We give so much importance to all the discoveries and inventions – you know the wheel, gravity, industrial revolution with the hand loom, power loom, electricity, magnetism et al. We celebrate the scientists and the inventors – every other person knows about Socrates, Archimedes. Einstein, Newton and the apple, Steve Jobs and the other Apple. and Bill Gates. Not that the arts are left behind – Leonardo da Vinci, Micheal Angelo and Shakespeare are all appreciated. The voyagers and travelers – Marco Polo and Columbus – are known to the common man.
What makes me think is how come we don’t know the name of the people who have created so many delicious dishes. Imagine pre-historic man in his caves. How would he identified what was edible and what was not? Was it by trial and error when he saw other people dying after eating poisonous berries or mushrooms that he identified the ones that could be eaten? Who discovered fire? How did they pick up flint? How did they know to put it to dry leaves or wood? And best of all, which genius was it who decided to actually put the raw food in the fire and taste that? There are so many possibilities – was it an accident that the food fell into the fire? Early man or woman would have been warming themselves by the fire and due to lack of additional food, may have tasted this. Then the practice of cooking – then the making of vessels – clay at first and then actually firing the clay to make it more strong. From clay to stainless steel, with ceramic and bone china in between, what a range of inventions without anybody to take the credit for.
We come to the main part next – the recipes or the actual food item\s. How could somebody have ground the wheat into flour and come up with so many delicious dishes out of it – ranging from the deep-fried puri, to the oil topped chapati, healthy roti and decadent butter topped paratha. The Italians took it and made pasta and pizza. The English baked bread and buns.
The other staple food group of rice is no less versatile. It lends itself to biryani, fried rice, pulao, sticky rice, jambalaya and so on. There was a story about how early Chinese used to drink the water used for cooking the rice and toss the cooked rice away until a servant girl by accident spilled the water and actually found that the rice was edible.
The next range are foods that mix two ingredients or more – how can we not know the name of the person who decided to soak 4 cups of rice and 1 cup of black gram dal and then grind it into a paste, ferment it and then steam the fermented batter to give the softest idlis or spread it onto a flat pan to get the delicious dosa?
Who was that person who decided to start milking the cows and the goats and actually drinking the milk and proving that it was okay to do so? And who was the person who got bored of drinking milk and decided to do so much more with the milk – extract the cream, ferment it to get curd, dilute the curd to make buttermilk, extract butter, cheese and cottage cheese from it, use the rich cream and then actually heat the butter to get clarified butter or ghee.
So much more evolution had happened on the food front but I am totally ignorant about any of the names. We know the chefs of today who play around with ingredients but what about the creators of long ago? Salute to them. I understand that I have just touched the tip of the iceberg as far as the journey of food goes. It really would be an interesting topic to work on.