The influence exerted by different foods over the physical and mental faculties of mankind is so marked as to verify the famous pun of the philosophic Feuerbach, ""Der Mensch ist was er isst"" (Man is what he eats). The advance of civilization has always been accompanied by an increased knowledge of culinary matters, until cooking has become a science and its various forms great in number. So in tracing back the history of foods, culinary ...
The influence exerted by different foods over the physical and mental faculties of mankind is so marked as to verify the famous pun of the philosophic Feuerbach, ""Der Mensch ist was er isst"" (Man is what he eats). The advance of civilization has always been accompanied by an increased knowledge of culinary matters, until cooking has become a science and its various forms great in number. So in tracing back the history of foods, culinary utensils and their uses, we of necessity trace back the history of the world.
It is of course impossible at this late date to determine what was the first food of primeval man; ignorant as we are of even the approximate date of his first appearance and of the manner and means of that appearance.
But it is worthy of note that if he had not been endowed with an intelligence superior to that of the other inhabitants of the globe, his existence here would have been very brief. Nature provided him with a body which, in those days, was well nigh useless. His prehensile organs, his teeth, jaws, feet and nails, did not fit him for overcoming any of the difficulties entailed by the adoption of most foods prepared by nature. He could not tear his prey conveniently nor crack many nuts, nor grub roots, nor graze. His digestive viscera were in the middle age too bulky and heavy for the rapid movements of the carnivora; they were not long enough to extract nourishment from raw vegetables. The only foods, therefore, primarily obtainable by him which he could use to advantage were fruits and soft-shelled nuts.
As man, however, advanced in knowledge, his skill in the art of cooking [Pg 4]rendered any or all objects used for nourishment by other mammalia fit subjects of diet for himself. This may appear a sweeping assertion, but the statements of reliable travelers prove its truth. The fact should be carefully considered by those who advocate a diet exclusively of vegetables, and by those few enthusiasts who preach that man was not ""intended"" to be a cooking animal.
Whatever else may be clouded with doubt, it is certain that man was so fashioned as to be compelled to eat in order to sustain life! In the beginning, instinct must have taught him that the consumption of food was the sine qua non of his existence.
When was the beginning?
The Biblical chronology of events prior to the Deluge is not accepted by scientists. The students of to-day believe, and seek to prove, that the earth has existed for several million years, and has passed through many different stages; that animal life was first evolved from the ""inanimate"" state of matter; that man is the most highly finished creature that has as yet been attained in the ascending scale of evolution, and that he will, in the natural course of events, make place for a still more nearly perfect being.
The exact date of the first appearance of man cannot now be ascertained. Geological research has led to the assertion that he probably existed thousands of years before the time usually assigned. But if we commence our history from the last great glacial visitation we find that the conceded date of its occurrence, about 5,000 years before the birth of Christ, coincides rather closely with the date of the creation as given in the book of Genesis. Assuming then that the neolithic, or stone age followed not only the ice visitation, but the creation (to use a familiar phrase), the theory of many scientists and the story of the Bible agree on the one, to us, essential point—the birth of the first people.
Horace, in his third satire (first book), gives his views of the first food of the human race. (At that time, six hundred years before the Christian era, it was held that man was not created in a perfectly developed form, but[Pg 5] was engendered from beings of a different kind.) He says: ""When first these creatures crawled out of the ground, dumb and foul brutes, they fought for nuts, first with nails and fists, then with sticks, and later with weapons made of metal."" This coincides with the deduction made in the third paragraph, that nuts have a just claim to the title of one of the ""first foods.""
These savages must have suffered from exposure to the occasional inclemency of the weather. To protect themselves, they, being endowed with an ever-increasing power of reason, resorted to the skins of wild animals for covering. Failing to obtain a sufficient number from the carcasses of those which had died a natural death, they conceived the idea of destroying life in order to obtain the coveted article.