Interested in food trivia or history? Here are a few tidbits of foodie lore which I found interesting. Send me an email if you come across some interesting trivia and I will gradually expand this section over time.
Take my food quiz (easy)
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or Michelin quiz (hard)
Tempura is a Portuguese invention
I was surprised to discover that that Japanese food stalwart, tempura, was actually invented by Portuguese sailors. On Friday the Catholic Portuguese were forbidden from eating meat, and somewhere in the mists of time they started to deep fry fish and vegetables using a recipe brought back by the Crusaders from their Arabian campaigns. These were adapted for the quarter day feasts of the Christian calendar, which are known in Latin as quattuor tempora – hence the derivation of tempura. The Japanese were introduced to this by Portugese traders and adopted it.
(source: Economist Intelligent Life, summer 2006)
The origin of sorbet
Supposedly Richard the Lionheart, at a negotiation, was presented by Crusader leader Saladin by a dish called “sharbet” made with snow from the mountains in Lebanon and flavoured with fruit.
Who invented the fork?
The idea of using forks to aid in eating was apparently introduced from Byzantium into Greece about AD 1100 and traveled northward into Italy and France. However several sources credit Catherine de Medici with popularising the fork, as she brought some with her to the court of France when she married King Henry II. Prior to that however, Domenico Selvo, Doge of Venice, married a Greek princess who introduced the practice of eating with a fork to his court in the 11th century. It seems fair to credit the Italians though.
How did they open tin cans in the early days?
It intrigued me that the tin can was patented in 1810 by Peter Durand and the first commercial canning factory opened in England in 1846, yet the tin opener was not invented until 1858, when Ezra Waterbury of Connecticut patented the idea. The first 12 years of tin can use must have been a frustrating experience.
What did Indian cooks do before the chilli?
Chilli peppers are native to South America, and were only introduced to India by the Portuguese around the 17th century. However mustard, turmeric, cardamom and pepper were harvested in India as early as 3000 BC.
The most expensive wine ever?
The most paid at auction for a single bottle of wine is a 1787 Château Lafite owned by Thomas Jefferson, bought for GBP 105,000 (USD 160,000 at the time) in 1985 at Christies by Christopher Forbes. It now resides in the Forbes Collection in New York. The most expensive white wine sold is a 1787 Chateau d’Yquem for USD 56,588. The bottle is the source of some controversy: