Food is the most essential requirement for sustenance of human life. Even if a human being does not have shelter over their head or clothes over their body, they would still survive if they get wholesome nutrition. That is why all over human history, we have been motivated to search and seek food. Throughout history food has acted as a catalyst for societal transformation, societal organization, competition, development, conflict and expansion.
From the earliest cavemen who survived on hunting to the more advanced civilizations which used agriculture, food transformed human life by giving it structure. It paved way to the path of the modern civilization we know. We moved from caves to fertile lands near water. While adopting staple crops humans increased their chances of survival several fold. These genetic engineers laid down the tools which would shape the emergence of civilization as we know it. It resulted in families and social structure which emerged into the complex societies.
The political, economic, religious structure was based solely on food production and distribution. The development of irrigation and food surplus storage lead to political centralization. Food became a medium of payment and taxation. Feasts became a means to demonstrate status and garner influence. Throughout the ancient history before the invention of money, food was wealth and control of food was power.
Food also formed the basis of the earliest forms of religions and religious practices. The earliest Pagan and Hindu gods were directly responsible for the production of food, like the Earth, the river, the rain. Most religious practices and events were centered on the timings of sowing or harvesting. In later religious practices the choicest cut of the meats were offered to the Gods, the first harvest was dedicated to the divine.
Once civilizations had emerged throughout the world, food helped to connect them together. The early travel and discovery of the new world was in search of food and these food trade routes acted as international communication channels which exchanged not only food, but academic, cultural and religious ideas too. It also had a big hand in the Industrial revolution, where potato and sugar were as important as the steam engine as a catalyst. In fact the sugar plantations in West Indies were arguably the earliest prototype of an industrial process.
In the more modern civilizations food has served as the biggest pleasure aid for human beings. Most of our celebrations are centered on good food. It has been scientifically proven that food can lift a person’s mood by producing endorphins. This is why preparation and production of food has evolved to Culinary Arts. From the earliest production of food where vegetables were eaten raw and meats spit fired to modern styles of sous vide and molecular gastronomy, we have certainly come a long way. With the globalization of the world, there is a plethora of ingredients which are available everywhere and the advances in science which have made incredible equipment to cook the food in, there are innumerable ways that food can be cooked and presented. This is causing a boom in the Food Production industry to constantly reinvent itself and surprise the customer.
In fact Culinary Arts is considered by many to encompass all the knowledge required by mankind. Such philosophy was most notably exercised by John Dewey, who was a great education reformist in the 19th century. His idea was that schools should convey information as part of an integrated whole rather than by dividing it into separate subjects. Thus, as one example, he used cooking since it combined arithmetic (weighing and measuring ingredients, with instruments the children made themselves), chemistry and physics (observing the process of combustion), biology (diet and digestion), and geography (exploring the natural environments of the plants and animals). Such ideas underline the importance of cooking and why everyone should try to partake in this endeavor.
Blog writer: Pallavi Singh, PGDCA, School of Hospitality
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