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The Food Timeline (foodtimeline.org)
103 points by wolverine876 3 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 22 comments



Let's remember the person who apparently did all this work (or almost all of it), the late Lynne Olver:

https://tuttlefh.com/tribute/details/461/Lynne-Olver/obituar...

Lynne has worked at Morris County Library since 1991 as a reference librarian and ultimately became the director of the library in 2009. During her tenure at Morris County Library, she developed a passion for food history. In addition to her career, she became one of the preeminent food historians in the nation and built a renowned online research database entitled Food Timeline (foodtimeline.org). She has been published in several periodicals for her expertise in food history and has done numerous newspaper and radio interviews. Other honors and awards she has received include Saveur 100 and NY Times Librarian of the Year (2002). She was a contributor to Oxford University Press, Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America and a consultant to America's Test Kitchen / Harvard Common Press. She was also a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals and Culinary Historians of New York.

Pretty good, all done from Morris County Library. To me, it's what the Internet is about, and Lynne didn't even try to become an 'influencer'.

(And thanks to the people at Virginia Tech who are keeping it available to the world!)


Australian aborigines were making bread in 28,000 BC [0].

Some archaeological sites, such as Cuddie Springs contain grinding stones dated to about 30,000 years. These stones were used to grind wild seeds into flour which in turn was baked as bread.

[0] https://australian.museum/blog-archive/science/food-culture-...


Submit that to the Food Timeline?


Thanks for this list. This may be useful for those interested in Nassim Nicholas Taleb's dietary practice to "only eat that which our ancestors ate 1000 years ago", aka the antifragile diet.

Among the oldest, no surprises to paleo/ancestral/traditional:

American bison---8,000BC

pigs, goats & sheep---7,000BC

lard---7,000BC

cattle domestication---6,500BC

milk & yogurt, & sour cream---5000BC

...but at the other end, these foods were older than I had expected, still over a thousand years ago (!):

loquats & flower waters---10th century

cod & nutmeg---9th century

spinach & sago---7th Century

eggplant---6th Century

pretzels---5th Century

lemons ---3rd Century

costmary & blood as food---1st Century


Isn't the idea behind supposed paleo/ancestral diets to limit your food to ones that resemble what one could forage or hunt for? If age in the range of 1000+ years is the criteria, wheat and other cultivated grains should be fine, but they're usually excluded.


> Nassim Nicholas Taleb's dietary practice to "only eat that which our ancestors ate 1000 years ago", aka the antifragile diet.

I’m not sure why anyone (except Taleb and then only as hollow brand marketing) would describe that as “antifragile”, or even merely sensible.

I suppose if you are adopting the diet typical of a particular set of people 1,000+ years ago, along with other aspects of their lifestyle, because you are targeting similar outcomes, then it makes sense (the goal doesn't but the action does given the goal). Otherwise, its just a silly game with no rational foundation.


> because you are targeting similar outcomes

Targeting most of my children dying in childhood, disease, and the rest (including me) likely not living past about 30-40?


> Nassim Nicholas Taleb's dietary practice to "only eat that which our ancestors ate 1000 years ago"

So: wheat, barley, rye, and oats filled with rat droppings, small stones, weevils, weed seeds, and funguses like mildew and ergot?


That is a distraction. People have always cleaned their food before cooking and eating it, we just do that better now.

The idea is that the longer a food is around the more likely it is that any problems with it can be understood and countered. For example, we now understand how and why to prevent pellagra by treating corn with alkali before consumption. The most obvious target of this methodology are recently introduced industrial foods such as white cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, vegetable oils, and hydrogenated fats. Meat and root vegetables are in turn older and more reliable than the grains you mention.


> People have always cleaned their food before cooking and eating it, we just do that better now.

Is that true? What I've read of sanitation doesn't seem to suggest that. Even so, it's not a minor matter of degree. We understand germs and sanitation.

> The idea is that the longer a food is around the more likely it is that any problems with it can be understood and countered. For example, we now understand how and why to prevent pellagra by treating corn with alkali before consumption. The most obvious target of this methodology are recently introduced industrial foods such as white cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, vegetable oils, and hydrogenated fats. Meat and root vegetables are in turn older and more reliable than the grains you mention.

We don't need to go back 1,000 years for that. Just eat whole (i.e., unprocessed or less-processed) foods. We didn't learn about e coli and pellagra in 900 CE, but in probably in the last century or so.


It would be nice to see plankton (2009) added to that list.

It was introduced by Spanish chef Ángel León in Madrid Fusión after years of research [1] and is currently served on his restaurants, including 3 Michelin stars Aponiente.

Five years later, in 2014, he presented bioluminescent plankton [2] on that same event, where the attendants toasted with glowing cocktails. [3]

[1] - https://time.com/5926780/chef-angel-leon-sea-rice/

[2] - https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/food/wp/2016/11/04/an-oc...

[3] - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMhNg6PZCHM

[4] - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9BQykrYz3Aw


Very cool! I looked for McDonalds and Burger King. I get it's not 'new' food but since things like TV Dinners is on the list I think it's culturally impactful.

EDIT: I see chicken nuggets are on the list


Gotta give respect to the people who collated and maintained this list, that can't have been easy.

Is there a reason why some links like "Water" take me off to another organisation's website or am I just missing things? (edit: I am guessing it's just an older site and no one is around to take care of it anymore?)

This is a great resource and I hope I get a chance to spend more time reading through it.


> Cronuts ... a compound term combining croissants & doughnuts

Truly the crowning achievement of human food.

Does that really merit going on the timeline? :-(


The only reason you would ask this is if you had never had a truly good cronut =D


Super nice list. I think with a stellar visualisation this could go viral.


Why does it take so long for fruits like apples to appear? Surely people would have tried eating those immediately. Certainly easier than mollusks, right?


Speculating- some modern fruits are cultivars of not nearly as nice-to-eat fruits. Maybe they took time to discover / graft / cultivate popular versions?

Another possible version is that the resolution is very low and the exact order could be wrong because it is just based on the oldest recorded evidence of the food being eaten.


Yeah, I assumed the latter, but the former makes sense. I wonder what some of those might have been.


Doesn't mention when we started eating cows/beef, seems like a significant oversight?


It’s listed very early on as "cattle domestication - 6,500BC".


There's also "American bison - 8,000BC" - from the same tribe as the domesticated cattle.




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