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  #1  
Old 08-17-2011, 01:54 AM
Whack-a-Mole Whack-a-Mole is offline
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How did humans learn what is edible?

Title kinda says it all.

Was it a process where Grog munched on a random leaf, dropped dead and then everyone else decided that was a bad thing to eat?

Given the huge variety of foods we can eat combined with the huge amount of plants we can't (either nutritionally deficient or poisonous) how did we (humans) figure it all out?

Is there some magical, "don't eat that" sense in animals that rolled over into big brained humans or was it literally watching people eat random stuff and learning the hard way?

Last edited by Whack-a-Mole; 08-17-2011 at 01:56 AM..
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  #2  
Old 08-17-2011, 02:18 AM
Kamino Neko Kamino Neko is offline
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We don't actually have a very good track record for figuring out what's nutritionally deficient - look up Scurvy, Pellegra, etc.
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  #3  
Old 08-17-2011, 02:21 AM
Gagundathar Gagundathar is offline
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The primary hypothesis is that 'Grog' watched other animals and ate what they ate.
But, this presupposes that Grog had no parents.
Cultural transmission occurs in many species, amongst which are the great apes.
Useful activities and choices lead to a longer lifestyle.

But, if you suppose that 'Grog' was the very first who ate a leaf that killed him (or was edible), then you misunderstand the ability of historical statistics to divine individual actions.
This individual probably existed in multiple groups of geographically close origins all of whom had a 'Grog' that a generation later was a synonym for 'DO NOT EAT THAT!'
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Old 08-17-2011, 05:48 AM
Blake Blake is offline
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Originally Posted by Gagundathar View Post
The primary hypothesis is that 'Grog' watched other animals and ate what they ate.
Whose suicidal hypothesis is that?

Animals eat all kinds of crap that would kill a human, and vice versa. Animals also have much different senses than humans, enabling them to detect change sin edibility status that we can not. There are plenty of plants that are poisonous on Tuesday and edible on Wednesday.

IOW watching what other animals eat is a really, really lousy way of figuring out what is edible.

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But, if you suppose that 'Grog' was the very first who ate a leaf that killed him ...
In the real world, the chances of an individual leaf or an individual fruit killing anybody is so remote as to not be worth considering. So long as you eat only small quantities virtually nothing in that occurs naturally can kill you or even cause permanent harm. Even hideously and notoriously toxic things like castor beans or noogoora burr will only make you sick if you eat just one or two of the fruit or leaves. And when you think about it, it would be astonishing for an omnivore to be any other way.

Which is the most likely answer to the OP. People encountering a new potential food source would sample it in small quantities. If it failed to have any unpleasant effects the dose would be increased and the food eventually proven harmless.

One important point to remember is that there was never any reason to eat unknown foods in large amounts. Humans migrated slowly into new habitats, or plants spread slowly into theirs. The traditional and well-known foods would still have been available when any new food was encountered, so there was no need to eat large amounts of any new food.

Poisoning occurred mostly after people adopted agriculture, for three reasons. Firstly, with advent of agriculture people lost most of the knowledge of wild foods. While a hunter gatherer could tell you the nutritional value of every plant in his environment few, if any, agricultural people could even name all the food stuffs. It was the loss of knowledge that brought the risk of poisoning. Secondly agriculture produced famine, and it was in famines that people turned to wild foods after they had forgotten their uses. Poisoning in famine is sadly common throughput history. The third reason was exploration and invasion. HGs generally didn't travel far from home, and if they did they always did so with the pemrission of the owners, so they could ask for advice. Agricultural people travelled and waged war far form home and were often not on speaking terms with the locals, making poisoning a possibility. This is the reason why so many explorers poisoned themselves. They were in a strange land with no local guide. This isn't something that could have occurred throughout most of history.
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Old 08-17-2011, 06:41 AM
Lynn Bodoni Lynn Bodoni is offline
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A lot of poisonous things that occur in the wild taste bad, or smell bad. You don't run into lead paint chips in the wilds, or antifreeze.

