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Spain had a HUGE impact on its colonies' cuisine. Why didn't France?

Once upon a time, the sun never set on the Spanish empire. And even today, if you go to any city or even a tiny village that once was under Spanish influence, you can taste that influence in the food. In Latin America, that's obvious. Just one example is sofrito. That mainstay of Cuban and Dominican cuisine comes from Spain. But it's also true of, say, the Philippines. For culinary purposes, the Philippines should be considered part of Latin America. The biggest food influence on the Philippines is Spain. Kalderetang kambing, for example, is just like the goat stew you can get in any Dominican restaurant. This is also true of Portugal, and people in Angola eat stews and use marinades a lot like the Portuguese.

The main impact Spain and Portugal had on the world, though, was in bringing foodstuffs and recipes from one colony to another, or to Europe. Potatoes, tomatoes, cassava, chili... we owe all those to Spanish sailors. Some Chinese restaurants in New York offer "Portuguese style" dishes, and what you get is curry, a tribute to the Portuguese traders who brought curry dishes from India to Macao (and thence China) and Japan.

But Britain and France never had that impact on their colonies or on the world. I can't think of any English food that's popular in India or Africa. Perhaps one can understand that. But France, self-proclaimed center and apex of cuisine? French bread did catch on, you can buy baguettes in Algeria, Togo and Vietnam. But why didn't more French foods and cooking techniques spread to West Africa and Southeast Asia?

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  1. I suspect you may underestimate French culinary influence in Vietnam and English influence in India.

    15 Replies
    1. re: Perilagu Khan

      I agree. Specifically, there is consierable French influence in cooking technique in Vietnam. The techniques are applied to different ingredients and tastes, but it is there.

      (there are also things like lactose intolerance being common in Asian peoples [don't know about Vietnam in particular] and the Asian notion that cheese is milk so rotten it has solidified--in other words, why would Asians want to adopt French cooking ingredients with their own rich history of food culture?).

      One could argue that there is little original British food popular anywhere (smile). On the other hand, India has thoroughly and completely "colonized" British food. Hence that chicken tikka masala is the national dish of Britain--a dish with Indian origins, but also adapted by the Brits. But tea time is still going strong in India today, you're just as likely to eat a samosa or other Indian food with your tea.

      1. re: cocktailhour

        "One could argue that there is little original British food popular anywhere (smile)."

        OK. OK. I will rise to the bait. :-0

        This arguing that you suggest could be made? Can we start by agreeing a definition of "original", please?

        My small island nation has always been a seafaring one. It's meant we've exported culinary influences and we've also imported them from places we've visited. For a short period in history, we were the most powerful nation on earth - and probably it's greatest coloniser. So here, we've taken our influences to other countries and brought back others, Finally, we've been an island that's had settlers since Roman times - our native garlic crops date to that period.

        So, when we've agreed on a point in history that we're going to take as the culinary "original" , then let us discuss whether that "original" food is still popular anywhere (including in Britain).

        Returning to the original post, I'd suggest the French empire was quite small and the nature one of administration, so the impact of "home cuisine" on the local population comparitively minimal. I'd take a similar view of Dutch and German colonisation. There was, also, a much briefer time scale for empire than for Spain.

        Of course, one might argue that the most succesful culinary colonisation of the world is the incredibly swift spread of American "fast food".

        1. re: Harters

          Speaking of Dutch, it is interesting that one shelf in the Indonesian section at 99Ranch (a California Chinese grocery chain) is devoted to Dutch (or Dutch style) products, things like chocolate sprinkles.

          Along the same line, the easiest place to find Horlicks Malt powder is Indian, Asian or Caribbean groceries.

        2. re: cocktailhour

          "Hence that chicken tikka masala is the national dish of Britain--a dish with Indian origins, but also adapted by the Brits."

          It's not our National dish, although it is popular. And just to be sure, when you say that, it was invented in England by an Indian chef.

          Anyway, That's the great thing about England, we've always been a bit of a mish-mash. So instead of forcing our cooking on everyone else (which is pretty simple cooking), we've taken bits of everyone elses and borrowed it. I'd rather do it that way.

          Even fish and chips has moorish origins.

          1. re: Soop

            ctm is based on butter chicken -- which is an original indian dish.

            1. re: alkapal

              Legend has it that a customer ordered chicken tikka, and then complained that there was no sauce. So the chef added a can of tomato soup.

              1. re: Soop


                fish and chips had moorish origins? potatoes are new world, though.

                1. re: alkapal

                  Specificallly, fish and chips in Britain are supposed to be of Sephardic Jewish origin, which would of course originally have been a subset of Moorish culture (Moorish Spain of the "three religions").

                  But of course potatoes are originally from South America, what is now Peru.

                  1. re: lagatta

                    are (were) there lots of sephardic jews in england? how long has fish and chips been a national dish?

                    1. re: alkapal

                      Lots, no, but a couple of very promenent members of this community were Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli and Moses Montefiore. http://www.forward.com/articles/126975/ "Fish and Chips: a Sephardic Delicacy"

                      And this guy traces ancestors of this dish back to ancient Persia, via Bagdad, on to Moorish Spain ... http://languageoffood.blogspot.com/20...

                      1. re: alkapal

                        Ah, I can answer that one.

                        Fried potatoes have been around in Britain for as long as there have been potatoes. There is a clear record of the first shop selling chips in 1860 in Oldham ( a town a few minutes drive away from me).

                        It is certainly believed that the fish in batter element was brought to Britain by Jewish immigrants, also in the mid 19th century. The two main cities to which they immigrated were London and Manchester (the centre of the metro area of which Oldham is now part).

                        The first accurately recorded shop selling both fish and chips is 1863 in Mossley - a small town near to Oldham. There is a possible rival earlier claim by London but it hasn been possible to substantiate its establishment between either 1860 or 1865.

                        It very quickly became a national dish, offering cheap food for the working class. It was particularly popular in Roman Catholic areas for Friday suppers. Although we're no longer a particularly religious society here, I'd reckon Friday is still the most popular night to get a chippy takeaway.

                        1. re: Harters

                          thanks lagatta and harters! i really enjoyed the article from "the language of food" blog -- i'm bookmarking that site. the blogger sure gives a lot of interesting culinary history (though he never dealt with the "chips.").

