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Bon Appetit Wednesday! Shrimp Avocado Salad…Courtesy of Our Ancestral Genes

A while back we posted a holiday recipe for eggnog that explained how 7,500 years or so ago, humans in the region between the central Balkans and central Europe developed “lactase persistence.” According to a study by Professor Mark Thomas of University College London (UCL) Genetics, Evolution and Environment, “Most adults worldwide do not produce the enzyme lactase and so are unable to digest the milk sugar lactose. However, most Europeans continue to produce lactase throughout their life, a characteristic known as lactase persistence. In Europe, a single genetic change (13,910*T) is strongly associated with lactase persistence and appears to have given people with it a big survival advantage.”1

Domestication of animals and a rise in farming spurred the evolution of milk products, and humans adapted accordingly.  Early protein remnants in clay vessels have been found in present-day Romania and Hungary dating back more than 7,000 years and attesting to the presence of dairy farming.  Farms in England of 6,000 years ago give evidence of yogurt, butter and cheese production.  Romans used goat and sheep milk for cheese, and Germanic and Celtic tribes drank abundant quantities of fresh milk from cattle.  As populations migrated, this genetic trait became more widespread.2

cheese

Cheese, Tacuinum sanitatis Casanatensis (14th century) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheese

Justin Cook, assistant professor of economics at the University of California-Merced, furthers the elaboration of the benefits of dairy by correlating lactose persistence with economic development, and by extension, the rise in later colonial explorations. Cook says the lactase persistent allele, or genetic variant, evolved along with the growth of dairy production, which conferred upon humans three benefits related to economic development:

  1. Dairying represented a technological advance in “fixed resources,” that is, land and animals provided reliable resources to enable continued and increased sustenance.
  2. The fats, proteins and other nutrients in milk were consistently available to farmers, improving overall health and resistance to illness, which in turn led to increased production and economic growth.
  3. Milk production could have had the effect of increasing fertility, offering women another milk source for their infants and thus re-starting their fertility cycle that would have not been active while lactating.3

sundaeThus, according to Cook, “A statistically strong and robust relationship is found between the fraction of a country’s population that is lactase persistent, or able to consume milk, and economic development in 1500 C.E., a period representative of the precolonization era. And given the high frequency of lactose tolerance associated with European countries, milk consumption may have contributed to Europe’s colonization of most of the world starting in the late 15th century.”4

Got milk I mean, that? So enjoy your ice cream, cheeses, yogurt, milk and all their variations. And be sure to give a nod to our ancestors’ quirk in genetics that thousands of years ago paved the way.

Shrimp Avocado Salad

Recipe courtesy of iFoodReal

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 7 servings

Category: Salad

Method: No Cook

Cuisine: American Ukrainian

Ingredients

Yogurt Dressing:

  • 3/4 cup regular or Greek plain yogurt, 2+% fat
  • 2 tsp any light colour vinegar
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Ground black pepper, to taste

Shrimp Avocado Salad:

  • 1 lb cooked frozen shrimp, thawed & drained
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, cut in halves
  • 2 large bell peppers, chopped
  • 3 medium avocados, chopped
  • 1 (1 lb) long English cucumber, chopped
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, add yogurt, vinegar, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Whisk with a fork and set aside.
  2. Chop vegetables and add them to a large salad bowl.
  3. Pour dressing on top and mix gently to combine. Serve chilled.

Store: Refrigerate covered for up to 2 days (dressed is OK).

Notes:

If using thick Greek yogurt, thin it out with a few tbsp of water.

Smaller size shrimp is great for this salad as it’s cheaper. If using large shrimp, cut in half.

 

 

 

[1]https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090827202513.htm

[2]Ibid

[3]https://www.pbs.org/newshour/economy/got-milk-lactose-tolerance-influenced-economic-development

[4]Ibid

RELATED

https://antiquitynow.org/2015/03/12/newly-discovered-cheese-isnt-just-aged-its-ancient/

https://antiquitynow.org/2015/01/21/bon-appetit-wednesday-ancient-magical-kefir/

https://antiquitynow.org/2014/04/09/bon-appetit-wednesday-celebrate-national-grilled-cheese-month/

https://antiquitynow.org/2013/12/18/bon-appetit-wednesday-merry-christmas-enjoy-an-eggnog-courtesy-of-your-ancestral-genes/

Throwback Thursday! Discover Ancient History Encyclopedia.