I never understood how someone got up the nerve to try shrimp, or most sorts of shellfish. Of course I don't LIKE shellfish, and don't like the looks, the smell, or the taste of it.
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Old 08-17-2011, 07:51 AM
Blake Blake is offline
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Originally Posted by Lynn Bodoni View Post
A lot of poisonous things that occur in the wild taste bad, or smell bad.
One problem is that a lot of them don't. An even bigger problem is that a lot of edible things taste even worse than the poisonous things. Stuff like morinda or chillies, for example, taste absolutely foul yet are highly nutritious. If humans only ate things that didn't taste or smell bad they would almost certainly starve to death. So clearly some mechanism needed to exist to distinguish between "edible and tastes good" "inedible and tastes good", "edible and tastes bad" and "inedible and tastes bad".

Quote:
You don't run into lead paint chips in the wilds, or antifreeze.
No, but you do run into finger cherries and puffer fish, which are much more poisonous than paint chips or antifreeze and much more tasty.
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Old 08-17-2011, 08:00 AM
DrFidelius DrFidelius is offline
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I figured their parents showed them what to eat, as pre-human primates who chose to eat poisonous things had a less successful reproductive history than those which did not choose to eat poisonous things.
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Old 08-17-2011, 08:04 AM
pseudotriton ruber ruber pseudotriton ruber ruber is offline
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And there's always the time-honored thesis of "Them that ate poisonous stuff is among them that didn't live long enough to reproduce more dumb uns."
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  #9  
Old 08-17-2011, 08:16 AM
Blake Blake is offline
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Originally Posted by DrFidelius View Post
I figured their parents showed them what to eat, as pre-human primates who chose to eat poisonous things had a less successful reproductive history than those which did not choose to eat poisonous things.
Which might work well enough for African savannas (though it doesn't), but humans don't all live in African savannas.

How died the people living outside of Africa manage to eat? Their parents obviously can't have shown them since at some point humans never lived there.

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Originally Posted by pseudotriton ruber ruber View Post
And there's always the time-honored thesis of "Them that ate poisonous stuff is among them that didn't live long enough to reproduce more dumb uns."
The inescapable conclusions of such a thesis are that

a) Every single poisonous substance on Earth is instantly fatal in all doses

and

b) Nobody alive to day ever eats anything poisonous, since we are all descended from the smart survivors.

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Old 08-17-2011, 08:21 AM
md2000 md2000 is offline
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In general though, stuff that is poisonous tastes bad. After all, a plant that is poisonous but animals love to eat it - will die as fast as the animals it kills. (Sort of like how wasps not only hurt, but have a coloration pattern that everyone/everything recognizes quickly as "caution! I hurt!" so it does not have to spend hour after hour stinging stupid predators.)

When I read about various foods which are pretty strange but people eat them, I too wonder just how desperate they were when they first tried it. Like the other thread, people eating grass leaves, when times are tough people will try anything - odd plants and strange creepy-crawlies. If they find a new food source, they make note of it for future and pass that on. If it turns out to be tasty - shrimp or lobster - they probably add it to the regular culinary repertoire.
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Old 08-17-2011, 08:53 AM
Blake Blake is offline
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Originally Posted by md2000 View Post
In general though, stuff that is poisonous tastes bad. After all, a plant that is poisonous but animals love to eat it - will die as fast as the animals it kills.
Thinking of all the poisonous plants and animals I know of, including those poisonous to livestock, it isn't immediately obvious that stuff that is poisonous does taste bad at any higher rate than things that are edible.

Certainly amongst livestock this is not true. Animals that are experienced in an area will know which things are poisonous, presumably form experience, but animals introduced have a much, much higher rate of poisoning. Amongst naive cattle and horses introduced to "poison paddocks" the initial poisoning rate is close enough to 100%, which is pretty strong evidence that poisonous plants do not generally taste bad. Rather the plants are poisonous precisely because they are palatable. If they were unpalatable being poisonous would be redundant.

Do you have a reference for your claim that things that are poisonous are generally unpalatable, by which I mean they are unpalatable at a higher rate than the background level of unpalatability of things that are not especially toxic?

Quote:
(Sort of like how wasps not only hurt, but have a coloration pattern that everyone/everything recognizes quickly as "caution! I hurt!" so it does not have to spend hour after hour stinging stupid predators.)
Many plants and animals do evolve warning appearances, but they do that precisely because their poisonous nature is not immediately apparent prior to consumption. An animal eats one members of the species or part of a plant and it then learns that the species with that appearance is poisonous. The appearance exists precisely because the toxic nature is not otherwise easily identifiable. If a plant tasted immediately unpleasant, like chillies or wild lettuce, then being toxic would be largely unnecessary.


