Traveling for Food: Ancient Practice and Evolving Methods

  March 10, 2021   Read time 3 min
Traveling for Food: Ancient Practice and Evolving Methods
Food and drink connected with and used by human beings has delivered an overall entity of practice. This is that humankind gathers or cultivates food and drink materials, and prepares these for consumption.

The standard process to obtain food and drink material in the past until around 8,000 BC was by hunting and gathering (and to certain groups it has stayed thus). It is interesting to observe that, albeit usually over a relatively small area, the process was essentially travelling for food and drink matter and so the action is a precursor – of kind, and in an interpretation – of food and drink tourism. The practice was, of course, however, concerned with obtaining sustenance rather than having any dimension of being leisure and pleasure activity and so a key feature that distinguishes tourism was not present. However, already heralded was an aspect of the bridge and overlap dynamics between food and drink and its concerns being everyday entities but too matters to the leisure realm. Farming’s introduction – as Harris says, around 10,000 years ago – was a massive and influential event. Only in North America did agriculture come considerably later at around the BC/AD changeover. The general shift – occurring at various individual times across the world – was momentous. Finding and collecting items of food and drink would, of course, have had its own ways – these conditioned by physical and attitudinal circumstances – but with the advent of food being farmed, a greater level of control and imposition was introduced. The experience to humankind of food being obtained from farming was in considerable contrast to the one – mainly at the mercy of externality and serendipity – which is basic to the character of hunting and gathering. What happened was that a much greater extent of possibility was offered than hitherto for humans to decide and make ways of food handling and using. Food’s arrival could be planned for and known in advance; a ritual and cycle came into place for food’s appearance; the very increased secure awareness that food would be manifest permitted time for more attention to be given to issues and circumstances surrounding the production and consumption of food; food’s types could be chosen, though, of course, this procedure was tempered by the limitations of local soil and climate conditions. A major change was that procedures for agriculture needed to be introduced. That there was a farming cycle, and including large periods of ‘wait’ while crops grew and ripened, meant that a group not only operated together and did certain things at same time, but had time on its hands and at same moment. Differing climate and landscape types lent themselves to differing and particular crops and so distinct farming cultural landscapes with their associated practices arrived and were set to progress and evolve on varying trajectories. A farmer also needed to stay put by his/her farmland, seeing its good order and husbandry, rather than wander as a nomad. All these events lent a situation for the development of a community-specific way of life and attitude in which custom had milieu for developing beyond what the basic features of immediacy and necessity cause to shape. A circumstance had been reached to allow the luxury of greater attention to the ceremony and meanings and methods associated with food and drink and their production and consumption. With farming’s arrival came too greater time and possibility than before to make a range of drinks and including alcoholic, mood altering, types. This lent further encouragement for food and drink being associated with, or used centrally for, celebration, festival, event and ritual (Luard, 2001). With abundance or surplus, food and drink could be chosen and used for making statements, such as those relating to politics, identity, status, gratitude, affluence and superiority, or joy at an occasion, and too for celebrating key moments in the agricultural cycle, and as have such been carried through to the present. With a definite and known cycle of production, it was possible to plan and so events orientated on food and drink could be scheduled ahead of time and their circumstances and format be positively organized.

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