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Posts Tagged ‘trade

“Have you ever bitten a red hot ice cube? That’s curry”*…

 

curry

Sir Joseph Paxton, “Capsicum ustulatum,” Paxton’s Magazine of Botany and Register of Flowering Plants, 1838

 

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue and the entire world changed: slavery, war, disease, colonization, and an immense transfer of wealth to Europe. And with that wealth too came New World nightshades—potatoes, tomatoes, tobacco, peppers of all kinds. It took some time for these fruits and vegetables to plant themselves into European cuisine. The tomato, for example, wasn’t widely used in Italian cuisine until the eighteenth century. But what about food further out from Europe? What about India?

Soon after Columbus’ first expedition, the treaties of Tordesillas and Saragossa divided the oceans of the newly-known world. The Portuguese effectively took the Atlantic and Indian oceans, while the Spanish took the Pacific. With that, the Portuguese established forts and trading posts along India’s Malabar coast. In time, aloo (potato), tamātar (tomato), and mirchī (chilies) were available on the western coast of the Indian subcontinent. Later, the English set up their first trading posts in India in the eastern Gangetic plain, bringing these same staples into North India.

So what was curry like before Columbus? Well, curry didn’t exist…

The pre-history of one of the world’s most– if not in fact the world’s most– popular family of dishes: “Curry Before Columbus.”

* Terry Pratchett

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As we dig in, we might recall that it was on this date in 1922 that the Hollywood Bowl opened (after a few years of operation, in a less-finished state, as the “Daisy Dell.”  It’s shell-shaped amphitheater set into a hill, against the backdrop of the Hollywood Hills and the famous Hollywood Sign to the northeast, it has been the summer home of the L.A. Philharmonic and host to hundreds of other musical events each year.

300px-Hollywood_bowl_and_sign source

 

Written by LW

July 11, 2020 at 1:01 am

“He who controls the spice controls the universe”*

 

Spices

 

Spices were among the first engines of globalization, not in the modern sense of a world engulfed by ever-larger corporations but in the ways that we began to become aware, desirous even, of cultures other than our own. Such desire, unchecked, once led to colonialism. After Dutch merchants nearly tripled the price of black pepper, the British countered in 1600 by founding the East India Company, a precursor to modern multinationals and the first step toward the Raj. In the following decades, the Dutch sought a monopoly on cloves, which once had grown nowhere but the tropical islands of Ternate and Tidore in what is today Indonesia, and then in 1652 introduced the scorched-earth policy known as extirpation, felling and burning tens of thousands of clove trees. This was both an ecological disaster and horribly effective: For more than a century, the Dutch kept supplies low and prices high, until a Frenchman (surnamed, in one of history’s inside jokes, Poivre, or “pepper”) arranged a commando operation to smuggle out a few clove-tree seedlings. Among their ultimate destinations were Zanzibar and Pemba, off the coast of East Africa, which until the mid-20th century dominated the world’s clove market.

The craving for spices still brings the risk of exploitation, both economically, as farmers in the developing world see only a sliver of the profits, and in the form of cultural appropriation. In the West, we’re prone to taking what isn’t ours and acting as if we discovered it, conveniently forgetting its history and context. Or else we reduce it to caricature, cooing over turmeric-stained golden lattes while invoking the mystic wisdom of the East. At the same time, a world without borrowing and learning from our neighbors would be pallid and parochial — a world, in effect, without spice…

From turmeric in Nicaragua to cardamom in Guatemala, nonnative ingredients are redefining trade routes and making unexpected connections across lands: “How Spices Have Made, and Unmade, Empires.”

* Frank Herbert, Dune

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As we go deep on dash, we might recall that this is National Buffet Day.  The concept of the buffet arose in mid 17th century France, when gentleman callers would arrive unexpectedly at the homes of ladies they wanted to woo.  It was popularized in 18th century France and quickly spread throughout Europe.  The all-you-can-eat buffet made its restaurant debut in 1946, when it was introduced by Vegas hotel manager Herb MacDonald.  By the mid-1960s, virtually every casino in Las Vegas sported its own variation.  Today, of course, buffets are regularly available not only in any/every Vegas casino, but also in thousands of Indian and Chinese restaurants and ubiquitous chains of “family restaurants.”

buffet source

 

 

 

 

Written by LW

January 2, 2020 at 1:01 am

“The exchangeable value of all commodities rises as the difficulties of their production increase”*…

 

vanilla

A vanilla flower is pollinated by hand

 

 

Though Madagascar now produces 80% of the world’s vanilla, the vine is native to Mexico. The Maya were the first to cultivate it in the jungles of the Yucatan peninsular. They flavoured their chocolate drink with the spice. When the Spanish conquistadores arrived early in the 16th century, they took both cacao and vanilla back to Europe. By the end of the 18th century, Mexico was exporting a million vanilla beans a year to Europe.

