We can all be fiercely protective over our food. Wherever we come from, everyone likes to think that there are some recipes that should never ever be meddled with. Trying talking to an Italian about putting cream in a carbonara, or a Mexican about how you should really treat a taco and you’ll quickly discover that food can prompt some strong reactions should you get it wrong.
It’s comforting to think that the recipes that define our heritage have always been the same. The importance of tradition and authenticity all around the world are obvious and should not be understated. But, contrary to what we might think, it turns out that many of our most beloved dishes have been changing throughout cooking history. Here are just a few famous recipes that have changed completely over time.
1. Apple Pie
There aren’t many things more American than a steaming slice of freshly baked apple pie. The smell of perfectly cooked fruit and pastry wafting in through an open is enough to see even the staunchest dieter start drooling. However, time was when this dish was drastically different than it is today, and a whole lot less edible. According to the earliest known English cookbook, “The Forme of Cury”, apple pies were encased not with tasty pastry, but with something known as a “coffin”, made from sandalwood.
Picture an Indian meal, and you can’t help but think of bags of flavour and a load of heat. But, in the not too distant past, chillies had absolutely nothing to do with Indian cooking. In fact, a team from the BBC who went on a quest to find the world’s oldest curry discovered a recipe that featured aubergine, ginger, turmeric and salt - totally devoid of anything fiercely spicy.
It might be most closely associated with the American families of the 1960s, but meatloaf has actually been around for thousands of years. Though many recipes have been broadly similar, it was the ancient Greeks decided to take meatloaf to strange new places. Their version included ingredients as diverse as eggs, nuts and animal brains. It was also served for breakfast. Yum.
In Britain, there are certain things that a proper breakfast cannot be without. To the permanent confusion of the rest of the world, plates are always piled high with beans, black pudding, bacon and all sorts of fried goodies. This was not always the case. For centuries, a fried breakfast was only reserved for the landed gentry, leaving everyone else in the British Isles stuck with porridge and stale bread.
5. Mince Pies
Despite being a beloved Christmas tradition, mince pies continue to divide opinion. For anyone who continues to view them with a mixture of loathing and disgust, you should just be grateful that they have changed over the last hundred years. Not only did they contain actual meat, but could weigh as much as 20 lbs, according to Bustle.
Sweet and fluffy, marshmallows are the ultimate soft snack for anyone who struggles with chewing. Back in the day, however, they were incredibly even easier to eat. Rather than squishy pillows of gelatine, early marshmallows were more like a syrup - extracted from the roots of the marshmallow plant and mixed with honey and nuts.
7. Wedding Cake
No modern wedding is complete without a slice from something sugary, enormous and hugely impractical, but there was a time when wedding cake looked totally different. In ancient Rome, revelers would hurl broken bits of wheat cake at the bridal party, whilst Elizabethan England had guests celebrate with a slice of “bridal pie” - a mixture of offal, oysters and pastry.
Preserving our cooking traditions are obviously important. But it’s worth reminding ourselves that even recipes that we think of as untouchable are actually in a constant state of flux. As this collection proves, we shouldn’t be afraid to experiment.