Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The staff of life

Do you take for granted your steaming bowl of rice with the fragrance of spices rising from the succulent white grains? Or your sweet cornbread with jalapeno bits blended into the batter? Or your whole-wheat English muffin, toasted, slathered with butter and orange marmalade?

I perhaps take for granted being able to enjoy all those things. It wasn't so very long ago that most people knew only one or two grains for dinner -- rice in Asia; corn (maize), wild rice or quinoa in America; millet, wheat, sorghum or barley in Africa, the Middle East and Europe; and rye and oats in Northern Europe.

And of course, some peoples consumed starch substitutes not technically in the grain family -- potatoes, taro, breadfruit, arrowroot, manioca, etc.

Collingham (Curry, A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors) describes the misery of a group of Indians (India Indians) traveling with a certain European across that vast sub-continent in the early 19th century. Seems their stomachs were used to the grains of their respective home-regions and suffered on other people's staples.

"They were unable to adapt to a different grain and when compelled or induced to try another, their digestions became disordered," the Englishman, Francis Buchanan, reported.

9 comments:

leslie said...

Frances Moore Lappe's book, Diet for a Small Planet should be required reading.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frances_Moore_Lapp%C3%A9

eastcoastdweller said...

I have that book, Leslie! I should maybe read it.

...Kat said...

back in world history, during a time of ravages in world weather as well as the ravages of the many wars across Europe, the fact that the French had resisted switching the thrust of their agricultural efforts from grains (above ground and vulnerable to bad seasons and destruction by armies) to potatoes as others had done.... well the upshot was of such consequence that you can well say it had a hand in the French Revolution

leslie said...

If you don't read that book, I'm gonna tell...
kat...that is very interesting, indeed.

...Kat said...

yes I thought so too when I heard it watching a documentary whose title now escapes me

eastcoastdweller said...

Leslie: Do You have any idea how LONG my list of must-reads is at this point?

That sickening, crunching sound you hear is all 206 of poor ECD's bones breaking under the weight of thousands of good books, squishing me as flat as an fire ant under Godzilla's sole.

eastcoastdweller said...

Kat: What an interesting fact. I can just imagine some French guy turning up his nose, "No, monsier, we weell not plant stupit Engleesh potatoes. This eez certainly a treek, a dirty Eenglish treek. We French grow, howyousay, vweeat."

leslie said...

Oh, Eastcoastdweller, that eez very funny French!
And, You are supposed to read the books, not lie underneath them :)

...Kat said...

mon dieu!