Vanilla was considered a luxury. Its delicate flavour is best expressed in the presence of fat, which is why the creams and custards of the elite’s pastry chefs became its natural milieu. One of its earliest appearances was in a recipe for “vanilla ice” in a cookery book published in Naples in the 1690s. Thomas Jefferson fell in love with French food when he served as the American ambassador to France in the 1780s. He transcribed many recipes including one for “ice cream”, using egg-yolk custard simmered with “a stick of vanilla”. When he became president in 1801, Jefferson served these dishes in the White House – his import eventually became a classic American desert.

But for well over a century real vanilla remained out of the reach of most Americans. Spain controlled the Mexican trade and though a number of people tried to grow vanilla elsewhere, the blooms failed to produce beans because they lacked natural pollinators. It took a young slave boy called Edmond Albius, working on a plantation in the French colony of Réunion, to discover a method for hand-pollinating vanilla flowers in the 1840s. His technique quickly spread to nearby Madagascar, where French administrators encouraged its cultivation…

How did hunger for the humble vanilla pod lead to greed, crime and riches? “Vanilla Fever.”

* David Ricardo

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As we rethink our Starbucks orders, we might recall that it was on this date in 1908 that John Albert Krohn dressed up in colonial garb and set out to win $1,000 by walking the U.S. border within 400 days – pushing a wheelbarrow.  “Colonial Jack,” as he called himself, had wagered ten of his neighbors in Newburyport, Mass., that he could circumnavigate the country in that time. agreeing that, if he lost, he would give them 2,000 copies of the book he planned to write about his adventure.  In the end, he made the trek in 357 days, having rested on Sundays.  It was the second of three such round-the-nation walks Krohn undertook.

He had to meet several conditions: He had to push the wheelbarrow to show he couldn’t get a ride. And he had to get cancellation stamps from 635 post offices along the way.

By the end of his journey, Krohn walked 9,024 miles and visited 1,209 cities. He went through 11 pairs of shoes, 112 pairs of socks and five wheels and three tires on the wheelbarrow. The trip cost an average of $3.25 per day.  [source]

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Colonial Jack

source

 

Written by LW

June 1, 2019 at 1:01 am

“The map? I will first make it.”*…

 

Portuguese-Planosphere__1553012500415

Nautical map of the world by Nicolo di Caverio, 1506

 

From the fifteenth to the eighteenth century, European powers sent voyagers to lands farther and farther away from the continent in an expansionist period we now call the Age of Exploration. These journeys were propelled by religious fervor and fierce colonial sentiment—and an overall desire for new trade routes. They would not have been possible without the rise of modern cartography. While geographically accurate maps had existed before, the Age of Exploration saw the emergence of a sustained tradition of topographic surveying. Maps were being made specifically to guide travelers. Technology progressed quickly through the centuries, helping explorers and traders find their way to new imperial outposts—at least sometimes. On other occasions, hiccups in cartographic reasoning led their users even farther astray…

How cartography made early modern global trade possible: “First you make the maps.”

* Patrick White, Voss

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As we find our way, we might recall that it was on this date in 1578– the same day that King Henry III laid the first stone of the Pont Neuf (“New Bridge”), the oldest remaining bridge in Paris– that the Catacombs of Rome were (re-)discovered.  Underground burial sites in use mostly in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, they were decorated with both iconographic and stylistic paintings and mosaics.  After their rediscovery, it took several decades to explore and map them; indeed, new discoveries have been made as recently as the 1950s.

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Eucharistic fresco in the Catacombs [source]

 

Written by LW

May 31, 2019 at 1:01 am

“We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary”*…

 

Terms of Sale

 

In the early history of international trade, when exotic goods traveled to new regions, their native names sometimes hitchhiked along with them.

Naturally, the Germans have a term – Wanderwörter – for these extraordinary loanwords that journey around the globe, mutating subtly along the way…

See the map above in larger format, and learn more about each of the examples it illustrates at: “Mapping the Spread of Words Along Trade Routes.” [sourced from Lapham’s Quarterly]

* James Nicoll

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As we ponder the provenance of our produce, we might recall that it was on this date 1397 that Geoffrey Chaucer “told” The Canterbury Tales for the first time at the court of Richard II.

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A woodcut from William Caxton‘s second edition of The Canterbury Tales, printed in 1483

source

 

Written by LW

April 17, 2019 at 1:01 am

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