Reflections on Food, 1

Greetings to everyone.  This is a first in a series of reflections, or ruminations, on food:  It's procurement, cooking, eating, all aspects are open for discussion.  Humans and food have a long history together, very long in fact.  Some of you may know, i trained as an anthropologist, and lot of anthropology revolves around food.  Hunting, tool making, gathering, cooking, what else you can do with the "remains" of your food item, etc.  We have the evidence of humans and their food activities going back millions of years, and nowhere is that more evident in the stone, and later, metal tools people made to bring home the bacon.  Or wild cow, or fish, or mammoth, or, well, you get the idea.  Many of the earlier tools didn't look like tools at all, just clumsy rocks, but the better we got at tool making, the more beautiful they became, until they were more works of art, with delicate (but lethal) stone chipped edges.  Bringing home the beast was only part of the equation.  What do you do with it then?  Early on, there was no cooking, that didn't come along until quite some time later, with the discovery and use of fire.  Let's be honest, your meal a couple of million years ago would have been raw.  Raw meat, raw veggies, raw seeds, raw everything.  In recent years, as in the last couple of decades, there's been a movement back to raw, and a lot of people are quite passionate about it.  No question that some of it is healthy, but certain of our "modern" food, less so.  Even dog food was promoted as better raw, although I've heard pros and cons about it.  Don't know, never tried it on my dog.  I'm sure she would eat it though. 


After the advent of fire, the whole situation changed rather drastically.  It didn't take long for our ancestors to discover roasting, boiling, drying, and smoking.  These techniques are still very much with us today, and some even believe that the BBQ brings out the inner caveman (or woman) in most modern men and women. Something about lots of smoke, heat and flame.  Could be too, the smell and sizzle of cooking meat.  Just observe the BBQs lighting up across North America during the summer (some preferring to grill throughout the year).  Of course in years gone by, there would be no such thing as the steak or chop, those being very recent inventions (like the last century or two).  Early cooking of meat also was very much a feast or famine thing, until the advent of drying.  It would be a feast while they threw the carcass on the fire, so to speak, but once it was gone, it would be back to a reliance on seeds, greens, grains, veggies, tubers, roots and bugs.  Yes, bugs.  Human jaws have wrapped themselves around anything that grows, moves, or lives. 


Much of the food our ancestors would have eaten, in addition to the occasional side of mammoth or ancient camel, would have included fish and shellfish, and there is ample evidence in the archaeological record of our ancestors enjoying these aquatic delights.  So-called "shell middens" have been found in numerous parts of the world, from the Mediterranean to Staten Island.  I once dug on the Staten Island middens, and they were huge piles of old shells, sometimes 3 or 4 feet thick.  Scallops, clams and oysters were only some of the shellfish on the menu.  Fish was also quite popular, as fishing sites in the Mediterranean attest to.  In those days, the oceans, lakes and rivers would have been part of their pantry.


So there you have a brief history of what our ancestors might have munched on.  The history of humans and what they ate, can still be seen in our teeth today:  We were a veggie chewing, slightly carnivorous sort, with the molars for grinding our grains and tubers, and our rather diminutive canines for our protein intake.