Humans have spread into nearly every type of environment, and formulated the beginnings of culinary traditions based on the food sources chosen as edible.
Addresses the highly adaptive food-getting strategies of the world’s indigenous and ethnic groups.
Explores the different acquisition methods, resulting ingredients, and flavors of people’s meals.
Lays the foundation for thinking about distinct cuisines.
A fundamental adaptation of any culture is how people get food. There are 4 main modes of production (also called subsistence patterns or food-getting strategies):
Foraging (hunting, gathering, and fishing; often called hunting-gathering).
Animal husbandry (also called pastorialism).
Horticulture (sometimes called extensive agriculture).
Agriculture ( ranging from ranging from intensive agriculture (sometimes called plow agriculture) to industrialized agriculture (industrialism).
There is a tendency to label cultural groups by their primary means of food production. This causes problems:
The first problem is that most groups use mixed production strategies (say foraging and trading for goods).
For instance, in the US, twoof the most popular hobbies are gardening (8%) and fishing (8%). Also, 3% of Americans say they hunt.
Of course this varies with the region of the country due to accessibility and weather.
The second problem is the terms create a gloss (covers too many different cultural groups).
Food-getting Strategies and Cuisines 2
Since food is essential, this activity has always had a profound influence on the nature of society, and for many anthropologists writing about food the use of the term foodways captures the cultural and social interconnections surrounding food acquisition.
The abundance of edible species influences:
The abundance of edible species influences the human population size. This is referred to as the carrying capacity. The challenge is to find food and not overexploit the environment.
Carrying capacity: The maximum size of human populations as supported by the relationship of population and food-getting strategy/strategies employed.
The carrying capacity is small in hunting and gathering populations; agriculture can support much larger populations.
Of course other factors also determine population size, such as disease, weather conditions and so forth, but food resources is what is called a limiting factor (caps the carrying capacity).
The abundance of edible species also influences the amount of cooperative effort needed to produce enough food to support everyone.
The social consequences of acquiring food can be observed in the formation of domestic groups of people through kinship and marriage, and in the division of labor according to cultural ideas about gender, age, and special tasks and skills.
The productive roles accorded to group members are played out through expectations of sharing and exchanging foods and tasks, which create ties and obligations based on ideas of equality, differentiation, and decision-making.
Foraging (Hunter-gathering) 1
All hunter-gatherers are defined by their complete reliance on wild food resources.
Foraging is the oldest form of food-getting activity that humans have pursued, lasting from two million years ago until about 15,000 years ago when humans gradually domesticated plants,
Although this does not apply today, it is still an important characteristic because it shapes their relationship with nature and attachment to traditional territories.
Only a few groups which take more than 75% of food through foraging.
Most of the remaining groups are marginalized: pushed into the margins by more mechanized groups competing for resources.
There are many ethnographies of hunter- gatherers—probably the most well-known are those written by Richard Lee about the Ju/’hoansi (!Kung) of Botswana and Namibia. Lee found that:
About 70% of diet from plants, 50% from one source alone: the mongongo nut.
This nut is widely available and drought-hardy.
The average band member eats 300 nuts/day (1,260 calories).
Calorie equivalent of 2.5 pounds of rice or 14 ounces of lean meat
That 13 other plants make up 25% of diet.
About 30% is made up of meat hunted by the men
Average day’s consumption: 300 nuts, about ½ pound meat, about a pound of raw/roasted roots, beans, leaves, edible gums, berries, fruits and melons.
While these are wild it is now understood that there are often forms of stewardship practiced to ensure the continuity of different species.
Burning, for example, by Australian Aboriginal peoples is a form of stewardship.
This allows many plants to seed themselves and to reduce the amount of underbrush, creating foraging areas for kangaroos and other herbivores.
Foraging (Hunter-gathering) 2
Pedestrian, equine and aquatic foragers:
The Ju/’ hoansi (or Ju) represent pedestrian foragers
“How long a group spends at one site relates to the number of people in the group and the resources there. They “… eat their way out of it [the campsite]” (Lee 1993, p. 48).
The Ju of the Kalahari spent weeks in one site
The Ju moved with the seasons
Now they have been resettled onto reserves.