              2. re: Soop

                I thought it was a Bangladeshi cook in Glasgow who invented CTM.

                1. re: lulubelle

                  Pretty much generally accepted these days - and a particular restaurant claims it. Of course, that's pretty good PR :-0

                  1. re: Harters

                    Bangladesh needs to have a positive reputation for something! Pretty much all people think about when they hear the name of the country is poverty and corrupt government. (oh, and George Harrison)

          2. Spain had a much longer colonial presence than did France or Britain, which may account for some of the disparity. The fact that the British Empire peaked during an age of Orientalism may also account for some aspect of certain colonial powers being more influenced by their holdings than vice versa (v. Dutch cuisine). But while the Spanish influence is readily visible after 500 years of colonization, other colonial powers certainly had an influence on their holdings, even if not to the same degree. There is a genre of Western foods that are popular in Britain's former Southeast Asian colonies. Custard, white bread and other conveniences are also certain English contributions. France contributed its pastries and bread to its former holdings. Britain's greatest legacy is probably the Indianization of cuisines throughout its empire. The fact that Indian cuisine so readily influenced the food of Britain's tropical holdings may also give a clue as to why Spain had so much greater an influence on the cuisines of its empires than its counterparts: the availability and convenience of the temperate foodways of England and France in their African and tropical holdings.

            1. Bahn Mi sandwiches comes to my mind as an influence of french cuisine in it's former colony of Vietnam

              also not to forget, but french cooking often requires more elaborate cooking techniques/materials, which are often not available or not usable in many of it's former colonies

              5 Replies
              1. re: westaust

                I like the approach taken by the writer of this blog:

                where he quotes from a book that quotes the ambassador from Siam to France in the 17th century, on the subject of French food:
                "Here are few spices and much meat, and an attraction of quantity replaces piquant wholesomeness.”

                In other words, when you have the glories of Thai, Indian, Chinese, etc. cuisines, why would any French (leave alone British) cooking appeal? :


                It's easier (I think) to adapt from bland to spicy cuisine than vice versa (maybe due to the addictiveness of capsaicin).

                France may be the "self-proclaimed" apex of food culture, but it's not self-evident that it would appeal globally to people of totally different and equally if not more rich foodways.

                Other than the spread of the foods Jungmann pointed out: breads, pastries, custard, chocolate, etc.

                Where India was concerned, though new 'ingredients' (chilies, potatoes, tomatoes etc) were embraced, actual dishes were less adopted/adapted (differences in skill sets, Indian food restrictions, differences in underlying tastes, and cultures: e.g. large dishes requiring cutlery vs small-diced ingredients easily hand-eaten, etc.).

                Now of course, everything is being swamped in the new contributions of the new world: a global tide of Coca Cola, McD, and Cheese Pizza.

                1. re: westaust

                  Pho is also a descendant of French pot-au-feu, I've heard.

                  1. re: LiaM

                    Exactly. The national dish of Vietnam is derived from the French. Also, not completely food related, but I don't think you can discount the consumption of gin (Bombay?) and the obsession with kricket throughout India.

                    1. re: LiaM

                      And banh mi = pain de mie.

                      My Francophile/French in-laws' favorite French restaurant here in LA County was a place down in Rosemead called La Vie, run by a Vietnamese chef and staffed mostly by his family. Papa liked it because the cooking was very correctly classic French, and because it was relatively cheap. Still is, I'm sure.

                      And let us not forget that Ho Chi Min was a classically trained (and I'm told very good) patisseur, a pastry chef.

                      1. re: LiaM

                        Pho has some culinary influences from french techniques like brulee of the onions and using beef bones, but pho definitely does not directly descend from pot au feu, The spices are very chinese and the use of rice noodles and herbs is very vietnamese. The french like to claim credit to everything, but the more likely story is that french masters probably forced vietnamese to slaughter their oxen (or probably brought their own cattle over) to satisfy their typically french appetite for red meat (white meat is more typical in vietnamese cuisine) and all the leftover tougher parts and bones were used by the frugal vietnamese to make pho.

                        If we can point to any real french influences, I would say any pastry, use of pate, or dairy like cheese and yogurt are directly the result of french colonial influence. Some also argue that banh xeo is a descendent of crepes

                    2. I assume that the respective climates would also play a role. Spain, being a warm, Mediterranean climate, probably has more in common with the climates of its (tropical and subtropical) colonies than England or France, with their Marine West Coast climates of cool summers. Therefore, it would be easier to grow Spanish ingredients in colonies compared to English or French ones. That said, there was certainly much British influence on the American Colonies! And there are similar climatologies. Weather and climate certainly don't explain everything, but they would account for *some* of the difference.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: nofunlatte

                        Totally agree - and along the same lines, think about the predominant cooking fats in those areas - Spaniards use a lot of olive oil and a little bit of pork fat but very little butter or poultry fat, like you see in France and England. Butter lends itself to different cooking techniques than oil (lower heat, more braising and baking and less frying).

                        1. re: kathleen440

                          While I agree that the Spanish had a huge impact on the food of their Latin American colonies (From around 1500 till independence in the 1810s is a long time), olive oil use was lost, at least in many areas. Large parts of Chile have a mediterranean climate like in Spain, yet olive oil is only coming into vogue now--and is quite expensive.

                          1. re: Wawsanham

                            "New Spain was exploited for the benefit of Spain with little reinvestment . Many of the colonists who came to New Spain wanted to make their wealth and return to Spain.....

                            Commerce was controlled by royal decree. All trade with New Spain had to be approved by Spain and carried on Spanish ships and through the one official port of Vera Cruz to collect duties .
                            ... .Industries that could compete with those of Spain were prohibited and was trade with other countries, so New Spain produced few manufactured goods for export .One example of this is the olive and wine industry, introduced by friars but eventually banned by Spain as competing with Spanish growers ."

                        2. re: nofunlatte

                          took the thought right out of my head.

                          Nobody's mentioned Creole cooking from the Mississippi Delta region of the US -- absolutely undeniable French roots there.

