Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Persistence of Diet


Here is an interesting item for your weekend. Turns out that a group of scientists decided to study the persistence of food chosen by several cultures. It turns out that a particular culture's food choices seem to persist for hundreds of years. (Bad news for the English?):

The research, 'The non-equilibrium nature of culinary evolution', shows that three national cuisines - British, French and Brazilian -- are affected by the founder effect which keeps idiosyncratic and nutritionally ambivalent, expensive and sometimes hard to transport ingredients in our diets.

Using the medieval cookery book, Pleyn Delit, and three authoritative cook books from Britain, France and Brazil, the New Penguin Cookery Book, Larousse Gastronomique and Dona Benta respectively, the researchers from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, compiled statistics which could be compared to see how time and distance effect the three different national cuisines.

. . .

Ranking the importance of certain food types by their frequency of use in each national cuisine and comparing them to ingredients which have an equivalent rank in one of the other two foreign cuisines led to patterns emerging which suggest that all our menus evolve in similar ways.

So, whether it's the Irish with potatoes, the French with frogs' legs, the Germans with sauerkraut, the Ghanaians with plantains or the Japanese with fish stock, it seems a global food culture has not shifted some die-hard culture-based eating habits.

As the authors, from the Department of Physics and Mathematics at Sao Paulo University, write, "Some low fitness ingredients present in the initial recipes have a strong difficulty of being replaced and can even propagate during culinary growth. They are like frozen "cultural" accidents."



Read it all here.

2 comments:

The Wayward Episcopalian said...

Bad news for the Brits? I'd say it's bad news for the Americans, what with our McDonalds and Burger Kings...

Chuck Blanchard said...

Wayward:

Sadly, true