Equine foragers are uncommon; the First Peoples of the Great Plains are one of the few examples
These two cultural groups represent aquatic foragers (but with very different strategies);
Traditionally, the Inuit spendabout a month hunting 55%, fishing 45% of the time. In lush areas on rivers, 50-100 families might reside in one place for most of a year
The NW Coast peoples had the need to preserve seasonally abundant resources. They developed preservation/storage knowledge.
Crowther uses a different model. In this model there are two types of hunter-gatherers identified from the ethnographic record: 1) small-scale, “immediate return” hunter-gatherers and 2) large-scale, “delayed return” hunter-gatherers.
The difference between the two largely rests in the environment:
The abundance of resources.
The use of storage.
The size of population that can be sustained.
Types of Exchange
Karl Polanyi suggested 4 forms of integration: The ways that societies manage distribution.
Market exchange uses money rather than barter. Suggestion: Watch The ascent of money
Redistribution is the passing out of goods, often to enhance prestige.
Householding: The self-contained household economy (subsistence)
Reciprocity is exchange between social equals and occurs in three degrees: generalized, balanced, and negative.Types of reciprocity:
Generalized reciprocity is most commonly found among closely related persons as exchange partners
Involves giving with no specific expectation of exchange, but with a reliance upon similar opportunities being available to the giver (prevalent among foragers).
Key to exchange in non-market economies
It is delayed exchange
Balanced reciprocity involves more distantly related partners, and involves giving with the expectation of equivalent (but not necessarily immediate) exchange (common in tribal societies, and has serious ramifications for the relationship of trading partners).
Barter is common form of balanced reciprocity
The American exchange between an auto mechanic and a dentist as a way to avoid income tax. Actually, that is illegal as one must claim this work as ‘in kind’ payment.
Negative reciprocity involves very distant trading partners and is characterized by each partner attempting to maximize profit and an expectation of immediate exchange (e.g., market economies, silent barter between Mbuti foragers (Africa) and horticulturalist neighbors).
Can end up being trickery
The partners are often enemies so it is fine to inflict abuse on them.
Foraging (Hunter-gathering) 3
Small-scale hunter-gatherers have smaller populations, of less than a thousand people. Generally the pattern seen is that:
They are organized into smaller mobile egalitarian bands, based upon equality and cooperation.
However, gender relations are stratified everywhere, with men asserting more authority than women.
But in comparison to other forms of society, hunter-gatherers’ gender relations are considerably more equal.
Bands are the domestic group, comprised of kin (through blood or marriage), and each smaller family unit in the band will have their own cooking fire.
Decision-making about when to move the camp, or where to go hunting and gathering.
The mobility of hunter-gatherers is a response to the seasonality of the environment and the availability of resources.
Mobility requires little accumulation of property.
The distinction between the domestic and the public aspects of people’s lives is not pronounced, if not largely absent, with provisioning being at the heart of everyday social life.
Generalized reciprocityis a core value in hunter-gatherer culture, and is found in the everyday acts of sharing.
All members of hunting and gathering peoples contribute in some way to the tasks of getting food, with children participating and learning from a young age. However, the apparent ease of acquiring food led to hunter-gatherers being described as the “original affluent society,” dispelling earlier ideas of a desperate and arduous search for food (see Sahlins 1978).
Foraging (Hunter-gathering) 4
The second type of hunter-gatherers are the “delayed return,” large-scale societies, such as the First Nations of the Northwest Pacific Coast.
These complex hunter- gatherers were, and are, associated with environments with abundant, reliable, and often relatively easily acquired resources which could support large populations.
The resources could be processed and stored for a period, delaying the consumption of surpluses and allowing them to be used in complex social and political activities.
The First Nations of British Columbia and Alaska, such as the Haida, Kwakwaka’wakw, Tsimshian, and Tlingit, all have very similar characteristics based upon their shared adaptation to the Pacific Northwest and its food sources.
Staple foods (continued)
Both land and marine species were abundant along the coast, and through the changing seasons.
First Nations peoples moved from permanent winter village sites to dispersed hunting, fishing, and gathering grounds across their traditional territories to harvest seasonally abundant resources.
