Food History: Before there were Restaurants, there were Street Kitchens

Published by Friday, October 5, 2012 Permalink 0
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by Jonell Galloway

Some form of restaurant has existed ever since humans have been eating. The phenomenon grew as large cities formed, and as people traveled on the ancient silk roads in the Middle East and China, and in the Roman Empire, often in the form of inns where one could both sleep and eat.

Street kitchens and food trucks are by no means a modern invention. Jean-Robert Pitte says in his  essay “The Rise of the Restaurant”:

Throughout the world, the principal type of eating establishment has always been the street kitchen, where a person can buy a precooked dish for a modest sum. They have always existed in China and still exist throughout Asia, even in industrial and postindustrial countries such as Japan…Street restaurants are still common in Latin America and the Middle East and Africa… (from A Culinary History: Food, edited by Jean-Louis Flandrin and Massimo Montanari)


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1 Comment
  • Elatia Harris
    March 15, 2013

    So right! Until quite recently, luxurious dining had to take place only in a very well-appointed home. For everyone else, it was street food or a humble traiteur. The beautiful restaurant where you could be regaled with the best is a new development, historically. Remember where Lucien and friends ate in Splendeurs et miseres…? Food they could barely put a name to, in a new-fangled joint called a restaurant.