Food is the world’s preoccupation. One might survive without shelter, but not without food. However, food is more than just nourishment for the body. Food is family, celebration, comfort, culture, tradition. Few other human activities so completely engage our senses, our emotions, and our thoughts as do the preparation and consumption of food.
Food is tied up with our humanity, because we all eat, but it is also tied up with the world’s history. Governments have risen and fallen on the strength of a successful crop or a desirable spice. Salt, pepper, cattle, and chocolate have all, at various times, fueled economies and constituted wealth. Without the pursuit of food, the history of the world would have been utterly different. The British would never have gone to India. Rome would have fallen earlier. Columbus would never have sailed. Helen of Troy’s face may have launched a thousand ships, but that pales in comparison to the voyages, expeditions, and conquests launched by the world’s pursuit of desirable foods.
Food has crept into our language, our ideas, our stories. In many cases, the widespread movement of food has helped redefine traditions and identities. Imagine Italy without tomatoes (from Mexico), Mexico without cilantro (Mediterranean), Ireland without potatoes (Peru), India without chilies (South America), Greece without cinnamon (India), Florida without oranges (China), or Southeast Asia without pineapple (South America).
The study of food’s history shows us that a global economy is not a new trend, for we have pursued new tastes and traded food for millennia. It also shows us how incredibly rich our lives are, with easy access to foods, beverages, and spices that people throughout history have searched for, traveled to sample, and even died to obtain.
Through this blog, I will explore the world and its history with a focus on food.
Welcome to the World’s Fare.