                        3. Regarding Japan- Traditionally (before 20th century), outside of China, the country with the greatest influence on Japanese cuisine is England. The English brought curry to Japan as well as Worchestershire sauce (which the Japanese took to be the Western analog to soy sauce!), as well as western/continental techniques that formed the basis for Yoshoku cuisine. There was a lot of French influence as well since Meiji Era policy sought to bring in expertise from France and England...and Germany as well, but they left little impact on the food. And I'm reading more that the Dutch are responsible for introducing various western vegetables to Japan. Their presence was much more substantial than Spain or Portugal. Though, the Portuguese are credited with introducing tempura as a means of eating dodgy fish during Lent.

                          There is no Spanish influence in Japan that I can think of. The word for Spain in Japanese is based on the English pronunciation "Spain" rather than "Espana" which probably indicates very little historical contact or influence.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: Silverjay

                            ...also, bread from Portuguese as well.

                            1. re: Silverjay

                              Yes. I only recently realized how many Chinese baked goods are Portuguese derived.

                            2. re: Silverjay

                              "There is no Spanish influence in Japan that I can think of. The word for Spain in Japanese is based on the English pronunciation "Spain" rather than "Espana" which probably indicates very little historical contact or influence."
                              There's one that springs to my mind immediately:

                              One could also make an argument for Botarga (most of the Western Mediterranean islands were under Castillian rule at the critical time). Then there'd be a case for Karasumi, one of the three most celebrated Japanese delicacies, having Spanish origins, even if, like Castella, it made its way to Japan via the influence of other nations.

                              1. re: Silverjay

                                and of course the Portuguese brought japan tempura.

                              2. I don't agree with the query. I think colonialism has had a multitude of long lasting effects on the occupied, and the cuisine of the occupied has changed forever, too, no matter whether you are looking at French, Spanish, or English occupation...or Portuguese or Italian or Ottoman or whoever else for that matter. I think if one were to examine the cuisine of places occupied by the French or British, one would find prolific changes on local food and food culture in those places, too. The suggestion that there is no English influence on cuisine in India, for example, I know to be completely wrong.

                                10 Replies
                                1. re: luckyfatima

                                  LuckyF: I don't think anyone said there was no English influence on Indian cuisine. But what examples do you have in mind?

                                  1. re: Rasam

                                    " I can't think of any English food that's popular in India..." is a line from the OP.

                                    Hmmm, besides the stuff you previously mentioned like the integral Portuguese and British bringing chiles, potatoes, and so on without which modern Indian cuisine would be completely different, stuff the Brits have left behind: chops, cutlets, pattice, double roti, cucumber sandwiches, "hunter beef," toffees, trifle, baked pastries (despite the fact that many people don't have ovens), for people who drink, the alcohol cabinet culture, etc. Some of these foods may be heavily Indianized (like a white bread sandwich with chutney as spread and a dash of sandwich masala on it , or a spicy aloo chop) but the origins are English. I guess buns are Portuguese (bun kabaab or pao+ filling). Hmmm, also having "high tea."

                                    1. re: Rasam

                                      Chicken jalfreezi, named after a certain General Frazier, would never have existed without the Raj.

                                      1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                        Wikipedia suggests, perhaps more convincingly, that the word originates from the Bengali "jhal" (meaning spicy food) and the Urdu "parhezi" (meaning suitable for a diet).

                                        Although the suggestion that it is a dish developed for western tastes is almost not in doubt.

                                        1. re: Harters

                                          Hmmm, I had actually tried to figure out that word on my own but I couldn't. I thought the jal might be "water" jal, but it could be from jhal. In Bengali jhol---jhol just means seasoned wet gravy dish, like "curry" but for non-Bengalis it would be jhal (same like rassa or saalan) for some people...those are all ways that people actually say "curry" in Hindustani. Hmmm, parhezi means abstinence. I am not convinced by the wiki here, although on googling I am finding that story repeated. There is a language forums I frequent and I will post a query about jalfrezi there and report back if I get any good info.

                                          About jalfrezi or chicken tikka masala and all, I think that is India influencing Indian food served to foreigners, not foreigners influencing India. Though as I have mentioned in other posts, one finds chicken tikka masala and jalfrezi in India today coming back from the other direction.

                                          1. re: luckyfatima

                                            Interestingly, another Google turned up a desi discussion board suggesting that the jalfrezi style, whilst originating in the kitchens of the colonial Brits, it was a style that quickly made it's way into the Anglo-Indian community.

                                            As an aside, chicken tikka masala (as we know it in the UK) has long been thought to have been developed in a Glasgow restaurant (based on chicken makhani). There's now a restaurant making a good claim to being the inventor.
                                            Whilst it's probably the most often ordered dish in asian restaurants, claims that it is now Britain's "national dish" is a statistical nonsense.

                                            1. re: Harters

                                              the anothersubcontinent forums has great S. Asian food discussions. I think the parhezi thing on the wiki is nonsense. The jhal+ fry corruption sounds more plausible. That's probably it.

                                              about the chicken tikka masala thing, yes I have read a lot about it and followed the CH thread about it eagerly, too. I know the dish murgh makhani/chooza makhani and agree that chicken tikka masala is founded on that, but I have read too many versions of 'who invented chicken tikka masala' and I believe the creators will remain a mystery despite claims otherwise.

                                            2. re: luckyfatima

                                              " I think that is India influencing Indian food served to foreigners, not foreigners influencing India"

                                              How can you tell the difference? Doesn't it come down to the same thing - satisfying the particular culinary requirements of foreigners?

                                              1. re: Striver

                                                Either way, the presence of foreigners is catalytic.

                                          2. re: Perilagu Khan

                                            I think there could be an entire thread dedicated to dishes where the names and ingredients have been bastardized either to appeal to foreign visitors, or when a dish has been transported to another land.

                                      2. When talking about the effect of English cooking/culture on its colonies, don't forget the USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. For France, don't omit Quebec, and New Orleans.

                                        Most of the Spanish colonies started in the in 15/16th centuries. With a longer time of colonization, expect greater influence.

                                        Also consider the nature of the colonization. Where the colonizers basically administrators and landowners who maintained close ties with their home country? Or were they adventurers who married with the locals, or families?

