Once upon a time, human beings hunted and gathered. But not like you hunt for the stash of cookies you know you hid somewhere to keep them from your husband and children. And not like you gather cartons of yogurt at the grocery store.
No, people used to head out of their cave or hut each morning, right after getting dressed in the latest deerskin fashion and brewing a cup of coffee with a rudimentary pod made of a leaf wrapped around a handful of dirt, and venture out to see if they could get their hands on enough calories to keep themselves and their kids alive for another day.
The Hunter-Gatherer Menu
It was super-fun, I bet, all of the women stooping in the forest together, using sharp sticks to dig up really luscious roots all day, most of them doing so while either pregnant or with a toddler strapped to their body. The whole day long, the toddlers would be begging for treats that would not even be invented for a few thousand years. (You cannot and will not convince me that toddlers have not always cried for candy.)
Meanwhile, the menfolk were not having much more fun, out stalking wild beasts while armed with spears and big rocks. Paleo people (my not-very-sincere apologies if you are one) like to believe that they’re eating just like their distant ancestors when they chow down on giant steaks every night. But in fact, anthropologists have found that in primitive societies, hunters come back empty-handed more often than not, and have to content themselves with eating the roots their wives dug up that day. If you doubt this, pick up a rock and a spear and go hunting, right now. Tell me when you come back with a sirloin.
We Discovered Grains
So when people figured out how to grow grains, it was pretty awesome. Asians figured out how to grow rice, people in the American Southwest figured out how to grow corn, Africans figured out how to grow millet, Europeans figured out how to grow wheat — you get the idea. It was pretty great.
There was no practical way of storing lots of food until grains came along. When you have big old clay jars of grains stashed, you can sit your butt down and relax a bit sometimes. You don’t have to move around constantly, looking for better hunting and an area where all the good herbs and berries haven’t already been gathered. You can build cities.
Freed from the necessity of carrying all your crap with you everywhere you go, you can begin amassing stuff. Piles of it. You, right now, probably have a collection of hair product that exceeds all the possessions your ancestors owned.
So civilization owes a lot to grains, even though now, grains are The Devil, never to be eaten without guilt. Each time you eat a hamburger without the bun, or eat a salad without croutons, you are essentially rejecting the entire basis of civilization, just so you know.
But in the meantime, people got to be really good at making stuff like bread, noodles and other grainy deliciousness. And if that was not enough, one day a guy invented beer, so he’d have something to drink while watching his wife bake bread every day. This solved a big problem for the menfolk.
Grains Led to Beer
You see, a man’s work was done once the grain was all harvested and stored, but his wife was still busy taking care of the kids, making food and clothing, etc. He felt at loose ends and professional sports had not been invented yet, so he had to do something to fill his time when he wasn’t planting or harvesting grain. Thus the invention of beer, which, conveniently, is made of grain.
Early Man 1: “Hey, come drink some of this warm, soupy, foul stuff I made!”
Early Man 2: “Yuck! That tastes like crap!”
Early Man 1: “I know, but keep drinking it.”
Early Man 2: “OK. I’ve got nothing else to do until spring planting anyway. Other than watch my wife work her butt off.”
Early Man 1: “Notice anything yet?”
Early Man 2: “I notice I have to go to the bathroom. Wait, what does that even mean? I meant to say I have to go stand behind a tree for a minute.”
Early Man 1: “Notice anything else?”
Early Man 2: “Wow, I never noticed before what nice big mammary glands that one lady over there has! I must make her my mate!”
Early Man 1: “Yes! I call this ‘getting drunk’ and it’s awesome!”
Let’s gloss over a few thousand years in which really nothing much happened other than the development of writing and a bunch of wars and stuff. Let’s cut straight to the pandemic.
I went foraging, er, shopping in late February, and there wasn’t a bag of flour or rice to be had. That’s right, we went right back to partying like it was 9,999 B.C. (According to Wikipedia, 10,000 B.C. is the year of the agricultural revolution. They don’t give a month and day. Let’s say it was May 7, 10,000 B.C. I hate imprecision.)
Suddenly, fearful of the collapse of civilization, most of us decided that maybe grains weren’t as bad as we had feared.
I don’t know about you, but I am eating the crap out of grains right now, and they are just as delicious as your great-great-great-great (keep going a few hundred times here) grandmother always knew they were.
And beer keeps a pretty good period of time, too, so the next time you go foraging at the grocery store, pick up some beer to go with all your delicious bread. Do it for civilization.
Sophia Sinclair is Curvicality’s sex and relationships writer and the author of the Small-Town Secrets romance series, available on Amazon. Reach Sophia at firstname.lastname@example.org.