Food is the basic element of human existence. Since ancient times, human beings have opened their own evolutionary door for food, and food has also transitioned from pure natural raw food to processed food. As the understanding of the world becomes more and more in-depth, human beings begin to think again: Which foods are delicious and can they be used as ingredients? Some foods that were considered inedible may turn out to be tasty, and vice versa. For example, margarine was initially considered a “gospel for the poor”, but later evolved into a substance harmful to the human body under the influence of black-hearted capital. For another example, healthy tomatoes were initially regarded as “poisonous” food, which can be fatal if eaten, but later found to be not only non-toxic but also good in taste, but the previous eating method was wrong. These stories are the “healthy” standards that have been constantly refreshed in the historical development of food.
Butter that embodies “humanity”
Butter is a kind of fat-based food mixed with a small amount of protein extracted from animal dairy products. Not long after humans mastered the relevant skills of animal husbandry, the Huns who had been galloping on the Eurasian steppe for a long time accidentally discovered that the milk of cattle and sheep originally stored in containers was stratified, and the stratified milk of cattle and sheep not only It has a different flavor and is more delicious than the original milk. After years of exploration and summarization, when the milk is poured into a container and vigorously stirred with a wooden stick, some white semi-solid substances can float on the upper layer of the milk, and at this time the bottom of the semi-solid substances has basically become Tasteless liquid.
This important discovery can quickly remove the moisture of milk in a short time and make it into a semi-solid state, which not only tastes mellow, but also makes the energy in this food more concentrated. That’s how butter came out.
Later, the nomads invented several methods of extracting butter from milk. The taste of butter produced by different methods is also different. Butter was gradually accepted by Europeans due to the cultural collision between the ancient Roman civilization and the northern barbarians Gauls, Germans and Vikings. After all, for Europeans who can’t steam steamed buns but can only bake bread, spreading some butter on the hard bread that can be used as a “weapon” not only softens the bread, but also makes its taste pleasant. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, the productivity of European society has been greatly improved, and butter has become one of the basic foods of the entire European society. But in the middle of the 19th century, an agricultural crisis caused by climate change caused food prices in Europe to soar, and a wave of dissatisfaction with food among the lower classes of society rapidly fermented.
In desperation, the then French Emperor Napoleon III had to solve this problem in order to preserve his reputation as the “Emperor of the French People”, and his approach was to provide cheap “butter” to the bottom of the French people. Soon, French chemists came up with a solution: because the main component of butter is cow fat, and its flavor component is casein in milk, so in the process of slaughtering cows and sheep, as long as it is used as Isn’t it low-cost “butter” to add a small amount of milk powder or cheese to the discarded fat? This is how margarine was invented. The margarine looked neither “yellow” nor very creamy at the time. Because milk powder and cheese are the source of the taste of margarine, if you add too much, the cost will catch up with real butter. However, the cost of fat from cattle and sheep leftovers in the slaughtering industry is low, and with a small amount of milk, the price of margarine will naturally not be too high. The French proletariat at that time ate this kind of “butter”, and they no longer took up arms and took to the streets of Paris to riot.
The problem of how to make ends meet in the bottom of European society was solved. Once this plan was worked out, other European countries followed suit. In the process of imitating, another “smart” chemist used his brains. The margarine made by tossing beef and sheep leftovers is still limited in raw materials, and the beef suet used for filling is not enough. If it is only for fat, can it be replaced by cheaper vegetable oil? The sources of vegetable oils that are also “fat” can be diversified-coconut oil, palm oil, etc. are in a solid state at room temperature. What a convenient and easy-to-obtain raw material! But there is a problem with these vegetable oils – taste. Vegetable oil doesn’t have a bit of beef and sheep smell, and what’s more troublesome is that it often has the taste of the plant itself.
However, in the hands of “chemical magicians”, it is no longer a problem to turn vegetable oil into margarine. If the taste is not “fragrant” enough, chemists can solve it by artificially synthesizing flavors; if the color is not “yellow” enough, carotene can be artificially extracted for food dyeing. As long as the proportion of ingredients is correct and there is no ox hair, the margarine factory will continue to provide you with fragrant and yellow “butter”. In the process of processing vegetable oils, the most surprising discovery is that those vegetable oils that are liquid at room temperature can also become solid. As long as two hydrogen atoms are added to the last chemical bond of the unsaturated fatty acid in vegetable oil, it becomes a so-called “saturated fatty acid”. Finally, filter out those substances that affect the taste, and there will be a piece of white and tasteless “vegetable fat”! In this way, not only coconut oil and palm oil can be processed, but now cottonseed oil, soybean oil, and rapeseed oil can all be used.
A butter mixer in a butter factory.
Above: Napoleon III. Below: The technology of margarine was passed from France to the Netherlands, and after crossing the ocean to the United States, the Americans commercialized this process. The picture is an advertisement for Cordon Bleu margarine at the time.
Hydrogenated vegetable oils are the most important food source of trans fatty acids. Foods such as margarine, coffee mate, Western-style pastries, potato chips, and pearl milk tea all contain hydrogenated vegetable oil.
The promotion of vegetable oils such as palm oil has not been smooth sailing, and its role in the traditional dairy supply chain has been controversial.
Many people have not noticed a social phenomenon, that is, the global population was actually less than 1.5 billion in the early 19th century, but it was close to 2 billion in the early 20th century. The world has experienced two world wars plus an unprecedented one in 1918 After the impact of the “Spanish Flu”, the world’s population continued to grow to 2.5 billion. What do the large numbers of new populations in Europe and North America rely on to feed their stomachs? There is really no choice but margarine. Originally hydrogenating vegetable oil was a good idea, further reducing the cost of margarine. Even the environmentalism in developed countries after the war turned this “vegetable fat” into a label of “environmental protection and health”, and fought a turnaround for margarine, getting rid of the cheap and low-end hat. However, in the 1990s, it was suddenly discovered that the trans fatty acids in hydrogenated vegetable oils have serious negative effects on cardiovascular health. And those unsaturated fatty acids that make vegetable oil not solidify are really good things for health.
