centuries. Immediate boarding.
Food in prehistory
The history of food naturally begins with the first humans. The first Man on Earth fed as best he could, according to his pickings and finds. But prehistory nevertheless constitutes the embryo of our daily diet. We owe him cooking, cultivation and domestication, which are still the pillars of our diet today.
What did Homo habilis eat?
Sitting down to eat from a plate, cutting his food and wiping his mouth, prehistoric man cared little! Food was then reduced to its simplest expression since it was synonymous with survival. Human beings have survived by feeding on plants, insects, small rodents and larvae, collected over their finds. Unity being strength, he then began to hunt in groups to capture mammoths, deer and bison.
From raw to cooked
It is obvious that the discovery of fire resulted in the cooking of the food, but how much time elapsed in between is unknown. Fire was probably used to ward off the cold or to protect against large mammals for some time before anyone thought of cooking a piece of meat. We have few elements concerning cooking at this time. Perhaps then the very first firing was accidental; one can imagine the meat falling into the fire but still eaten so as not to be spoiled. Be that as it may, the cooking of food is a real turning point in the history of food.
Birth of agriculture and animal husbandry
We owe a lot to our ancestors in terms of food, since it was also during prehistory that breeding and agriculture appeared. Neolithic man began to produce his own food resources.
Food in antiquity
Antiquity sees peoples take shape, cultures and uses diversify. Food habits then vary according to geography and climate. People develop their own cultivation techniques, adopt different beliefs and the resulting practices. Diet thus evolves according to cultural, ethnic and social influences.
At the beginning of the ancient period, the Romans mainly consumed cereal porridge. Then their diet is enriched with the appearance of olive oil, the consumption of eggs, cheese, wine, honey. Invasions and conquests also allow the discovery of new foods, such as cherries, melon or spices. As far as customs are concerned, we know that the Romans ate three meals a day, including the supper, a hearty evening meal. They could also go to the “popina”, a restaurant of the time.
Greek agriculture is poor and meat is scarce. It is perhaps to overcome this frugality that the Greeks developed the art of cooking. They know several cooking methods, decorate their dishes with herbs and sauces and accompany them with bread. The kitchen is becoming more democratic and the profession of cook is taking shape. The Greeks also attach importance to the tableware, which characterizes the social category of its owners.
Food in the Middle Ages
In the Middle Ages, eating habits are very revealing of social class, and only the powerful of the time knew the joys of feasting.
The diet of the rich
Orgies and feasts are going well. Wine, cervoise and mead flow freely, and meat is everywhere. Game is very popular. Peacocks, swans, herons, storks, cranes and pheasants generously garnish the tables. The use of spices, which are very expensive, is also an ostentatious sign of wealth. The cooks then redouble their ardor and creativity to satisfy the masters of the house and impress the guests. We are witnessing the beginnings of gastronomy as such, the art of preparing and presenting dishes.
What the poor eat
The peasants, on the other hand, feed on the products of their culture and their diet consists mainly of vegetables, fresh or dried, and cereals, eaten in porridge or in the form of pancakes.
Food under the old regime
Food culture continues to enrich and codify. Indeed, customs are different depending on whether one is Catholic or Orthodox, rich or poor, from the North or the South.
Food becomes identity
Some dishes stand out, becoming symbolic of a region or country. The pudding asserts itself in England, the fondue is Swiss, the ham comes from Bayonne and the mustard from Dijon.
New habits are emerging
The must of must is to have a dining room. The more affluent enjoy French-style service, characterized by a succession of dishes, presented in a profusion of luxurious crockery. The first restaurants as we know them today open their doors.
The history of food is then marked by the rise of the agri-food economy in the 19th century. Trade allows access to a greater variety of products. The food industry is set up and the first distribution signs are born. But the quality of food is quickly neglected in favor of profitability. In light of certain findings, we have to admit that the wrong leads were followed. Fortunately, we are now witnessing an awareness, which seems to be shaping a new food era. The current trend is defined by a return to a healthier and more balanced diet.