Food is a physical necessity. In human society, it is a culture force as well. Early humans were hunters and gatherers, entailing cooperation and a division of labor, perhaps between male hunters and female gatherers. Our ancestors learned to make food preparation tools of increasing sophistication. Their diet was high in energy, about one-third of their calories coming from fats, one-third from proteins, and one-third from carbohydrates. The act of cooking and sharing a meal reinforced family and community bonds.
Between 10.000 B.C., peoples in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and other regions of Asia, Africa, and Europe underwent the first great revolution in human culture: the development of agriculture. They learned to domesticate sheep, pigs, and to grow crops, such as wheat barley, rice, oats, millet and flax. Farmers produced surpluses. People began to gather in villages, towns, and city states, dividing into specialized occupations and forming social hierarchies based on wealth. Their diet diversified as different groups eagerly traded foods.
Christopher Columbus and the other great travelers of the age of exploration inaugurated the next great transformation in food: the transfer of foods from the New world to the old, and vice versa. Items such as tomatoes, potatoes, pineapples, and peanuts were brought to Europe, Asia and Africa from the Americas; wheat, oats, sugarcane, and animals such as horses and sheep came to the Americas from Europe. Europeans learned to love hot chocolate and smoke tobacco; Americans began to drink coffee and rum, made from sugar harvested on plantation in the west Indies.
By the 20th century, mechanized agriculture and especially the “green revolution”- the huge increase in production of high-yield grains in developing countries- had created an abundance of food, though unequally distributed.
Free-flowing food trade has begun to erase boundaries, with people around the world increasingly sharing a diet products, and meat.
YOU WANT FRIES WITH THAT?
Globalization is rapidly erasing the boundaries between nations’ cuisines, with most countries in the world moving toward the western-pattern diet: energy-dense meals rich in meat, dairy, and processed sugars. Many people think of this as the “fast-food diet,” because providers such as McDonald’s and KFC (Kentucky fried chicken) not only champion these kinds of high-fat, high-sugar meals, but are among the world’s most widespread restaurant chains: McDonald’s alone has more than 35,000 restaurants in over 100 countries. As this diet has spread around the world, so has obesity. Approximately 1.6 billion adults are overweight and 400 million are obese, with the most rapid increase coming among low-and middle-income urban populations.