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With the exception of convenience store junk food, almost all of the dishes we eat today have roots in ancient tradition. Even something as basic as corn has a mind-boggling timeline that spans the rise and fall of great civilizations. But to our ancestors, sustenance meant far more than satisfying one’s appetite. Many considered these morsels to be a sacred gift from the divine, with every bite laden with meaning.
Nowadays, many of us have become somewhat detached from the origins of our food. We hastily assemble our dinner or lunch with little to no curiosity about the uniqueness of each ingredient. Sweet, salty, and bitter are the dominant sensations we look for. But it wasn’t always this way.
In the cultures of old, each ingredient in a given culinary dish was part of a sacred puzzle. Recipes were injected with prayer and fierce gratitude which gave certain dishes an almost alchemical power. Food was not just food. Food was a means of celebration and communion with higher powers.
As my team and I plunge deeper into the early periods of recorded human existence, we frequently come across references to particular foods or beverages that are held sacred by a certain group. It’s truly fascinating how many of a given culture’s unique healing herbs will make their way into their daily cuisine. This begs the question, “What came first, flavor or medicine?”
“Before the modern food era and before the rise of nutritionism, people relied for guidance about what to eat on their ethnic or regional cultures… when it comes to food, culture is another word for mom, the figure who typically passes on the food ways of the group, food ways that endure, by the way, only because they tend to keep people healthy.”
Michael Pollan, “In Defense Of Food”