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On Your Table Blog

July 28, 2021

The marvelous world of food

The marvelous world of food

by Dawn Smith-Pfeifer

Have you ever stopped to think – really think – about your food? I’m not talking about whether it’s safe or nutritious, but how it came to be? Who was that first person to go, “Hmmmm, this looks tasty. I think I’ll take a bite.” And did they survive the tasting?

The thing that really blows my mind when I start to think about it, is those things we take for granted first had to be tried by someone who was willing to take a risk. They didn’t know if it would kill them or make them crazy. They just did it.

Take coffee, for instance. This is a beverage I am entirely addicted to and one day I got to thinking, “Who invented coffee?” As luck would have it, the Internet had the answer.

According to the National Coffee Association, a goat herder in Ethiopia named Kaldi noticed that his goats wouldn’t go to sleep at night after eating berries from a particular tree. He told the abbot at the local monastery about the curious situation, and the abbot decided to make a drink from the berries. (Apparently, since it didn’t kill the goats, he decided the berries were safe for human consumption as well!)

Well, the abbot noticed that he could stay more alert during evening prayer. So, he shared his discovery with other monks. And the rest, as we say, is history. Today, coffee is the second most consumed beverage in the world, with tea being the most consumed.

And you know what’s number three? Beer! Beer is actually one of the oldest drinks known to humankind, showing up as early as 7,000 years ago. According to Wikipedia, “(T)he earliest chemically confirmed barley beer (thank you farmers) to date was discovered at Godin Tepe in the central Zagros Mountains of Iran, where fragments of a jug, from between 5,400 and 5,000 years ago was found to be coated with beerstone, a by-product of the brewing process.”

We definitely love our beer and have for a long, long time. Still, you wonder who was the first person to take a swig of the stuff that was probably something someone left out in the sun too long. Was it curiosity or was the person just really, really thirsty? While we’ll probably never know, you just have to stop and marvel at how humans have found so many ways to eat, drink and stay awake!

Dawn is the editor for the On Your Table website and has spent many hours in the grocery store purchasing food and other essentials (toilet paper during a pandemic) for her family. She marvels at all the food choices we have that we often take for granted and enjoys sharing stories from farmers and ranchers, so people who don't know about agricuture can get to know the people who produce the food we enjoy so abundantly.