Browse Exhibits (3 total)



The Aztecs first made guacamole prior to the 16th century. Early guacamole was made purely of avocado. The modern name derives from the Nahuati word, āhuacamolli. Āhuacamolli literally translates to “avocado sauce”. Guacamole became incredibly popular in Mesoamerican society because of the abnormal nutritional value of avocados. Avocados have a very high fat and protein content for a fruit. Diets in the society had a relatively low fat content and as such it became a vital element of the diet of the people native to its habitat. In addition, the Aztecs believed guacamole to be an aphrodisiac, further increasing its popularity. As Europeans arrived, they too enjoyed the dish even going as far as to attempt to replicate it with substitutes for the avocado. However, the substitutes failed to reach the same level of popularity, and European interest in the avocado grew dramatically.

Many of the staples of modern guacamole, including the avocado, the tomato, and onions are native to the Americas, and base of Guacamole dates back to the Aztecs’ consumption of mashed avocado, which began long before contact with Europeans. Despite these deep roots, however, the Columbian exchange provided new flavors to this traditional recipe. Ingredients commonly added to Guacamole today, such as garlic and cumin, came first from southern Asia to Europe, then to America through the Columbian exchange. The Persian lime, now a staple to many a guacamole recipe, originated in southern Asia, was produced in large scale in the Middle East, and reached Western Europe around the time of the crusades. Finally, in 1493, it was introduced to the Americas by Columbus on his second journey. 

Despite its origins in Central America, guacamole has been assimilated into American culture. In fact, it is one of the most widely consumed products during the Super Bowl, one of the most significant events in contemporary American culture. This is impressive, especially given that the Super Bowl is not during the typical growing season of avocados, its primary ingredient. One of the main reasons for this rise in popularity is that a NAFTA agreement in the early 90s allowed for avocados to flow freely into the U.S. in the winter from Meso-American countries. by 2008, Mexico was the “largest supplier of avocados to the U.S” [1]. This led to guacamole’s prominence in the United States. In this way, one can trace the route of guacamole’s history from the Aztecs to the Spaniards to modern-day Americans. 

Our group wished to focus on a guacamole recipe that incorporated ingredients familiar to 21st century Americans. Everyone has her favorite type of guacamole: whether it’s from Chipotle, Estrellita’s, or her mother’s kitchen. Almost all guacamole recipes vary in one small unique way or another, but every familiar recipe contains a few necessary staples: a dash of lime to taste, onions, tomatoes, perhaps some chilies for spice, and of course, plenty of avocados. The recipe our group ultimately chose incorporates all of these elements, as well as ground cumin and cilantro leaves. By choosing a recipe that would resonate with all American guacamole-lovers, our readers can trace the now commonplace ingredients back to their origins. We recognize guacamole as a Mexican delicacy, but by researching each individual component of the dish we can pinpoint the specific countries and time period from which all of the ingredients came. This proves to be a fascinating study of the immense diversity found in one seemingly simple ethnic treat.



[1] Greenaway, Twilight. "How Did Avocados Become the Official Super Bowl Food?" Smithsonian. January 30, 2013. Accessed November 11, 2014.

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Hünkar Beğendi


     The history of Hunkar Begendi, or "Sultan's Delight," dates back several centuries, though its origins are contested. The blog from which this specific recipe was ascertained offers two possible traditions explaining the recipe’s origins.[1]

     One popular historical tradition of Hunkar Begendi is that the dish was first created at the Topkapı Palace in Instanbul, for the Ottoman Sultan Murad IV (who reigned 1623-1640).[2] The likelihood of this tradition can be analyzed by considering the availability of the ingredients found in the modern iteration of the traditional recipe [found below]. Sheep meat and dairy-propducts, as well as eggplant,  have always been staples of Near Eastern and Islamic diets, and all three were featured considerably often in popular Medieval dishes.[3] Tomatoes, however, did not enter Europe until the end of the sixteenth-century, and many scholars argue that they did not enter the Middle Eastern diet until the mid-nineteenth-century.[4]

     It is reasonable to suggest that, as part of the recipe’s transformation over time, culinary experiments with tomatoes sparked a change in regional tastes, and tomatoes subsequently entered the traditional recipe for Hunkar Begendi. Also possible is that the dish was originally prepared using the kavata, a rare, green variety of tomato that, according to a seventeenth-century account book, was regularly brought into the sultan’s private apartments for consumption.[5] As this delicacy faded from elite Ottoman cuisine, it could have been replaced by the familiarnred tomato (solanum lycopersicum) in the nineteenth-century. A third possibility is that red tomatoes entered Istanbul earlier than many scholars think (as Melanie Sheehan suggests in her accompanying essay on the fruit) and were available to at least the Ottoman elite. Nevertheless, if Hunkar Begendi was indeed first served in the seventeenth-century, its flavors must have changed significantly over the past four centuries, according to the introduction of new ingredients, the vicissitudes of public tastes, and the varying accessibility of certain ingredients to different communities.

