Did you know that many of the current recipes we owe to the Inquisition or that the first gazpacho recipe was collected in Mexico, that of paella was published in French, or that the first written recipe for fabada is from the 20th century, a regional dish made with a product, the bean, which is American?
"And it is that our diet is part of the basis of our culture and this has received numerous influences throughout history," according to an interview with Infosalus José Miguel Mulet, professor of Biotechnology at the Polytechnic University of Valencia and researcher at the Institute of Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology, of which he is vice-director.
We eat what we are. How culture and society have modified food (Destination) is his latest book, with which he intends to review "how each dish of our culture tells a story" and "each flavor represents a unique and unrepeatable moment in history of Humanity".
Consequently, we ask him if Spanish food has changed over time and he affirms that "of course", and if we now went back to the 70s and asked for a restaurant menu, we would hardly find sea bass or cheek, which is now in All sites.
He argues that food is one more "cultural expression", and as such it changes over time, and that our menus reflect today's society and our current dishes have nothing to do with what we ate 20 years ago, but neither with what we will eat in the future: "A poor 19th century person would gladly trade their loaf of rye bread for a loaf of white bread to a 21st century hipster, and they would both be very happy with the change."
In addition, Mulet highlights that really all the countries around us have so many influences from different societies or cultures like ours, "it is not only a Spanish or European issue", but he points out that "diet is something dynamic". "Food, being another cultural expression, changes. Surely the food eaten in China in the 15th century has nothing to do with what it is now," maintains this scientist.
Regarding the culture that has influenced us the most in our style of eating, he says that it depends on the time in history, and what has normally influenced the most is what rich people eat, which ends up being passed on to poor people as aspirational food, And basically when the middle class developed what they wanted to do was eat meat because then the poor couldn't afford it. "So, what the rich have eaten has marked the food of the following decades", qualifies the professor of Biotechnology at the Polytechnic University of Valencia.
This was seen with spices or with meat, as he continues, which when they began to be a luxury food and later lowered the price, they were accessible to everyone. "Right now we have a lot of influence by the cinema of American culture and in the 19th century by the French, for example," adds J.M. Mullet.
"But it is that everything influences and when the Romans conquered a land they brought their food cultures and took the food cultures of the conquered area. In the case of the Arabs there was the Arab corridor, which linked from the Himalayas to the Miño, and this made that many foods also pass in an east-west direction", he remarks.
He currently points out that we have a lot of American influence because of the importance of the American style and we want to eat what we see in the movies, "and that's how hamburgers and pizzas came in."
He says that the Mediterranean diet was invented by a man in the United States, Ancel Keys, and is based on a study that was done after the World War, and that today would not exceed any quality criteria, but that it was done under the conditions that could be done at the time. "It was a first approximation, and he drew conclusions that some are valid and others are not," he maintains.
In his opinion, it must be made clear that the Mediterranean diet was created in the 1960s, at the University of Minnesota by this scientist: "It has been mythologized a lot and is influenced by foods that came from afar, from the East, or from America. Everything the world considers tomatoes to be the Mediterranean diet and this one is American".
It also highlights the Christian influence of our diet, with wheat, wine, or olive oil, at the forefront, and foods typical of the eastern Mediterranean. "These three foods have spread throughout the world due to their association with Christianity and as it spread, they took these foods because they were basic for the rites. You have to receive communion with bread and wine," he adds.
Lastly, he stresses that he does not believe that fast food is a problem in our current diet because no one is forced to go to a fast food restaurant. "We could also say that alcohol is a problem and only here we promulgate the culture of wine. So, I think that 'fast food' is a symptom that we are a society that has acquired some social rights and that we can afford to go to cheap eats but no one is stopping you from having a salad for dinner," he adds.
Many of the things that we believed to be very old about food are very recent, as J.M.Mulet insists, who points out that we can talk about fabada, but also about chicken tikka-masala (British-Indian), or chop suey from vegetables (Chinese dish); both 19th and 20th century inventions.