The abundance allowed hunter-gatherers to generate a substantial surplus, more than was needed to feed everyone, and this is key to understanding how foodstuffs move beyond something to eat and into the realms of politics.
Resource sites—berry-picking patches, halibut banks, and salmon-fishing spots—were owned by corporate descent groups, lineages.
These were the primary domestic groups, linked by kinship, whose members owned the foodstuffs in conjunction with one another and cooperated in the tasks of acquiring, processing, storing, and distributing food.
Foraging (Hunter-gathering) 5
Staple foods (continued)
The Haida used over 50 fish, birds, and marine and land mammals; over 50 plants, including tubers, roots, and berries; and 27 species of marine invertebrates, such as abalone, clams, chitons, and octopus (Van den Brink 1974).
For Northwest Coast First Nations, salmon are the defining staple resource that the complex social and political organization of traditional society was built upon.
Each nation organized the foods into culturally meaningful categories, often based upon some foods having greater prestige, reflecting the social order and the future purpose of many foods—the social life of the ingredients of meals and feasts.
While gender stratification was evident, the contributions of women to the productivity of the lineage were accorded value, and the roles of men and women were regarded as complementary, even so far as the women observing the taboos that restricted their behavior.
The First Nations’ food sources were also instrumental in the ranked social organization of these societies, as lineages fought with property, including food, to change their status in relation to other lineages in a community.
This occurred at elaborate feasts and potlatches during the winter months when people congregated in the permanent villages.
Reciprocity and generosity were valued, however, the abundant resources added a competitive element to society, with lineages working hard to amass more than they needed to eat, but enough to maintain or increase their social and political standing.
This redistributive 3First Nations hinges upon giving away wealth — including food — to increase the descent group’s status.
Plant & Animal Domestication 1
The transition from collected wild foods to producing domesticated foods was gradual. Also note, that there are differences between domestication and agriculture.
Domestication (selective breeding) is an evolutionary process. There’s interdependency between this organism and humans (symbiosis), such that part of its life history depends on human intervention.
Domestication requires the genetic transformation of a wild species by selective breeding.
Agriculture is a cultural activity, not an evolutionary process.
It involves the propagation and exploitation of domesticated plants and animals by humans.
FYI: I disagree with Crowther when she says the transition to domestication was not a revolution. It was. I do agree that it was multi-pronged and divergent. Nor was it inevitable (which is her primary point).
The question of why hunter-gatherers moved from collecting to producing food is notoriously difficult to answer, and probably has no single answer; single answer explanations are called prime movers.
One explanation presumed hunter-gatherers would have inevitably invented new ways of acquiring food, and it was just a human characteristic to innovate through technological change.
Further explanations for the domestication process place it in the context of the environmental stresses faced by hunter-gatherers.
Another group suggest the major stress was population pressure, whereby hunter-gatherers had to intensify their access to food because their population had risen and outstripped the ability of wild resources to supply what was needed.
A further, possibly contingent, stress was climate change, which could have depleted wild resources, necessitating domestication.
An alternative explanation for domestication considers what was domesticated, what they were used for, and how this related to humans’ social relations.
Plant & Animal Domestication 2
Domestication brought about a gradual change in the position of the household; extended families became increasingly distinct lineages which engaged in the political sphere as autonomous entities.
The domestic sphere shifted to a private family-centered unit and the public sphere became the site of the social order, where the productive capacity of the household could be called upon to underpin the status of its members as they actively differentiated themselves from one another.
The social and political organization of societies, that relied upon domesticated plants and animals, shifted from egalitarian to ranked (hierarchy based on lineages), and for some into more extensive forms of social stratification.
The gender relations also became much more unequal, and in particular the value accorded to women’s productive contributions dwindled, while their tasks increased and their public life became more constrained.
Domestication does represent a trend of intensification — slowly producing greater surpluses and supporting larger populations — which found its greatest expression in agricultural societies.
Despite agriculture’s dominance, there were, and are, many smaller-scale societies that remained relatively settled in specific environments.
