Modern Foods to Avoid When Writing Historical Fiction

Ancient Food Alert for Historical Fiction Writers

Chopped avocado on chopping board
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You may know that the civilizations of the ancient Mediterranean and the Middle East did not have potatoes or yams, that these foods came from the New World and were brought to Europe after the explorers started crossing the Atlantic. More arresting is the fact that Italy, whose culinary sphere we associate with tomato products, and southern Asia/India whose cuisine we may associate with hot peppers, had to wait for the same explorers for their flavor: Tomatoes and peppers (capiscum, not the spice Piper nigrum) are not native to Eurasia.


Foods They Didn't Eat in the Classical World

Here is a list of 40 foods that are indigenous to the western hemisphere and therefore would probably be inappropriate in a work of historical fiction set in classical antiquity:

  1. Avocado
  2. Blueberries
  3. Cranberry
  4. Strawberry
  5. Chokecherry
  6. Concord grape
  7. Cactus pear
  8. Grapefruit
  9. Guava
  10. Papaya
  11. Passion fruit
  12. Pineapple
  13. Bell peppers
  14. Chile peppers
  15. Pumpkins
  16. Winter squashes
  17. Summer squashes
  18. Tomatillo
  19. Tomato
  20. Amaranth
  21. Corn (maize)
  22. Quinoa
  23. Wild rice
  24. Green beans
  25. Kidney beans
  26. Lima beans
  27. Peanut
  28. Chocolate
    No, the ancient Greeks did not refer to chocolate as the food of the gods
  29. Sassafras
  30. Vanilla
  31. Arrowroot
  32. Jerusalem artichoke
  33. Jicama
  34. Potato
  35. Sweet Potato
  36. Black walnut
  37. Brazil nut
  38. Hickory nut
  39. Macadamia
  40. Pecan

Should a work of fiction be set in the Americas, the list of inappropriate items would, of course, be entirely different.


( Food Museum