Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Get really really hungry?

First let me say that true hunger and starvation is a terrible. I do not want anyone to think I am an insensitive son of a blogger based on the content to follow.

Now with that out of the way, let's be honest. When you say "I am starving" aren't you really usually saying "God I could go for a burger and fries right now. My celery and carrot stick lunch just isn't cutting it". And what parent has not been confronted by a child who says "there is nothing to eat in this house!" about an hour and a half after spending $300 and 2 hours at the grocery store?

I offer for your consideration the observation that in times past people were really really really really hungry in a way that most humans living now can not imaging. I say this not because I have pictures or scary drawings of starving plague ridden masses. No. I say that with confidence because of some of the food that we now consider indulgences which - except for starvation - would never have been consumed by human beings.

Exhibit 1: artichokes.

Examine the above picture of an artichoke. I apologize to Castro ville California, the artichoke capitol of the world but honestly, when you look at that thing does your mouth start to water and you feel the urge to hunt for a pot of boiling water and some melted butter? I think not. Can you imagine how hungry the first human being had to have been who started chewing on one of these things? Why would you ever think to yourself as you traversed the sands of the desert that "Gee, I'm gonna pick me a mess of these things, set up camp, boil the last quart of water that stands between me and dehydration and steam these suckers up. Some day some body's gonna charge a lot of money for these things and sell them at high-end restaurants". No, I tell you. Ancient man was thinking "Damn I am hungry and there's nothing here but these crappy thistle things. I guess I will chew on the leaves for a while. Maybe I wont die.

Don't get me wrong, I like artichokes. But seriously, if you had never been exposed to these and someone invited you over for dinner and plopped a steamed artichoke on your plate, would you really feel like an honored guest or would you think "jeez what a cheap s.o.b. serving me weeds. where's the steak?"

Exhibit 2: snails
Can you think of anything more disgusting? I have had escargot. It was OK. Kinda chewy. How did this thing become food? I am picturing a skin and bones wandering tribe of ancient people savaging for food. They come to a blighted field searching desperately for something to eat. Someone lifts up some decaying leaves and finds... giant snails. They build a fire and bake them on a stone or worse - eat them raw. Are you getting the picture? Sometime later someone adds garlic, onion and butter to hide the taste and convince their family that they are a delicacy in Paris. Because no one has any idea what Paris is, they decide to try them. Eventually someone invents little clampy devices and tiny forks to make it easier to dig the things out of the shell. voila ' an industry is born.

Exhibit 3: mushrooms
We are used to clean white button mushrooms which don't look too nasty but consider all of the other kinds of edible mushrooms like the ones above. Again. how hungry would you have to be? Especially if you didn't have a Food Network saute pan and fresh garlic and onion to cook ' em up with. Also, how did people decide which ones were edible? Did everybody just take turns trying different ones and observe for psychotic behavior and death? "Yep, tell everybody not to eat the red ones with the fuzzy tops. Clem ain't lookin' so good after he ate his".

I know there are other examples but you get the point. I don't think I need to discuss nasturtium seeds (capers) or eel. I am convinced that the price of some of the items today is inversely proportional to how close these things actually come to being intuitively edible. Next time you are really hungry, instead of going to the drive through, go out in your yard and look around for something edible. Maybe you'll find some slugs you can fry up. Not so hungry now, are you?

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