Food History

Watched 1492 – Globalization and Fusion Cuisines

Watched 1492 – Globalization and Fusion Cuisines from

Humanity’s desire for spices and other luxury items eventually connected the entire globe. Track the powerful trading empires of the Venetians and Portuguese, the Spanish conquest of the New World, and the “Columbian exchange”—where plants and animals from five continents were globally transplanted, changing eating habits around the world.

Hoopla (through the library) offers a week-long pass to The Great Courses, figured we’d check it out. Picked this episode because ‘New World’ and ‘Old World’ foods come up surprisingly often in my house.

Very much a lecture, professionally filmed and well-presented. Primarily shows the lecturer with added slides to highlight maps and images.

Exploration driven by the $$$$ spice trade, which was originally dominated by Venetians, who had a series of stopping points for transport across the Mediterranean. The Portuguese then took dominance.

I didn’t realize how important it was to exploration that the current in the Atlantic below the equator goes the opposite direction, so sailors could no longer hug the coastline but had to go out to sea and let the current carry them back around to land. This also led Portugal to “discover” Brazil by continuing sailing .

Columbus pitched like ALL the royalty (and got shut down) before Queen Isabella gave him the thumbs-up…influenced by Portugal “discovering” India. Yuck I didn’t realize her rule was behind the expulsion of the Jews.

1494 – Treaty of Tordesillas – Portugal “got” everything to the east, Spain “got” everything to the west –> Brazil speaks Portuguese, Spanish conquistadors in the rest of South America

Interesting globalization element — the Europeans were the connectors of many Old World and New World crops to many lands they were conquering and colonizing — for example the Spanish brought peppers from South America to the Philippines (and I think he said the Portuguese brought them to India), where they became quickly adopted because they were relatively cheap sources of “heat” in cooking (vs. spices which were very expensive).

Segment at the end challenging viewers to guess where different crops originated. I thought I was pretty in-the-know on foodstuffs but nope, I got a lot wrong! 😂 Pineapples were from the Caribbean, Columbus tasted them and tried to bring them back but they don’t transport well without refrigeration.

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at She/her.

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