The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

food production technology ramble

I keep wanting to update this blog; good knows I have enough fooding experiences to talk about. Alas, I haven't even optimized photos, nor have I written anything about that yummy butterscotch pudding I had two days ago. By the time I get around to it, I'll forget what I ate. Butter-wuh? My memory sucks, which is why I have a blog: to capture every minute, boring detail of my life. I can tell you that today I spent no money on food and didn't eat until 5:30 PM, but I managed to eat more than enough calories for the day by snacking on all those goddamn delicious chocolates and baklava and bread chunks aaaand I should probably get a stomach pump but I think those are for people who binge on alcohol, not sweets.

If you're bored out of your mind, feel free to read this not-very-well written essay about food production technology and its effect on human culture and whatnot. We were supposed to use two books and it only had to be 2-3 pages long. I wasn't worried about it until I realized I SUCK AT WRITING, not really a good thing to realize when you've been alive for 20 years and have to turn in an assignment the next day, AND you keep thinking about THAT UBER TASTY BAKLAVA, and all those websites you're supposed to update, and the pile of CDs you want to listen to but can't because your attention span is the length of half a micron, and ...goats...goats everywhere...and you have the Tetris song stuck in your head...

Wow, I'm going to bed now. Enjoy. Turning off comments because I'd rather not know what you think about this essay that I obviously didn't spend enough time on, yet I'm hypocritically putting it on a public website that anyone in the world can see. That's just the way I am.


Producing Food In Order to Think Beyond Food:
The Impact of Changes in Food Production Technology on Human Culture

Bread. Cereal. Cookies. Cakes. Bagels. Muffins. You probably eat one or more of the aforementioned foods, perhaps on a regular basis. One thing they all have in common (besides being addictively delicious) is that they're primarily made of grains. Grain products are among the most convenient foods to eat today, but there was a time when bagels weren't so easy to make so that you could buy one off a street vendor and carry it in your mouth while haphazardly rushing to your next destination. Someone had to figure out how to take raw grains and turn them into a source of nutrients that your stomach wouldn't reject, along with how to cultivate grains so that one could grow them at will and not have to rely on wild crops. The switch from a hunter/gatherer lifestyle to an agricultural lifestyle brought upon many cultural changes, of which the existence of baked goods is just a tiny part of.

Gaining the ability to grow your own grains and have a supply of staple food enables you to actually stay in one place and settle down. No longer do you live to scour the land for an available food source provided only by Mother Nature. See that plot of dirt by your home? Learn to love it; that is your food source, or will be if correctly cultivated. While protohistoric people used to rub husked and winnowed grain back and forth to slowly make flour, they later discovered that a circular motion was much more efficient (Tannahill 75). Romans developed the rotary quern in which grain was ground between two large stones by revolving one of the stones around a spindle. Donkeys could be made to walk around in circles to power the querns, allowing the professional miller to increase his flour production and take on the additional role as a baker in the second century BC (Tannahill 76).

Donkeys obviously weren�t born with a propensity towards powering querns; humans had to domesticate animals to use them as they wished, whether as a food supply or sources of power. As a source of material goods, taming animals�sheep, goat, pig, and cow�provided meat, skins, milk, cooking fat, and dung (used for fuel and fertilizer). In regards to being used as sources of power, Tannahill says, �The farmyard animal became, in effect, humanity�s first power tool� (27). Animals could be used to push seeds into the ground, pull ploughs, and thresh grain. They were also used for transportation, allowing humans to travel more easily than before, not just out of necessity but also to conquer other nations (Diamond 91). In regards to food, by using animal power, crop production became efficient and lead to greater food supplies.

However, with too much crop production came the problem of over exhausted land. To solve this, farmers created irrigation systems to carry water farther inland and revitalize soil and crops (Tannahill 31). An unexpected effect of irrigation was the convenient �birth of civilization�; the development of irrigation systems required the expertise of administrative systems, which eventually grew into cities (Tannahill 31). The creation of administrative systems showed that successfully producing a great amount of food required the means of managing the food supply, another part of which was the invention of language. Language wasn�t used just for food related purposes, but the Sumerians�the first people to have a system of writing�used it in part to record export declarations (Tannahill 46). After accumulating enough information, they eventually wrote the Farmer�s Almanac as a reference book of agricultural knowledge (Tannahill 46).

The difference in influential powers between men and women is one social aspect that changed with the formation of civilizations. Before civilization men and women were politically equal, but afterwards, men gained most of the power. Tannahill explains this by reasoning that agriculture gave women more work by making them responsible for crop cultivation and grain production in addition to looking over the home. Men on the other hand were mainly left to tend to flocks, which gave them more time than women to think about issues that could improve life and went beyond everyday matters (Tannahill 32). The differences between tending crops and livestock may have led to the rift between the roles of men and women in today�s society (Tannahill 33).

The domestication of plants and animals and the technology associated with it made huge impacts on human civilization; civilization wouldn�t have been possible without it. Domestication meant that people could settle down and have larger families, a previously impossible task when constant movement was required to gather and hunt food (Diamond 89). Larger families were also possible because of greater food supplies, which led to food surpluses that could feed people who didn�t produce food. Since people didn�t have to become farmers to obtain food, they could focus on other areas of expertise, such as politics, art, writing, or religion (Diamond 90). Once humans developed food production technology that allowed them to go beyond a subsistence level, they could develop civilizations and cultures. That bowl of cereal you had for breakfast didn�t just come from a factory, but from thousands of years of agricultural and cultural development. Think about that the next time you dig into a bowl of cornflakes.


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