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
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
In contrast to China, India more readily accepted influences from
the Europeans. During their campaign to expose the nation to
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
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.
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
Coe, Sophia. America's First Cuisine. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994.