Imagine summer without corn and tomatoes.  You can’t, can you?  That would be like thinking about French cuisine without chocolate and vanilla, Irish food without potatoes, or Italian sauces without tomatoes.  In the American Heartland corn and tomatoes are as essential an ingredient in the recipe for summer as capsicum pepper is to an Indian curry or paprika is to Hungarian goulash.

Look back five centuries to the time of Isabella when there was no chocolate or vanilla in France, no capsicum (chile) pepper in India, no paprika in Hungary, and believe it or not, not a single tomato had ever been seen in an Italian cuccina or trattoria.  Five hundred years ago, these foods—along with potatoes, many kinds of beans, squashes and pumpkins, turkey, pineapple, wild rice, peanuts, and pecans—were only found in the New World.  Each of these foods had its own unique history. 

In the years following the “discovery” of the New World, native foods were shared, borrowed, transported great distances across vast oceans, and changed in different ways depending on the shore to which each was transported.  In subsequent years, each found its way into the cuisine of its adopted homeland in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean where they continued to be refined and cultivated.  (I recommend you watch Padma Lakshmi’s popular Hulu series “Taste the Nation” that expands and redefines the meaning of American food.)

~ Read the rest in today’s Journal ~