Quote:
When I read about various foods which are pretty strange but people eat them, I too wonder just how desperate they were when they first tried it. Like the other thread, people eating grass leaves, when times are tough people will try anything - odd plants and strange creepy-crawlies. If they find a new food source, they make note of it for future and pass that on. If it turns out to be tasty - shrimp or lobster - they probably add it to the regular culinary repertoire.
Given the degree of preparation a lot of these foods require, it is highly unlikely that they were invented in times of desperation. Rather I imagine exactly the opposite was true: people sampled small amounts of novel food when times were good and when they didn't need to survive on them and when several days of purging, a common symptom, could be survived by subsequent feeding on more reliable foodstuffs.

Only a tribe of complete idiots would wait until times of desperation before testing the edibility of the local foodstuffs.
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  #12  
Old 08-17-2011, 09:00 AM
johnpost johnpost is online now
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parents have been saying, 'try it, you'll like it', to their kids for a long time. back in those days it was for a different purpose.
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Old 08-17-2011, 09:00 AM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
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I've always sort of wondered how people started eating the sorts of things that require a lot of processing to not be poisonous, like taro - one of the earlier cultivated plants, but it's poisonous and inedible before you cook it. Desperation in famine?
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Old 08-17-2011, 09:37 AM
kanicbird kanicbird is offline
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Originally Posted by Gagundathar View Post
The primary hypothesis is that 'Grog' watched other animals and ate what they ate.
But, this presupposes that Grog had no parents.
This is what I've heard some Native Americans say of how man found medicinal plants. Watching perhaps a wounded animal eat or rub up against a certain plant, or a obviously since animal eat something. Many Native Americans go on vision quests, which they will travel into nature and learn from their surroundings amoung other things.

It's not a great stretch that man would also learn what to eat from animals, like on a travel or a situation that a person or small group (perhaps a army) is away from home and in a area without food, sees a animal eating some plant and figure they can too. Desperation is a very good motivator.
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Old 08-17-2011, 09:39 AM
Alessan Alessan is offline
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Originally Posted by Zsofia View Post
I've always sort of wondered how people started eating the sorts of things that require a lot of processing to not be poisonous, like taro - one of the earlier cultivated plants, but it's poisonous and inedible before you cook it. Desperation in famine?
More likely some fell into the fire, and some curious kid picked it out of the ashes and ate it.
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Old 08-17-2011, 09:53 AM
Malthus Malthus is offline
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Originally Posted by Alessan View Post
More likely some fell into the fire, and some curious kid picked it out of the ashes and ate it.
I dunno how (other than desperate experimentation) people discovered how to process bitter cassava - it requires soaking for three days to remove the cyanide!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cassava...g_and_toxicity

The answer probably has to do with the fact that there is a continuum of poisionous cassava - from stuff requiring little processing, to the "bitter" variety that requires a lot.
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Old 08-17-2011, 09:57 AM
Malthus Malthus is offline
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As for judging by taste - this is most unwise for poisionous mushrooms. Many of the most poisionous (such as amanita phalloides) both look and, allegedly, taste very much like edible species ... leading to many poisioning deaths.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amanita...edible_species
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Old 08-17-2011, 10:59 AM
Whack-a-Mole Whack-a-Mole is offline
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I dunno how (other than desperate experimentation) people discovered how to process bitter cassava - it requires soaking for three days to remove the cyanide!
That's nothing. Hákarl is an Icelandic dish made from Basking Shark. Apparently the Basking Shark is toxic if eaten without preparation.

After preparation it apparently becomes edible but is supposedly among the most disgusting things on the planet you can eat.

The preparation takes months...

Quote:
The Greenland shark itself is poisonous when fresh due to a high content of uric acid and trimethylamine oxide, but may be consumed after being processed (see below).

<snip>

Hákarl is traditionally prepared by gutting and beheading a Greenland or basking shark and placing it in a shallow hole dug in gravelly-sand, with the now-cleaned cavity resting on a slight hill. The shark is then covered with sand and gravel, and stones are then placed on top of the sand in order to press the shark. The fluids from the shark are in this way pressed out of the body. The shark ferments in this fashion for 6–12 weeks depending on the season.

