David Doran: Essay
East and South Asia and the Americas EncounterEuropeans
As the Europeans began exploring and conquering parts of the world,it became inevitable that they would influence the food cultureof the people with whom they came in contact. However, due tothe nature and timing of the encounters, the effect on the natives’diet varied from region to region. The Europeans had the leastsignificant influence over the Chinese food customs while thepeople of India and the Americas were more receptive to Old Worldfood ideas.
The Chinese food culture was solidly established early in thesixteenth century under the Sung Dynasty (Anderson 69). By thetime the Europeans arrived, the people in China had been eatingthe same kind of foods for centuries, so the Europeans were notgoing to have a large impact. Not until a period of famine duringthe end of the Ming Dynasty would the Europeans make a contribution(Anderson 97). The Spanish and Portuguese introduced the sweetpotato to China in the late sixteenth century. This crop provedto be the most significant import crop of the time, serving asfamine relief.
In contrast to China, India more readily accepted influences fromthe Europeans. During their campaign to expose the nation to Christianity,the French imported some culinary persuasions, which still remain(Achaya 74). The list included breads such as the baguette andthe croissant, meats such as sausage, pate and jambon, dishessuch as tomato farcie and fish croquettes, and desserts such asgateau mocha, creme caramel custard and flanc (Achaya 74). TheEnglish also came to India with some influences such as “English-stylesoups, roasts, baked pies and puddings” (Achaya 176). Disheswere created which mixed English and Indian methods, like “Windsorsoup, Patna rice–and the renowned Byculla soufflé”(Achaya 176). The West made another significant contribution ofalcohol. The English introduced such beverages as Madeira wine,champagne, brandy and beer to add to the alcoholic interests ofthe Indian people (Achaya 178).
The natives of the New World were also exposed to the effectsof alcohol. Spaniards introduced wine to the native Mexicans,which facilitated the development of alcoholism. Interestingly,the evils and the changes in behavior caused by heavy drinkingwere attributed equally to the wine and the meat brought by theSpanish (Coe 234). The Spanish first introduced pigs to the peopleof the Americas, followed by beef and mutton (Coe 230). In additionto putting meat on the table, the animals allowed for the developmentof a dairy industry and the use of lard in cooking (Coe 231, 234).Although the natives found the latter quite disgusting, lard wasstill highly valued by the Europeans in the New World (Coe 234).The list of European food influence in the New World goes on toinclude bread, pies, sugar, vegetables such as lettuce, radishes,turnips and carrots, and spices such as ginger, cumin, cinnamon,cloves and black pepper (Coe 239).
The Europeans encountered an assortment of people and culturesduring their explorations of Asia and the Americas. In the casesof India and the New World, the ambassadors of the Old World provideda significant influence over the culinary methods and the dietsof those regions. In the case of China, the influence was notas consequential. Regardless, the Europeans played a part in shapingthe food systems of the world.
Achaya, K.T. Indian Food: A Historical Companion. New York:Oxford University Press,1999.
Anderson, E.N. The Food of China. New Haven: Yale UniversityPress, 1988.
Coe, Sophia. America’s First Cuisine. Austin: Universityof Texas Press, 1994.