Where do you go for information on our shared past? If you’re a history teacher looking for content and resources, which website is your favorite? History buffs, where do you go to feed your hunger for historic facts? For a growing number of people, the answer to those questions is “Ancient History Encyclopedia.” So how does a self-described “small non-profit organization” become the global leader in ancient history content online, attracting more monthly traffic than the British Museum or the Louvre? Find out in our exclusive 2015 interview with AHE Founder and CEO Jan van der Crabben and Co-founder and Communications Director James Blake Wiener.

And for a dose of history on-the-go, make sure to download their app, available on iPhone and Android platforms.

“Is It Time to Rethink Our Ideas About Preserving World Heritage?” A Provocative Question in Dire Times

AN Forum

A recent New York Times opinion piece by Connie Wang, a senior features writer for Refinery29 and the host of the documentary series “Style Out There,” offers a counterpoint to the often maligned idea of cultural appropriation.

“Finding the Beauty in Cultural Appropriation” takes a look at what Nigeria is doing to introduce their country’s various traditional and ancient clothing styles into high fashion. “A source of pride”1 to the Nigerians, the clothing combines the colors, fabrics and designs of various indigenous groups and repurposes them for the runway, bringing to life an ingenious and wildly inventive concept. Taking her cue from Nigerian haute couture, Wang offers her own take on how borrowing, copying and imitating other cultures can actually be a good thing.

Cultural appropriation is not a modern invention. It finds its roots in our primitive antecedents and the fact we are a species endowed with an affinity for mimicry. In “Mimicry in Social Interaction: Its Effect on Human Judgment and Behavior” published in the European Journal of Social Sciences, authors Nicolas Gueguen, Celine Jacob and Angelique Martin write “…mimicry is associated with the desire to create affiliation and rapport and that automatic mimicry is the result of an evolution process when mimicry was used in social communication between humans.2 In other words, mimicry offered the possibility of connections by promoting the sense of likeness to others.

Through the millennia exploration, trade, travel and migrations due to war and natural disasters caused various groups of people to intermingle and to adapt. Part of this adaptation was an assimilation into other groups by some degree of adoption of others’ cultural attributes. This is a basic survival mechanism from when isolation from the tribe or group meant certain death.

But when did the natural mimicry of humans and their need to adapt become transmogrified into something offensive? In modern history, the rise of advocates for disenfranchised groups have led the charge against any capitalizing on cultural identity through indigenous symbols and images. Colonialism robbed many cultures of their resources and self-determination, and cultural appropriation of any kind became a psychic wound, a generational trauma often triggered unwittingly. Here’s one example of the cognitive dissonance of cultural misperception:

One of the conversations on twitter led to talk about the London-based fashion line, KTZ, which appropriated Native American prints in their clothing during New York Fashion Week in 2015. The designer, Marjan Pejoski discussed the topic and clarified that it was part of the purpose to incorporate indigenous styles with Western cuts, as it was the first time showcasing the clothing in the United States. However, the designer was still criticised as on twitter, writer Lauren Chief Elk stated “This isn’t inspiration…It’s straight up appropriation and theft, of Indigenous people who are CURRENTLY using their own culture in design” (Elk).3

The always imaginative fashion industry has been a steady object of criticism regarding their “borrowing” of cultural symbols. Although Wang has another take on this controversy:

In other words, cultural appropriation might cause outrage, but it will not stop. And so the question is why? What do people get out of adopting aesthetics from other cultures? Through my travels, I’ve come to see appropriation as a form of communication: Sometimes what people are trying to say is trivial, hurtful and condescending — a bindi to proclaim that they’re “exotic” for instance, or cornrows to say they’re “cool.” But other times, what is being said is difficult and important.

…In the end, determining when cultural appropriation is O.K. can feel as if it requires a delicate calculus, more holistic than binary. It’s understandable that as a result, we’ve landed on treating cultural appropriation as a bad habit to be trained out of us; often it feels easier not to engage at all. But this balancing act is worth performing. Because the bad-habit model is not only exhausting; the result is often that people are so afraid of appearing “bad” that they self-censor good-faith impulses to try something new. Ironically, in doing so, they learn less about other cultures.4

So is cultural appropriation always wrong? Is this a conflict born of history and lack of cultural agency that will eventually evolve and be acceptable? Or does it continue a form of alienation of a culture, a diminishing and distortion of its contributions and by default, their status in society?

Read the rest of Connie Wang’s article here and see more of Nigeria’s traditional styles updated for today’s fashion conscious.

Learn about other aspects of cultural appropriation and its history starting from the Dadaists here.