Following this curing period, the shark is then cut into strips and hung to dry for several months. During this drying period a brown crust will develop, which is removed prior to cutting the shark into small pieces and serving. The modern method is just to press the shark's meat in a large drained plastic container.

Chef Anthony Bourdain, who has travelled extensively throughout the world sampling local cuisine for his Travel Channel show No Reservations, has described shark ţorramatur as "the single worst, most disgusting and terrible tasting thing" he has ever eaten.

Chef Gordon Ramsay challenged journalist James May to sample three "delicacies" (Laotian snake whiskey, bull penis, and hákarl) on The F Word; Ramsay then vomited after eating hákarl, although May kept his down. May's only reaction was, "You disappoint me, Ramsay."[1]

On season 2's Iceland episode of Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, Andrew Zimmern described the smell as reminding him of "some of the most horrific things I've ever breathed in my life," but said the taste was not nearly as bad as the smell. Nonetheless, he did note that hákarl was "hardcore food" and "not for beginners."

SOURCE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H%C3%A1karl
How in the hell did anyone figure all that out and how hungry did someone have to be to go ahead an eat it even after preparation? (Not to mention making it a thing people want to keep making.)
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  #19  
Old 08-17-2011, 12:09 PM
dracoi dracoi is offline
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There were a whole combination of techniques.

First, it's true that most poisonous things only make you sick if you eat them in small quantities. I can't find the reference now, but this is actually part of a military special forces manual - when in doubt, eat a little bit and see how you feel after a while.

Second, once you discover that soaking, cooking, pickling, etc. one thing helps, it's natural to give that a try with other things. All you need is that first example.

Third, ancient people had animals, prisoners and slaves that they could try things out on. If your pig or dog is killed by something, then avoiding it is probably a good idea. Pigs and dogs historically were not fed good diets and often subsisted on trash and forage, so I'm sure there was a lot of experimentation going on. Poisons don't always work the same way on different species, but that's where the slaves and prisoners come in. You weren't spending top dollar for filet mignon for those people.
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Old 08-17-2011, 03:38 PM
thelurkinghorror thelurkinghorror is offline
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Originally Posted by Tengu View Post
We don't actually have a very good track record for figuring out what's nutritionally deficient - look up Scurvy, Pellegra, etc.
That's because it's easier to figure out what we shouldn't have eaten vs. what we should have. We eat something and start vomiting three hours later, we are good at surmising cause and effect. Animals like rats are good at that too, where you can add an emetic to a good food. The human/rat will quickly learn to avoid that food. Stretch it out longer though, and there are more meals and potential causes, and so an association isn't as easy to build. So with things like scurvy, it might be easier to say "my gums are bleeding because I just ate a raw plum," and not "obviously, my diet shows a longtime trend for low levels of Vitamin C."
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  #21  
Old 08-17-2011, 04:19 PM
brittekland brittekland is offline
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I often think about some unknown brave souls who gave their lives trying things out for the very first time... paving the path for all mankind. When I’m eating some weird stuff like sea crustaceans, wild mushrooms dishes or exotic fruits dishes it's not hard to be appreciative. I've been feeling, for a while now, that we ought to put aside a day to honor these brave souls... I mean we have Left Hander’s day you know...

http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodfaq3.html

http://www.foodtimeline.org/index.html

Last edited by brittekland; 08-17-2011 at 04:23 PM.. Reason: 80-90%
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  #22  
Old 08-17-2011, 05:16 PM
Weaver Weaver is offline
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This is a question that I've wondered a far bit about myself. Apparently a lot of existing hunter-gatherer societies have a set procedure for assessing the ediblity of new foods which involves getting a designated guinea pig (IIRC, in some Native American cultures, said guinea pig was generally a big, strong guy, possibly because he'd have a tougher constitution) who'd eat a little bit and wait. If nothing happened, they'd eat a bit more and so on until it was established if it was comepletely safe, safe in small doses, or not safe at all.

As for foods that require processing to be non-toxic, that is a question that continues to annoy me.

Last edited by Weaver; 08-17-2011 at 05:20 PM..
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  #23  
Old 08-17-2011, 08:05 PM
Blake Blake is offline
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Originally Posted by dracoi View Post
Third, ancient people had animals, prisoners and slaves that they could try things out on.
No, they didn't.

