Monday, September 7, 2009

No More Maize and Tomatoes!

As I approached this study, I expected to learn about co-evolution between plants and people and why specific diets have become prominent in certain areas. Maize is consumed nearly globally, but an entire diet, it does not make. If maize is not supplemented with other crops, the health of the consumer will quickly deteriorate. Rice and beans, peanut butter and jelly on wheat, these simple foods provide all the essential amino acids needed for a human to thrive. I wanted to learn what the Jewish and Somali Bantu versions of PB&J were.

I retain that co-evolution is important. It tells a story, but maybe it’s no longer the most significant aspect of traditional diets. The tradition itself, the tying of the present to the past is the most significant aspect. Our past has shaped who we are. Globalization has encouraged us to expand our dietary repertoire. Food, knowledge and people rapidly move around the globe, affecting all that they come in contact with. While I know not what the equivalent of a Somali PB&J is, I will continue to look until I achieve the satisfaction of tasting it.

In regards to promoting re-adoption of ones traditional diet, doing so may be irrelevant. A diet fit the needs of a specific set of circumstances, be it availability of goods or trade partners. The tomato was not widely accepted into Southern Italian cuisine until the 19th century. What would become of their traditional diet if I advocated for a reversion to pre-tomato days? That would surely be seen as a loss of tradition. The changing of diets is not evil; it is natural, not just among cultures but individuals as well. I retain concern when the change is so rapid that the physiology of a people is not able to evolve with the prominent foodstuffs in their diet. This is when diet-related diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity run rampant. We must look to the past as we move forward, in life and in our food choices to avoid exposing ourselves to unintentional consequences that certain food choices elicit.

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