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A Swift History of Cooking

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Cooking From the Origins to Rome

Pulps ('bouillies') and pancakes, pastas, bread, beer, white cheese, salt, souring like sauerkraut, bortsch, or the brouet are originating as soon as Neolithics, by about 10000 B.C., a era when farming is invented. Fruit, root or varied crawling animals and insects harvesting, as far as they are concerned, date back to the Paleolithics, the previous epoch, which was the one of the hunter-gatherers. Stone, spit, braised or boiled cooking, milk fermentation lactique and faisandage, aromatic herbs, honey are originating farther back still. Smoking, drying and even first alcoholic beverages date back to the Mesolithics, or the transition period to Neolithics. Great Middle eastern empires deepened the culinary culture, which likely was due to a sufficiently intellectual environment to allow to a culinary philosophy. They invented butter and fermented fish, wich is a ancestor to the Greek, then Roman 'garum' (a salting product made from small, fermented fishes), beer and butter cooking and the herbs bouquet. Their cooking often constitutes a middle way betwenn Asiatic (with the garum), and Mediterranean (with honey and herbs) cooking. They were eating lying on a bed, without a knife as meals were prepared so to be prehensed under the form of a mouthful. Such traditions were to be imported into Greece. Greeks however got distant from butter and beer as they prefered olive oil and wine. The wine had been invented earlier in Phoenicia. A part of banquets was dedicated to wine drinking, which god was Dyonisios. Rosted was prefered to boiled, which was prized by Aristotle. Women were not admitted, some courtesans excepted. Aromatic herbs are abundant -of which numerous traditional herbs from the Mediterranean are- as gastronomy is strong in taste. Greeks are using the 'garos,' a variety of garum as they also make a abundant use of cheese for sauces as they are fond of a sweet-and-sour sauce, which is made from silphium or laser with vinegar and honey. Some Greek cooks, and theoreticains are advocating a cooking 'au naturel.' Wine, olive oil and cereals also characterized Rome, which inherited from Greece. Romans however mostly are known like "bouillie (pulp) eaters" with minced meat, like saussages, quenelles, baked custards and purées. With his 'De re coquinaria' ('Of the Culinary Art') Apicius, by 0 A.D., is evoking refinements as he had translated many recipes from the Greeks. The De re coquinaria was a considerable success and its recipes were to be spread in the whole Roman empire then the West, the Byzantine empire and Muslim Spain. Romans too are fond of fishes (like the famed moray eel), crustaceans and shells, stews of small morcels or elements, stuffed animals. A ancestral variety of lasagna also exist. Romans further generalized water cooking at the detriment of rosted one as the latter was considered a primitive technique. They used the garum which they had inherited from the previous eras. Pepper, silphium and laser are Rome's spices and local herbs are their herbs, like livèche, cumin, rue, coriander, mint, oregano, sarriette, aneth, dill, parsley, thyme and fennel. Sauces are sweetened through honey, dried fruits or sweet wine as the addition of vinegar brings to the reign of sweet-and-sour tasting. Thickeners are starch and eggs. Romans have the concept of desserts, like pancakes, baked custards and doughnuts, fruit pastes and gellies, jams as pastries proper are used for sacrifices only. Romans were the first to manufacture first glassware. Gauls were famed for their pork meat products, cervoise and their festive banquets as with their bread, they made using beer yeast and thus they elevated that product to the rank of a noble nurture

Cooking Under the Carolingians

From that time on, like the Germans had already done, they ate the Gallic, and no more the Roman way, seated and not lying. Eating and drinking a lot unluckily was a trait of that era. With a returning agricultural wealth, food intakes per person are of importance, like 3.3 lbs of bread, 1.6 U.S. pint of wine or beer, 7 ounces of mashed dry vegetables 3.5 of cheese and 3.5 of meat (clerics were not allowed to), as the set represented 6,000 calories which is one-third more than for a hard-working worker. Intakes further were generally increased on the feast days. It is likely that such practices matched a society which had just got out from hunger as such large meals also allowed the genesic wealth of the group and even could play a spiritual role which came from the ancient sacrificial meals (they still were meeting to eat for the prosperity of the kingdom, or the armies' victories, etc. It was in the 11th century only that Church councils eventually forbade those excesses to monks