Dogs weren't even domesticated until people had already spread over the entire Old World, and pigs weren't domesticated until people hadliterally spread over the entire world. So whatever techniques were used , it didn't involve animals.

Slaves were certainly taken amongst HGs, but it was never a common event, and they were never kept for long periods. More importantly, it's kinda hard to take prisoners when you are suffering from chronic malnutrition due to not knowing what to eat.
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Old 08-17-2011, 08:53 PM
Hero From Sector 7G Hero From Sector 7G is offline
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In addition to the above methods, I think the Universal Edibility Test is likely similar to how early man tested foods.

http://adventure.howstuffworks.com/u...ility-test.htm
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Old 08-17-2011, 09:32 PM
mac_bolan00 mac_bolan00 is offline
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you'll stumble across what is yuckky but nutricious and what is delectable but poisonous only if your parents left you to fend for yourself while still a toddler. lower animals have a very visible nurturing pattern to teach their young what and what not to eat. since we evolved from single mindless cells, i'm sure offspring were trained by their parents throughout the evolution path.

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  #26  
Old 08-17-2011, 09:41 PM
Wesley Clark Wesley Clark is online now
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People are tend to be disgusted by foods they were not exposed to before age 3-6. I forget exactly how it works though, but in some cultures eating worms, rotten meat or insects is not considered disgusting, in others eating fish or beef is disgusting. The concept of what is acceptable vs. disgusting is supposedly implanted in our minds when we are young and we carry it with us.

This article kindof talks about it, but the concept I'm thinking of is a little different. I don't even know where I heard the idea, but basically the implication was that we learn when we are young what foods are not acceptable, and carry that bias with us for life. So it is likely that the culture you are in has already tested certain foods and found them bad.

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/m...e_skin;content


However I don't know 'how' it works. I never ate indian food before I was 6, but had no problems trying it. But I won't eat rotten meat despite rotten meat being considered acceptable in some other cultures.
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Old 08-18-2011, 02:23 AM
Toxylon Toxylon is offline
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I agree with most everything Blake has said in this thread.

Some common wild plants are extremely deadly, though, and can kill a human in very small doses. Water hemlock (Cicuta virosa) comes to mind. There are reports of children dying from just skin contact with the plant; eating the small, bulbous root is enough to kill an adult in short order (a native suicide method in Siberia). Water hemlock has a mild, pleasant taste, and can easily be mistaken as one of the edible Apiaceae species.

Military-style edibility tests often rule out edible, highly useful plants: dandelion has an acrid taste and contains a milky substance and is deemed inedible, for instance. Probabilities are a very poor way to deal with wild plant edibility.
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Old 08-18-2011, 02:32 AM
kimera kimera is offline
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Amongst my capuchins, the taste testing of new food falls into two category. The first is similarity to familiar foods. I was once following around a group of migrating males who came across some grapefruit trees near the remains of a farm. Grapefruits do not grow in the wild and the males were curious about this new fruit. Most of them failed to open it, but one did and had a little taste. Since it was citrus, he treated it the same way he did other citrus fruits - he rubbed it all over his fur.

The second method of tasting new foods comes from babies or adventurous individuals. Babies will suck/chew on all sorts of things and, amongst capuchins, the mothers don't stop them. I imagine that eating small amounts of poisoned food makes them sick, but not enough to kill them (although we do have high infant mortality...)

Amongst the adventurers, there is a capuchin named Gadget who is famous for discovering all sorts of new foods, including those discarded by humans. How or why he decides to eat certain things is beyond us, but others express interest in him when he eats something new. Even the alpha male will come over and watch him eat something unknown, but potentially tasty. The capuchins sometimes eat food that is quite nasty if you don't process it correctly. It's always amusing to watch a baby grab a solana fruit and bite into it, only to express horror at finding hundreds of tiny, sharp hairs sticking in their mouth. I imagine at some point in the past, a monkey like Gadget figured out the trick and his group survived whilst others didn't. These brave food explorers probably pushed the limits of our human diet.
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Old 08-18-2011, 02:57 AM
Nava Nava is offline
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Originally Posted by kimera View Post
Since it was citrus, he treated it the same way he did other citrus fruits - he rubbed it all over his fur.
What, before or instead of eating it?
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Old 08-18-2011, 03:41 AM
abel29a abel29a is offline
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Originally Posted by Hero From Sector 7G View Post
In addition to the above methods, I think the Universal Edibility Test is likely similar to how early man tested foods.

