History of Grain Part 2 29/03/2001

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THE HISTORY OF GRAINS PART 2 As long as primitive man could live in areas where fresh food was available for 12 months of the year, he had little need for agriculture. Fruits and vegetables, the mainstay of early man's diet were well supplied in a semi-tropical environment. With the changing of the climate and the migration of primitive tribes, man needed to find some way to store nutrients for periods of time when no fresh foods were available. Seeds, such as cereal grains, seemed to be one way of solving the food storage problem, and so man became agricultural in lifestyle. This development occurred only about 10.000 years ago- a very short length in the million-year or so time span of man. With the growing of grains, cooking developed. If cooking had not started, it is doubtful that the cereal crop would have been of much use to man. Cooking, the first food processing, developed simultaneously with grain agriculture. Until about 3000 BC grains were pounded in mortars to make a rough meal from which the bran could be partially sifted. This meal was then mixed with water and heated to form a porridge. The Egyptians developed a grinding process in which the grain was crushed between 2 rolling stones. This allowed the endosperm of the grain to be reduced to a fine flour so that it could be sifted finer and finer from the coarser bran. This produced a flour that was refined enough for baking or bread making purposes. The Greeks improved upon the grain grinding process with rotary grindstones, and by 500 BC combined flour mills and bakeries were operating in Athens. Bread was being sold commercially, and already there were different types of bread one could buy (such as coarse barley bread for slaves,and wheat for the upper class) It was the Romans, however, who gave us our first "white" bread. During Roman civilization, flour milling technology rapidly developed, and soon te Romans were making 4 or 5 commercial grades of flour. The finest flour was sold only to the upper classes. Interestingly enough, the wrestlers and athletes of that time were fed the coarser grade of flours "to keep their limbs strong". The health of the Roman upper class degenerated through the years, some blame it on the lead content in their cooking vessels, and others point out their fondness for the new "white" bread. Whatever the reason, as the health of its leaders failed, the empire itself crumbled. After the Romans, it was 1500 more years before the "art" of flour refining reached this height again. By studying the skulls and dental remains of ancient man, from 3000 BC all the way up to the 21 th century, researchers have been able to devise a table showing the amount of tooth decay experienced by man during various time periods. Let's look at the figures: Time period % of Teeth with Cavities 3000 BC 3% 2000 BC 4.5 % 1000 BC 5 % 100 AD (Roman) 11% 1000 AD 5.5 % 1950 AD 24 % It is no coincidence that the Romans had more cavities than any other ancient people; they ate more highly refined flour products. After the "art" of flour refining was lost with the fall of the Roman Empire, notice that dental cavities decreased by , or almost back to their level before refined products were introduced. Then, less than 1000 years later, the cavities percentage of modern man increased 5 x over most ancient people. Can we draw any conclusions from these statistics? (extracts written by Mike Benton )



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