Published on behalf of Grove Publications P.O.Box 416 Surbiton, Surrey, KT1 9BJ, United Kingdom
All history is written by someone with a personal agenda - the victor - the enthusiast - the detached intellectual - the critic and, hopefully sometimes, by the seeker after truth and balance in all their shades.
Introduction - The Father of Organised Food Production
Whilst the compilation of this book has been a labour of love as much as a voyage of discovery, it has had, by virtue of the very nature of dealing with times long past, pitfalls and anomalies that lurk around every corner.
Take, for example, the calendar as we know it. Pope Gregory XIII (1502-1585) decided to reform the Julian calendar which was 11 mins 14 sec longer than the solar year causing a loss of 10 days by 1582. The obvious answer was to just drop them and the same was agreed upon when Great Britain adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752 - although this time we lost 11 days with the next day after September 2nd being September 14th! USSR did not come on board until 1918 and Greece not until 1923. If this is not enough the Jewish calendar is completely different dating from 3761 B.C. when the world was created according to the Old Testament and Islam operates on yet another system as does China.
A quoted year can therefore depend on the perspective of the person quoting it. Even the standard B.C. and A.D. system has its problems with many scholars claiming that Jesus was, in fact, probably born between 7 and 4 B.C.! With an intervening cushion of two thousand years, this odd couple of hundred years may not seem too important but as you dip further into pre-history, the problems with precise dating become more acute. Carbon dating and other modern methods have helped considerably but once one looks back beyond 3 - 4000 B.C., the variations in dates between experts seem to range from a few hundred years up to an entire millennium.
The dates quoted in this volume are the best consensus of opinion from a multitude of learned works in an effort to give a feeling for the flow of events and a flavour of how food production began and developed throughout history to the present day.
As we have neared modern times we have narrowed our area of interest down to the food phenomenon of the latter half of the last century, the ethnic sector which now, for the first time in history, allows the cuisines of the world to impact on all in Britain who wish to enjoy them.
The Legend Begins
One popular school of thought is that civilisation and organised food production developed in three main areas of the world ; the far East, Middle East and West, completely spontaneously and without outside influence with 4000 - 3000 B.C. being the favourite period for the event quoting civilisations ranging from Sumer to Brittany.
Not only is this rather unromantic but seems to be contradicted by many archaeological facts as we know them. As an interesting and quite plausible alternative we therefore offer the legend of Osiris who could well have been the father of food production worldwide. Osiris, although later to become an Egyptian god and a figure irrevocably interwoven with myth and religious belief, did, according to available evidence, have an historical existence. Although his legend is based around happening in the Nile Delta of Egypt, it is known he came from elsewhere, possibly Jordan or Mesopotamia, the cradle of modern civilisation.
Around 10,500 - 10,000 B.C. life was still nomadic and population very fluid based on the hunter-gatherer mode of existence. People had known how to manipulate grains and animals for some time but they still only used what nature provided and moved on to the next natural pantry.
This, of course, scarcely lent itself to empire building or the growth of wealth in its natural form so pressures grew for a new system to allow for the final retreat of the Ice Age and gradual population growth.
According to legend which may have a base in fact, Osiris was the first man to recognise there was another way; a way for the future. It is said to be he, or someone under his direction, who discovered howto cultivate corn and cleverly built up a religion and belief system amongst his people with him as Priest-King, so that the worlds first organised abundant supply of food was caused to be grown.
Historically speaking, life in the area changed overnight. Instead of small groups ranging far and wide to gather and hunt for food merely to survive, many people were able to live in one area and produce food in excess of their own requirements for the first time ever.
The River Nile had a great influence on this development due to its flood nature, giving abundant water in one season and drought and starvation in another. The importance of the life-giving water was not lost on the people and gradually it merged into a religion centred around Osiris and the rivers serpentine shape, with ebb and flow representing good and evil.
The excess of food encouraged Osiris people to trade and develop further with the Nile as a natural highway. The area became a natural crucible for innovation and invention ranging from the discovery of the potters wheel by Ptah and a specialised style of boat building. Boat design and navigation knowledge was handed on to the adventurous Phoenicians who traded from Carthage to the British Isles and Spain to the Indian Ocean, even circumnavigating Africa from the Red Sea to Gibraltar in the time of Pharaoh Necho (609 -93 B.C.).
Influence pushed further afield to the Far East with the same potters wheel being re-invented in China by Shen-ming and in Japan by a Korean monk named Gyogi. Even Chinese junks seen today closely resemble the original Egyptian design of Phoenician times.
The serpent myth of Osiris the deified is mirrored throughout the world. In Greece Dionysis or Bacchus is said to be one and the same as Osiris whilst the serpent of the deep that he was believed to have become after his death, is repeated in the famous dragon of China and Indra, the drought dragon of India. As such Egyptian Pharoahs became avatars of Osiris or Horus and the influence on China is reflected by Emperors becoming an avatar of the dragon or water serpent.
Legend even has Osiris linked with an Island of the Blest where the plant of immortality or something similar grows, which is also repeated in many parts of the world including Britains Arthurian legends.
A belief in Osiris as father of organised food production certainly has an element of fact within it even if considered scientifically fanciful by some more serious scholars. However, all known evidence indicates that the area of Rivers Tigris, Euphrates and Nile was the cradle of modern civilisation and of the great diversity of foods and cuisines we enjoy 11,000 years later, so who knows, the legend may be true!
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