Columbian Exchange and Foods Popular in America

Categories: Cooking

Nothing compares to a good home cooked, comfort, dinner like spaghetti and meatballs. Knowing that America is often called the 'melting pot', because of the quantity of different ethnicities living in the U.S. it's hard not to wonder where different foods became so popular in America.

Surprisingly enough, most famous dishes, like meatballs and spaghetti, often have roots tied to other regions of the globe. For instance, spaghetti, most known to European-Italians, actually has roots originating in other countries. Believe it or not, if one was to travel to Italy, one would not find a dish named 'spaghetti and meatballs'.

Even though the American people associate spaghetti and meatballs to Italians. The dish didn't originate there. The round blob of meat in Italy is known as polpettes, and are mixed with different variety of meats. For instance, chicken, fish, and turkey are common served in the meal. Polpettes are also knowingly different by the size, and style choice of cooking.

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For example, Polpettes are, small grounded blobs of meat, which usually do not exceed the size of a golf ball. That are normally served plain and in some sort of soup, unlike spaghetti. Spaghetti and meatballs originated right here in America.

During the late 19th century and early 20th, was the beginnings of Italian immigrants assimilating into the U.S. Resulting in immigrants living in poverty, and did not have the income to support their families. Italian immigrants would often find the cheapest quality of meats. Which they would then mix with any other staple in the home, for a better taste.

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According to Marissa Landrigun, from the Atlantic post, the specific origin of the meatball is still unknown. The candidate most likely seems to be the, Kofta. Kofta consists of grounded meat, chicken, etc., mixed with rice, or other mashed lentils. According to Landrigun, Kofta originated with the Persians, who then passed it on to the Arabs.

'According to The Oxford Companion to Food, kofta appears in some of the earliest Arabic cookbooks, where it consisted of ground lamb rolled into orange-sized balls and glazed with egg yolk and saffron. They likely traveled from the Arab world along trade routes to Greece, North Africa, and Spain'. Now knowing where the hypothesis of where the 'meatball' originated from, it makes sense as how the Italians adapted to the style of cooking. First came the meat, then came the sauce! Spaghetti sauce originated from Naples and derives from the Italian word "marinara," meaning sailor. Spaghetti seems to be a newer founded food, because the earliest recording of spaghetti with tomato sauce was found in 1790. One theory about Pasta was that it was first documented in Italy during the 13th century, when Marco Polo, a famous traveler, returned from China. However, archaeologists believe central Asian was where pasta first originated and somehow traveled westward. Even though it is still unclear, archaeologists believe that Arabs are the ones who introduced Europe to 'the pasta'. When thinking of spaghetti most people associate it with Parmesan cheese. During the middle ages, monks of the area started making distinctive cheese in Parma. Then came the renaissance era, and by that time, people where making distinct cheese of their area. By the 14th century, Parmesan cheese had traveled to Tuscany, Italy. Where the cheese was shipped to other Mediterranean ports. A dash of cheese goes along way, but so does a dash of olive oil. Olive oil is an essential oil for the meal. Without olive oil, the meat would stick to the pan. Which would cause for a ruined dinner.

So, the first discovery of Olive oil must have been very revolutionary. It is best speculated that the first olive tree was found in Persia, around 5000 B.C. It is thought that, the olive trees were introduced somewhere east of Persia and spread westward across the Mediterranean Sea. The Columbian exchange is the process of: the transportation of humans, plants, animals, crops, and disease. Due to the Columbian exchange, foods from all over the globe have become known from countries known wide. Spaghetti and meatballs for example, once new trading routes were established, it was easier to transport goods and immigrants to new regions. Without the Columbian exchange, immigrants would have not made it to America. Resulting in foods to not have evolved in other countries.

Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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Columbian Exchange and Foods Popular in America. (2024, Feb 06). Retrieved from

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