Food and culture go hand in hand all over the world. There are cultural influences that go into the types of food we see all over. When it comes to europe, the birthplace of modern cuisine, there are many of these influences and flavors that come from the several countries that make up the continent. The ones that I have focused on are Spain, Portugal, France, Ireland, England, Germany, Poland, Belgium, and Norway. These countries have their own diverse culture and their bold, robust flavors show that. In my summary I will talk about the similarities and differences between these countries as well as a detailed and in depth description of the food that they have created.
To start, we talk about Polish cuisine. Poland is a country bordered by lithuania, belarus, ukraine, czechia, slovakia, and germany and became an independent country in 1918. This type of cuisine is the type that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. It is definitely not light and gives a heartier and heavy bite, similar to that of German cuisine. Seemingly so due to the beginnings of their cuisine being wild caught game, gathered berries and simple breads. Rye is grown easily in poland and that’s what most of their breads are. Berries being wild berries, blueberries, strawberries, and currants. Heavily used throughout the cuisine would be sauerkraut, beetroot, cucumbers (gherkins), sour cream, kohlrabi, mushrooms, sausages and smoked sausage. Things higher in fat and calories flavor their food and robust flavors like mushrooms and sauerkraut give the distinct polish taste. Marjoram, parsley, dill, and pepper are heavily used to season Polish cuisine. Lots of polish food is dried, pickled, or fermented because of their long barren winters preventing them to grow for long periods of time. Despite their simplebeginnings, the oldest polish cookbook was published in 1618 and goes by the name “Compendium Ferculorum”. A very popular dish that comes from Poland would be Pierogis, which are boiled potato dumplings and then pan fried with onions, topped with sour cream.
Next up, Norway. Established in 1814 and Bordered by sweden and lies across from the UK and Poland. Norwegian food is based around its fresh fish, lush forests and mountain ranges for their wild game. Norwegian food was not very well known until recent years due to its lack of wealth and economy. Being that it was a poor country, the food of choice throughout the day was porridge. This was also due to the little farming ability they had because of their un-fertile land. Only around 30 years ago was Norwegian food making a name for itself and sought after. Similar to Poland, wild berries are commonly used in the cuisine. Berries and apples are used to bring out fragrant notes in the food and mushrooms to add deeper flavor. When it comes to dairy, they have a specialty cheese called gjetost which is an amber colored goat cheese that originates from there. It has a creamy texture and is generally paired with rye bread (also used in polish cuisine). Their meals revolve around cooler meals in the beginning of the day such as dried seafood with cream cheese and rye bread for breakfast. For lunch, it’s cold meats with bread and crackers. Dinner consists of roasted meats and vegetables.
Full of more complex and loud flavors comes Germany. Germany was established in 1871 and bordered by Denmark in the north, Poland and the Czech Republic in the east, Switzerland (it’s only non-EU neighbor) and Austria in the south, France in the southwest and Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands in the west. Germany is very similar to poland in the way that their flavors are similar and the type of foods that they have are alike. The reason Germany has had such heavy, fatty food would be because of the lack of variety over the past two centuries. Their growing season was short which left them to livestock. Also, they use pickling, salting, and smoking in their preservation of food and they still use much of it today. Popular meats of choice would be lamb and wild game. Mustard, horseradish, juniper berries, and heavy spices are used in things like sausages and with roasts. When it comes to their everyday meals, their breakfast consists of lots of bread, cheese, jams, and other toppings. Their lunch, being the larger meal of the day, consists of sausages, potatoes, and hearty vegetables. Dinner is a lighter version of lunch. A popular dessert in German cuisine is Black Forest cake which is loved in several other countries as well.
Ireland is an island in the north atlantic. It became a country in 1937 and is across the United Kingdom. In the early years, cattle played a large part in irish cuisine. After that, the arrival of the potato in the 16th century changed the way irish food was perceived and added a new layer to their cuisine. Before, meat was only meant to be eaten by the rich and milk, cheese, and barley were eaten by many of the poor. During this time, potatoes were easily grown in the fertile, damp irish soil and could easily be cropped. However, this was also a curse. Due to colder weather in the mid 1700’s, potatoes weren’t growing like they used to, but the real harm began in the mid to late 1800’s when potato blight killed off many potato crops. In the cooking of potatoes, the skin is left on and removed at the table, to make sure there are more vitamins and nutrients left in the cooking process. Other than potatoes, the oldest domesticated animal in Ireland is the pig. They use pig in a famous dish called “Dublin Coddle”, which is made from bacon, sausage, and potatoes. Being surrounded by the ocean, fresh seafood is in abundance and is commonly used in irish cuisine. Cheese in ireland had a bad rep in the early 19th century due to the poor large scale manufacturing. Now a days, Irish cheese is well renowned for its quality and distinctive flavor. When it comes to whiskey and guinness, those are the two most popular alcohols in Ireland. Guinness being created in 1759 in Dublin, Ireland.
