Food plays an important role in every culture of the world. Wherever people are from, they grow up with specific ingredients and recipes that define their society and family history. While food evolves all the time and our increasingly global society has resulted in more fusions and adaptations than ever before, there are still certain dishes that will always remind us of home. However, there are some foods that have evolved over the years to become part of one culture, when they actually originated in a whole other area of the world.
The Indian curry has been a staple part of British cuisine for many years. While many of the regular dishes on the menu do trace back to India, there are several popular favourites with surprising origins.
The vindaloo, one of the hottest and therefore most challenging curries on a standard menu, has its roots in Portuguese culture. The name comes from the Portuguese words ‘vinho’ and ‘alho’, translating to wine and garlic. When combined, the phrase in Portuguese for wine and garlic is ‘vin d’alho’, which in British culture has become vindaloo. The dish has evolved over the years to become spicier and is typically made with garlic and wine vinegar.
Tikka masala is another popular dish on most British curry house menus but was created by a chef working at a restaurant in Glasgow, Scotland.
Biryani, another staple of the British Indian menu, originated in Persia rather than India.
Cheesecake today is associated with the USA, and in particular the famous Cheesecake Factory. However, the origins of this classic dessert date back further than the modern history of the United States.
There is evidence of cheesecakes being fed to athletes during the Olympic Games since the first ever event held in 776 B.C. Athletes are thought to have eaten portions of cheesecake to gain energy, much as today’s athletes might enjoy a power bar. The first record of a cheesecake recipe comes from the Greek grammarian and author Athenaeus, written in 230 A.D.
Another all-American staple food item is the hamburger. Hamburgers have been popularised all over the western world by fast food chains, but the first hamburger patties came from central Asia in the 13th century. During the time of Genghis Khan, soldiers riding to war would carry scraps of raw meat between their saddles and the backs of their horses. When they stopped to rest, the meat that had been carried this way would have been warmed and tenderised by the journey.
As the name would suggest, the modern hamburger patty began life in Hamburg, Germany, with a traditional ‘Hamburg steak’ made from salted beef combined with breadcrumbs. It was this version that travelled to the US sometime in the early 19th century as immigrants flocked from Germany, bringing some of their most popular dishes with them.
Many other recipes and ingredients have migrated across the world over the centuries, resulting in some delicious cuisines with ingredients that have surprising origins.
About Simon Whalley
Simon Whalley is a renowned musician and music director who has filled prominent international roles as an organist, choir master and conductor. His passion for music translates across the artistic spectrum. Simon Whalley enjoys seeking out the best of the world’s cultural and artistic endeavours, with a particular interest in ballet, opera, literature, and poetry.