These food-getting strategies include:
Pastoralism: the domestication of, and reliance on, herd animals.
Horticulture: The extensive use of domesticated plants and some small animals.
Both strategies emerged around 11,000 years ago. Some became the beginnings of agricultural societies about 6,000 years ago, and some have remained as specialized adaptations to particular environments, such as tropical forests, grasslands, and mountains.
Plant & Animal Domestication 3
Pastoralism is the reliance upon domesticated herd animals as the primary source of food, and of identity.
It is well adapted to semi-arid and mountainous areas where pasture and water can be found for herd animals, but where horticulture or agriculture is more difficult due to the terrain and lack of water.
It is found throughout the world, and the species of animals depends upon the region.
Sheep and goats were early domesticates, beginning around 12,000 years ago throughout the Middle East and southwest Asia.
These species were successfully tamed and herded, providing milk, meat, hides, and wool and hair for weaving.
The domestication of cattle began about 7,000 years ago in southwestern Asia when their wild ancestor, the auroch, was tamed.
Cattle dominate in East Africa, where the Maasai, Samburu, and Nuer have long pursued this way of life.
In the Middle East and Mediterranean, sheep and goats are dominant, as seen among the Basseri of Iran.
Many pastoralists do keep other herd animals, but often define themselves in relation to one type of animal, such as cattle for the pastoral peoples of East Africa.
Some pastoralists are sedentary, others partially or completely nomadic.
One form of nomadic pastoralism is transhumance: Regular seasonal movement from one ecological niche to another.
Other pastoralists use horizontal migration (also called pastoral nomadism): The movement across a large area in search of whatever grazing lands may be available.
Plant & Animal Domestication 4
The staple ingredients of pastoral foods are milk (yogurt, cheese), blood (for some cultures), and some meat consumption.
These will be supplemented by foods obtained by growing some crops in gardens or fields during seasonal occupation of settlements, and by hunting, fishing, gathering, and trading.
The needs of the herd animals are the priority of pastoralists, and this demands access to large areas of land.
The rights to pasture land are often regarded as belonging to the whole pastoral community, and in areas where there are many pastoral ethnic groups this can lead to conflict and ultimately complex negotiations to determine access.
There is increasing pressure by many states to settle pastoralists into one location, to stop conflict, and to assert control over people. This is actively resisted .
The herds themselves are owned by individuals, and as part of lineage property,.
The herds represent the wealth of individuals and lineages, and can be regarded as a surplus food supply stored on the hoof.
Pastoral societies are socially differentiated, having a ranked social organization, and foster either a tribe or chiefdom as the form of political organization, depending upon the permanency of the leadership and the role of the state.
Many pastoralists are patrilineal and patriarchal, reflecting men’s ownership of herds and their primary role in moving and protecting the herds in often demanding conditions.
Polygyny can be an option in pastoral societies, but it will be restricted to the most successful men who can afford to support more than one wife and their children.
Ways to Preserve Milk
Buttermilk is soured by the use of Leuconostoc citrovorum
Koumiss is made through the process of ethanol fermentation, using yeast and sugar.
Milk can be made into cheese.
Yogurt is a way to preserve the milk
The action of Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus converts the milk sugar to yogurt.
Step 2: Slowly hear the milk until it exhibits very small bubbles on the rim of the pot (185 oF).
Step 3: Cover and let cool to room temperature.
Step 4: Stir in the yogurt. Then pour into a plastic or glass bowl w/lid.
Step 5: Place on top of a heating pad set at the lowest setting OR on top of your fridge OR in the oven at lowest setting.
Step 6: Let alone overnight and then strain. Reserve the whey.
Step 7: Check your consistency. If too thick, blend some of the whey back in.
Step 8: Keep refrigerated.
Yield: About ½ gallon of yogurt. Decrease the milk for a smaller batch.
Plant & Animal Domestication 5
Horticulture today is particularly prevalent in tropical forest areas with high rainfall, such as within South and Central America, Africa, southeast Asia, and through Melanesia and Polynesia.
It has been practiced in temperate environments, such as North America and Europe, where it slowly gave rise to agriculture.
