Food and human nutrition
Principles and evolution
Man, like all living things, needs to feed in order to live. Likewise, the human being has acquired different customs and eating habits that contributed to his being able to persist in the face of the adversities that the environment presented to him. The fact is that he, with the application of intelligence, began already from remote times, to make the need to eat a true art, choosing his ingredients and creating their meals beyond their primitive act of survival.
The crude hunter gave way to a more refined man, who began to distinguish flavors, colors and aromas. Anthropologists now reveal that this process was complex and nuanced by countless other stories.
Man has been on earth for more than five million years. For more than 99% of this period he has lived as a hunter and gatherer of food that nature made available to him. But there was a before; More than five million years ago, Australopithecus (first homoid settled on the planet), prowled the African sheet in search of berries, roots, leaves and occasional figs. With any luck he could find some food and make it safely to his cave. Archaeological evidence dictates that far from being a great beast hunter, ancient man crowded on the abandoned remains of large predators to suck the marrow from the bones. Until he learned to manipulate stones, sticks and bones as weapons by making himself competitive and effective he was not a hunter, he was the hunted.
Discovering with what instruments -which did not require previous elaboration- it could kill, the meat became his preferred food and fundamental base of his diet. Fishing and aquatic food gathering had a late appearance (35 thousand years ago), if we refer to it in an intensive and organized way. However, the sea and rivers fed him for a long time more. Thus salmon, trout, carp, shellfish, crabs, mollusks, etc., formed an important part in the prehistoric diet.
The discovery of fire marked the beginning of another stage in human evolution. Not only did it bring technologyIt allowed him to grill, heat up his food, and heat himself. Surely the first hot substance he tasted was a piece of charred meat. It would take many, many years for it to boil and bake. Before that, the population increase and climatic variations would force man to take a fundamental step.
Given the shortage of meat and the need to share his favorite foods with more and more individuals, he realized that he could store cereals such as wild wheat, barley, sorghum, millet and some legumes such as beans and chickpeas, and that if the kept dry could use them months later. He also discovered that he could throw seeds and wait for their fruits. The domestication of plants would change his life forever and would directly influence his social evolution, going from being a nomad to being practically sedentary, staying in rustic houses not only but with people linked to him, his family.
Necessity forced prehistoric man to gradually vary his eating habits, moving towards less tasty, but more abundant diets. And that they could be saved for times of scarcity, given their ability to contribute storable calories in the vicinity of tribal settlements, which would soon become large cities. Human beings are the only animal species that has developed precise rules around their diet, about the ways to carry out operations on nature to produce and prepare their food, and on the ways and people with whom to share their consumption.
The level and form of satisfaction The nutritional needs vary qualitatively-quantitatively from one society to another. And it changes within it according to categories such as age, sex, socio-economic, cultural, religious level, etc. That is why the consumption of food also expresses the place of the subjects in society and sets in motion the search for prestige and social differentiation.
According to Farb and Armegalos, there are four elements that define a kitchen and therefore the usual diet of man:
- The limited number of foods that are selected from all that the medium offers. Despite having in some regions a varied availability of food, groups of people choose those that make up their eating patterns. And this is how in the Northwest region of our country the consumption of preparations based on corn, potatoes, pumpkin is taken as its own; and the Eastern region, those based on cassava, beans and fish (surubí, dorado).
- How to prepare these selected foods (roasts, stews, fried);
- The principle or principles of traditional flavoring (the use of spices, aromatic herbs);
- The adoption of a set of rules regarding the number of meals a day, the fact that food is consumed individually or in groups, the separation of certain foods for ritual - religious - myths - taboos - dietetic purposes, etc.
From the fulfillment of these four elements by the members of a region, their kitchens acquire a local, classic, ethnic, national and / or regional adjectivity. In “national” terms, the “kitchen"It contains, fundamentally, those foods and methods of preparation that are considered as proper or authentic of a given country and that constitute a sign of its identity as a social group.
That is why the act of cooking is a process of "food heritage", because when a certain menu is chosen, raw materials, condiments and culinary procedures are being selected that identify the cook and diners with a tradition.
Article published by Lic. In Nutrition Claudia Anabel Marín Celia
Comprehensive Gastronomic School