Along comes England in May of 1707. England paved a lot of the way for modern cooking and classical cuisine. It was a melting pot for the french, the vikings, and the romans in its early days. Saffron, mace, nutmeg, pepper, ginger and sugar are commonly used to flavor english food. Through their trade with China, tea was brought to England, and then traded to India. In return, curry and other spices became an obsession of the english and are now used in the cooking today. For a long time, during world war two, english cuisine was seen as a joke because of the lack of progress and resources during that time. Now a days, locally produced, seasonal foods are what make up a lot of English cuisine. Favorite dishes including fish and chips, roast beef, and yorkshire pudding are well found all across england and are apart of english traditions. Teas paired with a variety of pie and pastry for Midday tea time have been ingrained in English culture.
Belgium was founded in the year 1830. It is bordered by France, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. Belgium is a country that has been industrialized heavily, with only 5% of people working in agriculture. Belgium produces over 160 different types of cheese and several other types of product. Influences from the French and the Germans have greatly affected the cuisine. The country has gotten a name for many dishes such as mussels and frites, waffles, and many fine chocolates. Beer in this country is definitely an art, seemingly due to the many artisans who craft beer in many family owned breweries and is used in a popular dish “Carbonnades Flamandes”, which is a flemish stew. Similar to Ireland, the Flemish are fond of potatoes and several types of wild game. Almonds and other seasonings are heavily used through the cuisine and fresh herbs are essential. Mustards, dried fruits, and vinegars give a bite to their food that adds a more acidic and interesting depth of flavor. The vegetable endive is rather a prized vegetable from Belgium and is served almost everywhere you go there. Being that it is so popular and very well grown there, they export around 3,000 tons a year to the U.S.. Though there are not many old cookbooks that come from england, the food that they have now has definitely found its place to be loved by many people through the rest of the world, with or without a rich culinary history.
France was founded in 1789 and is bordered by Spain in the south west, Italy in the south east, Switzerland to the east, and Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the north east. Most commonly thought of when you think of fine food, french cuisine has been noted as one of the countries with the most culinary history compared to several others. During medieval times, the cuisine was mainly based upon various spiced meats such as pork, fish, and wild game. Food was made all at once back then, mainly by smoking meats and salting vegetables etc. to preserve them through the harsh winters. Even during this time, lavish meals would be presented in the most spectacular and exquisite way possible. Moving forward, in the 16th-17th century, with influences from italy, they began experimenting with garlic, mushrooms, and truffle. This caused an array of different dishes and flavors to come about from such staple foods as it seems today.
Coming towards the 18th century, culinary arts had become a widespread phenomenon across France. As comes along “Haute Cuisine” during this time, and looked at the simpler side of cooking and really focused on the ingredients and what really made up a meal. Along coming the French revolution, this brought change in guilds and abolished them. Because of this, any frenchman could make any dish he so pleased which caused specialist to really experiment with gourmet food and lead up to the divine dishes in french cooking we have today.
In 1469, Spain was founded, sharing its borders with Portugal. Through its continuous evolution, Spanish cuisine is thought to be the healthier of the Mediterranean. So many diverse cultures have created what we call Spanish cuisine. Ham from the Christians, wine and olive oil coming from the Romans as well as arabic gazpacho. Without all of these and many more, we may not have such a diverse melting pot of food coming from Spain. The natural produce is what plays into the bigger picture of the healthy food. However, many of the classic dishes of today were not there hundreds of years ago because of the import of things like cocoa, tomatoes, and peppers amongst other things, from America. Spain is one of the worlds’ largest producers in olives and grapes. Strangely enough, Marzipan (which is a yellow paste of almonds, sugar, and egg) was created here by Nuns several hundred years ago. Due to a famine, little wheat was around. However, almonds and sugar were in high supply and this paste was used to feed hundreds of people during the fight against the muslims called “las Navas de Tolosa”.
Last but not least we talk about Portugal. Portugal was founded in 1910 and is bordered by Spain. The Portuguese played a large role in the spice trade and their cuisine was strongly affected by such. Being a staple food for their cuisine, salted dried cod, or “Bacalhau”, has spawned over 1000 different recipes in Portuguese cooking. Traditionally, this is a dish eaten on christmas eve. Key ingredients used in Portuguese cooking would include things like pork, cod, olive oil, garlic, potatoes, rice, and kale. Being one of the most important ingredients however, port wine is known for being best made from here. The sweet taste of their port wine has been favored by Americans for its simpler flavor. Unlike many wines, Portugal is one of the highest distributors of “green wines”, being wines that are supposed to be drunken new when they are created. A popular dessert in Portugal is “Pastéis de Nata”, which is an egg tart. Created by monks in Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon, they used egg whites to starch their clothes. With the leftover egg yolks, they created a custard to go along with these tarts. The custard is generally sweet and is flavored commonly with vanilla bean and topped with cinnamon.