Science & Tech
The 20 best inventions in food history
Britain’s Royal Society of Science named the most significant inventions in food and drink this past week. The fridge took top honors, followed close by Pasteurization and the oven. Surprisingly, fermentation (or why we have beer) didn’t even crack the top 10.
Here are the results:
The Royal Society named refrigeration the number one invention in the history of food. One of the biggest annoyances in all of history is how to keep perishables from perishing. Humans quickly discovered that keeping things cool improved shelf life. But manufacturing cold was a whole different headache, a problem that wasn’t sufficiently solved until the 20th Century, when the first modern refrigerators came out. And without refrigeration, we wouldn’t have popsicles, hot pockets, or cold beer.
Frenchman Louis Pasteur’s name will live on as long as there is milk or beer. Drinking milk used to be like Russian roulette, you never knew when you get some random disease and die. Pasteur’s process of heating up and immediately cooling liquids made the world a safer (and tastier) place.
Another weapon humans developed in our eternal war against microorganisms is canning, a process of preserving food by sealing it in an airtight container, therefore shielding it from those evil pathogens. Canning is how we got ketchup, Chef Boyardee and Spam.
Humans have had ovens for millennia. The first ones were used to barbecue mammoth.
Irrigation, a method of bringing water to agriculture, was a huge step in settling us down to civilization.
- Threshing Machine
The 19th Century invention of the thresher, a machine which separates grain, made farming a whole lot easier and efficient.
Baking is way of cooking food, like cupcakes, with dry heat.
- Selective Breeding
Because of selective breeding, we have tastier, plumper and more efficient crops and livestock. Corn, for example, started out as a tiny little grass seed.
- Grinding and Milling
Because of milling we have flour. Because of flour, we have Wonder Bread.
Along with irrigation and selective breeding, the plough was an ancient innovation that made settling into permanent communities feasible.
Fermentation is why we have beer. We can’t explain why refrigeration is better.
- The Fishing Net
The fishing net, invented long ago by our ancient ancestors, is what made humans more successful than bears.
- Crop Rotation
Crop rotation is the process of shifting the variety of crops grown in a single field. This preserves the viability of the soil and keeps crop yields up.
- The Pot
A simple invention, but how would we boil water or cook rice without it? Also, good for drumming when you are four years old.
- The Knife
Saving us from choking on big pieces since the Stone Age.
- Eating Utensils
Just imagine how nasty our fingers would always be if we didn’t have forks or spoons.
- The Cork
Corks keep bottles holding everything from wine to medicine from spilling their contents. Another simple, but necessary, invention.
- The Barrel
A cheap way to hold a lot of liquid, barrels have been holding beer, wine and monkeys for thousands of years.
- The Microwave Oven
Or, how the Manhattan Project made life easier and more Hot Pocket-filled.
Without the ancient tradition of frying, we wouldn’t have fish-and-chips, funnel cakes, or the childhood obesity epidemic.