http://adventure.howstuffworks.com/u...ility-test.htm
Yup, this I think is pretty much it - Trial and error. Saw a documentary once, (years ago, so I cant remember the title) were they showed how indiginous tribesmen of the Amazon found out wheter a new species of plant or animal they'd encountered was safe to eat. One of the older womanfolk would go through a process pretty similar to the mentioned article. Take a little sample, rub it, taste, then eat a little, then a little more - if at any point bad reactions were experienced that food source was permanently off limits for the entire tribe. (And this would be passed on to children and their children in turn).

What was implied on the show, tough not said directly, but seemed to make a certain cynical sense, was that it was a older woman or man performing the tests typically, so if something went wrong it wouldnt kill off a healthy young'un.
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Old 08-18-2011, 04:03 AM
mac_bolan00 mac_bolan00 is offline
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^
that's for unknown substances with eating potential. we still test new products today for public safety.

regarding early man, i still think most of this problem is done away with through ordinary parenting and nurturing (way back to when there were still no homo sapiens.) i've a feeling people would rather stick to the foods they know. that at least is observable in their hunting, gathering and general settlement patterns.
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Old 08-18-2011, 04:43 AM
Whack-a-Mole Whack-a-Mole is offline
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Originally Posted by abel29a View Post
Yup, this I think is pretty much it - Trial and error. Saw a documentary once, (years ago, so I cant remember the title) were they showed how indiginous tribesmen of the Amazon found out wheter a new species of plant or animal they'd encountered was safe to eat. One of the older womanfolk would go through a process pretty similar to the mentioned article. Take a little sample, rub it, taste, then eat a little, then a little more - if at any point bad reactions were experienced that food source was permanently off limits for the entire tribe. (And this would be passed on to children and their children in turn).
What this does not explain is how someone figures out what to do to make something inedible edible (such as the shark I mentioned above that takes months to process...and is still considered one of the nastiest tasting things on the planet).
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Old 08-18-2011, 04:45 AM
Whack-a-Mole Whack-a-Mole is offline
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Originally Posted by mac_bolan00 View Post
^
that's for unknown substances with eating potential. we still test new products today for public safety.

regarding early man, i still think most of this problem is done away with through ordinary parenting and nurturing (way back to when there were still no homo sapiens.) i've a feeling people would rather stick to the foods they know. that at least is observable in their hunting, gathering and general settlement patterns.
Of course we all learn from our parents and society what is edible and what isn't.

That is not the question.

The question is, if you go back far enough, there had to be a time when no one had tried a given food. There are all sorts of mushrooms for instance. Some are edible, some are poisonous. Who figured out which was which and how?

Last edited by Whack-a-Mole; 08-18-2011 at 04:45 AM..
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  #34  
Old 08-18-2011, 04:59 AM
mac_bolan00 mac_bolan00 is offline
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so we're talking about unknown substances only. the method described: touch to skin, to lips, to tip of tongue, eat (give 5 minutes between each stage) was codified into a survival technique. there was one airman shot down over indochina who did this in his account.

but one jungle course does instruct people to observe what primates eat. though monkeys might have a different tolerance for toxins, their preferences are believed closest to humans.
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Old 08-18-2011, 08:20 AM
Malthus Malthus is offline
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As for foods that require processing to be non-toxic, that is a question that continues to annoy me.
I think it is mainly a matter of incremental adaptation.

Take cassava. Some varieties are edible without processing, others mildly toxic, and still other very toxic. I suppose that, when hungry enough, people would try the mildly toxic, and then do various things to make it less nasty ... naturally, once a method was found, they would apply it to the more toxic species - and do more of it (if soaking mildly toxic cassava for a few hours makes it good, soak bitter cassava for a few days - that sort of thing).

Take away the intermediate steps, and it indeed looks very odd.
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  #36  
Old 08-18-2011, 08:54 AM
njtt njtt is offline
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Of course we all learn from our parents and society what is edible and what isn't.

That is not the question.

The question is, if you go back far enough, there had to be a time when no one had tried a given food. There are all sorts of mushrooms for instance. Some are edible, some are poisonous. Who figured out which was which and how?
In most cases, I suspect, when you have gone back far enough for that, you will no longer be talking about human beings, or anything capable of "figuring things out" or otherwise making deliberative choices.

