I think it goes without saying that food has been quite pivotal in the evolution of humans. It’s our primary source of energy to not only exist but to carry on our daily tasks. From the beginning of life, as we know it up to now, food, food, food… is what gives us life. Well, there are other factors of course. But, for this week, we’re going to focus on food and how it has evolved over the years.

If you are a fan of historical or classical movies like Titanic, 300, Schindler’s List, The Last Samurai, and many of those based in the past, you may have noticed how lives were depicted, and how people were living during those times. I’m sure you have seen some videos where people tried to cook recipes from the past. Before the widespread adoption of agriculture, sources of food were somewhat limited. Humans, I’d say, were born hunters. Imagine being in the wild, with no cooking utensils, no supermarkets, and no means of transportation. Our main goal is to survive so we hunt and forage for food. Whatever wild animals we can find, we have to hunt and make them our meal. Whatever plant we think we can eat, we pick and make that our meal.

Fast forward to the time when people learned how to make flour, plant grains, etc…where people have become more educated and have created bread, milk, sausages, cheese and other basic food. Humans have learned how to make “processed food” – food that differs from its natural form. Yes, people have been more educated. But, food has become a privilege for many, rather than a right, especially meat. For a time in our history, access to certain foods was restricted to those with the means to buy them. The rich were the only ones that could eat a wider variety of food. From vegetables to meat, they have it. While the poor, most often than not, were required to live on more basic and readily available food such as bread, potatoes, milk, and cheese. Just the basic ones. Moving on from food as a status symbol, how about the quality and the safety of the food available? Knowing that there’s not much exploration yet to many synthetic chemicals, how were they able to prevent pests from ruining their crops? There was this scene in a movie based in the 19th Century, there was an outbreak of some flying insects and they used smoke to prevent these insects from destroying their crops. Natural remedies may have been their primary source of pest control due to a lack of synthetic chemical resources. However, according to the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry IUPAC, the first recorded use of insecticides is about 4500 years ago by Sumerians who used sulphur compounds to control insects and mites, whilst about 3200 years ago the Chinese were using mercury and arsenical compounds for controlling body lice. Years of trial and error might have happened before by using these chemicals. Another thing here is how they process or cook their food. Their cooking methods differ from how food is being made today when it comes to sanitation and methods.

Setting the time machine now to the current generation, a lot of things have changed! Modernisation has become so omnipresent that even our pets have their own Instagram account! When it comes to food, I’d say that a lot has improved both for the good and the bad. Processed foods are so common and are easier to produce unlike any time before. People are so busy making a living that fast food has become an everyday thing. Technology and machinery have advanced significantly allowing people to create more essential and non-essential “things”. They are so advanced that a lot of chemicals have now been examined and studied. Social ladders still exist, arguably, but the availability of a wide range of food is more accessible than ever before. The use of pesticides has intensified and shifted from more naturally occurring materials to synthetic compounds produced in labs. However, people are now realising its effects and are now spreading the good benefits of organic food. Food in today’s society has a wider variety of options. There is a lot to choose from. Since vegetables, meat, seafood, poultry, and fruits, even those processed ones are readily available in every grocery store, local market, etc… People are able to cook food according to their liking. The quality of food has been upgraded as well due to people’s “upgraded” lifestyles.

With all these being said, comparing the food before and the food now has somewhat a combination of positives and negatives. To be honest, it requires a lot of research as we have to consider many, many factors to make it more detailed. If I am to make a conclusion out of this (which I know I have to), I’d say that the food “before” was more basic, more closely resembling its natural form, which I think is likely to be the better and healthy option. Maybe fewer preservatives? Not much food was processed to the extent it is today. People from before rely heavily on the environment. Making not only the food they eat but also their lifestyle more “organic” or natural, if I may say. Whereas today, let’s be honest, we have become dependent on technology and other modern luxuries. That even in our food, we wouldn’t easily notice that the food we are consuming contains unhealthy chemicals because they look good, they taste delicious, etc. We get blinded by following trends. However, one amazing thing though is that we are now more open and more knowledgeable as to which is of better quality and which is not. Health awareness is so easy to spread now compared to before because of social media. People are becoming more aware of the beneficial effects of organic food, a healthy lifestyle and more. And I believe that we are now trying to or maybe most of us are trying to go back to basics and rely more on the natural aspect of things. Saying that the food before is way better than the food now is an overstatement. With so many improvements that have happened and with the right mindset, we are capable of having better food choices for the benefit of not only ourselves but also future generations.