Since Thanksgiving is a week away, it’s only natural that many of us are thinking about food. I love autumn and all the wonderful dishes that make up the traditional Thanksgiving feast, but did you know how many of them are New World foods?
Roasted Turkey On Harvest Table – c. evgenyb – license from Bigstock.com
The food supply expanded when Columbus “discovered” the New World. There were no potatoes, yams, tomatoes, pumpkins turkeys or maize (Indian corn) in the Middle Ages.
There was also no chocolate, no tea and no coffee in the Middle Ages. Peasants drank beer at every meal. The nobility drank wine. The introduction of coffee and tea in the 17th century helped to sober up Europe for the Industrial Revolution, thank goodness. Even the sober Pilgrims and Puritans drank beer in the 1600’s. If you’re writing a Medieval romance, don’t show your characters drinking tea, even if it’s herbal. The word “tea” comes from the Chinese, and didn’t enter the English language until around 1655. Herbal infusions, sometimes called tisannes, were mainly used for medicinal purposes.
Chocolate is native to the Americas, so the Spaniards were the first Europeans to encounter it. It became popular at court after the Spanish added sugar or honey to sweeten the natural bitterness. From there, chocolate spread through Europe in the 1600’s, and how thankful I am that it did. The best hot chocolate I’ve ever had was the dark, molten variety you find in France.
coffee & chocolate, image licensed from Deposit Photos
Coffee drinking started in Arabia in the middle of the 15th century and had spread to Europe in the 16th century. It became more popular after 1600 when Pope Clement VIII declared it a “Christian” beverage. When Britain cut off America’s tea supply during the War of 1812, Americans turned to coffee and we’ve been a coffee-drinking nation ever since.
Tea comes from Asia and was introduced to Holland in 1610, in common use by 1675; introduced to England about 1660, where it steadily increased in popularity. The ritual we know as afternoon tea didn’t start until the 1840s. Afternoon tea was for the idle rich and includes finger sandwiches, scones and pastries. High tea, which isn’t nearly as grand as it sounds, was the name for the evening meal used by the working class and features a hot dish like a meat pie or stew.