Did you know that your local fast food joint is an International Laboratory and Museum. . . . No silly, I don't mean the guy that on the drive-through speaker that attempts to take your order in a combination of English and early Mesopotamian. I mean the food!
Almost nothing found in a cheeseburger was originally from our neighborhood, or our state, not even close. Nothing in a burger, or on it, started out on this continent!
Very few of the foods that we eat originated in North America. Well, then how did these foods arrive here? I'm glad you asked, because a lot of work went into this . . . so pay attention, there may be a test!
It may take a bit of a history lesson to get the lowdown on your dinner. Many of the food products we eat originated in the Middle East and Asia, having been introduced into Europe during prehistoric times.
Food products that were consumed by the ancient civilizations like the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans included bread (wheat), cheese, lettuce, pickle (cucumber), beef, vinegar, chicken eggs, olive oil, and mustard, often being traded like money.
The pepper and most of the spices we use are grown only in India and Southeast Asia, and are still imported into the United States.
As Europeans colonized the New World during the 16th century, these products were imported into what is today the United States. None of these products were found in the New World prior to European colonization. Today, almost all are now grown in the United States, with the exception of specialty items which are still imported. So when you say, hold the pickles, you could be causing a heartburn in New Guinea.
Another way in which new food were introduced to the United States was through the Caribbean. Sugarcane originated in Southeast Asia, and was introduced into India 2,500 years ago. From India, sugar was introduced to Persia (today known as Iran) by 600 BC. Arabs then introduced sugar into the Mediterranean region and to southern Italy and Spain. Europeans introduced sugarcane to the Atlantic Islands, and European explorers, beginning with Columbus, brought sugar into the Caribbean.
Other products came from Africa. The kola nut (Would ya like a Coke with your Fries?) for instance, was introduced from Africa to the Caribbean during the 19th century. There still is no production of kola nuts in the US, therefore all kola nuts or related products are imported from Africa or the Caribbean. Other African foods shipped into the United States include the watermelon and okra, a major component in gumbo. YIKES, NO GUMBO? What if they've lost on their way here?
Still other products originated in South America and Mesoamerica. Not messwithAmerica, Mesoamerica, meaning southern Mexico, central and the mainland coastal Caribbean. Those tomatoes on the hamburger or in the ketchup originated in South America, but were domesticated in Mesoamerica.
We believe it was the Spanish that first introduced tomatoes into what is today the United States in their colonies in St. Augustine (Florida), Santa Fe (New Mexico), and California. Tomatoes were later also introduced by immigrants from France, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and by traders from the Caribbean. Potatoes originated and were cultivated in South America, then were introduced by the Spanish to Europe. Then back from Europe, to the British colonies in North America. So, when you order fries and it takes a long time to get, this may be why!. . . . Whew, what a trip, just so you can super sized you fries.
Other important New World foods stuff including corn (maize), squash, beans, and turkey, staple food sources for many Native Americans, were introduced to the pilgrims . . .and finally on your plate!
Salt the only thing you are trying to use less of, may be the only truly American product. Salt is technically not a food, but it is necessary for human survival. Salt was mined and traded in prehistoric times and was important for the preservation of food and later for manufacturing gun powder. Salt was here when the earliest folks arrived, and was and is still mined in several locations in the United States. Many salting operations were launched using salt water from the ocean. Salt is a lot of the taste in your fries, condiments, and that cheeseburgers.
Soooo, now when you stop for a quick snack at your local fast food establishment, you can tell your folks you stopped for a history lesson, and ended up trading in International Commerce... :)