you ever read, watch, hear something about food and begin to wonder
about origin stories and discoveries?
Grinding. Brewing. Who thinks of this stuff?
like an awful lot of work for someone to invest unless they knew
the results ahead of time. After all, when was the last time you
looked at something in your yard, say a plant off in the corner,
and thought that if you cut it down, dried it in the sun, and
then boiled it in some water, you might end up with a pretty good
is, by classification, a shrub. If improperly prepared, it can
be poisonous. Some varieties of the plants are favored because
they act as a repellant for bugs and wildlife. (Sounds delicious,
is also one of the most common sources of food products, in some
countries ranking right behind only rice and corn. For many of
us, our exposure to cassava comes in the form of tapioca.
am I missing?
is this stuff discovered?
the answer likely is… observation and tradition.
story of coffee is somewhat vague and likely heavy on legend.
It’s credited to goats. A herder noticed that his goats would
become more active when they ate berries from certain trees. He
tried the berries, and noticed a rise in his own energy.
use words like vague and legend because if you read about it yourself,
you’ll find the goat herder is actually named, that being Kaldi,
in pretty much every place you find the story. Seems a bit suspicious
to me that caffeine-fueled goats well over a thousand years ago
allow us to know one specific man involved in observing this phenomenon.
Too specific. Too detailed for a time in history and a setting
where accurate records wouldn’t be expected. And yet…
the increased energy and activity of livestock does make sense…
being able to attribute the discovery to portions of Ethiopia…
that all works.
far too easy to think that all discoveries are simple. We’re not
going to advance very far (or very quickly) it all we do is have
someone in a kitchen attempting to discover what tastes better
covered in caramel sauce. (Which, as we can all agree, is a bit
of a time waste since everyone already knows that everything tastes
better covered in caramel sauce.) We need people trying new things
and new techniques, to all sorts of ingredients and combinations.
quite honestly, the simple discoveries… the first discoveries…
are frequently the one that last. People grow accustomed to certain
uses, presentations and methods.
get back to discovering coffee though. To making coffee. And you’ll
find that the answer often is… don’t overthink it.
you’re caring for animals, notice they’re eating a certain plant
and not dying when they do, that might just be an indication that
the plant could be safe for human consumption.
the creation of methods for preparing and serving items? Often
nothing more than making things easier to carry, easier to store,
and easier to preserve. Brew a beverage. Make bread. Cook over
I expressing these things too easily? Of course. Absolutely I
am, and historians and other experts might cringe at some of these
suggestions (especially without additional research or explanation).
But the generalized concept I offer, I believe, remains true…
most of the time, what those discovering things were thinking
is not too different than what you were thinking when you discovered
first people to cook seafood didn’t look at each other and say
something like: “This is good, but a bit of lemon would really
finish it off perfectly.”
first people serving wine didn’t scream: “No! No, no, it’s white
wine with chicken.”
too often we look at things with a sense of immediacy. We try
to apply our lifestyles and situations to events hundreds of years
in the past. Think of it this way… in the complete history of
the world, refrigeration is fairly new. There were times when
seasonings weren’t just to enhance a meal, they were a necessity
for making bad food palatable.
world is better for people like George Washington Carver, doing
great work and advancing our knowledge. But not all of the discoveries
come from the efforts of these individuals (and groups).
next time you are enjoying a refreshing beverage (or result of
a seemingly incredible discovery), instead of wondering how it
happened you might want to simply thank a herd of goats.