The Germanic kingdoms in the West, which succeded to Rome, perpetuated Roman tradition in terms of cooking, like in terms of culture generally speaking. Garum kept its reign and the sweet-and-sour sauces also. Aromatic herbs are about the same now, with the addition of celery seeds, baies de laurier et de myrte as spices are added with ginger, clove, nard and costus together with saffron -which is used for colouring sauces. The 'verjus,' a juice of green grapes, also termed 'omfacium' is taking the supremacy progressively as it was to last during the whole Middle Ages. Fishes, which are a meal for Lent or fast days, is having the river varieties supplant the sea ones, with pikes, sturgeons, eels, or trouts, for example. Cabbage and sauerkraut, which are both typically German meals, are enduring a particular success. Germans however introduced new cooking basics like meat, with game, which back to rosted and kept underdone, pork -which also provides for Frankish salted food, goat kids or lamb altogether with poultry like hens and geese. Also with butter (together with 'saindoux' and lard) and milk which are other typical German products, even if wine, olive oil and bread are keeping on. Vineyards now are extending upwards, North and into the Donau valley as bread is now mainly made of rye and épeautre. Franks also are the inventors to egg white soufflés. Franks at the time of Clovis were drinking fermented milk, cervoise, mead and fruit wines like cider, pear and blackberries' wine. Anthimos, a Byzantine physician wrote the 'De observatione ciborum' for Thierry I, a son of Clovis, as he made a apology of a Hippocrates or Galen-like dietetics and he defended Roman techniques. Germans at last ceased to eat lying on a bed as they are sitting, a transformation which had begun with Gauls. That allowed for meals to be prepared under the form of large pieces. Ceramic tableware eventually replaced the Romans' glass tableware. In terms of cooking, the Carolingian era also really marked the end of Antiquity with Roman cooking ending even whether garum (a modified one, with the addition of herbs and it is cooked) keeps being liked and Apicius' work keeps copied during the 9th century A.D. Honey and spices are still extant as spices of that era are pepper, ginger, cinnamon, clove, galanga -a Chinese ginger- costus, nard, and laser. The famed capitulary 'de Villis', the plan of the St Gall monastery or the 'De culture hortorum' poem by Walafrid Strabo are showing that Roman herbs kept on, like livèche, rue, mint, fennel, coriander, sarriette, aneth and parsley, like did traditional products, like vegetables, etc. Sage, which began to be used in the 7th century, becomes now usual. A rost of game, which is witnessed in Einhard's 'Life of Charlemagne' has now turned lunch's pivot as hunting turned into a monopole of warriors, small game excepted as it is not considered noble. Pork and poultry also are strongly eaten. Bread is the other Carolingian basic, to the point that many other meals are termed 'companaticum,' or 'what's coming with bread.' Bread also serves like a link to sauces or to be damped with potages. Potages at that time are now termed 'soups.' That reign of bread also brings pastry meals which may be salted, sugared or filled, with the pâté baked in pastry, or 'pastillum,', the 'flado,' which is a kind of pizza, or a filled pie cooked in a terrine. Bread also brings some pastries in the modern sense of that term, like wafers and nieules -the latter the ancestor to ice cones. Fat is made with lard, the olive oil (in the days of fast), butter or saindoux (melted and then solidified lard). Pork and sheep are the most current herd as larger one is providing form milk and cheeses. Poultry also is appreciated, like hens and geese. Under the Carolingians, they inaugurated