     A second tradition of the recipe’s origin is based on a legend that Hunkar Begendi was first served at Beylerbeyi Palace in 1869, when Empress Eugenie of France visited the Ottoman Empire.  She supposedly enjoyed the dish so much that she asked the Ottoman Sultan Abdülaziz if her chef could be given the recipe, a wish the Ottoman chef was reluctant to grant [6].

     The latter legend offers an interesting insight into the diplomatic world of 1869, just over ten years after the Ottoman Empire, allied with France and Britain, defeated Russia in the Crimean War [7].  Now, Empress Eugenie was again concerned with “the Eastern question” [8], which referred to European fears about the dangerous implications of an Ottoman fall [9].  Thus, throughout the nineteenth century, Napoleon III had actively intervened in Eastern affairs to limit the growth of Russian power, as is evident in his support of the unification of Wallachia and Moldavia, to form a buffer between Russia and the Ottoman Empire [10].

     Of great concern  to Eugenie was the rise of Prussia, whose military had expanded from 300,000 to 1,200,000 soldiers in only four years, from 1866 until 1870 [11].  Such a growing power in the East posed a threat to both Ottoman and French authority. As France prepared for impending war, the empress claimed, “I felt it was my duty to maintain in the East, with the aid of two friendly nations” [12].  It seems quite likely, then, that the Empress would have traveled to the Ottoman Empire in 1869 for diplomatic purposes; indeed, France would be at war by July of 1870 [13].  Considering Ottoman military reforms introduced in 1869, which were expected to produce an army of 702,000 men, a renewed alliance with the Ottomans may have been the purpose of Eugenie’s visit [14].




[1]Almost Turkish Recipes,

[2] Ibid.

[3]Rachel Laudan. California Studies in Food and Culture, Volume 43 : Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013), 132. Accessed October 26, 2014. ProQuest ebrary. Examples include lamb in

[4]"Tomato". In Cambridge World History of Food. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. (accessed November 4, 2014.)

[5]Tülay Artan, “Aspects of the Ottoman Elite’s Food Consumption,” in Consumption Studies and the History of the Ottoman Empire, 1550-1922: An Introduction, ed. Donals Quataert (Albany: SUNY Press, 1999), 112.

[6] Almost Turkish Recipes.

[7] Encyclopedia BritannicaOnline, s.v. “Crimean War.”

[8] Memoirs of the Empress Eugenie, ed. Comte Maurice Fleury (London: D. Appleton and Company, 1920), 141, Google Books.

[9] Donald Quataert, The Ottoman Empire, 1700-1922 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 57.

[10] William Miller, The Ottoman Empire and Its Successors 1801-1927 (London: Frank Cass & Co. Ltd., 1966), 243.

[11] Virginia H. Aksan, Ottoman Wars 1700-1870: An Empire Besieged (Harlow, UK: Pearson Education Limited, 2007), 478.

[12] Memoirs of the Empress Eugenie, 141.

[13] Encyclopedia BritannicaOnline, s.v. “Franco-German War.”

[14] Aksan, 478.



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“A reaping-hook fits my hand better than a governor’s sceptre; I’d rather have my fill of gazpacho’ than be subject to the misery of a meddling doctor…”[1] Despite its humble implications in Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote, gazpacho has a long and complicated history that has graced the palettes of both the upper and lower echelons of societies all over the world. Drawing from the culinary traditions of Arab and Roman culture, and the introduction of New World ingredients, gazpacho became a standard Spanish dish first in the province of Andalusia.  Gazpacho is a soup, traditionally served cold, that is a blended mixture of olive oil, pepper, vinegar, onions, garlic, bread, and water. With the introduction of the tomato and cucumber from the New World and Asia respectively, the refreshing vinegar and olive oil-based soup evolved into a decidedly Spanish dish.  The presence of the Moors in Spain until 1492  influenced the cuisine of the region, including gazpacho.  The name “gazpacho” is derived from the Mozarabic, (Spanish Christians living under Moorish rule), word caspa meaning “fragments,” referencing the small pieces of bread which were ripped up and served with the soup. 