Disclaimer: Many monkeys were harmed in the course of these experiments.
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Old 08-18-2011, 09:30 AM
kimera kimera is offline
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What, before or instead of eating it?
Instead of eating it. They 'grope' as we call it with citrus fruits and chili peppers.

I also forgot to mention that occasionally we come across one of them puking. I've never personally been lucky enough to follow them all day and see what caused the puking, but perhaps they all experiment a little with their diet.
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  #38  
Old 08-18-2011, 10:10 AM
brittekland brittekland is offline
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The question is, if you go back far enough, there had to be a time when no one had tried a given food. There are all sorts of mushrooms for instance. Some are edible, some are poisonous. Who figured out which was which and how?
Some dropped dead after eating the particular matter... a sacrificial act for the posterity.
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Old 08-18-2011, 10:38 AM
Whack-a-Mole Whack-a-Mole is offline
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In most cases, I suspect, when you have gone back far enough for that, you will no longer be talking about human beings, or anything capable of "figuring things out" or otherwise making deliberative choices.

Disclaimer: Many monkeys were harmed in the course of these experiments.
Pretty sure my example of the shark in post #18 or cassava mentioned here were obviously deliberative attempts by modern humans to eat a certain food.

Who the hell kills a shark, eats some, gets sick, decides to bury it then dig it up at random times to see if it is "better" but keeps getting sick so buries it again then digs it up after several weeks then hangs it up to dry for several months then tries it again and pukes again but decides it is edible, just tastes and smells awful?

Last edited by Whack-a-Mole; 08-18-2011 at 10:39 AM..
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  #40  
Old 08-18-2011, 10:59 AM
Whack-a-Mole Whack-a-Mole is offline
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In most cases, I suspect, when you have gone back far enough for that, you will no longer be talking about human beings, or anything capable of "figuring things out" or otherwise making deliberative choices.

Disclaimer: Many monkeys were harmed in the course of these experiments.
I should also add that proto-humans did not completely colonize the planet. It was "modern" humans who did that. Sooner or later they'd be in areas where the flora and fauna were not well known to them. Some things would probably have been familiar but a lot wouldn't have been recognizable.

I imagine someone eating pufferfish (fugu) learned the hard way. I would guess some was eaten with no trouble then someone inadvertently nicked the sack with the poison in it (or ate it) and died in short order.

Other foods may not be so obvious.

Last edited by Whack-a-Mole; 08-18-2011 at 11:01 AM..
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  #41  
Old 08-18-2011, 12:43 PM
Zeriel Zeriel is offline
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The only thing I want to add is the old joke of pointing at a cow and saying "What I want to know is this: Who was the first guy to look at that animal and say, hmm, I think I'll squeeze those dangly things and drink whatever comes out of 'em?"
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  #42  
Old 08-18-2011, 12:50 PM
brittekland brittekland is offline
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Who was the first guy to look at that animal and say, hmm, I think I'll squeeze those dangly things and drink whatever comes out of 'em?"
It's a good thing we didn't all quadruple in size.
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  #43  
Old 08-18-2011, 12:53 PM
thelurkinghorror thelurkinghorror is offline
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Amongst the adventurers, there is a capuchin named Gadget who is famous for discovering all sorts of new foods, including those discarded by humans. How or why he decides to eat certain things is beyond us, but others express interest in him when he eats something new. Even the alpha male will come over and watch him eat something unknown, but potentially tasty. The capuchins sometimes eat food that is quite nasty if you don't process it correctly. It's always amusing to watch a baby grab a solana fruit and bite into it, only to express horror at finding hundreds of tiny, sharp hairs sticking in their mouth. I imagine at some point in the past, a monkey like Gadget figured out the trick and his group survived whilst others didn't. These brave food explorers probably pushed the limits of our human diet.
They watch him eat it first? You should've named him Mikey.

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Pretty sure my example of the shark in post #18 or cassava mentioned here were obviously deliberative attempts by modern humans to eat a certain food.

