As you probably know from my story, I am a historian. I’ve been studying history for a good 10 years—and I still do. This year I also started a course in biodynamic farming, but I didn’t drop my education in history. At the moment, I am also working on my MA in History.
Together with my passion for gardening, nutrition, yoga teaching and other wonderful projects I work on (I may tell you later about them), it takes all possible time in my life. This is the reason I haven’t been posting recently.
I find it tricky to abstract from historical research and concentrate on my blogging. Even these academic stylistic bits and bobs don’t help. They keep popping out here and there in my posts when I’m trying to deliver something non-academic. Therefore, I thought, I won’t fight it, and I’d be a historian for a bit. Lucky you, huh?
Today, almond milk is going to be my historical target 🙂
One of my male friends recently mentioned that he doesn’t trust plant-based milk alternatives as they seem, for him, a heavily processed modern invention. Therefore, he prefers cow’s milk as it seems to be more reliable and time-proven.
Indeed, some types of packaged plant-based milk alternatives have a lot of additional ingredients meant to enhance the taste and prolong shelf life of the product, such as carrageenan* and maltodextrin**, which are
obviously ‘generally recognized’ by my ‘favourite’ FDA and EPA as safe.
So these are obviously modern inventions—but not the milk itself. These additional ingredients are indeed horrible, but as well as in almond milk, they are also found in many other foods. However, despite these possible ingredients, which are NOT used by every single producer, almond milk is an amazing replacement for animal milk. This is why almond milk has been known for generations.
In the middle ages, almond milk was really popular because animal milk was difficult to depend upon since it had very short shelf life. Therefore, almond milk was widely used in this period. In fact, recipes with this ingredient can be found in many cookbooks.
Medieval cooks of the 15th century were probably even more nimble than modern raw vegan gurus from the posh cafes in Chelsea. Almond oil, almond butter, almond cheese and many other things were invented by our medieval predecessors, who (I can assure you) have never heard of maltodextrin and carrageenan. Well, as far as I’m concerned…
Almond milk mixed with seeds of white poppy is mentioned in chapter 73 of the Herball, or Generall Historie of Plantes, gathered by botanist and herbalist John Gerarde in 1636 as a cure for insomnia.
The manuscript recipe book of Grace Carteret, 1st Countess of Granville also lists two different ways to prepare almond milk.
Almond milk is mentioned in The Fyrst Boke of the Introduction of Knowledge Made by Andrew Borde, of Physycke Doctor. a Compendyous Regyment; Or, a Dyetary of Helth Made in Mountpyllier , where recipes had been collected from medieval sources and then printed in 1870. This plant-based milk alternative together with rice potage is recommended in the book as a mollifying remedy for the belly.
Along with almond milk, our predecessors used other nut alternatives, too. I’m sure they would have been surprised to hear that their good old cheap and well-tested milk is considered a modern invention by some people in the 21st century. They’d also probably be surprised to learn it’s added to life-saving healthy smoothies along with spirulina and hemp protein. (I’m sure they wouldn’t know what the hell that is, either!)
I might have opened your eyes now, but most of the things that exist or were ’invented’ or discovered in our lifetime (except for technical innovations) had been here many years ago but then were simply forgotten. Yep, that goes for this new pair of flared jeans from Net-a-Porte and, unfortunately, Helmsley & Helmsley broth, too.
Drink your milk, and don’t forget to study history!
When you choose your milk choose wisely. Make sure it doesn’t have any dangerous additivies such as Carrageenan and Maltodextrin. Or better make it yourself.
Carrageenan is linked with various bowel conditions, such as gastrointestinal ulcerations, colonic diseases and cancer.
Apart from elevating blood sugar (actual glycemic index for maltodextrin (150) is high), maltodextrin is a saharride derived from corn, rice, wheat, tapioca starch and potato starch. It’s also linked with suppression of good bacteria in the gut, which can cause E.coli. infection.
Terence Scully, The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages (Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK; Rochester, NY, USA: Boydell Press, 1995
Joanne K. Tobacman, ‘Review of Harmful Gastrointestinal Effects of Carrageenan in Animal Experiments’, academic, peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives, 10 (2010)
Herball, or Generall Historie of Plantes, gathered by botanist and herbalist John Gerarde, 1636
The Fyrst Boke of the Introduction of Knowledge Made by Andrew Borde, of Physycke Doctor. a Compendyous Regyment; Or, a Dyetary of Helth Made in Mountpyllier, 1870