Many of the staples grown by agriculturalists, such as wheat, rice, potatoes, and maize, were originally domesticated through horticultural techniques, and consequently there are a lot of crossover species between these two types of subsistence practices.
The two, horticulture and agriculture, largely differ in the intensity of production and the range of species grown in one place.
The term horticulture is derived from the Latin word hortus, meaning garden, describing the creation of many-species growing plots.
Plant & Animal Domestication 6
The major staple ingredients of horticulturalists’ diets, such as yams and sweet potatoes, sago palm, taro, cassava (bitter manioc), plantain, and other root and tree crops, are derived from the gardens.
The emphasis upon root plants is important in humid, tropical areas. Included in many gardens are smaller supplementary plants, such as chilies, herbs, peanuts, and tomatoes, which are used as flavorings and sauces for the foods.
What is not grown can be hunted, gathered, fished, or traded for, and many horticulturalists keep domesticated pigs, chickens, and other small animals, all of which are important supplements to the otherwise high-carbohydrate diet.
The case of bitter manioc
Both sweet manioc and bitter manioc are grown in Amazonia.
Sweet manioc only needs to be boiled, but bitter manioc needs processing to remove the high levels of prussic acid (also called hydrocyanic acid).
The manioc root is grated and covered with fresh water.
Soaking the starch for 48 hours causes fermenting.
The acid is released in the resulting gas when the mixture is boiled.
The slurry can now be dried and used as a flour. We know bitter manioc as tapioca.
Plant & Animal Domestication 7
To look after the gardens, people need to be fairly close by, and consequently many horticulturalists are semi-sedentary, staying in villages for a decade or so and then moving to another village site.
Each horticultural society has its own traditional territory within which the gardens must be accommodated, and this demands a fine balance between population size and land base.
Gardens belong to individuals and lineages.
The common division of labor sees men cutting down the tropical forests, burning, and sometimes planting, while women tend the gardens, weeding and composting the plants.
Harvesting is often shared between men and women.
Kinship and post-marital residence
Horticultural societies that are matrilineal often practice matrilocal post-marital residence, whereby a married couple live near the wife’s kin, bringing greater prestige to women.
However, some horticultural societies are faced with population pressure , in these circumstances there is a tendency for patrilineal kinship and patrilocal post-marital residence to organize society, and warfare between neighboring tribes to secure land can occur.
For example, the horticulturalist patrilineal Yanomamö in Amazonia follow this pattern.
Patrilineal kinship favors males’ rights to resources, and accords their roles greater social prestige. In these instances women’s productive roles garner less value, and their participation in the public sphere of life becomes more limited.
Plant & Animal Domestication 8
The Trobriand Islanders
The Trobriand Islands are off the east coast of Papua New Guinea, and they are migrants who originated in Polynesia and so exhibit a Polynesian social structure.
The Trobrianders have a matrilineal kinship system, with a ranked social organization which shows incipient stratification of lineages into chiefs and commoners.
They’re is a chiefdom that has a paramount chief who has authority over all Trobrianders on the archipelago. Even though this is a matrilineal society, authority resides in men.
Men grow yams in gardens named for the women who will receive the yams, which will be displayed in the women’s husbands’ yam houses.
The yams are a whole other category of food—it is wealth, a symbol of economic and political power of a matrilineage and its affinal affiliations.
Yams, stored in the yam house, will not often be eaten by their owner, but used like a bank account to acquire other goods—arm-shells, necklaces, earrings, betel nuts, pigs, bowls, mats, lime pots, and other locally produced goods.
Yams must be judiciously given to anyone who has helped a man, and chiefs in particular must distribute yams as a sign of their power (Weiner 1988, 106).
As part of the yam-growing cycle, a chief can sponsor a yam-growing
Yams are a form of perishable wealth (they will last four to fi e months before rotting) that is used to maintain social relationships and claim status.
Malnutrition is a risk that increases when one practices horticulture; one can not walk away from the land as a forager may,
Less well reported than cases of epidemic hunger are cases of endemic hunger, even though the long-term effects are often much more severe.
One example the effects of malnutrition is kwashiorkor (protein under-nutrition) with its symptoms of edema (failure of liquids to vacate the tissues and so swelling results) is called the “swelling disease”.
