All civilizations were built by men and women who ate bland food. They tasted what was on their plate at its most natural, closer to the source and mindful of it – this was food which was not washed away by herbs and spices, and its identity. In that moment though, their own mind was at its utmost clarity working without the chains of taste. They ate less and only when they were hungry. Food was intended to be nourishment, and not pleasure. Hunger was a common and a natural feeling, and no one reacted to it the way we react to it now.
But, these creators of civilizations might have unknowingly been building it all for a future where their sons would pursue taste and other vanities more fervourously. With the food security that modernity creates, the practicality of food has been surpassed by leisure. Today’s food is too rich and we do not have to work for it to taste as good. It caters to the tongue but not the body. This does serve the industry which thrives on giving it this role, but this industry is also answerable to no one.
There is also the rare nobility in blandness and simplicity of food. It can be found preserved across traditions in acts and roles concerning purity, service to God, mourning, sacrifice and health. There is something pedestrian about food that has all the ornaments of grease, spice, sugar and heat – everyone loves it, it doesn’t take much to appreciate it. We also see that both dietary factions of carnivores and vegans converge when it comes to not cooking one’s food. Their reasons might be to preserve the desired nutritive qualities, but it is also the taste which is preserved. Come to think of it, any act of preservation changes the taste of the food, which has directly or indirectly led to the hedonistic face-stuffing we see today. With the change of labor from physical to largely mental, the diets of the elites and the masses have also swapped – it is now the elites who pay more for a diet of a medieval peasant, and the masses now survive on hyper-processed monotony packaged for instant consumption.
Krishna speaks of diet in the Bhagavad Gita often; in a sentence, that – your food affects your thoughts, and eventually your karma. This awarenesss of one’s diet extends to its source, on how the food is acquired and prepared. Even in these times, we loop to the same conclusion with the influence of gut bacteria on brain activity. If diets can make you feel depressed or happy, can they not shape your entire vision of the world, which also affects your action? And what impact does leaning toward a type of diet have on an entire society/generation? Which foods build civilizations and which foods destroy it?