Near A Thousand Tables
The Invention of Cooking – The First Revolution
The Transforming Fire:
Oysters are odd among raw foods because cooking usually ruins them.
In the vast span of human history, cooking is a late innovation, but just as important.
Cooking transformed society.
The campfire became a place of communion when people ate
around it, they had more regular mealtimes/meeting times, there were shared pleasures and
Once fire became manageable it inevitably bound communities together, because ending the
flame required division of labor and shared effort.
The Cooking Revolution was the first scientific revolution: the discovery, by experiment and
observations, of the biochemical changes, which transmute flavors and aid digestion.
Lamb assumes that cooking was invented by accident.
Cooking can make things palatable that were otherwise poisonous.
B) First Food Technologies:
Most societies did not enjoy ideal conditions for making fire.
The early cooks invented the hot-stone griddle: using fire to heat stones, and hot stones to
The Cooking Pit was an important refinement of the hot-stone cookery.
It was a dry pit
heated with stones to make an over, or a pit dug below the water table, heated by the same
means, made a boiler or poacher.
It facilitated boiling, a new method of cooking.
The tandoor is a cooking pit elevated above ground.
Filling skins, tripes, cauls or stomachs of animals were used for cooking in.
innards as cooking pots most often.
When cooks had earthenware pots they were able to make the step to frying, because the pots
were then impenetrable by water and resistant to fire.
C) The Eroding Waves:
Cooking today is condemned by critics; and its socializing effects are said to be under threat
from technological change.
The microwave oven reverses the cooking revolution, which made eating sociable, and
returns us, in this respect, to a presocial phase of evolution.
The Meaning of Eating – Food as Rite and Magic
A) The Logic of Cannibalism:
Anthropophagi = humans who feed on human flesh
Cannibalism was classed as an offense against natural law; they were beyond law’s
In some cultures, human flesh is more than food: its consumption is justified because
nourishes the community, invokes the gods, or harnesses magic.
Human meat was gods’ food and cannibalism a form of divine communion.
Some people ate the bodies of warriors in honor of the bravery.
They would rather have their
bodies rot inside them than rot on the earth.