From yucky to flashy: from budget food to gourmet dishes

Dishes that are now seen as delicacies in lots of places often might not have always had such a glamorous history. A selection of dishes that have made it to the top.

Lobster and oysters

Not lobster again!

The ocean washed up masses of lobster along the north-east coast of the USA. European settlers served the ‘cockroaches of the sea’ to their servants or to prison inmates or fed them to their pigs.

Caviar as a bar snack

Now considered the black gold of the seas, caviar was once ‘poor folks’ food’ eaten by Russian fishermen. There were so many sturgeon in the USA that their roe was offered as a free snack in bars.

Oysters for extended families

For a long time in Europe, oysters were considered a cheap meat substitute for use in stews. The first oyster boom was not seen until the 17th century in Paris, at which time oysters were still available cheaply in the UK.

Bouillabaisse: stew made with fish leftovers

What to do with the fish bones, tail and head? Stick them in a cooking pot! The bouillabaisse of the fishermen in Marseilles once consisted of seawater and fish leftovers – until chefs refined the dish with expensive fish and seafood.

Chestnut flour for the poor and for pigs

In the Middle Ages, chestnuts served as a cheap staple food, a flour substitute and even pig feed in many parts of Europe. The upper classes turned their noses up at the sweet chestnut as bread for the poor that’s hard to digest.

Rocket: a peppery weed that nobody wants

The Romans appreciated this peppery leaf vegetable and considered it an aphrodisiac. For a long time, the consensus in Central Europe was that the Romans had got it wrong on this one! Rocket only came back into fashion here when Mediterranean cooking really began to take off.

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