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: paulj

                                          Also, "Spain" in the late 15th and 16th centuries also included the Kingdoms of Naples and Sicily (under the crown of Aragon), and thus the culture was privy to not only the inheritance from the Moors but also southern Italy - it was part of a swath of cultinary culture from the Indian subcontinent to Persia and Turkey and across North Africa. Iberian states were exchanging ambassadors with Abbysinia. France was, meanwhile, getting forks, and two centuries away from culinary preeminence.

                                          1. re: paulj

                                            Don't omit Québec (where I live, and where i'm currently having a casual meal of crêpes, not at all "foreign" here), Acadia (I mean the northern part, in what is now the Atlantic provinces and especially New Brunswick) New Orleans and the (southern) Cajun culture, or Haiti, Martinique and Guadeloupe.

                                            France has a huge influence on our foodways (as does British food, since we were later conquered by them).

                                            1. re: paulj

                                              I was about to say that the cooking culture of the English in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand don't count because the traditions were brought by English immigrants who lived there permanently and kept up the traditions vs influencing the indigenous population with new styles. But then I realized I don't know as much about Spanish colonial trends. Are the overlaps in Spanish/former colony food the result of Spaniards residing in those countries, intermarrying, and thus spreading the traditions that way? Because intermarriage/settlement is one of the most significant ways of making sure that food traditions spread.

                                              But going back to English food influence - the stamp on English food/eating is very easy to see in Egypt and other parts of the Middle East that had an English presence. The "English Breakfast" and is sometimes directly replicated but more often breakfasts (particularly restaurant breakfasts) have been modeled after the idea.

                                              Chips on falafel/kebabs/swharma. If anything, chips are possibly the most common way to see potatoes served (in restaurants) in the Middle East, with mashed potatoes being relatively uncommon (and baked very rare).

                                              I would also say that the dominant models of restaurant/hotel dining mostly find ties to English styles. "Fine dining" restaurant meals are very reminicent of classic English style (meat/potato/vegetable). Alcohol trends (even when the population is predmoninantly Muslim) follow cocktails (favoring whiskey and gin) and beer. In some areas "whiskey" is the generic name for alcohol. Traditional (Christian) wineries in the region remain having the reputation of being dreaful - whereas Israeli (Jewish) wineries trace their development back to French Jewish influence.

                                              The English presence in the Middle East wasn't for as long as India - but the mark is definitely there.

                                              1. re: cresyd

                                                Surely, the influence Brian S talks of is among the new settlers and immigrants. Native Americans, native Africans, native Asians continued their own cooking and eating traditions while the new white-skinned round-eyed arrivals imported their own. They influenced others when they cooked for them, as with African slaves cooking for their white masters in the antebellum American South and creating southern cuisine.

                                                Seems to me that the French influence on English cuisine began so early, with the Norman conquest in the 11th century, that we're no longer aware of it. Many of the dishes in "Mastering the Art of French Cuisine" seem like elaborate or finicky ways to prepare familiar "American" and "English" dishes rather than distinctively foreign like gazpacho or borsht..

                                                1. re: John Francis

                                                  I think when we're talking about things like cuisine, culture, and influence there's always going to be variation in how that manifests and tendancy towards generalizing.

                                                  Determining the influence that African slaves had in American cuisine is not simply a case of "this is what these people made for their masters based on what they had made in Africa" - but rather that along with the movement of people, there was also the movement of food. Not to mention that "house staff" were far more likely to have been in the US long either to learn English or having been born in the US. Particularly head kitchen staff. But items such as watermelon, peanuts, okra, and yams moved from Africa along with the people. However where the people were taken from and where the food was taken from didn't always have automatic connections.

                                                  While culture/traditions influence food - so does the mere presence of food. The presence of meat sold at a far cheaper rate in the US compared to the rest of the world (since the 1800s) has influenced food in the US as much as any cultural tradition or style.

                                                  Admittedly to say that 'food in the US is most influenced by English cooking' is a very wide sweeping generalization. And possibly only applies now historically. However, all of this aside - a primary element of lasting changes (be they food or otherwise) to cultures is intermarriage. If you look at the population in Israel from around 1948-1954 - the cultural differences between the Sephardic/Mizrachi Jews and Ashkenazi Jews was very pronounced. Today, through marriage, it's very minor and "intermarriage" between those groups is barely seen as "intermarriage" (unless you're Hasidic). However based on various taboos and language divides, marriage between Palestinians (Muslim or Christian) and Israeli Jews rarely happens and the cultural divide between those populations remains wide.

                                                  Going back to colonialism, the rate of colonizers marring native Africans (be they French or English) and settling permanently in those regions was much lower (than the South American examples). And so the cultural cooking traditions didn't have much to tie them there long-term.

                                                  1. re: John Francis

                                                    You are right to draw attention to the impact of French influence on British (not just English) cuisine. The country is only 22 miles away and there has always been an interchange of ideas. It would be surprising if it was otherwise. Regardless of geography, cultural and, more specifically, religious ties in the past has meant Scotland has probably been more influenced by France than the other regions of the UK

                                                    Leaving aside the very specific traditional dishes of the two countries, I would find it hard to distinguish between the modern cooking in Britain and the modern cooking in northern France. We grow the same crops in the same seasons, raise the same animals, etc

                                              2. "Spain had a HUGE impact on its colonies' cuisine. Why didn't France?"

                                                I think Brian has a point. I've wondered about this myself in the past.

                                                As already mentioned, the durations of colonization were different.
                                                But perhaps there were also significant differences in the relative numbers of immigrant Europeans and their descendants in the colonial populations?

                                                15 Replies
                                                1. re: racer x


                                                  Lists 7 places that France left a food culture in. Doesn't mention Cajun cooking, although he mentions New Orleans. The Acadians traveled down from New France after they got their...um...after the French Indian wars and settled around New Orleans, and their food definately has roots in France, different from the New Orleans French culture. Here in Minnesota, settled early on by French traders, before the Swedes and Norwegians came along, you betcha, my little neighborhood was originally settled by several families of French descent. They have meat pies at Christmas. My family always makes "bean pot" a kind of shortcut cassoulet. The oldest Catholic church in the cities sells "Meat pies" as a fund raiser. Would a French person recognize this as a dish of French origins? I'm not so sure...

