Photos by Dominique Clay-Brown
Does a hot bowl of sunflower and sand
grass soup sound appetizing? How about
grasshoppers trapped with the sweet, sticky
sap of cat tails? Nevada’s Native Americans
were limited in the types and amount of food
that was available because of the harsh desert
environment. They had to live off the land and
that meant eating roots, berries, pine nuts,
herbs, and seeds. Meat was only a small part
of their diet and wasn’t always easy to find.
Some of the meat sources that they could find
were rabbits, skunks, mice, rats, and tortoises.
The desert we live in doesn’t offer many
options for food. If you had to live off the
land you would probably be very hungry….or
would relocate. Technology has changed all
that and we are no longer limited to what the
desert can provide. The two most important
ways technology has affected what foods
are available to us are transportation and
Food transportation technology dates all the
way back to the Roman Empire when people
would travel overland from the Far East to
Europe bringing exotic spices and food.
Marine routes soon followed and until the
19th century sea transport was the dominant
means of transporting food. The 20th century
brought the automobile, highways, and
cheaper more efficient food transportation.
Non-perishables could then be delivered to
places that had been hard to reach before.
But the most important advancement in
transporting food has been refrigeration.
Meats, vegetables, and fruits can now be kept
fresh while in transport so we can enjoy a
wide variety of foods that we would otherwise
not be able to enjoy.
There are many ways to preserve food so it can
last for months. It can be dried, pasteurized,
frozen, or vacuum packed(canned), just to name
a few. Drying is oldest way of preserving food by
removing the water and inhibiting the growth of
microorganisms. Pasteurization is the process of
heating milk to destroy organisms that
cause food spoilage and disease.
Freezing is probably the easiest
and best way of preserving food
by stopping most chemical and
biological processes that break down
food. There are also many artificial
additives that can lengthen the shelf
life of food.
So the next time you don’t know what
to make for dinner or don’t think anything in your
refrigerator looks appealing, just be glad it isn’t root
and rodent stew.