The History of Food

Eleanor Konik
I teach (& research) ancient civilizations, then write stories & articles inspired by all eras of history... which involves a fair amount of notetaking ;)

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The History of Food
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cultural exploration
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Food is a critical part of human culture and lies at the heart of many of our most cherished traditions. Understanding how culinary habits evolved in a variety of cultures can help us better understand and appreciate our own. This deep dive will expose readers to some of history's bravest scientists, strangest delicacies, and most vital animals.


Eleanor Konik is a history teacher, speculative fiction author, and volunteer moderator in the personal knowledge management community. Her free weekly newsletter blends those interests into a single offering: a brief overview of a week's worth of research into a single topic related to obscure history and weird science.


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Glad to see you made it all the way through this Deep Dive. We hope you found it useful and can put some of the insights to good use in your own daily life.

How does it work?

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Deep Dives are carefully hand-curated series of time-tested articles and videos from around the web.

We’ll guide you through, one link per day, every morning in your inbox.

Deep Dives come in bites that are short enough to fit in your day...

...but add up to a satisfying learning experience.

Food preservation — drying, smoking, pickling, fermenting, salting, freezing, etc. — has been critical to human survival for thousands of years. This article explains how these global methods evolved into the unique cuisine of the American South.

Eleanor Konik

The ability to drink milk without getting sick is a surprisingly recent development from a genetic perspective. Still, many cultures figured out how to enjoy dairy products once they started herding, and this article gives a nice survey of several.

Eleanor Konik

No discussion of food is complete without a discussion of food safety, and how the desire for safe food has impacted the modern diet. Learn about Karl Frederick Meyer, the incredible scientist who saved the canning industry.

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Like sauerkraut or blue cheese, century eggs are a foul-smelling delicacy that people love. This article delves into the history of these eggs, which soak for months in a vat of lime, ash, and black tea before being served on a bed of ginger.

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Do you really need citrus fruit and raw greens to avoid vitamin deficiency? How much protein is too much in a human diet? Patricia Gadsby and Leon Steele explore the difference between the Atkins diet and the traditional Inuit diet.

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This article explains what makes bone marrow so nutritionally special, and why it's such a prized part of the diet for so many animals and cultures. As a bonus, it’ll teach you how to eat it.

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Pigs represent one of the most efficient ways to convert slop into food, and are one of the few domesticated animals that only serve that one purpose. This article is a comprehensive look at the role of pigs in Medieval Europe.

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This article from a Serbian writer shares what "nose to tail" eating really looks like, and how it compares to prehistoric diets and may have led to the development of cheese.

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Locust swarms are enormously destructive forces that can devastate agricultural communities. They're also considered a delicacy in many cultures — when they're not covered in pesticides.

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The American Chestnut blight devastated Appalachia's timber economy and without chestnuts to feed the local hogs and foragers, many suffered. This article details the effort to bring it back, and links to an absolutely fascinating sociology paper.

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Congratulations on making it all the way through this Deep Dive! I hope you learned something interesting about food history and culture. If you want to learn more, I highly recommend Gastro Obscura as a starting point.


If you enjoyed these, check out the articles about domestication over on my website. You can also subscribe to my free weekly newsletter, where I share obscure history and weird science with other folks who love expanding their perspectives.

Eleanor Konik