the fashion of biting flavours with a acidic predominance, like, for example, with vinegar, wine and mustard. River fishes continued to impose themselves, like the pikes, tenches, eels, carps and the sweet and sweet-and-sour sauces with honey and vinegar, which were predominantly favored. As prosperity had been back in the countryside, along with the alternance of Lent and fast days, ordinary, and feast days, not taking in account a fear that hunger returns and, also, a lack of balance in nutrition, all that brought to a view of eating which was equipolent to overeating or 'ripailles.' A lunch, on a feast day, could amount to 9,000 calories as it was fed with glucides and protides in excess and it lacked vitamins. Carolingian feast lunches are not refined as they were followed with long digestions, which is a explanation to how the Carolingian people in portraits were described fat and bellied. That eventually ended by the 10th century A.D. Carolingian cooking in the Frankish regnum, was of a European sort, or a mix of traditions in common and regional specificities. Meals were taken sitting on a bank around a table which was made of trestles. Characteristics of the European world in terms of banquets are that guests kept their own knife -which was influencing upon how meals to be cut were cooked-, as bread was the other characteristic. By the Carolingian era, the Byzantine empire had remained faithfull to the Roman gastronomy, and Muslim Spain too as Roman culinary mores were also known in the Abassid Caliphate. Roman cooking however in the 10th century A.D. definitively was to be abandoned and the garum replaced by lard. Hunger times reappeared in the West as soon as by 910 A.D. By that time Byzantium still was clinging to Roman cooking along with Moorish Spain as a Western ambassy into Constantinople by 968 A.D. is criticizing how they were cooking with garlic, onion, oil and garum. Roman fashion is also perpetuated, by some aspects, in Italy too. As far as the Arabic world is concerned, they also abandoned the lying position at lunch and they are sitting 'en tailleur' ('tailor's fasion') and they are sharing a common dish. The Arabic world, Muslim Spain included, was the place to a synthesis between Roman cooking -which lasted more in Spain, less in the Middle East- and what the Eastern, Arabic world brought, with laser, typically Roman herbs (like rue, coriander, cumin), crumbled pastry, honey, minced meat, and the 'mourri,' a cereal, milk-fermented version of garum, which is a reminder of Far eastern soja. Arabic cooking based upon spices, sugar, color of meals (with saffron or the almond milk, etc.) and too upon fruits and vegetables, the fashion of which had passed in the West at the time, like asparagus, truffles of Libya, melons, and cucumbers. Arabic cooking also is making use of puff pastry, pastas (which maybe they borroughed from Chinese through the Sassanid Persians), doughnuts, sirups and sugar candies, along with icy sorbets, sweeties, candied fruits, jams, fruits pastes, nougats, and distilled waters. Spices like cinnamon, pepper, saffron, ginger, clove, capers, musk, and sperm whale ambergris are used in large amounts and widespread. A Arabic lunch is balanced in terms of salted, acidic, sour-sweet and sweet flavors. Arabic cooking was then to influence cooking of the whole Middle Ages through Italy and Spain mainly. Aubergine, chou-fleur, spinachs, artichokes, lemons, and coffee were to be renewed tastes, which came from the Arabs. Spain, basing upon a tradition well established before Roman occupation, was the first jaming and lemonade-making country in the Roman empire as it likely constituted the base to the Arabic 'medical' cooking which influenced the Middle Ages as Italy, from that standpoint of medical candies, was not lying behind!

