The New World Foods That Changed Europe

375-the-new-world-foods-that-changed-europeThe world is a big pot. A spoon is the heart. What the meal is depends on how you stir and what products you use”. I guess you agree with this statement no matter you are just an ordinary consumer of food or a foodie. Here I will make a quick clarification and note. A foodie is person who is passionate for everything that is related to nutrition. These people are attracted by kitchens and eating at restaurants. They love finding out new gourmet places, raiding markets and discovering various new and unknown products. On the other hand, foodies go on gourmet travels and read specialized cooking books. Or in other words described, these people are addicted to food and that’s why their name derives from this English word.  So, no matter you are such a “food-addicted guy” or just a hungry human being, you will pay attention to the origin of products and where they have come from. And here is another brief list of foods that came from the New World at the Age of Great Discoveries.

Vanilla:  Christopher Columbus realized that he hadn’t reached India. He didn’t know where he was either. He was also aware of the fact that he had already spent all the money given to him by King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella. The great explorer was disappointed with that fact. Because he had to justify the investments made in his voyages, he had to bring his Catholic Kings some new and unknown herbs and spices from the new lands. At that time red pepper and vanilla helped him in that difficult situation because the Europeans needed spices that preserved and kept food fresh.

That’s why it was highly appreciated by the Spaniards when vanilla was introduced to Europe for the first time. They considered it so precious because it prolonged the expiry date of products, especially at times when refrigerators didn’t exist. On the other hand, vanilla added a new taste and aroma to their dishes whose variety was very scarce at that time. Thus spices and vanilla in particular, created the illusion that people ate various meals every day without changing the products at all. Unlike red pepper, vanilla couldn’t be grown in Europe because it required high temperatures and tropical climate. That’s the reason why it had to be imported from distant countries which made it an expensive and luxurious spice which could be afforded by the rich only.

Chocolate: All chocolate-lovers, for sure, are grateful to Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the New World because if he hadn’t discovered the new terra we would not enjoy the sweet products made from Theobroma cacao. And you would ask me what it is. Right? It is simply that some-metre tree that is evergreen and whose homeland is the deep-deep tropical region of Latin America and the Caribbean basin. The seeds of this “ancient” tree are a very essential ingredient of chocolate, the latter being extremely irresistible to women mainly as well as help both sexes to overcome stress and tension (and put on some weight 😀 ). Moreover, chocolate was extremely fashionable in Spain in the 16th century. Even Alexandre Dumas said that the Spaniards led a life based on chocolate, chickpea and rancid bacon.

And here is one very peculiar fact about the bitter water and  its name. The Aztecs beat chocolate with two sticks and while they were doing it, they always made a very specific sound – “shoko-shoko”. They added water whose translation was “atl” in their language. This way the sound and the word, i.e. shoko-atl, gave the name to chocolate which has still been used by us up to now.

Turkey: The Mexicans call turkey “guajolote” in Mexican Spanish. It was the most easily and quickly accepted food from the New World in Europe. People from some certain places called it “Indian cock” while the Spaniards chose the word “pavo” (or “pavo real”, more precisely) because the bird resembled a peacock. They were greatly impressed with its subtle and delicate meat and they started raising it as a home pet. Soon after its arrival on the Old Continent, turkey became a preferred meal all over Europe and it even turned into a luxurious dish and favourite Christmas meal.

I mentioned several times that most of the products from the New World were considered low-quality items which were not good enough to become part of the menu of the old European aristocracy. But it wasn’t the case of turkey and the reason was probably its size. What do I mean? Hens, cocks and other home birds were always appreciated by weatlty people and the appearance of that big, roasted bird in the middle of the table was really extremely prestigious.

There is one historic fact that recalls the feast organized by the Spaniards in the Mexican town of Tenochtitlan in 1538. All most appreciated culinary delicacies (such as hamon, game-birds, stuffed chickens, etc. ) from the Iberian Peninsula were on display. The only indigenous and typically American meal and product, which was appraised enough in Europe so that it became part of the Europeans’ menu together with other traditional products of the Old World, was turkey. It was the proof of the highest mark which the conquistadors gave to it.

Pineapple: Do you know what pineapple is for in the local languages of the Indians who inhabited the territories of today’s Brazil? The Spaniards renamed it to piῆa (pine tree or pinecone) or Pinecone of the Indians wanting to call all foods and products by names items looking like the products that had already been known on the Iberian Peninsula. The shape of an American pineapple was like a pinecone of a Mediterranean piῆa. And this was the only similarity since there weren’t any other similar features between them in terms of the taste, size or the way of consuming it.

The fruit was among those products which were immediately highly appreciated by upper classes in Europe but unfortunately, it couldn’t get used to the climate conditions in the Old World. That’s why this luxurious fruit was rarely consumed and well-kept mainly for special occasions and feasts. Another fact that had a great contribution to the welcoming of pineapples in Europe was the descriptions made by chroniclers of that time. According to them, a pineapple was the most “worshipped” fruit both by the Spaniards and locals alike in the Indies. The reason for that was its too saturated aroma. What did they mean exactly?  They mentioned that if there was a pineapple left in a room, the latter is entirely filled with a fragrance of a peach.

Last thing here. There is one idiom in Spanish but unfortunately, I am not a Spanish-speaking person and I cannot write down the exact expression. Instead, I will try to explain to you what it is about. When a Spaniard tells you “Let’s be together like pinecones”, it means that your mutual and united efforts will help you survive and overcome a difficult situation. It is like all pinecones that make a pine-tree beautiful.

Avocado: Guacamole is an-avocado-based dip or salad, as you know. It was prepared by the Aztecs who lived in today’s Mexico. I will open a bracket here. The Aztecs believed that avocado was a very strong aphrodisiac because it had a form of testicles. In fact, they called it āhuacatl (literally translated as a testicle tree). Bracket closed. As said, this meal is prepared from avocado which is its major ingredient plus tomatoes, lemon, chili pepper, onion and coriander. The fruit with the strange taste didn’t “steal” the Spaniards’ hearts at all when it was introduced to Europe. Moreover, it didn’t get used to the climate in the Old World and on the other hand, it ripened too fast and couldn’t be kept fresh during long voyages from America. These were the reasons for which avocado didn’t get popular and it didn’t appear on the tables of wealthy Europeans although the fruit was among the most popular products in the new lands.

Sunflower: Have you ever tried caramelized sunflower peeled seeds? If you haven’t, I will just describe them briefly – yummy-yummy. Actually, sunflowers are the source for this seducing and mouth-watering dessert.  A sunflower was brought to Europe at the Age of Great Discoveries and once it stepped on the Old Continent, it attracted the Spaniards and they started growing it in their gardens as a decoration. After many years, the beautiful flower turned into an important crop. Nowadays it plays an important role as one of the industrial plants that have come from America. Why? Everything is about its seeds. They are the source of oil whose consumption is much bigger than that of olive oil.

Cactus: Spanish conquistadors desired to call make unknown plants from the New World “more-Spanish”. Apart from the above-given examples, there was one more plant that obtained a Spanish name – a cactus. It was called “higo” (or the Spanish word for fig) because of its resemblance of a Mediterranean fig. Actually, they named it “higo chumbo” because they thought it had a thicker moss than European fig.


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