                                                  I think you have to look at what time an area was colonized, what area the people came from, how they used the ingredients locally and adapted them to their cooking techniques. For instance two brothers could come from the same family in France, and one settle in Morocco and one settle in Minnesota. They, their families and their descendants would come up with completely different dishes based on same family recipes and using local ingredients that they could substitute for the original, unavailable ones and it could be the same recipe 'passed down from gr grandma from france.and both would be completely different. And of course, they'd learn new recipes and techniques. And it's never static, and personally, I think always fascinating.

                                                  France has suffered from changing borders over the years, and at various times, during colonizations, people from different areas may or may not be more prone to emmigrating. Often areas that were extremely poor or in more turmoil would produce more people that would leave than another area might. Those people would bring the particular type of food from their area of France to the new area. It might not be necessarily what we American's think of as "French" food.

                                                  1. re: mvkirby

                                                    I'll let Brian speak for himself as to precisely what he meant in the original post; but for myself, the emphasis in that provocative thread title lies in the phrase "HUGE impact." Spain's impact seems to have been much deeper and more pervasive. I don't think anyone would claim that there have been no lasting French influences in the cuisines of the former French colonies. The difference is a matter of degree.

                                                    What has struck me about the cuisines of former Spanish colonies, in Latin America anyway, is the remarkable degree of similarity from country to country. Rice and beans, empanadas, flan, pasteles, certain cuts of meats prepared in specific ways, roast lechon, arroz con pollo, chicharrones, the favored combination of guava and cheese, etc. Of course, that's not to say that there are no differences among the various cuisines (Venezuelan arepas or Mexican tacos, for example).

                                                    1. re: racer x

                                                      There's probably greater uniformity in the use of ingredients 'imported' from the Old World (.e.g wheat, rice, pig, dairy), and less in the use of New World ingredients (e.g. corn, chiles, potatoes).

                                                      Another factor is climate. Most, though not all, of the Latin American countries have a temperate climate zone. Even the tropical countries have highlands where well known European vegetables can be grown (e.g including artichokes). So people with a European background could grow familiar items.

                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                        Whether or not the nation or region has a significant population of descendents of enslaved African people is also a major factor in the diversity of the food in Latin America and the Caribbean.

                                                        1. re: luckyfatima

                                                          Lucky, that's a very good point. Another point to consider is how much of the local population was decimated and replaced by the conquering nation, or mixes of other nations that came after, layering culture upon culture. I read something interesting recently about Flan, it being a fairly recent addition to the latin american cultures, and it was hinted that the popularity came about by recipes given out by the canned milk companies in order to promote their products. Of course it is remarkably like creme caramel, which I believe is originally attributed to the French. But I digress...

                                                          1. re: mvkirby

                                                            Vietnamese have kem flan and Filipinos have leche flan. I presumed those were from the French and Spanish occupations of those places, as well. Interesting about the canned milk. If it is an online article, can you kindly link it.

                                                            1. re: luckyfatima

                                                              To tell you the truth, I'm not sure where I picked up that little tidbit of information. Probably a preface to a recipe somewhere. I believe the article was referring to the many recipes that included the use of condensed milk in flan. I know a lot of recipes I've seen for tres leche cakes include instructions for boiling a can of condensed milk, too. But again, there is that 'morphing' of a recipe based on the availability of ingredients. Or maybe, more precisely, I should say based on the EASE of getting the available ingredients. I would guess that in a hot climate without refrigeration as we know it today, it would probably be comforting to know you had a backup can or two of milk in the pantry.

                                                            2. re: mvkirby

                                                              I can believe that the canned milk versions of flan were popularized by canned milk producers, but the history of flan itself (in various forms, sweet and savory, but always as a dish with an egg custard base) goes back to medieval Europe and even beyond, to ancient Roman times (the very word traces its roots to the Latin flado, or flat cake). And pretty much all accounts of the introduction of flan to the new world date it to Columbus himself, which far predates the canning industry.

                                                              1. re: mvkirby

                                                                Flan is not French in origin. Its roots go back to custards familiar to ancient Roman cultures. The Moors brought sugar cultivation to Spanish cultures, and thus the sweet custards were born.

                                                                1. re: Karl S

                                                                  Karl, Bob, fascinating, I had no idea that custards dated that far back to Rome, although I knew they were types made in medieval Europe. I didn't mean to infer that the canning companies 'brought' flan to the Latin American culture, just that it made it more popular. Funny story, we had a potluck at my office (in Minnesota, where I live now, after 25 years in the southwest) and it was decided that the theme would be Mexican. Of course, I immediately thought of flan. I love making flan, it's pretty easy to transport and it's always so impressive when you unmold it. Not one person touched it until one of the bosses happened to come down, and he came for a second helping. I found out later that everyone was suspicious because it was "all ooozy looking and jiggly." Not one person in the group had ever seen or heard of flan. We are a long way from Mexico here.

                                                                  1. re: mvkirby

                                                                    Well, I personally find flans and custards of all types in all but small quantities to be meh.

                                                                  2. re: Karl S

                                                                    re regional differences in food. I lived in nyc in mid 70s. tortillas and taco were generally unknown. chili dogs were just getting popular. pronunciations different, too. houston (a subway stop) pronounced howston.

                                                                    1. re: divadmas

                                                                      houston is a street,not a subway stop - and as it is older than the guy from texas or the town, i'd have to say we here in NYC pronounce it correctly ;)

                                                                      and while there was not good mexican yet in the 70's it did exist. and while i don't doubt your memory - but don't recall time when chili dogs were ever popular here.

                                                                      1. re: thew

                                                                        there's a Houston County in Georgia, too - -pronounced Houseton, as I was not-so-gently corrected the first time I was there.

                                                      2. That's a blanket statement/question.

                                                        Have you been to Montreal? It's almost like being in france...

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: joonjoon

                                                          Au contraire, mon ami! Try visiting Martinique, it has a lovely blend of French and Caribbean cuisine. And not just the food - like many Caribbean islands, Martinique makes plenty of rum, but the technique on the French islands is different. Instead of starting with molasses, they first make a cane wine and then distill it to make "rhum agricole." Some is set aside for special aging, and the older vintages are truly extraordinary, in a class with fine cognac.

