The narrowing palate

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Posted by: stak
Posted on: 2011-10-22 16:12:36

It occurs to me that very rarely do people go out and find a new kind of food in nature. I assume this used to happen fairly regularly in the paleolithic era when human were hunter-gatherers, but not so much now that we have agriculture. However, it is not uncommon for people to stop eating a particular kind of food. This could happen for any number of reasons - a particular food becomes socially unacceptable, it becomes extinct, etc.

What this means is that the set of foods that humans (all across the world) eat is gradually dwindling - we stop eating certain foods and don't really start eating other, new foods. Working backwards from this hypothesis, it seems like in the past, humans must have had a much larger variety of food that they ate. Perhaps they even included things like flowers as a regular part of their diet. It makes me wonder if scientists/anthropologists take this sort of stuff into account when trying to determine the diet of early humans.

Posted by varun at 2011-10-22 22:34:30
For that matter, consider human genetic engineering over thousands of years and the end results we've seen on foods as a consequence. I recently discovered einkorn, a type of wheat that's been extinct for about 3000 years until they discovered Otzi the Iceman with seeds for this extinct species of wheat. Tastes completely different and, unlike whole wheat, is totally edible, but same or better nutrition profile as durum.

Uh, so, yeah, literally. Food for thought.
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Posted by Fai at 2011-10-23 00:57:16
That would be true in an isolated farm case, but due to global trade your diet is actually way more diverse than any diet of a hunter/gatherer could have been. You eat spices from india and bananas from brasil which no single hunter/gatherer could have seen.
But if you are considering the sum of all food in the world, then I might agree.
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Posted by stak at 2011-10-23 10:00:37
Yeah I'm considering the sum of all food in the world. It's true that we get some new foods from other civilizations once in a while but on the whole the number of available foods must be dropping.
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