Food Imperialism around the World

Food: A Cultural Culinary History—Episode 30

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The following episode transcript and images will remain for posterity. Enjoy!

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, European colonialism expanded across the entire globe as a form of economic empire building, with food production as a primary form of wealth creation. In today’s podcast we’re going to look at how Western powers came to control massive production of export crops in nonindustrialized countries. And we’re going to see how political maneuvering by large companies in Western countries enabled them to dominate global markets in foodstuffs.

Images for this Episode:

Culinary Activities for this Episode:

• Banana Salad

In the late 19th century, cookbooks incorporated exotic ingredients drawn from throughout the colonial world, in a sense boasting the imperial connections and technological achievements that could supply these new foods. Notice also how newly introduced ingredients appear in recipes—often in strange and random ways. Consider, for example, the following recipe for bananas that appeared in the 1896 edition of Fannie Farmer’s Boston Cooking School Cookbook. We cannot recommend it.

Remove one section of skin from each of four bananas. Take out fruit, scrape, and cut fruit from one banana in thin slices, fruit from other three bananas in one-half inch cubes. Marinate cubes in French Dressing. Refill skins and garnish each with slices of banana. Stack around a mound of lettuce leaves.

Suggested Reading:

Clarkson, Menus from History: Historic Meals and Recipes for Every Day of the Year.

Higman, Jamaican Food: History, Biology, Culture.

Koeppel, Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World.

Krondl, The Taste of Conquest: The Rise and Fall of the Three Great Cities of Spice.

Pilcher, Food in World History.

Smith, Peanuts: The Illustrious History of the Goober Pea.

Vernon, Hunger: A Modern History.

Images courtesy of:

• Map of Imperialism: By Andrei nacu at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Suez Canal: By Walter Mittelholzer (1894-1937) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Rice Plantation:  By Scan by NYPL [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Adolph Spreckels:  Press Reference Library (Southwest Edition) Notables of the Southwest, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons:
• Alfred Eames: By Siddall, John William, ed; Nellist, George Ferguson Mitchell, 1889- ed [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons
• James Drummond Dole: Public Domain, via Wikimedia commons
• Annexation of Hawaiis: Public Domain, via Wikimedia commons
• Lorenzo Baker: Library of Congress
• The Great White Fleet: By Wear Ever Co. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Bananas loaded onto United Fruit vessel: By Wear Ever Co. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Cavendish Bananas: Thinkstock