Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Fun food facts.

Well. There's nothing to blog about here. Unless you want to hear about the lousy weather and my sinuses. Still working on the gift knitting and binding off the doily. So I thought I'd flip through the book I'm reading ("Food in History") for something interesting. You eat. You ought to find the subject vaguely interesting, I'm thinking.

--As you probably know, the ancient Romans (as in, Romans living in Rome) suffered from lead poisoning due to their use of lead water pipes. Their nutty behavior is well documented, but it's less known that lead poisoning also causes a metallic taste in the mouth. It's thought that a lot of the crazy, super-spiced foods of the Romans was due to that metallic taste, and trying to get rid of it.

--The Chinese royal kitchens in the second century BCE had 2,271 people working there. 128 everyday chefs, 128 entertainment chefs, 94 ice men, 62 pickle and sauce chefs, and 62 salt men, among others.

--As far back as 1300 BCE (and I'll bet as far back as the idea of trading for food goes), there were clever ways to rip each other off, including padding truffles with dirt and roasts with extra fat (sometimes off an entirely different animal). They also would stuff internal organs with anything they had, to make them look more appetizing; it wasn't uncommon to get a kidney home and find out it was stuffed full of rags. (And you thought the butcher cheated when he laid the bacon fat-side down in the package.)

--Almost no one in recorded history has been able to put together a fully balanced diet based entirely on things grown in a five mile radius. Even in the copper and bronze ages, grains and beans and other foods were often imported or exported over very long distances. Egypt supplied most of the grain that kept Rome running; the colonies did the same for England during the British Empire.

--As late as 1897 CE, using knives and forks was forbidden in the British Navy; real men eat with their fingers.

--Potatos, native to South America, were actually introduced to North America from EUROPE. The Spaniards took potatos to Europe, and after years of growing them there, Colonial settlers to N America brought them along when they went to North America.

--Guacamole is pretty much exactly the same as it was when the Aztecs ate it five hundred years ago.

--The clam bake is thought to have come from the Polynesian tradition of cooking luau food in a pit oven, but no one can explain how it came to be a major party food/cooking method in New England at such an early date. Personally I think it was invented in New England independently.

Is that enough odd food information for one day? Probably. Now I want some guacamole.

EDITED TO FIX: The date on the British Navy bit. Thanks to Lynne for pointing it out. (Who knew one letter could make such a difference? Other than knitters, I mean?)

Still want some guacamole.


Lynne said...

(K)Nit-pickin' - 1897 BCE there WAS no British Navy - that was even before the Romans got to Alba.

Sarah said...

mmmm, guacamole, now I want some too, damn you julie!! if we lived closer I'd say you bring the chips I'll bring the guac, oh forget the chips just give me the avocado thanks.

Catie said...


Bells said...

I wanna go to a clam bake. I ate clam chowder in Maine, looking out at the ocean, but I never got to a clam bake.

i wonder how they discovered the lead thing in Rome, after all that time?

Jejune said...

Great collection of info there, Julie! My kids will be pleased about the British Navy one - I STILL have trouble getting my 18 year old son to use cutlery at times! Hmmm, better not tell them...

Nice to know about the guacamole - what a classic!

Kris Fletcher said...

Makes me wish I liked guac.

But Julie, I have to tell you - I finished my first sock this morning! For HRH! With YOUR Purple Train Wreck!

It's a thing of beauty, despite my clumsy first-sock-ness. HRH is ecstatic with how it turned out and can't wait for me to do the next one so she can wear them in front of all her friends. The husband was very impressed with all the colors & how they fit together. Tonight, I will shake it in the faces of my critique group ("Okay, guys, I might no have anything to read, but I made a SOCK, dammit!")

I am a very happy camper this morning, and so much of it is due to your influence. Thank you!

debsnm said...

SUPER quick guac: 1 large avocado, smashed (and peeled, natch)
juice of 1/2 sm lemon
picante sauce to taste
dash of garlic powder
You can make it in about 5 secs, and eat it quicker! mmmmmm guacamole!

Amy Lane said...

Walt Whitman saw the clamback as a symbol of American independent freedom... but then he also saw marrying your own Indian Squaw that way, so he may not be all that reliable for those things...

Miss Sandra Gordon said...

I'm just catching up on yer blog, sorry if this seems from deep left field, or someone else already advanced this theory. I have an explanation for the Hawaii/New England clam bake connection;
Whalers. The Yankees working the whaling ships prolly brought it back down here to the East Coast.