East and South Asia and the Americas Encounter Europeans
David Doran

As the Europeans began exploring and conquering parts of the world, it became inevitable that they would influence the food culture of the people with whom they came in contact. However, due to the nature and timing of the encounters, the effect on the natives' diet varied from region to region. The Europeans had the least significant influence over the Chinese food customs while the people of India and the Americas were more receptive to Old World food ideas.

The Chinese food culture was solidly established early in the sixteenth century under the Sung Dynasty (Anderson 69). By the time the Europeans arrived, the people in China had been eating the same kind of foods for centuries, so the Europeans were not going to have a large impact. Not until a period of famine during the end of the Ming Dynasty would the Europeans make a contribution (Anderson 97). The Spanish and Portuguese introduced the sweet potato to China in the late sixteenth century. This crop proved to be the most significant import crop of the time, serving as famine relief.

In contrast to China, India more readily accepted influences from the Europeans. During their campaign to expose the nation to Christianity, the French imported some culinary persuasions, which still remain (Achaya 74). The list included breads such as the baguette and the croissant, meats such as sausage, pate and jambon, dishes such as tomato farcie and fish croquettes, and desserts such as gateau mocha, creme caramel custard and flanc (Achaya 74). The English also came to India with some influences such as "English-style soups, roasts, baked pies and puddings" (Achaya 176). Dishes were created which mixed English and Indian methods, like "Windsor soup, Patna rice--and the renowned Byculla soufflé" (Achaya 176). The West made another significant contribution of alcohol. The English introduced such beverages as Madeira wine, champagne, brandy and beer to add to the alcoholic interests of the Indian people (Achaya 178).

The natives of the New World were also exposed to the effects of alcohol. Spaniards introduced wine to the native Mexicans, which facilitated the development of alcoholism. Interestingly, the evils and the changes in behavior caused by heavy drinking were attributed equally to the wine and the meat brought by the Spanish (Coe 234). The Spanish first introduced pigs to the people of the Americas, followed by beef and mutton (Coe 230). In addition to putting meat on the table, the animals allowed for the development of a dairy industry and the use of lard in cooking (Coe 231, 234). Although the natives found the latter quite disgusting, lard was still highly valued by the Europeans in the New World (Coe 234). The list of European food influence in the New World goes on to include bread, pies, sugar, vegetables such as lettuce, radishes, turnips and carrots, and spices such as ginger, cumin, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper (Coe 239).

The Europeans encountered an assortment of people and cultures during their explorations of Asia and the Americas. In the cases of India and the New World, the ambassadors of the Old World provided a significant influence over the culinary methods and the diets of those regions. In the case of China, the influence was not as consequential. Regardless, the Europeans played a part in shaping the food systems of the world.

Works Cited

Achaya, K.T. Indian Food: A Historical Companion. New York: Oxford University Press,1999.

Anderson, E.N. The Food of China. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988.

Coe, Sophia. America's First Cuisine. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994.

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