Hilde Lee: Becoming the Middle Ages: Greece, Islamic-influenced cuisine | eat

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Medieval cuisine came into being with the crusades. During this time, the Europeans conquered Jerusalem and neighboring principalities. They conquered and sacked Constantinople. At the same time, the Spaniards ousted the Moors and firmly established the Kingdom of Spain.

In the Holy Land and the East, the Spaniards came into contact with a civilization that was more sophisticated and wealthy than their own. For the first time Europeans had contact with Greece and its civilization and Islam with its culture. Europeans had to learn a lot about these foreign and diverse cultures. Greek science, medicine, and mathematics were translated into Latin.

How did it all relate to food and having your own kitchen? Greek science, medicine, and mathematics were translated from Arabic into Latin. Europeans learned agricultural techniques, philosophy and Muslim cuisine.

They also got to know spices that hadn’t come to Europe for about 500 years. The trade routes were reopened, with many more spices than even the ancients knew. Pepper and cloves were the most valued.

Dried fruits and nuts and sugar, which were almost completely unknown in antiquity, were added to the spices. However, only the rich could afford these precious goods.

Back then, medieval cuisine was much closer to the Indian cuisine we know today. It made great use of herbs, some of which were considered medicinal. Dozens of sauces were based on crushed herbs, breadcrumbs, and vinegar – very similar to pesto or mint sauce.


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