Official Site of Speaker, Historian and Author Sean Munger


How Grain Shaped History: by The Hungry Historian

The Groovy Historian, a long time friend of this blog, has teamed up with the Hungry Historian! This very interesting article ran recently on Groovy’s blog, detailing the very long history of wheat and grains in the ancient world. Food history is something that’s pretty hot in academia and popular history right now, so this comes at a good time. Nice job from visiting blogger the Hungry Historian bringing us a story we don’t often hear.

Today, we will be talking about how this tiny seed sack from the Middle East went from something that cave people chewed on for nutrients; to being something so ubiquitous in the Western Diet that going “Gluten-Free” or “Paleo” is a status symbol.

9,000 BCE ≈ The world starts cultivating different kinds of grains. Different kinds of Wheat and Barley become popular in Mesopotamia and Egypt while Rice became popular in ancient China. However, grain by itself isn’t really all that appealing. Up until the point where Grain was cultivated, it was mostly just chewed on for nutrients. The real reason people first started cultivating grain was for Beer.

Beer is created when yeast (A microorganism that is found naturally floating in the air) is introduced to a liquid made from grain with glucose in it. The same thing happens with fruit and we call that “wine”. This is why some fruits will ferment in the wild.  It is theorized that even though Beer and Bread are made from the same three main components (Grain, water and yeast) that Beer was discovered before bread was invented. Bread requires refining grain into powder before using it; as well as the ability to use a some kind of a stove. Some believe that improper storage of grains that already had yeast on them from the fields led to humans first tasting a “proto-beer”. They enjoyed the buzz they got from the new drink and did what they could to recreate it. The first evidence of humans intentionally brewing beer is around 9,000 BCE in China.…

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