Found among some horticulturalists where the variety of foods has greatly decreased.
Generally seen in children ages 1-5 years.
Compare with marasmus where both calories, in the form of carbohydrates and protein, are too low.
Often caused by inability to breast-feed, weaned onto formulas and diarrhea.
Generally seen in children aged <1 year.
We know that death can occur from under-nutrition, but also stunting.
Governments often refuse to recognize hunger as it an admission of the failure to provide basic needs.
This results in a lack of programs to address the problems.
There are exceptions:
India is hardest hit, but has started a nation-wide school lunch program.
Another solution to malnutrition is called plumpynut
Plant & Animal Domestication 9
The term is derived from the Latin word ager, meaning field. Also called plow agriculture.
Agriculture began as a distinct food-getting strategy around 6,000 years ago, and was primarily associated with the rise of large-scale societies or “civilizations” around the world.
It represents a further intensification of production, the causes of which have long been debated.
Population growth has often been cited, but it is unclear whether this was the cause or the consequence.
Causes could be a limit to the land base being used by a population, perhaps due to environmental or social factors.
The need to produce more surpluses to meet political demands.
Grain crops were particularly prominent in early agriculture.
It has been suggested that the processing of grains allowed them to be consumed by infants, shortened the length of breastfeeding, and brought shorter intervals between births, thereby increasing the number of children born.
Despite this advantage, the diet can also be described as becoming more monotonous, with a less varied, more grain-dependent diet, which (the archaeological record reveals) brought nutritional deficiencies into the human experience, such as scurvy, rickets, and anemia.
While agriculture is often presumed to be synonymous with “progress,” “development,” and “civilization,” it has also brought a life of greater struggle and nutritional challenges.
However, through the centuries agricultural societies have slowly balanced the struggle with improvements to people’s lives due to advances in sanitation, medicine, and eventually nutrition, allowing mortality rates to decline, translating higher birth rates into greater life expectancy and real population growth.
Plant & Animal Domestication 10
Agriculture sees the intensification of labor, the use of draft animals, ploughing and harrowing devices, and eventually mechanization. It employs irrigation and the planting of only a few, or often a single species at a time in the fields.
Intensification was achieved in a variety of different ways across the world, such as:
Selecting new crop varieties by boosting soil quality.
Improving storage so that little spoilage occurred.
Agriculture can be regarded as a specialized food-getting strategy that is highly adaptive to a wide range of environments, allowing agriculturalists to expand into new lands and successfully grow food.
Consequently, agriculture — and its contemporary form, industrial agriculture — have become the most dominant forms of food production in the world.
The cuisines of agricultural peoples have arguably become the most mobile as have the ingredients of these cuisines.
The need to look after crops and domesticated animals caused agriculturalists to become sedentary, living in permanent settlements with more durable structures and storage for the agricultural surpluses.
Agricultural production often centers upon the household.
The division of labor establishes men as the primary workers of the land and food production,
Plant & Animal Domestication 11
Men’s work is accorded greater status.
Many agricultural societies are patrilineal, or at least have a patrilineal bias, with property rights passing through men.
Children in agricultural societies, particularly boys, have long been regarded as important contributors to household productivity, perhaps explaining the preference for larger families in agricultural societies.
Agriculture does produce larger surpluses capable of supporting larger populations, and allowing greater specialization to occur, including food production itself.
The specialists engaged in the production of other goods—such as pottery, textiles, and metalworking, and services, such as religious officials, soldiers, and bureaucrats, came to be concentrated in urban areas to centralize access to their customers.
Similarly, specialist food producers had to take their surpluses into urban centers to provide food for those who no longer grew their own.
Agriculture laid the foundation for the rise of states, and many theorists have addressed the conditions associated with its appearance (see Gledhill, 1994).
Early state leaders often maintained their positions through providing much-needed resource management, such as irrigation systems, security from invaders, and protected trade routes, and in turn they would extract a tribute from the population.
The state could appear to ameliorate the inequality of the stratified social organization by providing some access to basic necessities for everyone, such as distributing food in return for labor.