The Renaissance Connection Innovations: 1400-2020
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Time Telescope: Trade & Exploration: Food industry grows through Exploration and Trade


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Kiwifruit (then known as "Chinese Gooseberries" or "Yang Tao") plant first exported from China to US in 1904 and to New Zealand in 1906. By 1980, both California and New Zealand kiwifruit had become popular with the introduction of French nouvelle/California cuisine.

Clarence Birdseye's patent drawing
Clarence Birdseye's patent drawing

1923—Frozen Food
Clarence Birdseye invents a quick-freeze method of preserving food. By 1937 General Foods was selling 57 different types of frozen vegetables, fruits, and meats shipping them throughout the United States using refrigerated railroad cars.

Piggly Wiggly storefront
Piggly Wiggly storefront
Image courtesy Piggly Wiggly Co.

1916—First Grocery Store
Clarence Saunders opens America's first self-serve grocery store, the Piggly Wiggly, in Memphis. This is the first time customers can serve themselves using grocery baskets and open shelves with product.

Painting of scurvy sufferers
Painting of scurvy sufferers
Royal Navy Corporate Communication,

1800s—Scurvy Solved
Long voyages without sufficient a proper supply of fresh fruit and vegetables led to outbreaks of scurvy onboard ships. By 1800s explorers and merchants discover that fresh fruits along with proper nutrition could help prevent outbreaks of the disease.

Studio of Frans Snyders: Game Stall at Market
Studio of Frans Snyders, (Flemish)
Game Stall at Market
Oil on canvas
Samuel H. Kress Collection, 1961.

1625/37—The Renaissance Connection
The painting Game Stall at Market depicts a bountiful, yet somewhat arresting portrayal of an early 17th century market scene. Daily or weekly town markets were a very important part of everyday life during the Renaissance as the grocery stores of today did not exist. Instead food was grown, game hunted, and livestock raised for sale at local markets. Fresh fish were also offered at coastal markets adding to the wide variety of provisions available. As trade and exploration increased, food including fruit and spices were bought, sold, and traded at local markets throughout Europe.

As populations grew, town markets became a meeting-place for people and goods of all descriptions with products linked to a given area surrounding the town and sometimes from place faraway. By the 15th century, large powerful towns throughout Europe were drawing goods from regions very far away thereby increasing the diversity of products. Many of the interesting spices, fruits, and wild game seen in today's grocery stores were available during the Renaissance although the preparation, preservation methods, and presentation of the foods varied greatly from what we see lining the shelves of our local grocery stores.


Spice trade driven by European need for food preservation. Thrived in Venice because of the sea trading power that they gained during and after the Black Plague.

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