staple Foods and Staples

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

staple Foods and Staples are terms which carry various possible meanings, depending on the cultural and geographic contexts.

At the simplest level staples are what a family might think necessary to have in their store cupboards. Another meaning, which comes into play in discussions of the diet of given groups (local, ethnic, regional, national), is ‘the fundamental items of the diet’, which in one instance might be rice and fish; in another plantains, peanut oil, and coconut; and in yet another bread, root vegetables, and meat. More restrictively, the word is often applied to the grain or carbohydrate base element(s) of a diet, excluding those foods that make the base more appetizing or which are used in cooking or processing.