1https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/20/opinion/cultural-appropriation-coachella.html

2http://www.eyethink.org/resources/papers/Gueguen-et-al..pdf

3 http://scalar.usc.edu/works/cultural-appropriation-as-archives-/appropriated-fashion-in-the-twenty-first-century?path=index

4https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/20/opinion/cultural-appropriation-coachella.html

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Fish, Chips and Pompeii’s Fast Food Thermopolia

fish and chips

Image courtesy of An Italian in My Kitchen

Nowadays fast food comes in all forms throughout the world.  A life on the go means quick fare at affordable prices. Whether hamburgers, tacos, satay, samosas, crepes or today’s recipe of fish and chips, fast food is ubiquitous.

Modern convenience? Not if you take a page from Roman culinary history.

Thermopolia (s., thermopolium) were eateries found aplenty in the Roman Empire. In fact, Pompeii boasted around 150 thermopolia. A thermopolium was an open air room with an L-shaped counter distinguished by large storage urns called dolia containing dry edibles such as nuts.  Each day the thermopolium featured different dishes available for purchase. People could select such standard victuals as “coarse bread with salty fish, baked cheese, lentils and spicy wine.”1 Other fare included pizza (tomatoes were not yet brought to Europe at the time) made of cheese and onions, soups, pickles, eggs and ham.2 A tempting array of palate pleasers no doubt. And like our 21st century fast food menus, thermopolia  meals were based on their convenience and simplicity. Customers knew what to expect and would merely point to the blue plate specials they wanted.

Thermopolia were frequented largely by the poorer populations who, unlike the wealthier residents, had no kitchen facilities in their homes. The word thermopolium comes from Greek and means literally “a place where (something) hot is sold.”3

Mary Beard is a classics professor at Cambridge University and author of the book The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found. Here’s how she describes the concept of take-out food in the city of Pompeii:

“The best way to escape a diet of bread, cheese and fruit, eaten in small lodgings over a shop or workshop, where there were limited or no facilities for cooking anything more interesting, was to eat out. Pompeii has long been thought of as a cheap café culture, with bars, taverns and thermopolia (as they are often called in modern guidebooks, though this was certainly not the standard ancient term) lining the streets, catching the passing trade—from visitors with time on their hands to local residents with nowhere nice of their own to be. In fact, the masonry counters facing the pavements, with large jars (dolia) set into them and display stands behind, are one of the most familiar elements of in the Pompeian street scene.”4

Fast food was big business in Pompeii. And while people came for the affordable, simple fare, a thermopolium also offered a convenient place to socialize and meet people. To hang out, Roman style. However, unlike our modern view of fast food havens as universally appealing, the wealthy in Pompeii thought thermopolia encouraged drunkenness and vagrancy. Indeed, some people reportedly inbibed so much they couldn’t return to their duties after lunch.5

Pompeii has been revealing its secrets since the first excavations started in 1748. Recently, archaeologists found an ornately frescoed thermopolium counter in Regio V, a 21.8-hectare (54-acre) site to the north of the archaeological park. The excavation is not open to the public yet. But according to the site’s outgoing superintendent Massimo Ossana, this has been an exciting discovery: “A thermopolium has been brought back to light, with its beautiful frescoed counter.” 6 As we see, even with the most common of places such as a thermopolium, Pompeii continues to be a trove of surprises of unquestionable beauty.

Since many people enjoy fish for Good Friday, we thought a quick and easy but nonetheless delicious recipe for fish and chips would be in order.  Italian style in honor of our Pompeii visit. And while we’re at it, may we add another interesting historical footnote? Fish and chips may have originated in Italy and been brought to England by Venetians. At least that’s the heretical view by some who want to stir the pot over this popular dish.

Who knew that our modern love of fast foods had antecedents so far back? Apparently, fast food on demand may be in our DNA.

Pompeii was destroyed in 79CE when Mount Etna erupted. Click here to see a spectacular animation of that day. 

Click here for some recipes based on thermopolia menus.

Click here for more pictures of frescoed thermapolia.

Italian Fresh Herb Baked Fish and Chips

Recipe courtesy of An Italian in My Kitchen

Prep Time: 10 mins

Cook Time: 30 mins

Total Time: 40 mins

Ingredients

  • 4 thick slices perch, halibut, cod or trout
  • 5 medium potatoes thinly sliced
  • Oregano to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped Italian parsley
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh chopped rosemary
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (more or less to taste)
  • 1 clove garlic minced

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°F (180°C).
  2. In a medium bowl soak potatoes in cold water for approximately 15-20 minutes, rinse and drain well and towel dry.  Place potatoes back in dried medium bowl.
  3. Drizzle a little olive oil on a non-stick cookie sheet, place fish filets on top, sprinkle with salt, oregano, parsley, rosemary and a little minced garlic.
  4. Toss potatoes with oregano, salt, rosemary, garlic and olive oil.
  5. Place potatoes on cookie sheet with the fish, and if desired, sprinkle with extra salt and oregano (and olive oil if needed).  Bake for approximately 30 minutes. (I raised the temperature to 425°F (225°C) for the last 5 minutes to brown a little more the potatoes.)  Serve Immediately.  Enjoy!

