20 All-Time Greatest Food Inventions
By gigabiting on September 17, 2012
What's the greatest thing since sliced bread?
The Royal Society— the UK's national academy of science whose Fellows include Prince Charles, Stephen Hawking, and more than 80 Nobel laureates—betters that by 20.
The Royal Society Fellows challenged themselves to answer the question What are the most important inventions and innovations in culinary history?
They looked at discoveries and developments that changed the way we eat, but to make the list, an invention also needed to change the way we live.
Based on contributions to accessibility, productivity, aesthetics, and health, these are the Royal Society's picks for the top 20 innovations in the history of food and drink, from the dawn of time to the present:
- The oven
- Threshing machine/combine harvester
- Selective breeding/strains
- The plow
- The fishing net
- Crop rotation
- The pot
- The knife
- Eating utensils
- The cork
- The barrel
- The microwave oven
I do hate to quibble, especially with the eminent scientists and technologists of the Royal Society Fellows, but clearly there are more Nobel laureates than cooks in that group. The microwave oven? The cork?
Personally, I can't imagine life without my immersion blender, although I do recognize that it's not exactly a building block of civilization. But even using the standards of the Royal Society, based on the criteria of accessibility, productivity, aesthetics, and health, I would juggle the list to make room for the thermometer, recipe standardization, the advent of restaurants, and maybe coffee brewing.
Think about the ways in which the personal computer and the internet have transformed modern cooking and eating in just the last decade. Only time will tell which of our modern innovations will really matter in the larger scheme of things, and which will be relegated to cluttering the kitchen cabinets of culinary history.
Gigabiting: where food meets culture and technology.
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