User Tag List

Results 1 to 8 of 8

Thread: Food history is the history of the people

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Casolare alla Scala
    Posts
    1,497
    Post Thanks / Like
    Mentioned
    7 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Default Food history is the history of the people

    I don't know if anyone else really nerds out on food history, but it's one of the things that I really enjoy. Indulge me in sharing my latest little internet journey.

    Someone linked me to the University of Houston library archives where they have digitized and posted a large number of menus from American restaurants from the 1850s and 60s. It's always fun seeing what was being served and how. Go there now! A particularly interesting one to me is the Barnum's City Hotel in Baltimore from 1860. (The Gentleman's Ordinary, 2 1/2 o'clock!)

    Something that struck me was the wine lists. Sure, the $2.50 Chateau Lafite from 1834 is striking. But I couldn't get over how much longer the list of Madeiras were than anything else. There are more options, they are more prominently placed, have longer descriptions, and are the most expensive offerings. Which just seemed crazy to me since Madeira isn't popular at all anymore. So I went on a hunt to find out why Madeira seemed to be a thing 150 years ago and why it stopped.

    It turns out I had to go to 1663 to find the answer. One of the navigation acts from the Parliament of the newly restored Charles II, which was later renamed "An Act for the Encouragement of Trade". It included the passage:

    Quote Originally Posted by Parliament of 1661
    Be it enacted and it is hereby enactted That from and after the Five and twentyeth day of March One thousand six hundred sixtie fower noe Commoditie of the Growth Production or Manufacture of Europe shall be imported into any Land Island Plantation Colony Territory or Place to His Majestie belonging, or which shall [belong hereafter (fn. 6) ] unto, or be in the Possession of His Majestie His Heircs and Successors in Asia Africa or America (Tangier onely excepted) but what shall be bona fide and without fraude laden and shipped in England Wales [and (fn. 4) ] the Towne of Berwicke upon Tweede and in English built Shipping, or which were bona fide bought before the first day of October One thousand six hundred sixtie and two and had such Certificate thereof as is directed in one Act passed the last Sessions of this present Parliament entituled An Act for preventing Frauds and regulating Abuses in His Majesties Customes, and whereof the Master and three Fourthes of the Marriners at least are English, and which shall be carryed directly thence to the said Lands Islands Plantations Colonyes Territories or Places, and from noe other place or places whatsoever Any Law Statute or Usage to the contrary notwithstanding, under the Penaltie of the losse of all such Commodities of the Growth Production or Manufacture of Europe as shall be imported into any of them from any other Place whatsoever by Land or Water, and if by Water, of the Ship, or Vessell alsoe in which they were imported with all her Guns Tackle Furniture Ammunition and Apparell, one third parte to His Majestie His Heires and Successors, one third part to the Governour of such Land Island Plantation Colony Territory or Place into which such Goods were imported if the said Shipp, Vessell or Goods be there seised, or informed against and sued for, or otherwise that Third part alsoe to His Majestie His Heires and Successors, and the other Third parte to him or them who shall seise informe or sue for the same in any of His Majesties Courts in such of the said Lands Islands Colonies Plantations Territories or Places where the Offence was committed, or in any Court of Record in England by Bill, Information Plaint or other Action wherein noe Essoyne Protection or Wager in Law shall be allowed
    tl;dr Everything that is shipped from Europe to the Colonies must go through England first. So, wine from France and Germany must go to England, get unloaded, taxed, catalogued, and reloaded to make the trip to the American Colonies. But later in the act, there's this:

    Quote Originally Posted by Paliament of 1661
    Provided alwayes and be it hereby enacted by the Authoritie aforesaid That it shall and may be lawfull to shipp and lade in such Shipps, and soe navigated as in the foregoeing Clause is sett downe and expressed in any part of Europe Salt for the Fisheries of New England and New found land, and to shipp and lade in the Medera's Wines of the Growth thereof, and to shipp and lade in the Westerne Islands or Azores Wines of the Growth of the said Islands, and to shipp [or (fn. 7) ] take in Servants or Horses in Scotland or Ireland, and to shipp or lade in Scotland all sorts of Victuall of the Growth or Production of Scotland; and to shipp or lade in Ireland all sortes of Victuall of the Growth or Production of Ireland, and the same to transport into any of the said Lands Islands Plantations Colonyes Territories or Places, Any thing in the foregoeing Clause in the contrary in any wise notwithstanding.
    So, with Madeira being an island 400 miles off the African coast, it was preferred by merchants who were trafficking humans to make the stop along the way to the colonies and load in some extra good for sale. With Madeira being exempted from the odd shipping requirements, it became both cheaper and more available than the more popular wines in Europe, but it wasn't the only thing that made Madeira the wine of early America.

    It turns out that the stuff actually gets better with abuse. Back to the Barnum's menu--there's a Madeira listed that says "M.T. Montiero, imported 1832, one voyage to east indies" Legend (and I can't find a primary source on this one) has it that a barrel was forgotten on a ship where it was supposed to be off-loaded in India, and this barrel having been subjected to two trips across the equator, was even better than when it had left, or it's partners at the destination. We no longer send Madeira on voyages around the world for aging in hot ship holds, but we do intentionally oxidize the wine--a process called Estufagem, which can either be steam heating or leaving barrels in a greenhouse of sorts in the sun.

