Skip to comments.The Sinister, Secret History Of A Food That Everybody Loves [the Curse of the Potato]
Posted on 05/23/2016 4:55:48 AM PDT by SunkenCiv
"The Spaniards were much impressed with the productivity of manioc in Arawak agriculture in the Greater Antilles," historian Jonathan Sauer recounts in his history of crop plants. "[A Spanish historian] calculated that 20 persons working 6 hours a day for a month could plant enough yuca to provide cassava bread for a village of 300 persons for 2 years."
By all accounts, the Taíno were prosperous -- "a well-nourished population of over a million people," according to Sauer. And yet... lacked the monumental architecture of the Maya or the mathematical knowledge of the Aztec. And most importantly, they were not organized in the type of complex, far-reaching, hierarchical social structure that is considered one of the hallmarks of civilization and was far more widespread in Europe and Asia...
...the staple crops associated with less-advanced peoples -- like manioc, the white potato, the sweet potato and taro... are superstar crops, less demanding of the soil and less thirsty for water. These plants still feed billions of people today.
Now, a provocative new study suggests the fates of societies hinged on a subtler problem with these plants. And if it's right, it could dramatically complicate the popular theory of the agriculture-driven dawn of civilization that has appeared in textbooks for generations...
It's not that grains crops were much easier to grow than tubers, or that they provided more food, the economists say. Instead, the economists believe that grains crops transformed the politics of the societies that grew them, while tubers held them back...
But the fact that grains posed a security risk may have been a blessing in disguise. The economists believe that societies cultivating crops like wheat and barley may have experienced extra pressure to protect their harvests, galvanizing the creation of warrior classes and the development of complex hierarchies and taxation schemes...
(Excerpt) Read more at washingtonpost.com ...
These maps show a clear correlation between crop choice and political complexity. Societies that grew grain tended to have more hierarchical political systems -- empires, even -- like the rice- and wheat-cultivating kingdoms of ancient India. Tuber crops were associated with smaller, more local political units.
Fried Potatoes: French fries and potato chips contain a toxin called acrylamide, a chemical used to produce plastics and dyes. Acrylamide causes DNA damage, which can result in reproductive damage and cancer.
When starchy foods are heated to high temperatures, they spontaneously form acrylamide, even though none was present in the raw ingredients. Both American and European scientists agree that the foods with the highest levels of acrylamide include french fries and potato chips.
Additionally, deep fried foods are high in liver-toxic lipid peroxides (rancid fats, which are immuno-suppressive and damage liver cell membranes) and trans-fatty acids (which suppress the production of PGE1, an important liver-protecting prostaglandin).
Looks like hardly anyone had to eat their vegetables....
Well, it was centuries before Ranch Dressing, so...
One thing about grains is that they can be stored almost indefinitely if kept dry, could be traded as a commodity and carried over from one season to the next in case of famine. The tubers not so much. Vast amounts of grain would create a more complex society than rotting potatoes.
Indeed, but the toxicity of acrylamide can be immediately ameliorated by the liberal addition of an aggregate of high-fructose corn syrup, sodium chloride, and the extract of the highly acidic tomato, which goes by the commercial name derived from Southeast Asian Fish Sauce, which the late nineteenth century colonial imperialists co-opted, and bowdlerized its traditional nomenclature. This life-giving substance was further exploited by the ancestors of the current Secretary of State’s wife, and has become a staple in American Cuisine. I am, of course, referring to Ketchup.
/satire...but I am sure you already KNEW that! LOL.
Off topic I know, but Michigan potatoes are the best.
Centralized grain storage provides a dietary equivalent of a water empire. Easy to defend, and easier for one small group to control.
American knowhow solved the problem
Actually, I agree with that. And even with the winters here, they are perennial. Good idea to move the beds every year anyway.
Everything is toxic in sufficient ammounts. Ingest too much water, and it will kill you.
The dose makes the poison. Many chemicals are beneficial in small amounts and toxic as the dose increases.
Without knowing what dose produces toxic results, claims of toxicity are worthless.
Rarely can I find Maine potatoes in Connecticut.
But when I go to NH, about once a month, I can usually find them in markets there, and I stock-up.
We had a fair amount of Canadian produce here, last fall....which is wonderful; I prefer it over produce from Cali and Florida.
In my class (that I used to teach) I dealt with food and early military power and intuitively KNEW Jared Diamond was wrong-—but didn’t have specific evidence. This is it. Victor Hanson is right, it is culture not “luck.”
Hey! Leave my relationship with Grandma Pogue alone! She takes special care of my liver every night.
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