Diets and civilizations

Oct 2016
1,154
Merryland
Wheat was hardly a common staple food in Europe. Prior to the end of the 18th century, wheat was commonly mixed with rye and barley in whole Europe. Spelt was a staple food in parts of Italy, Alsace, Palatinate, Swabia and Swiss uplands, as well as Gelders, Namur and around the Rhone. Millet was even more popular: Venice, Dalmatia, Levant, Balkans, Gascony and so on (millet was the staple food in early modern Serb history).
spelt is mentioned in the Bible. I've never heard of it. is it eaten today?

IIRC there was a scene in Seven Samurai where one of the title characters shares his rice with a maiden with the comment 'Today I tasted millet for the first time. Ugh.' not sure of historical accuracy; was millet a 'poverty' food for people that couldn't get anything better? (in the USA millet is mostly used for bird seed, I think.)
 

Todd Feinman

Ad Honorem
Oct 2013
6,496
Planet Nine, Oregon
spelt is mentioned in the Bible. I've never heard of it. is it eaten today?

IIRC there was a scene in Seven Samurai where one of the title characters shares his rice with a maiden with the comment 'Today I tasted millet for the first time. Ugh.' not sure of historical accuracy; was millet a 'poverty' food for people that couldn't get anything better? (in the USA millet is mostly used for bird seed, I think.)
You can purchase spelt and Khorasan wheat, teff, amaranth and other ancient grains through Bob's Red Mill.
 

VHS

Ad Honorem
Dec 2015
4,594
Florania
with a handful of exceptions (Mongols) major groups of people have always had a starchy food base. wheat, rye, barley, oats, rice, maize corn, potatoes; often a combination.
at some point Native Americans figured how to nixtamilize corn, treating it with ashes or burnt shells to unlock certain nutrients. (People who eat corn without this suffer pellagra and similar conditions.)

Native Americans had corn and potatoes; also amaranth and quinoa as a grain/starch base. in some northern parts, Wild Rice (which actually isn't a rice at all).

the globalization of foodstuffs makes a fascinating story. what would Italian cooking be without the Tomato? East Europe without the Potato?

most NAs grew and dried corn, beans and squash, the 'three sisters' of the Americas. all three dry well and combine for excellent nutrition.

protein added from fish (where available) and game (deer, elk, moose). In Southern parts the turkey was domesticated, as was the guinea pig.

(and, in some cases, dog)
How did guinea pigs become popular pets in the first place?
 
Oct 2016
1,154
Merryland
How did guinea pigs become popular pets in the first place?
presumably they were caught and raised for food and eventually became pets.
small, easy to feed on scraps, quiet, able to handle being caged.
 

Tsar

Ad Honorem
Apr 2015
2,010
Serbia
spelt is mentioned in the Bible. I've never heard of it. is it eaten today?
Yep. I know that Germans produce it a lot (see: Dinkelbrot)

IIRC there was a scene in Seven Samurai where one of the title characters shares his rice with a maiden with the comment 'Today I tasted millet for the first time. Ugh.' not sure of historical accuracy; was millet a 'poverty' food for people that couldn't get anything better? (in the USA millet is mostly used for bird seed, I think.)
Well, basically. Millet is long out of use in Serbia, for example, and many people don't believe me that proja (a type of johnny-cake) was originally produced from millet, not from corn (millet is called proso in Serbian). But yeah, most of people that taste millet today say it's awful.
 

VHS

Ad Honorem
Dec 2015
4,594
Florania
Yep. I know that Germans produce it a lot (see: Dinkelbrot)


Well, basically. Millet is long out of use in Serbia, for example, and many people don't believe me that proja (a type of johnny-cake) was originally produced from millet, not from corn (millet is called proso in Serbian). But yeah, most of people that taste millet today say it's awful.
"Millet and rifle" was the saying from the Pacific War era (the Chinese Communist part).
What are the differences between the grains: Wheat, rice, millet, etc?
Potatoes have a rather ambiguous role: they are starchy enough to be staples (or play the same role as grains); they are treated mostly as vegetables.
Why so many cultures have grains as staples?
This person still insists that rice eaters have not developed any civilizations on Baidu!
 
Oct 2016
1,154
Merryland
Why do so many cultures have grains as staples?
easy calories and good (if incomplete) nutrition.
fairly easy to grow.
grains tend to store well as long as kept dry.
palatable.
reliable. hunting and gathering waxes and wanes but a food field of grain is a sure thing (barring weather disaster)
 

Rodger

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
6,171
US
Regarding the OP, I don't see a link between specific grains and a civilization's welfare. In many places in northern Europe the potato replaced other grains like rye, barley, millet and wheat a few hundred years ago. Can we demonstrate a decline in the civilization based simply upon that factor? While some foodstuffs may be more nutritious, people have to eat what they have. Potatoes are so easy to grow, even in the most infertile ground.
 
Oct 2018
1,209
Adelaide south Australia
In 'the New World' the potato was a staple food, of which around 200 varieties were grown. Perhaps an early super food, when considering the needs of the plant vs its calorific value.

Potatoes were the staple food in nineteenth century Ireland, where around 2 MILLION people ate spuds and nothing else. So, when the potato was hit with a blight, around 1845-1850, the result was a nationwide famine which killed between 1-1.5 million people. With another couple of million migrating to the US, Canada and Australia.

Currently, it is my understanding the use of potato as a staple food is increasing in China and other countries..