can’t see the forest

Why We Eat What We Eat

Posted in ancient history, anthropology, food, Lifestyle, nutrition by Curtis on 1/8/07

From the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, a brief but informative essay on the ways in which environmental change and cultural development have impacted our diets since prehistoric times:

The quest for food has shaped the development of our society. In his search for sustenance, man has influenced population growth and urban expansion, has dictated economic and political theory, and has inspired wars. Food and the science of food touches our lives in numerous ways. Many religions follow strict dietary laws. Some of the earliest observations in the world of chemistry came from the preparation and cooking of food. Food has influenced technology, too. The water wheel, developed for the milling of grain, became a primary tool during the Industrial Revolution. Even class distinctions in some societies are determined by what foods are put on the table.

As the technological explosion launched in the Industrial Revolution continues to unfold, is convenience outweighing nutrition? At first glance the point seems moot from the perspective of the more than 800 million humans affected by chronic starvation—but it’s not. The costly and material-intensive processes of food preservation, packaging, shipping, and waste disposal which are hallmarks of the modern lifestyle in developed countries generate expenses of all kinds, many of which impact the “third world” in very ugly ways indeed.

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