The Daily Meal, a food-oriented website, has come up with a list of The 50 Most Important Inventions (and Discoveries) in Food and Drink. It’s a pretty interesting list, and at the very least got me thinking about how much we take for granted and how important so many of those simple items are to the enjoyment of our lives.
The process of creating the list began with saying to yourself. “I simply couldn’t cook without my….”
Everybody who prepares food at home (or professionally, for that matter) has an implement or appliance or five or ten of them that they consider essential to their culinary practices. But how many of these things really matter in the larger scheme of things? How many are truly essential, or at least very important, to the preparation — and the ultimate consumption — of food (and let’s throw drink in here as well, just to wash it all down with)?
We were sitting around talking about this one day and came up with the obvious candidates: pots and pans, the knife, the oven, the (hey, we’re up-to-date around here) food processor… Then somebody said, well, what about the things nobody invented but somebody figured out or harnessed — like, er, fire, without which cooking as we understand it would never have been born? And what about methods of collecting food, means of storing or preserving it, ways of taming it? We started making a list, including not just things we have in our own kitchens (salt, four-sided grater) but also natural phenomena (fermentation) and specialized tools (sous-vide equipment — which we don’t have in our own kitchens yet).
We decided to leave out foodstuffs — miraculous innovations that became veritable building blocks of civilization, like bread, wine, cheese, vinegar, bacon-cheeseburgers — though we did include two substances that we ingest, salt and gelling agents. We left out all the vehicles and devices with which food is planted and harvested (with one exception; see below); we omitted broad concepts like the domestication of animals and the development of genetic studies, though both have obviously had enormous effect on what and how we eat (among other things); we decided not to include means of conveying information about food, from the book to the iPad.
What we ended up with is a list of things that we, yes, simply couldn’t cook — or eat and/or drink — without. As usual with such compendiums, we have been both selective and subjective. We’ve probably missed some obvious and vital items, and we have frankly allowed ourselves to have a little fun here and there. Should you decide to assemble such a list yourself, of course, it would almost certainly not be the same as ours.
Here’s the first five:
- The Knife
- The Spoon
- The Pot
All pretty important, no doubt. And at number 6? Drum roll, please …
- 6. Fermentation
Awesome, well-deserved. Seven more alcohol-related items also made the list.
- 9. The Barrel
- 10. Wine Press
- 13. Distillation
- 18. Cork
- 25. Pasteurization
- 26. Refrigeration
- 50. The Pull-Tab
Some other faves that made the cut included the blender, the restaurant and the fork. Personally, I would have put the Deep-Fryer higher than 32, but then I probably eat fried food every day. But it’s a fun list, despite many commenters taking it way too seriously. Here you can see the full list. But I have to ask, why do we always say something is the best thing since sliced bread. Besides that, what would you add?