Nutrition

Calories: 429kcal | Carbohydrates: 33g | Protein: 39g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 153mg | Sodium: 132mg | Potassium: 1556mg | Fiber: 6g | Vitamin A: 1% | Vitamin C: 40.6% | Calcium: 21.6% | Iron: 56.8%

1 https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/27/city-fast-food-bar-unearthed-in-pompeii-after-2000-years

2 https://www.thevintagenews.com/2017/12/30/thermopolia-ancient-rome/

3 https://www.encyclo.co.uk/meaning-of-thermopolium

4https://www.thevintagenews.com/2017/12/30/thermopolia-ancient-rome/

5https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/27/city-fast-food-bar-unearthed-in-pompeii-after-2000-years

6Ibid

Reimagining Extinction: Michael Wang and the Art of Resurrection

NASAAntiquityNOW examines the connections between ancient and modern times to demonstrate that the past is never really gone. In so many ways, we still draw from the wisdom of ancient peoples and times. Even when it comes to climate change.

As we have been hearing, the warnings are dire. The earth is warming at an increasing rate.  Although the planet has experienced natural weather fluctuations throughout its history, the current alarms are sounding more ominous.

NASA has collected a trove of information gathered from earth-orbiting satellites and other sources to offer scientists a comprehensive view of changing climate patterns, much of which has been caused by fossil fuels. And the evidence is compelling. According to NASA:

Ice cores drawn from Greenland, Antarctica, and tropical mountain glaciers show that the Earth’s climate responds to changes in greenhouse gas levels. Ancient evidence can also be found in tree rings, ocean sediments, coral reefs, and layers of sedimentary rocks. This ancient, or paleoclimate, evidence reveals that current warming is occurring roughly ten times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming.[1]

NASA explains that the current trend is significant since a greater than 95 percent probability attributes it to human activity since the mid-20th century at a rate “unprecedented over decades to millennia.”[2]

In the midst of the debates on what to do, what to regulate and how much of an impact all this data will have on life in the future, one artist is staking claim to his own representational view of our evolving world.

New York artist Michael Wang is fascinated by the interaction of the natural world, particularly the ancient one, with a modern industrial world seemingly bent on destruction. He imbues his art with the concepts of global systems that affect the natural world, including species distribution, climate change, resource allocation and the global economy. Two projects show his unique interpretation:

In Drowned World, which was exhibited at the 2018 European Contemporary Art Biennial’s Manifesta 12 in Palermo, Italy, Wang depicted the collision of the natural world that gives us sustenance and the industrial world that drives civilizations. In the installation visitors to Palermo’s botanical garden climbed steps to look over a wall into the remains of a coal-gas plant that once powered the city’s streetlamps. In that modern-day artifact Wang planted a forest of plants similar to those that grew 300 million years ago during the Carbonifera era, and which over time became coal and other fossil fuels. Araucarias trees, ferns, cycads and epiphytes thrived among rusted remnants of machinery and gas tanks. It was a juxtaposition of ancient, modern and ancient again, an intriguing synthesis of a lifecycle disrupted.[3]

In his art Wang questions what this disruption means to Earth’s future. When humans have wielded their influence with ever increasing consequences, how can the natural world coexist? “Climate change and ocean acidification modify the conditions for nearly all life on this planet. When the effects of human actions are nearly inescapable, what can we consider truly natural?”[4]

Click here to see pictures from the installation.

flower

franklinia alatamaha

In a city of quirks and marvels the rooftop garden of the Swiss Institute Contemporary Art Gallery in New York is unique in design and purpose. In rows of simple aluminum planters grow four different kinds of plants that are fragile vestiges of a verdant history going back millennia. Indeed, in one of the planters flourishes franklinia alatamaha, which is extinct in the wild (EW) as classified by The International Union for Conservation of Nature.

