A TONGUE IN CHEEK HISTORY OF COOKING
BY ©BUZZ BAXTER 2000
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
Cooking seems like such a simple art. It seems to me that if you cook, you must need fire. Fire was discovered probably millions of years ago by our archaeological ancestors. Of course they did not cook with it, but probably worshipped it, felt it's warmth, it's pain, and gazed in wonder as it lit up the darkness of night. What an awesome discovery by the first man who probably saw a tree burning after a lightning strike. How brave he must have been to get closer and investigate this strange phenomenon. The Gods surely must have played a part in this power. Many years of respect passed for that fire. Then one chilly night, sitting around it for warmth from the winter cold, some clumsy cave man dropped his raw piece of meat into that fire. Before he could get it out of the fire and let it cool a bit to gnaw on again it was cooked. What did that taste like? Like most foods, it could have been better tasting after falling in the fire, or his palate found the taste repulsive after being used to the taste of raw meat. If he found the taste to his liking, he probably told his friends about it, and they tried it. Being hunters and gatherers in those days and not concerned with business as today, he did not secretly hide the fact that he had discovered cooking, and then open a business called "burnt_meat.com". Instead he shared his discovery with others by paintings of his exploits on his living room wall. His attractors saw his paintings, and over eons of time, perfected his discovery.
THE EVOLUTION OF COOKING Early man spent most of his time practicing survival. First making sure he was not going to be eaten and secondly, making sure he had something to eat. If he had successfully clubbed a member of the opposite sex over the head and forced her to bear his offspring, he had to gather and hunt for more than himself. Life was not easy! He had no gun, no fishing gear. The game was faster than he was, and carrion was not palatable to say the least. He had only one other option, and that was to gather fruits, nuts and herbs. These were not always tender and palatable so he had to use his club on them to mash them into a pulp so he could more easily chew and digest them.
Many of these fruits, nuts and herbs were also poisonous, so many would be dinners were the final meal for those who were not fortunate enough to pick the right entree. On the brighter side though, the tastier plant foods he gathered seemed to enhance the flavor of the game he was able to catch. As his hunting and fishing skills improved over time, he was able to add variety to his diet. The more his weapons improved, the more time he had for improving his life and the safety of his family. With the advent of fire and boiling water, life became easier, but more complicated. He now needed more pots, weapons, and a way to make fire on his own. Needless to say, this took up much of his time so he opted to leave the cooking to his partner in life with the bump on her head. She did most of the boiling and he took it upon himself to watch the game turn on a spit over the open fire. Of course she cleaned the fish and game before he cooked it. Like I said, hunting and gathering took a lot of his time.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF CUISINE Cuisine, the favored food of a region, and also it's preparation was also evolving as man's hunting and gathering skills improved. Those who lived near the sea or water had a cuisine based on fish. Those who lived inland depended more on birds and game. The more proficient man became in hunting and gathering, the more food he had in his larder. If he was fortunate enough to live in a cold climate, his food would last longer without becoming putrid. If he lived near the ocean, he learned that salt would preserve his fish. If he lived inland, and had no salt, he dried his meat. Over time he even traded his game meat with the guy who lived near the ocean for salt so he could better preserve his venison jerky. Despite his crude methods of preservation, some foods just spoiled anyway. Because of this dilemma of spoiled food, necessity became the mother of invention, and our man discovered that if he smothered the meat and fish with some aromatic herbs and spices, he could not taste the spoiled meat. Each cuisine then depended on the availability of unique herbs and spices found in that region. This is what prompted many explorers to search the world for unique spices to flavor their spoiled food. Millions of doubloons were spent on endless sea voyages to find those spices. Surprisingly, Not one penny was spent on the development of refrigeration. Sorry, that came much later.
CASHING IN ON CUISINE Some hunters and gathers became so proficient at what they did, they began to sell their catch to others. This led to some men who became quite proficient at watching meat turn on a spit that they purchased fish and game from the successful hunters and gatherers and opened the first restaurants. The hunters and gatherer's wives, now quite financially heeled, goaded their husbands, the guy with the club, to spend some money at these restaurants. Now everyone is making money and eating out and no one cooks anymore, except on TV cooking shows.
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