As a result, countries have formulated relevant laws and regulations to clearly limit the amount of trans fatty acids added in food. In November 2011, the “General Rules on Nutrition Labeling of Prepackaged Foods” promulgated by the Ministry of Health of China stipulated: “When food ingredients contain or use hydrogenated and (or) partially hydrogenated fats and oils in the production process, they should be marked in the nutritional composition table. Trans fat (acid) content.” People’s ever-increasing cognitive abilities have played a big joke on themselves. However, don’t overturn all the margarine with one shot. Those margarines made of palm oil and coconut oil have natural saturated fatty acids that are healthier than authentic butter. Of course, you should also pay attention to whether the added flavors and pigments are excess. The historical story of “margarine” is also a profile of the continuous development of human cognition, and the story of whether tomatoes can be eaten is another “inspirational” story of salted fish turning around.
Are tomatoes “poisonous”?
Only because of the appearance and the shape of the fruit, tomato was classified as “persimmon” after it was introduced to China, and its correct name “tomato” is a learned name. Tomatoes, as a nightshade plant native to the Americas, did not have a good reputation in the local area at first. The original tomato was grown in the high mountains of the Andes plateau at high altitudes. The fruit was actually very small, about the size of a fingernail, and the color was as bright as today. But because the peel is thick and hard, the immature fruit is particularly sour, so the Incas in South America named it “Wolf Peach”.
The Indians who established the Aztec Empire introduced this bright-fruited plant to Mexico, where the climate is relatively mild, in order to decorate the gardens of the nobles. In different climates, the tomato fruit size gradually increases, and the pulp becomes juicy and delicious. When the bold Aztecs began to eat tomatoes and formed a large-scale plantation, the Spanish colonists with muskets and metal weapons came in. After the Spanish colonists plundered the gold and silver treasures of the Aztec Empire, they turned their attention to the local crops in line with the principle of “thieves don’t leave empty space, it’s better to move”. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, peanuts, cocoa and tobacco are all within the scope of their plunder, and the delicacy of tomatoes is no exception.
However, after the Spanish colonists returned to Europe with the tomato seedlings full of joy, when they presented the cultivated fruits to the Spanish nobles, an oolong appeared.
After the nobles tasted this delicacy, some had unbearable stomach cramps, some had vomiting and diarrhea, some had mental disorders and convulsions, and some had jaundice. Considering the level of science and technology in Europe in the 16th century, doctors, chemists and alchemists were almost in the same line, so no one knew what caused this phenomenon, and it can only be determined that the fruit of this plant is “poisonous”!
When other crops brought back to Europe greatly improved the living conditions of Europeans: corn and potatoes could feed the poor at the bottom, and sweet potatoes could fill Europeans’ stomachs and taste the sweetness that was very expensive at that time, The crunchiness of peanuts can satisfy the tastes of nobles, and even cocoa can be used as a leisure drink, but tomatoes can only be preserved as potted gardening plants because of their bright and beautiful colors. It wasn’t until decades later that bold people began to try the taste of tomatoes, and they were indeed not poisoned, and tomatoes gradually became a delicacy for Europeans. Are tomatoes poisonous, or just plain delicious? What’s the problem?
Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century brought the tomato to Europe.
Tomatoes in an 18th century oil painting. It took centuries of cultivation for the tomatoes to grow into large fruit.
Today’s tomatoes have become synonymous with “healthy food” because of their rich vitamins and the synergistic effect of lycopene.
In fact, this involves human beings’ understanding of another thing-lead. Lead was known as a metal long before the Bronze Age. Because this metal is easy to obtain, has a low melting point, and is not easy to rust, humans have a preference for it, and it is the most suitable choice to use it as a vessel. In particular, the ancient Romans liked to use lead vessels to store wine, because wine in copper vessels will have a coppery taste, and wooden vessels will quickly make the wine sour, while lead vessels will make the wine taste sweeter ! At the same time, using lead utensils to hold vinegar will produce a very sweet white crystal. This white crystal is the so-called “lead sugar”. In the ancient times of honey, “lead sugar” was very valuable. Because “lead sugar” is precious, no one is willing to use it more, and “lead sugar” poisoning is mainly chronic poisoning, which also leads to the habit of using lead for hundreds of years.
Until the end of the 16th century, European nobles still mostly used utensils such as lead plates, bowls and cups. After all, lead utensils were much more decent than poor wooden plates and pottery bowls. What happens when a tomato loaded with organic acids hits a lead vessel? The lead that was originally infiltrated into the food slowly was dissolved by the organic acid of the tomato in large quantities, and after being eaten by the nobles, the lead poisoning that should have been slow onset suddenly turned into acute lead poisoning. Therefore, due to human beings’ incorrect understanding of lead, tomatoes have been blamed. In the following decades, Europeans learned how to make ceramics, which made ceramic vessels available to the middle and lower classes of society. Those few people who first tasted tomatoes boldly can say with confidence: “The new variety of ‘eggplant’ is fried in oil and eaten with salt and pepper. It tastes good!” Rehabilitated!
In order to survive, human beings continue to explore food. Whether it is to explore whether a certain food can be eaten, or to explore artificial processing methods, we will inevitably be limited by our limited ability to understand the world in this process. Every different historical stage has a similar story. Similarly, human beings’ pursuit of food safety and health will not stop in the past and will not stop in the future.