(Warning: Idea post. Lengthy-ish. Contains lateral jumps and irritating snarky asides)

Earlier this week, Neil G points us to the fact that some person discovered that hitting Marmite for 30 minutes turns it white. Apart from the obvious "kya lukhkhe log hain duniya mein" reaction, it made one think of a favourite topic.

Namely, the evolution of food dishes.

And by that one is not referring to variations or inventions. One can understand how somebody came up with the Margherita pizza, or Peach Melba, or even Bacon-and-egg ice-cream. That's just lateral thinking, just a bit of let's-spin-the-wheels-and-try-the-combination-they-suggest*.

What one is referring to, is the origins of the basic food ingredients. The flour you use, the rice, the wheat, the grains.

Think about it. It's not the same as with fruits, which simply sprout, dress up in pretty colours, and hang around hoping to tempt someone into nibbling on them. But rice, wheat, maize, lentils - they are all cultivated crops. Which means somebody must have figured out the process from first principles. Remember those geography lessons on rice cultivation? The sowing, the watering, the transplanting, the watering, the chaffing. Now try and imagine that whole system being thought up by some nomad way back when. From no prior reference point.

No, wait. Let's go back even further.

Thinking up the process would mean that, at some point, some genius/daredevil/idiot must have thought, "Let's try this and see if it's good to eat". Right. Who thinks that way? If you were rambling through some countryside, would you eat any random plant, hoping it would not only not leave you writhing about in agony with horribly coloured goo dribbling out of your various orifices, but also turn out to be a wonderfully nutritious food? Thought not.

And besides, these are crops. They're inedible when raw. Animals don't eat them in the wild (they don't, do they?). Which means that not only would that genius/daredevil/idiot have thought of eating it, (s)he would have also had to say, "Let's cook this in a pot of boiling water, two parts water to one part unknown stuff, and let it cook for 10 minutes till all the water drains away". Again, from no prior reference point.

And forget crops. Take flour. Who would consider that if you collect this plant thus, and beat it about thus, and then took the residue and heated it sufficiently, it would turn into a lovely base in which to put all that meat that you just hunted down?

Yes, the history books say all that really took place, but from the little reading one has done, it seems they just know it took place, but not how it came to be.

But yet, we're expected to believe all that just happened. Some animal-spearing hairy brute one day just decided that those strange brown reeds would be worth eating, and then spent millennia honing the right way to cultivate them.

....And then some people wonder why some people believe in alien intelligence(s).

* Think of two touching-but-not-overlapping circles, with random ingredients listed on each. Spin them around, and make a dish with the two that line up besides each other. Isn't that just whoopittydodaa!


Revealed said...

Hmm I'm really hungry cos I've been wandering through this damn steppe for like the longest time and there's not a single fruit tree or even a berry bush in sight. Oh wait there's this thing that looks like a really small berry or really really small fruit on this grass. Lemme try to eat it cos otherwise I will die of starvation. Tsk. My teeth are not strong enough to bite this. I know. I'll just try to make it soft. At this point, depending on who I am, I either think: Let me mash this up into a paste with some water before I try and eat it. Or let me put it in water and heat it really really long to see if it becomes softer.

Aliens Schmaliens. Poppycock.

??! said...

Oh look there's Ogg, there he goes again, looking for a snack while the rest of us are trying to catch this mammoth. And now what is he doing? That idiot will eat anything that grows.

Oh look, he's calling us over. Hmm... it must be delicious - he's holding his throat. He seems really excited about this - maybe he's not so stupid after all. No wait. He is. Down he goes, all purple-faced and yellow tongued. What a moron.

Revealed said...

And we *all* learnt our lesson, didn't we?

??! said...

Exactly. That we wouldn't try any funny growing things.

So how did rice enter our diet? And jowar? and dal? huh? Aliens I tell you.

Revealed said...

No, no. Displaying non-scientific temperament again. Faced with same situation, one would definitely not decide to not try it! One would decide to prove just how big an idiot Ogg was by showing everyone how it's done.

??! said...

oh yes, the beginnings of an academic career.