how kebabs and pizzas took over the world

The grocery store of the world

Globalization through 18th century food productse century to the present day.

under the direction of Pierre Singaravélou and Sylvain Venayre

Fayard, 432 pages, €25

We cannot strongly advise students who are bored during their history-geography lessons to rummage through the shelves of the very serious Grocery of the world. From yoghurt to Turkish delight, via fries, the saga of food products told by eminent specialists, is a tasty concentrate of knowledge on the wars, the rise of industry and the population movements that have shaped the world. of the XVIIIe century to the present day.

One chapter, one food

What could be the connection between the Crimean War of 1853-1856 and mint tea? The British, who decided during the conflict to sell the stocks of Indian tea previously intended for the Russian market in the Maghreb. Mixed with a traditional drink, the sweet infusion of mint, it spread and imposed itself in the Arab-Muslim world.

Where does soy sauce come from? Not from Japan, no offense to the ubiquitous Japanese firm Kikkoman. It was between China and Korea that the first amber-colored seasonings were developed, which landed in the port of Amsterdam from the beginning of the 18th century.e century, from the holds of the ships of the Dutch East India Company.

The rise of the food industry

After telling the story of globalization through objects in 2020, Sylvain Venayre and Pierre Singaravélou, both professors of contemporary history, are focusing this time on food products, with the help of numerous academic contributors. From one dish to another, lines of force appear, such as the incredible growth of the food industry which now shapes the way we eat.

The story of corn flakes, invented in 1894 by Adventist doctor and vegetarian John Harvey Kellogg, is instructive from this point of view. Without pasteurized milk and refined sugar, roasted corn, “child of the agri-food industry who finds formulas to preserve perishable products, prepare them, produce them in mass and at a lower cost and make them travel”would not have succeeded in conquering the world… It also bears witness to the “promotion of breakfast to the rank of major meal of the day, which accompanies the generalization of wage employment and schooling”.

A happy melting pot

The history of food also testifies to the formidable acceleration of population movements, linked to wars and “massification of migrations, patent on a world scale from the 1830s”. This is how the Italians promoted pizza around the world; the Turks the doner kebab, the Indians the curry and the Japanese the sushi. Even if it means integrating a few local particularities to ensure their success, in a joyful melting pot.


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