                                                          Edit: oops, meant to post this in reply to the original post, not joonjoon's comment.

                                                          1. re: BobB

                                                            Martinique may not be the best example - as it is part of France. There are other overseas territories which are fully incorporporated into the country of which I think Reunion and Guadaloupe are probably the best known

                                                            1. re: Harters

                                                              True, it is a département, but it's still a LONG way from Paris!

                                                        2. You’re largely correct, but perhaps not in way you meant! The Spanish approach was essentially to kill everyone - especially in most of the New World, not leaving much in the way of local cuisines. The unfortunate result is most of the food in much of what is now Latin America - and especially most of South America (where I live) - are cuisines that combine Spanish and a few local traditions and local and introduced ingredients. Not all that exciting.

                                                          Fortunately, the remnant populations of the complex societies of central Mexico and highland Peru survived and were able to maintain and adapt their culinary traditions to Spanish domination. One result is the global cuisine and gift that is Mexican food.

                                                          Also very fortunately the French colonized many areas that had strong culinary traditions and, at the same time were not impelled to killing everyone off: e.g., Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, "French" Polynesia, Madagascar, West Africa (where I don't have much experience), Algeria, Morocco, and more. In these areas the French left a few techniques and, perhaps good bread (albeit the best French food I've ever had was in the Hotel du France in Antananarivo decades ago). But the great local - now global cuisines survived!

                                                          The story is different in Reunion - a part of France - where the original population is miniscule and the French part of the food is large.

                                                          As to British food, the CH boards for large parts of the US are living testimonial to the enduring heritage and success of lots of meat, few spices, copious starches, and scarce and overcooked vegetables. Obviously and fortunately, the Brits couldn’t “conquer” the peoples and wonderful foods of the sub-continent!

                                                          Finally, filipino food is not Latin American, not Spanish, but an amalgam of indigenous, Spanish, colonial Mexican, and Chinese.

                                                          7 Replies
                                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                            I'm just back from working in Amsterdam; when I'm there, I'm housed in a place in the east end (near Dappermarkt, a big multicultural market). I think indigenous Dutch food was even blander than British food, so it was a godsend - to them, not the peoples of the "Dutch East Indies" that they colonised what is now (mostly) Indonesia.

                                                            Dutch bread was a great disappointment - I didn't expect baguettes but thought it would resemble yummy German bread. It is much softer, blander, balloonier, similar to bad British or North American bread.

                                                            In the neighbourhood I'm staying in, the best bread is made by a Moroccan family. Their deep brown bread has a remarkable texture - not easy to achieve with real wholemeal flour, and is also subtly crusty (a French influence, that).

                                                            Fortunately the Dutch, like the British, have copied some foodways of their far larger and more culinary-sophisticated colonies and there are sambals everywhere and some Southeast Asian vegetables (as can grow in northern climes or greenhouses).

                                                            I think there were simply too many people, and far too complex civilisations - in Mexico and Peru for the conquerors to have managed to kill everyone...

                                                            In the Southern Cone countries, the Indigenous population was sparser and far less "developed" (sorry for the shorthand that can sound ethnocentric, this is no judgement about their cultures) so Argentine, Chilean and Uruguayan food is very Spanish, and in the case of Argentina and Uruguay also very northern Italian.

                                                            1. re: lagatta

                                                              "I think indigenous Dutch food was even blander than British food"

                                                              I presume that here you are equating bland with a lack of spice. Whereas I would equate bland with a lack of flavour. Of course, neither of our cuisines contained much by way of asian spices until we imported them from our colonies. But it would be a serious misunderstanding of traditional dishes predating the 18th & early 19th centuries to suggest that they were flavourless - including as they did many herbs grown in northern Europe and the extensive use of fruit. And, of course, even today, some of the most tasty dishes in both countries are modern interpretations of traditional classics - for instance Lancashire hotpot or Erwtensoep.

                                                              1. re: lagatta

                                                                i found the bread in the netherlands a lot sweeter than bread in north america.

                                                              2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                The Spanish approach was NOT to kill everyone, You must be thinking perhaps about the genocide policies in North America, where to this day only a handful of Indians survive under the worst of conditions. Google Republic of Lakotah for more information.

                                                                The real reason behind the assimilation of Spanish food and culture in all those ex- colonies was that Spain as opposed to the rest of European colonies (except Portugal to some extent) did never prohibit interbreeding with the local population, as they were seen as humans and "brothers' under the Catholic faith. That was at least the official stance and it surely must have contributed to the impact on cuisine and many other aspects. Compare that to the official policy of England, France, etc., that prohibited their nationals any type of union with the locals and could go to jail and have their properties confiscated.. In the US there were laws against interracial marriages up to the 1960s.

                                                                That may also explain why Japanese cuisine is not in the least popular in China, as the Japanese have historically been extremely racist against the Chinese among other neighbors, going to the extent of killing and raping their women in large mass genocidal operations prepared beforehand , while looking down on any type of marriage or legal union. No wonder then that the Chinese are not particularly excited about Japanese cuisine or other cultural aspects.

                                                                1. re: laparana

                                                                  Except in a very small number of specific incidents, none of the European colonial powers explicit intent was to depopulate areas, however depopulation happened in all of the colonies to different extent due to policies driven by other concerns. An example of indirect Spanish depopulation would be the millions who died in the mines of Potosi under their encomienda/corvee labour system. The Valladolid debate pitted the idea that the native peoples in the colonies as "natural slaves" or as beings capable of being saved in a Christian sense. The idea that the Spanish saw the native peoples as human and the other European powers as not-human, both officially by the colonial powers or unofficially by people in power is not completely true.

                                                                  The study of why different colonial power had different impacts on their colonies is pretty complicated. Legally permitted inter-marriage/inheritance, depopulation (either direct or indirect) and re-population methods, governance structures, religious stratification, if the colony was a source of raw materials (and if so how it was produced) or if they were seen as a potential place to re-settle European nationals and many other little things had an effect.

