Showing posts with label NPR. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NPR. Show all posts

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ancient Epicureans

Take a look at this.

Of course, we know that people were spicing, fermenting, and enjoying things thousands of years back.  The Romans were notorious lushes, and there's solid evidence for beer production all the way back to the Mesopotamians.  Complex soups, as well, are an ancient culinary tradition.  Heck, the word Epicurean is a reference to ancient philosophy, though it actually promoted moderation and described the company enjoyed as the greater pleasure than the food itself.  That people in the distant past were just as into their meals as we are now is hardly a surprise.

Still, beyond carrying a common bond across the ages, This article is significant in that it tells us a lot about what makes us human.  Man is different from any other animal, indeed, as far as we know from any animal that has ever existed.  Pinpointing why we are so different - why we are the planet's most advanced life form in spite of our physical shortcomings - is a much more difficult challenge.  Cut a person apart (not something I've ever done, so I'm taking medical science on faith here), and you come out with an organized mass of meat, bones, and fleshy bits that are pretty much the same as any other animal, albeit in different configurations.

No, it's not the physical differences that make us different.  I would argue it isn't even the size of our brains, as there are other animals with similar size and heft.  I think it is our creativity, our ability to imagine a possibility, then go and see if we can pull it off.  At some point, some hunter/gatherer ate some mustard seeds, then ate some meat, then said "what if I mixed these".  This isn't quite the no brainer it sounds like.  At the time, food was something that took significant investments of time, energy, and expertise to hunt or harvest.  To not only have that thought, but to be willing to risk the integrity of something you had spent that much of yourself on acquiring just to satisfy a hunch is a huge deal.

And that, in a nutshell, is why we are what we are.  Creativity and imagination are vital parts of the human condition, because without the ability to dream up new ways of doing things - and the balls to follow through with them - we would still be hiding from the lions in trees instead of paying to see them in a cage.  We've found cave paintings dating back tens of thousands of years, why wouldn't the other art forms be similarly developed?  Why wouldn't ancient and prehistoric people prefer their meat medium-rare?  We are not so different, all we have now is the benefit of building on their works, and knowing their mistakes.

What was found, in that article, was more proof that we have always been artists.