The Most Historically Important Food Innovations

Food is one of the greatest necessities and joys of our modern world. We eat to survive, but we also eat for pleasure, and we have centuries and centuries of historically important food innovations to thank for that. But this love of food is just one part of a bigger picture. When you get right down to it, it's hard to deny how food innovations changed history for the better.

It's pretty obvious how technology related to food creation and food storage has changed our world. People live longer and develop new medicines and cultural traditions all based on technological food innovations. Besides, the variety (and tastiness) of food that has spread through our culinary world is hard to scoff at. I mean, come on, how many types of cheese are there now? 

But the perfection that is cheese aside, which innovations do you think are the most historically relevant? Take a look at our list of historically important food technology and developments and vote up the ones you think are the best. And if you get hungry, you can thank food geniuses that came before you for whatever you decide to eat.

Photo: Levoqd / Pixabay / CC0 1.0

  • Refrigeration

    Photo: outdoorcat75455 / flickr / CC-BY 2.0
    Refrigeration has gone through many phases. From storing food in cool underground spaces to iced train cars and finally to the electric appliance we use today (which first arrived in 1927), this invention has done wonders for allowing us to preserve food for longer. This has allowed us to keep meat, dairy, and other perishable food around, and has become a necessary household appliance throughout the world. 
  • Cooking with Fire

    Cooking with Fire
    Photo: rsanalla / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0
    We don't exactly know who first did it or when, but we've found evidence of man cooking with fire dating from over one million years ago. Cooking with fire meant that we could eliminate lots of harmful bacteria in our food and enabled us to keep meat and produce longer. Man making fire may have been one of the greatest innovations in the history of humankind, but learning to cook with it was a brilliant next step. 
  • Irrigation

    Photo: agrilifetoday / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0
    This is one innovation we have to give credit to the Egyptians for. They first irrigated crops back in 6000 BC, using floodwater as a means of watering plants at preferred times. Irrigation evolved from there; we can see the improvements in our agricultural industry. Irrigation meant that we could grow crops all year long, so we were better fed and healthier for longer. Not to mention, this kind of farming became a major industry we're still relying on today. 
  • The Use of Salt

    The Use of Salt
    Photo: News21 - National / flickr / CC-BY 2.0
    Dating back as far as 6050 BC, the use of salt in cooking and food preservation has had a massive impact on our world. Salt is necessary to the human diet and being able to add it to food made us healthier as a species. Not to mention it can be used to dry and preserve food for later consumption, which helps prevent people from going hungry. It's no wonder that wars have been fought over this food, and we have China to thank for our modern methods of salt extraction.
  • Bottles and Corks

    We may have been storing food and liquid in earthenware containers for quite some time before this, but bottles and corks were definitely the storage method of the future. In 1500 BC, the first glass containers were made, and soon after came corks to seal the bottles. These sealed containers meant we could transport liquids - particularly wine - better and keep them for longer. It also meant we could preserve things, sometimes for several decades. The fact that we still use corks today speaks to how effective and important they have been to our world. 
  • The Oven

    The Oven
    Photo: Shawn Harquail / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0
    If cooking with fire was a major step, the next logical step was the oven. This innovation, which dates back to over 6,500 years ago, used heat from a fire to cook food uniformly. This meant we could make things like bread and pastries, and also meant we could better cook meat and produce. Ovens also often heated the home, meaning that they had multiple uses in keeping our diets healthy and our dwellings warm.