                                                                  Personally I think that the culinary influence probably maps closely to linguistic influence. There has long been a question on why there are so few Spanish creoles (or no Spanish creoles depending on whom you ask) compared to other European languages.

                                                                  1. re: laparana

                                                                    Sam is no longer with us, so can't reply. He was an American agronomist, who had worked around world on rice. Probably at the time of that last post he was in Columbia, or back in Washington DC. So he was careful about what he wrote, and had real experience in Latin America.

                                                                    Still, I will partly agree with you. Focusing on the 15-18th centuries, the British American colonists tended to drive the Indians out of the land, and settle it themselves. The French both had settlers in the Canadian NE, and traders who freely intermarried with the Indians. Spanish settlers were mostly adventurers, seeking some instant wealth, not a refuge from religious or economic persecution. So the integration of Spanish and indigenous cultures in Latin America was quite different than in the British colonies.

                                                                    Most of the Spanish colonies became independent in the early 19th c., while the peak of French colonization in Africa and Asia was in the later 19th and first half of the 20th. This was also the time of 'the sun never sets on the British empire'.

                                                                    There's another factor in food and cultural influences in colonies - labor that was brought in from other parts of the world. Africans were brought to the American colonies, English, French (Haiti), Spanish and Portuguese, and with them African food stuffs, and perhaps more importantly African farming technology (esp. rice). Indians (from S Asia) were brought as labors to many colonies. In some cases they form half the local population (e.g some S Pacific Islands). I think in East Africa, many Indians came as traders and shop keepers. In other areas, Chinese moved in as traders, many coming from British controlled ports in SE China.

                                                                    So the mix of food cultures in many parts of the world is a complex result of colonization, and trade, in the preceding centuries.

                                                                    Complicating the picture is that fact that French ideas dominated the world of fine-dining around the world from the 19th c to well within the 20th. Even in gold rush San Francisco restaurants tried to sound upscale by using French descriptions on their menus. English aristocrats tried to employ French chefs.

                                                                    Another thought - the ground breaking exchange of food stuffs between the Old world and New took place in the 15th and 16th c, in the days when Spain and Portugal dominated as colonial and trading powers. By the time the English rose to power in India, the Portuguese had already brought chile peppers and tomatoes, and pigs were running wild in the Americas. The English and French (and USA) were a bit slow in adopting New World products like potatoes - early 19th c). So by the time that the French and English established empires in S Asia and Africa, European and American ingredients were already known. The English brought red-tape and the steam engine to India, but didn't have much to offer in the way of culinary traditions or foods.

                                                                    1. re: laparana

                                                                      France? Certainly not in Nouvelle France. A very large percentage of Québécois and other French-speaking Canadians have Aboriginal ancestry. True, the French colonial authorities brought over Les Filles du Roy - mostly young women from orphanages/foundling homes - to counter this trend, but a huge number of migrants to Canada took up with Native wives and started bicultural families.

                                                                      Even though there was the curse of slavery in Louisiana, there was not the same anethema against "race mixing" and there was certainly a recognition of multiracial people, as did not exist in Protestant, English parts of the US South.

                                                                      I am not saying this to insinuate that colonisation under the French or Spanish was less harsh - but religious and social attititudes were considerably different

                                                                  2. What about the food of Quebec and the rest of french speaking Canada? They have a rich tradition of French cooking

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                                                                    1. re: ike04

                                                                      Yes of course we do. Obviously with influences from the Indigenous peoples and the native foods, and influences from British conquest.

                                                                      So do our cousins down south in Louisiana (Creole and Cajun - usually Acadian refers to the Atlantic Canadian branch of that family, Cajun to the Louisianian (sp?)

                                                                      Sure ban xeo resembles a dosa and other Asian pancakes but the way it is served and presented show considerable French influences.

                                                                      Like the Indian tea in the UK, this works both ways and there is a hell of a lot of Maghrebi, "French Indochinese" and some West African food in France and throughout the French-speaking world (by osmosis).

                                                                    2. Also what about Creol and Acanadien cooking?

                                                                      1. Went to a Vietnamese restaurant in Montréal last night that served a "pancake" dish that dh pointed out was terribly crepe-like. Course, I don't really know the origin of crepes, so.... Still, there seemed much there that might be French-influenced.

                                                                        Check out the plethora of baguettes in French Polynesia.

                                                                        What an interesting discussion!

                                                                        Also, FWIW, I don't think anyone does Tea as well as the Indians. Sort of like gastronomic Stockholm Syndrome.

                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                        1. re: aliris

                                                                          That's banh xeo. Yes seems like a crepe but could be just a coincidence. No Frenchy stuff in it, it is rice flour, can have coconut milk, and is colored with a pinch of turmeric, stuffed with protein like shrimp and pork, but also bean sprounts and herbs, and wrapped in a lettuce leaf and dipped in nuoc cham, all of this is very Vietnamese-typical ingredient combo and eating method. Anyone know the history of banh xeo?

                                                                          1. re: luckyfatima

                                                                            Ah, that's why the color; of course! It was delish. I really can't imagine what the kids didn't like. Though it does seem to bear but the slightist resemblance to something French; my apologies. Practically closer to a dosa!

                                                                          2. re: aliris

                                                                            I'm not quite sure what you mean about tea (unless you mean that Indians do tea better than the Brits), which had its origins in SE Asia.

                                                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                              Yes, I mean the Indians do Tea, as in fussily warming the pot, and the milk, and fixing it just perfectly so for every guest, stirring incessantly until the mixture is utterly perfect, getting the water the exact temperature, and on and on ... I think of all these details -- thought of these details is quintessentially British, and yet it is the Indians who seem to have more exacting standards than the Brits. I find nowadays that my most Tea-obsessed acquaintances are not British but Indian.

                                                                              Of course you are right that tea is grown in India's northern border lands and the population is aslosh with the stuff. Still, perhaps only because I am Western-biased, I think of British Tea as the be-all and end-all of the stuff, a hallmark of the Raj and in modern times just a vestige of itself. Its enjoyment seems undiluted in India today. But perhaps you right that it should never be considered a thing of British colonialism to begin with.

                                                                              1. re: aliris

                                                                                Don't forget the Japanese tea ceremony, and all its accoutrements.