Andalusian gazpacho’s relatively recent popularity with its incorporation of New World ingredients soared when Eugenia de Montijo, the wife of Emperor Napoleon III, introduced the recipe to France in the nineteenth century. However, gazpacho’s complex history suggests it had a variety of other influential versions which contributed to the internationally-renowned Andalusian gazpacho. For example, gazpacho was not always necessarily served cold nor as a liquid salad. In Juan de la Mata’s Arte de reposteria, published in 1747, gazpacho was known as capon de galera in which bread crusts were soaked in water and placed in a sauce of anchovy bones, garlic, vinegar, sugar, salt, and olive oil, until the bread softened and various fruits and vegetables were added[2]. In addition, one of gazpacho’s original forms with bread, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, salt, and water which was then pounded in a mortar, had been served hot during the winter, a tradition deriving from the Arab occupation of Spain from the eighth to the thirteenth centuries. Hints of Roman culinary tradition also appear in the evolution of gazpacho, given that the use of vinegar in gazpachos served cold like the popular Andalusian gazpacho, refer to the Roman tradition of adding vinegar to food for refreshment during warm weather[3]

Due to the myriad of possible combinations of ingredients and Spain’s widespread trade network, gazpacho was a dish that faced no social or class barriers. “In Andalusia, during the summer, a bowl of gazpacho is commonly ready in every house of an evening, and is partaken of by every person who comes in.”[4] Olive oil, vinegar, garlic, and bread were available to the common people from antiquity. These ingredients were staples, if not the entirety, of humble Spanish cooking from the Middle Ages through the Early Modern period. For the lower classes of Andalusian society, New World ingredients were not readily available for a time. For many, just a simple recipe of gazpacho prompted them to say, “Buenas migas hay,” or “there are good crumbs,” emphasizing the “common poverty of their fare.”[5]  Spain’s extensive trade connections with its colonies in the New World allowed the tomato to reach the lower classes of society and become a foundational ingredient in this dish.  Likewise, cucumbers, lacking in high nutritional value, did not reach the common people until the latter part of the early modern period as the ingredient was not hearty enough to warrant becoming a priority in the typical early modern kitchen.

Besides its prevalence as a common tasty dish, gazpacho was used for medicinal purposes as well. The blended salad was believed to be effective in treating stomach issues[6].  One of the earliest appearances of the recipe is, in fact, a sort of early modern prescription in a guidebook. The basic combinations of the ingredients were seen as an effective tool to “conserve health, free oneself from the staunching of blood in the belly, [...] soften the intestines, [and] prevent putrefaction.”[7]  Although medicinal properties are no longer attributed to the meal, gazpacho still has a pervasive presence in the modern world. The New York Times article, “Gazpacho: Not Hot and Not a Bother,” presented the traditional dish as a refreshing choice for hot summery weather[8]. Gazpacho has also served as an important plot point in popular television shows including The Simpsons, Psych, Red Dwarf, and Chowder. The cold blended soup seems to be an oddity in today’s culture, but the variability and simplicity of this recipe makes it a thriving survivor of the early modern period.

[1] Miguel Cervantes, “Don Quixote Chapter LIII,”, Accessed November 9, 2014,

[2] Clifford A. Wright, “Food History: Gazpacho,”, Accessed November 9,

[3] Alan Davidson, The Oxford Companion to Food (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 333.

[4] Richard Ford, A Hand-book for Travellers in Spain: And Readers at Home: Describing the Country and Cities, the Natives and Their Manners, the Antiquities, Religion, Legends, Fine Arts, Literature, Sports, and Gastronomy: With Notices on Spanish History. Vol. 1, (London: J. Murray, 1845), 68-69.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Thomas de Salazar, Tratado Del Uso De La Quina, (Madrid: En La Imprenta De La Viuda De Ibarra, 1791), 297.

[7] Vicente de Lardizabal, “Catalog Record: Consideraciones Politico-Medicas Sobre La... | Hathi Trust Digital Library,” Catalog.Hathitrust.Org, 2014,

[8] Mark Bittman, “Gazpacho: Not Hot And Not A Bother,”, 2014,

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