    So Madeira was America's wine, and basically no one drinks it anymore, so what happened? Like much of history, a quick succession of blows doomed Madeira wine. First, Phylloexora reached the island in the latter half of the 19th century, with production being thoroughly decimated by 1890. Combine the timing with 1859 being the first commercial winery opening in the Napa Valley, and then just as root stock was taking hold and production ready to recover in Madeira, Prohibition in America, and revolution in Russia.

    I tend to really geek out hard over stuff when learning about it, and hadn't ever even had Madeira before, so I went out and grabbed a couple of bottles. The Rare Wine Co. local to me produces a series of blends with a Madeira negociant meant to replicate the historical styles (the 4 "heritage" varietals Malvasia, Bual, Verdhello, and Sercial were mostly ripped out after the Phylloexora epidemic, but towards the end of the 20th century were being replanted) at reasonable prices. It's really, really good stuff! It's kind of like a vintage port with more acidity and body and much less of a tendency towards cloying sweetness. Absolutely spectacular with cheese. And so I splurged on something special. Just need an occasion soon.



    Anyway, if you made it this far, thanks for reading. Just wanted to share my excitment. If you have food history stories, historical menus, or recipe books, I'd love to read about it!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Alameda, CA
    Posts
    2,468
    Post Thanks / Like
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Default Re: Food history is the history of the people

    Very interesting! I'm fascinated by the evolution of menus. Things like the differences between pre-Columbian and post-Columbian ragýs (tomato), the movement of dried noodles from the east to the west and eventually to every neighborhood in North America, and the history of things like sourdough bread. Not nearly as old but also interesting to me is the history of restaurants in San Francisco. I dug up a magazine from 1961 that compiled a number of menus from various dining establishments here and there are some trends visible then that would be laughed at today. The pricing is certainly something else. A couple of them are still in business today.

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/cortez...7627487224544/
    steve cortez

    FNG

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Bucks, PA
    Posts
    2,525
    Post Thanks / Like
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Default Re: Food history is the history of the people

    Thanks for sharing. You don't mess around.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Posts
    175
    Post Thanks / Like
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Default Re: Food history is the history of the people

    Great post! Thanks, I'm off the the Rare Wine Co. website...
    Ethan Ford Heath

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    DC
    Posts
    29,881
    Post Thanks / Like
    Mentioned
    58 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Default Re: Food history is the history of the people

    Good man for sharing this. I too love food traditions and obsess over details which are family tradition but you may have just sent me down the rabbit hole! Thanks :)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    MA
    Posts
    451
    Post Thanks / Like
    Mentioned
    1 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Default Re: Food history is the history of the people

    I think a lot of you would be very entertained by Imbibe!. Really interesting, got a lot of obscure spirits back in production as well. Another book I found equally as fascinating is America Walks into a Bar

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Casolare alla Scala
    Posts
    1,497
    Post Thanks / Like
    Mentioned
    7 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Default Re: Food history is the history of the people

    Quote Originally Posted by AJPM44 View Post
    I think a lot of you would be very entertained by Imbibe!. Really interesting, got a lot of obscure spirits back in production as well. Another book I found equally as fascinating is America Walks into a Bar
    Awesome. I'll put both of those on my list. I enjoyed Proof, despite some minor flaws.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Location
    Near Cape Ann, MA
    Posts
    2,922
    Post Thanks / Like
    Mentioned
    1 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Default Re: Food history is the history of the people

    Quote Originally Posted by spopepro View Post
    So Madeira was America's wine, and basically no one drinks it anymore, so what happened? Like much of history, a quick succession of blows doomed Madeira wine. First, Phylloexora reached the island in the latter half of the 19th century, with production being thoroughly decimated by 1890. Combine the timing with 1859 being the first commercial winery opening in the Napa Valley, and then just as root stock was taking hold and production ready to recover in Madeira, Prohibition in America, and revolution in Russia.

    I tend to really geek out hard over stuff when learning about it, and hadn't ever even had Madeira before, so I went out and grabbed a couple of bottles. The Rare Wine Co. local to me produces a series of blends with a Madeira negociant meant to replicate the historical styles (the 4 "heritage" varietals Malvasia, Bual, Verdhello, and Sercial were mostly ripped out after the Phylloexora epidemic, but towards the end of the 20th century were being replanted) at reasonable prices. It's really, really good stuff! It's kind of like a vintage port with more acidity and body and much less of a tendency towards cloying sweetness. Absolutely spectacular with cheese. And so I splurged on something special. Just need an occasion soon.



    Anyway, if you made it this far, thanks for reading. Just wanted to share my excitment. If you have food history stories, historical menus, or recipe books, I'd love to read about it!
    Agreed, I used to drink a lot of madeira and prefer it to Port in general. Back when Sam's wines was still around in Chicago off North avenue they used to have bottles of Madeira from the early 20th century, and even 19th century bottles just sitting there on the warehouse-style shelves to be put in your cart and purchased. Sad for me, they were too expensive for me at the time so I never indulged and now Sam's is long gone . . .

Similar Threads

  1. a little history, the giro
    By SteveP in forum The Frame Forum@VSalon
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 05-06-2011, 07:09 AM
  2. a brief history
    By SteveP in forum The OT
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 03-01-2011, 11:20 PM

Bookmarks

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •