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by Shomo Sen
While we all continue to marvel at the impressive advancements in human technology, from stones in tools to smartphones in toilets, we often take for granted the evolution of the diets we maintain. Whereas our ancestors were primarily concerned with getting enough food from hunting and fishing and gathering to feed their families, we’re trying to figure out how to save 59 cents on our Quesaritos from Taco Bell.
You might be surprised to learn, however, that many of the foods we enjoy today have histories that date back way further than you’d think, and they haven’t changed a whole lot. OK, so a 3,000 year old equivalent of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos has never existed, or at least as far as we know, given current archaeological evidence. But take, for instance ...
Popcorn Was Enjoyed In Prehistoric Peru
You probably don’t give much thought to popcorn, save for when you’re getting ready to sit in front of a screen for two hours and watch something that’s hopefully not terrible. And when you do, it’s most likely of the “throw a bag in the microwave” or “ask the nice movie theater employee for the Super Jumbo Bucket with Mega Butter” varieties.
If you are in a theater, shoving buttery goodness into your face and contemplating the very existence of popcorn itself, you might, in between munches, lean over to the person next to you and ask, “Hey, how old do you think popcorn actually is? Was Sir Jiffy Pop instrumental in its rapid proliferation?” Of course, you’ll be met with a weird look and a “SSSHHHHHHHH!” because talking during a movie is rude and nobody asks random strangers about the history of foodstuffs.
Many credit Charles Cretors with the rise of popcorn’s popularity, and for good reason -- in the late 19th century, he turned a nut roaster into a popcorn popper and ushered in a new era of light snack that both you and your dog absolutely love. And while Mexico is credited with first domesticating corn some 9,000 years back, it seems that Peru was the first to actually put the “pop” in it ... 6,700 years ago.
Presumably, handy disposable buckets had yet to be invented.
Granted, it wasn’t a huge part of the Peruvian diet, and they probably just ate it as a snack like the rest of us. But hopefully they weren’t subjected to whatever prehistoric Peru’s version of a Michael Bay flick was while trying to enjoy their newfound treat.
Humans Were Making Bread Before Farming Was A Thing
OK, most of us probably don’t assume that bread is any kind of recent invention. Hell, Jesus had perfected its distribution before the first century came to a close. But obviously, the process of making dough out of wheat or flour and leavening it with naturally occurring yeast would have to wait until agriculture was a thing, before a large, circular version of it with multiple toppings could be thrown on a roof by an iconic meth maker, right?
Well, no. Apparently, bread wasn’t about to wait for this whole farming thing to start. Findings from a study performed by multiple universities that had looked at some remains from a site in Northeast Jordan turned out to be flatbread crumbs that were an insane 14,400 years old, which you make recognize as being a full 4,000 years before people had ventured down Agriculture Highway 202.
It was more of a “hitch a ride” thing at this point.
Many theories point to the discovery of gruel -- a mixture of wild grains and water -- as sort of the starting point of bread-making, marking the difference between food that was available and food that could be controlled. Belonging to the pre-agricultural Natufian culture of ancient Jordan, this flatbread was prepared by some of the world’s earliest hunter-gatherers, and again, a good four millennia before farming methods began.
Obviously, this was a huge discovery for humankind, because now we get to have things like Eggs Benedict and Bagel Bites. So let’s all raise a glass in toast ... never mind. We’re not making a bread pun here.
Prehistoric Curry Is Pretty Much Exactly Like Today’s Curry
Spicy, tangy curry has mouth-watered its way from South and West Asia to the entire world, to the point that some cultures simply can’t get enough of it. With countless interpretations depending on the country that makes it, it’s a pretty adaptable meal option.
Taken from the Tamil word kari, meaning “spiced sauce,” it was adopted by the Portuguese and English, and there are even early recipes in 17th and 18th century European cookbooks. Most people would believe that the dish’s origins trace back to medieval India, where Persian and Arabian influences mixed with the Indian cuisine to create the assortment of spices and gravy that makes up a good curry. But this story stretches a bit further back than that.
No … further. FURTHER!
Leftovers from a collection of various surfaces like cooking pots, human teeth, and other tools that were used for cooking, have been analyzed from the Indus civilization (3300 – 1300 BC): one of humanity’s earliest urban settlements. These remains revealed the molecular thumbprint of ingredients that are signature signs of any modern curry, and very much used in the preparation of curries all over the world: ginger, turmeric, salt and aubergines.
So yeah, not only is the curry you enjoy today remarkably similar to what was being eaten over 4,000 years ago, you can even cook the original Indus curry and compare the two yourself.
China Wins The “Origin Of Noodles” Question By 4,000 Years
Some say that noodles originated in China, some trace it to Italy, and others don’t even have an opinion because they hate noodles for some reason and what the hell is wrong with them? But seriously, this debate has raged for so long that there are countless articles and numerous theories as to the noodle’s origin. However, recent archaeological discoveries seem to have left little doubt.
Remains at an archaeological site called Lajia in northwest China included a beautifully preserved bowl containing a fist-sized helping of nearly 4000 year-old noodles, chemically analyzed and found to be made from two different kinds of Chinese-native millet. No word yet on what sauce they used to toss their noodles in, but we're betting it probably wasn’t Alfredo.
In fact, Italian pasta may not have originated in Italy at all, but in Sicily in the 12th century. Just ... don’t discuss that possibility with any hardcore Italian pasta lovers though. They’ll get pissed.
Hamburgers Date Back To Ancient Rome
How popular, exactly, are hamburgers? Well, we just opened the McDonald’s Every Second site, and in about 20 seconds 1,400 burgers had been sold. That’s … that’s a lot, you guys. Maybe try a salad or something? Just not this one.
Anyway, there’s nothing more American than a juicy burger (hush, apple pie fans!), and shoving a meat patty between two bready things is the perfect way to enjoy the American Dream. Of course, the word “hamburger” originates from the German city of Hamburg and its signature Hamburg meat that German immigrants brought with them when they arrived in 19th century America. From there it was Americanized to the form we know and love today.
Hell yeah, America.
Of course, the humble hamburger’s first official inventor may never be truly known, and there’s enough dispute about it that a “Controversial origins” section exists on the “History of the hamburger” Wikipedia page.
But as it turns out, a little Roman cookbook called The Apicius may have given us the original burger, albeit without bacon or special sauce or spankings if you don’t finish it. It’s one of the oldest recipe books known to humanity, completed sometime before the 5th century. In it is a recipe called Isicia Omentata, which calls for ground meat, fish sauce, pepper, wine, and crushed berries, all smashed together into a patty of meat-loving brilliance.
Hamburger purists may point out that it’s not actually a burger if there’s no bun involved, but tell that to someone with a gluten allergy or affinity for gluttony. It’s still a burger, you guys.