“Nature’s orphans” and “homeless” is how Wang describes these plants because without human cultivation, they wouldn’t exist in nature. As discussed above, human disruption is once again a factor, an underlying thrust that repeats in Wang’s art. For example, ginkgo biloba, a hardy and popular contemporary tree, began dying off in the wild thousands of years ago in the mountains of central China. Most likely this was due to human hunters who killed the large animal that picked up and shed the seeds across the region. This annihilation of that animal species affected ginkgo propagation. Ironically, during this period people also grew to value the trees so much that they planted them at temples and in cemeteries. Thus, the trees we see today have all been cultivated by humans.

gingko leaves

Ancient fossilized gingko leaves U.Name.Me/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

“I wanted to trace the passage of these species from nature into culture,” Wang says. He questions how humans manipulate nature to the degree that we alter the natural order according to our own self-interests. “How can you cause the extinction of a species in one context while also allowing its propagation beyond what would be purely natural in another context?”[5]

Click here to see pictures from the installation.

Wang fuses his artistic vision with an awareness of ancient systems and an understanding of earth’s peril. His art forces us to consider the inevitable result of human folly, and exhorts us to find the collective will to prevail.

Wang’s other works include “Invasives,” the controlled release of invasive species, “Carbon Copies,” an exhibition linking the production of artworks to the release of greenhouse gases, “Rivals,” a series that connects the sale of artworks to corporate finance, and “Terroir,” monochrome paintings made from the ground bedrock of world cities.

[1] https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/
[2] Ibid.
[3] http://www.fruitoftheforest.com/michael-wang-extinct-in-the-wild
[4] Ibid.
[5]https://www.nrdc.org/onearth/culture-clash-nature-and-civilization-face-art-michael-wang

Strata, Portraits of Humanity, Episode 15, “American Revolutionary War Fort”

StrataImage-webIn this episode of Strata, Dan Elliot of the LAMAR Institute set out to document Carr’s Fort, a fortified farmstead used during the American Revolutionary War. The fort originally was commanded by Captain Robert Carr and housed his 100 patriot troops.  In February of 1779, the woods of north Georgia were bristling with small skirmishes between the patriots and the British.  The battles helped determine the outcome of the Revolutionary War.  Carr’s Fort and its sister sites are part of the fabric of the history of America. Continue reading

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Figs Part 1: Pork and Fruit Ragout

figWe are so excited about today’s Bon Appetit Wednesday. It marks the beginning of a series on the succulent fig. As we all know, there is nothing more exciting than a good fig recipe! Okay, now that may be a bit of an overstatement, but in all seriousness, these little ancient fruits are amazing. There are so many ways to use the fig, which have been filling the bellies of our ancestors for thousands of years. Because the fig has been around for so long and has had such an impact on history, we’re devoting more than one post to its story. So whet that appetite and enjoy the glorious tale of the fig. Continue reading

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Oliebollen (Dutch Doughnuts)

oliebollenOnly two more days until we ring in a brand new year! At AntiquityNOW we like to bring together traditions from all over the world, so this year we’re featuring a recipe for an ancient Danish treat. Oliebollen are delicious dutch doughnuts with an unusual meaning and a dark history. Traditionally eaten on New Year’s Eve, oliebollen is translated as “oily balls.” While this may not sound like the most appetizing name for a food, these deep fried sweets will make you forget their strange name at first bite. Continue reading

Bon Appetit Wednesday! The Ancient Pierogi

1024px-Pierogi_in_london_feb_10Winter here in the northern hemisphere is showing no signs of abatement, and as the snow piles up, there’s no better time than the present for some good, old fashioned comfort food. Luckily, we’ve got a recipe with a long history of filling the belly and warming the heart. Homemade pierogis are perfect for a cold winter night. We’re bringing you a scrumptious recipe for making your own Polish potato and cheese filled pierogis from scratch. Get the kids involved and make it a fun family activity on a bleak and frigid snow day! Continue reading

Ancient Dentistry Part 1: Drills, Gemstones and Toothpaste!

dentistry-316945_640 (1)We all cringe at the thought of going to the dentist — and that’s with the comfortable recliners, the soothing music, the anesthetics and analgesics. Imagine what a visit to the dentist must have been like thousands of years ago.

In modern-day Pakistan, where the earliest evidence of dentistry has been found, Stone Age dentists were wielding drills made of flint. Nine-thousand-year-old teeth found at a Neolithic graveyard showed clear signs of drilling, but also signs that rotting gum tissue had been removed, leading researchers to consider the crude drills “surprisingly effective.”[1]

In fact, in a 2006 article for the journal Nature, researchers wrote about the “perfect,” “amazing” holes those flint drills had made.[2] The holes were about one-seventh of an inch deep, except in one case where the dentist had managed to drill a hole in the inside back end of a tooth, boring out toward the front of the mouth.[3] There is no evidence of dental fillings; however, at least one researcher believes some sort of “tarlike material or soft vegetable matter” may have been placed inside the holes.[4] Unfortunately for those early patients, it’s unlikely that the dentists used any kind of anesthetic. Continue reading