As exploration from Europe started in the 1500’s, more and more varieties of foods were brought back to the continent. Traders from Europe brought back home various delicious and interesting foods from places like Asia, Africa and America that they had explored in the 1500s and 1600s.


The rich began to enjoy ginger and sugar from India which was the start. Here’s a timeline of historical changes to the European diet, courtesy of our friends at Babel House European Restaurant


Today’s European Staples – Tea, Coffee, Chocolate

Tea was consumed from China, coffee was adored from East Africa and hot chocolate was a concept borrowed from parts of central America. The revolution of breakfast happened as tea and coffee became more readily available in the 1500s.


Different Eating Habits and Meal Times


Although it seems funny to imagine a time without it, breakfast actually was instituted around the 1500s when people worked for someone and had longer work days.

Supper time was normally between 7 and 8 in the evening, which meant they would have their dinner around noon-ish and if  they wanted to keep hunger at bay and get the energy they needed for work during the morning, they would have breakfast.


Basic Diet of Black Bread and Soup


However, their breakfasts didn’t consist of too many fancy products, because they were still living a very Middle Ages lifestyle and ate a lot of barley soup, barley bread and barley porridge. In the north of Europe they had black bread or rye bread.

With the Little Ice Age it was even harder to cultivate food and therefore rye became more crucial barley towards the very south. Although they hated it, they had to eat it.


The Colonisation Era and its Effect on Diet


Colonisation, involving the conquering of foreign countries and benefiting from the work of South American, African and Indian people, made Europe a much richer place. Through the 1600s and 1700s, European became richer and more political, Cromwell was in Britain and then France had the Revolution, and that spurred the more powerful citizens to demand white bread rather than rye bread. Late into the 1800s it was only prisoners and beggars in Germany that ate rye bread any more.


Carrots Actually Became Orange


While it seems as if they have been around forever, it was only after colonisation and the success of the slave trade that European countries could provide support for educated food scientists. They began working on new foods for those who could afford them and the first large orange carrot crop came during the 1600s.


Trading With South America


With trading and colonisation there was foods brought from other far-flung countries too. Most food from South America was hot-weather food, so corn, tomatoes and potatoes were difficult to grow in many parts of Europe, and items like peanuts, yuca and sweet potatoes were completely impossible to cultivate.

South American foods were consumed by Europeans long after Chinese, South Asians and Africans had started.


You Say Tomatoes and Potatoes


By the time the 1800s came along though, tomatoes and potatoes were being eaten in Europe and prepared in different and exciting ways. Potato salads and french fries were invented and tomato was being added as a sauce to gazpacho, spaghetti and pizza.

The chocolate bar also came along during the 1800s. While countries took on their modern forms, governments started to encourage all the people to eat the same, combining elements and food from smaller regions.

This meant that things lite Pretzels were no longer just eaten by Bavarians, but Germans across the country and no longer was it just Bretons consuming crepes, because all of France did.


The New Wave – Curries, Tofu and more


More new food and dishes came along during the 1900s from all over the world. As people moved from Africa and Asia to Europe they brought curry, sunflower oil, peanut oil, tofu and couscous along with them.

Modern Europe is filled with people from various places around the world, who eat food from around the world, preparing and cooking it in conventional and exciting ways.