Cooking From the Middle Ages to Now

Then came the medieval apogee, the technical revolutions, the cities and the renaissance of science. That first brought, through a Arabic influence, to a cooking which was mixing culinary, and medical worries, regimen, health and cooking precepts as romances also presented table manners. The medieval medical culinary art is basing upon candies, candied fruits, nougats, sweeties and sirups. A classical cooking of the Middle Ages eventually was to individualize itself and to become independent from both the cooking of the Antiquity and the Arabic one, which was reached like a apogee after the crisis of the 14th and 15th centuries A.D. once population stabilized after grueling times, the ones of wars, plagues, etc. Eating is now basing upon a hierarchy which goes from meat to vegetables through poultry and fishes. Middle Ages were to make a intensive -and even hedonistic- use of spices from the East. Sugared meals replaced acidic ones, which had disappeared as sour-sweet taste is dominating again. Colours are also ornating meals. A medieval banquet was organized in miscellaneous services of meals varying upon a same theme, like pork meat products, potages, rosted meats, etc. The fashion was to envelop a whole animal, or a part of one, into a pastry crust which clang perfectly to its shape. Cooking in the Middle Ages eventually was a merge between what had preceded and Arabic cooking. The Renaissance allowed the perpetuation of the Middle Ages cooking as only some techniques are now again taken from Rome. Apicius, for example, is read again as vegetables, offals, caviars and shells are back. Since the 15th century A.D. they adopted flower waters, musk and amber, all products which are to be found back until in the 18th century. Italy however, which had a rich history of synthesis with Spain since the 12th century, now became the new center for culinary art. Medieval cooking then is taken up to its height. Butter is back too and Great Discoveries are bringing back new food, like beans, tomatoe, chocolate, etc. in Europe. Meals display in the Renaissance are exuberant but the manners of table, in the same time, are getting polished: each guest now is provided with his own dish, fork, knife, spoon and seat. As Roman Catholic Church had contributed to unify the alimentary practices in Europe before, the Protestant Reform now favors national cultures as it terminated alimentary norms like Lent, fast, and so on. Middle Ages cooking eventually was to end in France since the late 16th century A.D. They began then to use less spices, less sweet-and-soursauces and they began looking for a natural taste and few cooked foods. It is by the 17th century, under King Louis XIV of France, that peasants will restrain their alimentation to cereals mostly. Such a new, national, French cuisine, is Cartesian albeit influenced too by the Italian Renaissance. It bases itself upon local herbs like thyme, laurel, parsley, etc., southern France capers and anchovies as sauces are made with butter, eggs and cream. The use is established both of new background basics to any recipe, with roux -a base to a sauce, stock, bisques, juices, and of meals' presentation (with fixings). The order of a lunch is now established until in the 20th century: soups, roasts, entremets, and desserts. The system of the medieval services however, or the Renaissance's magnificence are perpetuating too. In terms of spices, nutmeg, clove and pepper are the sole which are tolerated. A second French renewal of cooking occurred then since 1675 A.D. which is further stressing the natural as it criticizes a still Barocque aspect of the previous step. The Enlightment is a era of food minimums and wants as the idea of 'progress' brings to another French advance, the one of Rococo, even as France at the time does not have a supremacy anymore except in terms of culture. Physicians, based upon new models of how to explain digestion, turned the prescriptors of diet. That new cooking is further increasing the claims to simplicity, with smaller dishes, the use of Champagne like a condiment, or the use of fonds (sauce's bases) instead of stocks (bouillons). It is increasing too the ones of refinement, with a possible touch of science into the search of a harmony, a 'quintessence' to the point of endeavouring, for example, to give a taste of fish to meat and reciprocally. The Industrial Revolution is having the French cooking hegemony to reach its apogee through what is termed the 'Grande Cuisine.' Under French Emperor Napoleon I, by the early 19th century A.D., the Rococo cooking is deepened, more luxury is extant (glassware now were made of crystal), as meals are scenerized. That too is bringing the development of professional restaurant owners, which is typical of Paris. Those are the former chefs of aristocrats. That move is deepened by the late 19th century A.D. with the apparition of luxury hotels and luxury tourism in France. Deauville, in Normandy or the Côte d'Azur are now places of sojourn. The theatrality of meals is abandoned and one transitions to 'Russian service' which is a order of succession of meals during a lunch. Cooking now is taking its inspiration from cosmopolitanism. The Grande Cuisine lasted during the 20th century as, after 1945, it had turned into a academism which made use of wheated and fat sauces bases (roux). Most recent days, as far as they are concerned, have seen the reign of the food-processing industry and of the U.S. fashioned fast restoration, or the fast food. It is now also the reign of the 'Nouvelle Cuisine,' which is emphatic, dietetic and intellectual as it borrows to the East and the Far East. Its presentation of meals are made in a plate and deviced like a drawing

Website Manager: G. Guichard, site Learning and Knowledge In the Carolingian Times / Erudition et savoir à l'époque carolingienne, Page Editor: G. Guichard. last edited: 12/30/2012. contact us at
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