Thursday, June 26, 2014

Prehistoric Picniking...!

It turns out that some of our prehistoric cousins were a bit more savvy about foods than we thought.

Just because they didn't have many choices of food at times, they did manage to find ways to improve the taste of what they had. On top of that, the discovery of  making cheese did a lot to improve their diet and extend their food sources.

The Surprising Cuisine Of Prehistoric Europeans

By Joshua T. Garcia on Monday, June 23, 2014

The tough, brutal environment of prehistoric Europe conjures up images of gruff cavemen hunting giant mammoths and stuffing their faces with barely cooked flesh. It’s a brutal—and tasteless—meal. But prehistoric Europeans did have a splash of modern cuisine in their diets: In addition to using spices in their cooking, ancient Europeans were particularly fond of milk and cheese.

Hunter-gatherers, our forebears, were primarily concerned with caloric intake. After all, the quality of a meal took a distant second to acquiring enough food to survive.

But plain meat can get a bit boring sometimes. That’s exactly why prehistoric Europeans began to spice their food—as far back as 6,000 years ago. Garlic mustard has been found in ancient pottery shards in modern Germany and Denmark. Since the spice has little nutritional value, it has been surmised that it was used to enhance the flavor of ancient European meals.

Spices may have been in use in other parts of the world even earlier. For example, traces of coriander have been found in an Israeli cave dated to 23,000 years ago.

Around the same time they were spicing their food, many Northern Europeans were acquiring a taste for milk. With the advent of agriculture 10,000 years ago, hunter-gatherers began to domesticate animals like cattle and were milking them between 7,500 and 6,500 years ago (we know this, again, thanks to some high-quality ancient storage pots).

In regions with more sparse food options, milk became a lifesaver, as it was an easy source of nutrition. The human body usually stops producing the lactase enzyme—which allows us to digest dairy—after the breastfeeding period. A few biological mutants in the cattle-raising populations didn’t shut off their lactase production at adulthood and were therefore able to utilize milk as a food source without any uncomfortable side effects. These people were less likely to die of malnutrition or lack of food, and therefore were able to have more offspring, propagating lactose tolerance.

For this reason, many Northern Europeans (and other cattle-rearing populations, like the Maasai of East Africa) have much lower rates of lactose intolerance then the French, Spanish, or Chinese.

With milk comes cheese. Thanks to yet more ancient pottery, we know that prehistoric Europeans were eating cheese as early as 7,500 years ago. Since just about everyone was lactose intolerant back then, cheese was much easier to digest than milk, since it has less lactose.

It seems to me, given the conditions they had, our ancestors did pretty well for themselves. After all, we are all here now, right?  This information was found over at KnowledgeNuts.

Better have our coffee inside this morning. The rain has left the patio pretty wet!


Mamahen said...

Interesting stuff. How about a cheese danish in honor of this info. I'll bring extras :))

Chickenmom said...

Critters always taste better with spices added! Please bring an extra danish - I'm hungry!

linda m said...

Very interesting stuff. I can't imagine not using spices in my cooking - pretty blah tasting if you ask me. Guess because they were so smart that is why we are here today. Foggy start to my day again. Thanks Mamahen for the cheese danish.

Sixbears said...

We tend to forget they were just as intelligent as we are -maybe more so.

JO said...

Very interesting post. Keep teaching us all this great stuff and we or at least I will always becoming back. And of course for the great company.

I'll take a refill please.

Rob said...

I was reading about the gene that allowed grown people to deal with lactose. It allowed people to keep protein on the hoof.
When you could make cheese you didn't need the cow with you!

Spices don't surprise me after spending some time wondering who figured out that the pit of the coffee bean was a good drink when you prepped it right...

HermitJim said...

Hey Mamahen...
Cheese danish sure sounds good to me!

Thanks for coming over this morning!

Hey Phyllis...
I have to agree with that! Spicy is good!

Thanks for coming over today!

Hey Linda M...
When it came to using the right spices, they must have been pretty smart!

Thanks for coming over this morning!

Hey Sixbears...
Probably a little more so, considering what they had in the way of tools.

Thanks for dropping by !

Hey Jo...
I'll always try and make it interesting if I can.

Thanks, sweetie, for stopping in today!

Hey Rob...
I'd sure like to personally thank that guy! I do like my coffee!

Thanks for the visit today!