Wednesday, August 20, 2014
A New Chapter in the History of Peasant Food
The term peasant food refers to food that was easily affordable by the lower class. Peasant food does not limit itself to one culture or period in time. In the simplest sense peasant food was food made from the leftovers of what the elite were consuming.
In recent years there has been some romanticizing of the peasant diet... of warm stews and bread and beans. What is left out of this fantasy is that many of these soups were made with beaks, tails, and entrails. And those soft, crusty bread rolls were often made from the chaff, stalks, sawdust, grass, and even tree bark which were separated when the real grains were collected. A popular peasant dish in Europe was (and still is) headcheese, which is not an actual dairy cheese, but a jellied terrine of pig or cow head. In Florence a dish called lampredotto is made from a cow's fourth stomach. Pottage was a British stew in the Middle Ages made from whatever was available. In good days this may have been pleasant enough, but in the harsh of winter I would rather not even guess at the ingredients. Soul food in the United States has its roots in peasant food. Many West African foods such as okra and rice got mixed with leftover plantation food of the European slave owners. A common food of this culture was chitterlings made from pork small intestines.
So what might current peasant food be? Well, it would be whatever food is made from the waste of the elite. The modern day elite are the large corporations, big businesses, and factory farms. What cut of meat is your hot dog made of? Processed cheese is made from waste products of the dairy industry and often is made with rennet, which is derived from the stomach of calves. Not to mention additives, artificial flavorings, saturated oils, and other chemicals which are added to many processed foods merely because they are cheap and readily available.
The truth is that even some of the worst peasant foods in history still may have better nutrition than what has been made acceptable in the Standard American Diet. The difference is that we don't have to live this way- we only think we do. You are not a slave because of your lack of wealth. You are a slave if you believe or accept the lies which have been handed to you. I know you are tired after a long day of work, as I am, but you can make real food, by yourself, with fresh fruits and vegetables. It doesn't have to take any longer than it would to throw a frozen pizza in the oven or wait to be seated at Applebee's. You are not a peasant, you deserve better.