                                                                                1. re: aliris

                                                                                  "But perhaps you right that it should never be considered a thing of British colonialism to begin with."

                                                                                  Or perhaps not. Whilst tea was grown in India before the colonial times, it was not a widely grown commerical crop until we established the East India Company. In an interesting turnround, our brand leading teas ( Tetley and Typhoo) are now owned by Indian companies.

                                                                            2. Guess you've never been to French Polynesia, to where I naively ventured hoping to find Polynesian food. BAH ! French food is all you can get there !

                                                                              1. I was going to chime in and mention the role of British cooking in shaping the food of its former North American colonies, but quite a few people have already done so. This is a case of something being so pervasive and so "normal" that most people don't even notice it. or think of it as a cuisine. I'm sure most Americans and Canadians don't think much about the fact that dishes like chicken and meat pies, beef stews, and so forth are typical of British cuisine. Not to mention fruit pies, many varieties of puddings and sweets, and elements of traditional diner-style breakfasts. And yes, even the habit of long-cooking vegetables. Of course these influences are difficult to sort out--many classic British dishes have counterparts in other parts of northern Europe.

                                                                                Part of what confuses the issue is that different people here are thinking of different aspects and periods of empire. The British empire, for example, certainly was not of shorter duration than the Spanish, and wasn't limited to Africa and India.

                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Cliocooks

                                                                                  I'd bet most Americans and Canadians also don't think much about the fact that cattle, chickens, sheep, goats, pigs, apples, citrus fruits, wheat, etc. etc. etc. aren't native to North America. the more profound the cultural impact the less likely it is to be visible to its inheritors - in this case the British and French influence is so massive that North Americans don't even realize how much of their culinary practice is "imported."

                                                                                  1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                                                                    " the more profound the cultural impact the less likely it is to be visible to its inheritors." Very well put!

                                                                                  2. There might be a really easy answer to the French/Spanish dilemma (note: I haven't read the whole thread btw so if this is said upthread my apologies).
                                                                                    The portability and availability of the ingredients that formed the basis of French cuisine wasn't there back in the day. Hard to promote French cuisine in the 1700s when you can't get your ingredients?
                                                                                    Just thinking aloud...but it is an interesting thought.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: freia

                                                                                      "back in the day?" Back in what day? And what are you calling "French cuisine?" If you're talking coq au vin, the ingredients have been fairly universal for eons. If you're talking "haute cuisine" from the time of Careme, through Escoffier, and on into the present, it was unheard of, even in France, in the 1700s.

                                                                                    2. Food writer Raymond Sokolov wrote a book about 10 years ago called "Why we Eat What we Eat" - http://www.amazon.com/Why-We-Eat-What... - that explores the collision of New World and Old World culinary traditions and how they cross polinated. The focus is primarily Spain and Mexico/Latin America. It's a fairly easy read.

                                                                                      1. Brian S's original post reminds me of the tale of the five blind men describing an elephant. You know the story... One blind man comes back and says an elephant is like a very fat, very large snake. Another says no, no, no, it is like a giant fan flapping in the air. The third says no, it is like a whip with a tassel at the end. The fourth says it is like a a huge giant creature that hovers above the ground. The fifth says they are all wrong, an elephant is definitely like a huge fat palm tree trunk that stands on the ground. Individually, they are all right, but not one of them got the whole picture!

                                                                                        Brian's argument about the influence of Spain on the food of the world can also be made for every national food style he says did not have as much influence. The essence of human culture through the ages is that whether conqueror or conquered, we learn from each other and adopt/adapt what is good and carry it forward with us to the next generation. This is especially true of food, its flavors, and cooking techniques.

                                                                                        So far as I know, only the Spartans, of ancient Greece, intentionally embraced food that did not taste good, and the rest of that Hellenic world despised it. Spartans were a perverse lot. What can I say? For the rest of the world throughout our history, we have glommed onto anything that tasted good and taken it home with us. Or accepted it enthusiastically from travelers passing through.

                                                                                        I think this discussion stems from a seriously flawed premise.

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. Louisiana was a French colony once.

                                                                                          1. the strength of culinary influence lies in the difference between colonization and occupation.

                                                                                            1. I just saw this thread and I apologize for not having yet read the whole thing before responding.

                                                                                              A few years ago we spent a couple of weeks in Burkina Faso ( formerly Upper Volta )/West Africa.
                                                                                              The main language is French and the cuisine is mostly French. France certainly left its stamp on this former colony as personally experienced.

                                                                                              1. From my high school history I believe that the Spanish had families with the natives in their colonies; while the English and French tended to bring their families to the colony from the mother country. So that lack of significant mixing inherent in the English and French colonization may have been a factor.

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                  There was a not insignificant inter-relationship between British and Indian folk. The mixed-race community suffered some discrimination in the aftermath of independance. There were around 500,000 at the time but many of the families have now emigrated

                                                                                                2. Oh gosh, I think France did. The first thing I thought of when I read your post was that about 25 or 30 years ago a Vietnamese immigrant in the Washington DC area set up to bake croissants in a warehouse-type building in a strip mall in a Maryland suburb. Because the croissants were (words fail me) and he undersold the fancy-schmancy bakeries around town, this guy soon had the entire restaurant trade in the palm of his talented hand.

                                                                                                  1. I am going to come to this party very late and point something out. Spain's cuisine is full of adopted new world foodstuffs. It might be a more accurate statement that Spain' colonies had a huge impact on the cuisines of Spain and Portugal.

                                                                                                    We don't con't "owe" the foods described to the sailors of Portugal and Spain, the were simply the messengers. The message was written in the America's.

                                                                                                    1. Has there been any mention of a food that is prominent worldwide with no imperial help? Pasta.

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                                                                                                      1. re: Robin Joy

                                                                                                        Migration and marrying people from different communities has always been a way of bringing food traditions to new communities. Italy has been heavily involved in both trade routes as well as people migrating from Italy to other communities.

                                                                                                        While the spread of Chinese food traditions does have some colonial elements, its spread in much of the rest of the world is again that mix of trade routes and migration. Basically when you look at the movement of food traditions there's a mix of colonization/occupation, trade routes (migration of goods + interaction with different cultures), and migration of people.