Who the hell kills a shark, eats some, gets sick, decides to bury it then dig it up at random times to see if it is "better" but keeps getting sick so buries it again then digs it up after several weeks then hangs it up to dry for several months then tries it again and pukes again but decides it is edible, just tastes and smells awful?
How about something like: shark washes ashore and gets buried in snow, or underground. In the middle of a famine guy eats it because he has nothing else. It doesn't kill him. The next part is hazy, but say that in less lean times, they're all drinking Ákavíti and start to dare each other. The same guy brings up that he ate a rotten shark, and it was disgusting but wholesome. Or maybe he actually did like it, but that's not very plausible.

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I imagine someone eating pufferfish (fugu) learned the hard way. I would guess some was eaten with no trouble then someone inadvertently nicked the sack with the poison in it (or ate it) and died in short order.
Nitpick: I don't think they have a sac. Parts of the fugu have the toxin in varying concentrations. The weaker concentration parts will cause numbness in the lips (considered a good thing). The liver, ovaries and neighboring internal organs are the ones you especially want to avoid.
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Old 08-18-2011, 01:06 PM
brittekland brittekland is offline
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Nitpick: I don't think they have a sac. Parts of the fugu have the toxin in varying concentrations. The weaker concentration parts will cause numbness in the lips (considered a good thing). The liver, ovaries and neighboring internal organs are the ones you especially want to avoid.
I had it before... there's slight bitter taste but kinda savory too. It's the thrill eat thing. Once I took some leftover fried pufferfish chunks in a carry out box back to my hotel room and left it in the refrigerator. I ate some in the wee hours after I got back from drinking... I hurled pretty much immediately... didn't taste quite right cold and when pufferfish doesn't taste good in your mouth it's not a good feeling.
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Old 08-18-2011, 01:32 PM
brittekland brittekland is offline
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Oh, also the owner of the pufferfish restaurant told us that a lone young widow in his old neighborhood who went insane, after she lost her young son, used to pick the neighborhood trashes for food/fish bit etc to cook with. He said one day she unknowingly ate some pufferfish bits that someone threw out after cleaning them and was found dead. Sad.
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  #46  
Old 08-18-2011, 05:45 PM
VOW VOW is offline
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I wanna know who figured out the first artichoke!

Thank you, adventuresome ancestor!

(also thanks for coffee and chocolate!)


~VOW
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  #47  
Old 08-19-2011, 02:41 AM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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Originally Posted by thelurkinghorror View Post

How about something like: shark washes ashore and gets buried in snow, or underground. In the middle of a famine guy eats it because he has nothing else. It doesn't kill him. The next part is hazy, but say that in less lean times, they're all drinking Ákavíti and start to dare each other. The same guy brings up that he ate a rotten shark, and it was disgusting but wholesome. Or maybe he actually did like it, but that's not very plausible
I suspect something like that, but rather than drunken bravado, driven by a choice of eating it or starving to death.
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  #48  
Old 08-19-2011, 03:41 AM
BillJJ BillJJ is offline
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... or chillies, for example, taste absolutely foul...
Oh man. I really have to jump in here and defend my beloved, delicious chillies.

But seriously, an important thing to remember is that just like every other part of human evolution, there is no single reason or answer. The fact that those with a taste for particularly bad food die quicker is almost certainly one of the answers. However this assumes that the bad food kills them before they reproduce and pass on the genes for loving bad stuff. Also this would not even come close to incorporating all of the possible food stuff in the world. The immediately accessible environment of our ancient evolving ancestors was obviously much more limited than todays world where almost anything can be made available, and it was different for those in different parts of the world.

The social aspects mentioned also probably played a role as we became more intelligent and could reasonably take advice from others and pass on traditions to other generations.

Some of it however is a great mystery. How do so many relatively unintelligent animals, insects etc. just seem to "know" to do the things they do for survival, even when taken from others of their kind at birth? Much of it is hardwired, some of it is taught (potentially becoming hardwired from teaching through generations), and most of it is unknown.
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Old 08-19-2011, 03:48 AM
BillJJ BillJJ is offline
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There will also always be exceptions to the rules, those who wander out and do stupid things despite all of the hardwired tendencies not to, and ignoring all of the social clues and advice. As long as these exceptions are few enough not to destroy the species, but plenty enough to be able to stumble upon an occasional something that benefits everyone else, we're in good shape.
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Old 08-19-2011, 04:39 AM
Blake Blake is offline
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The fact that those with a taste for particularly bad food die quicker is almost certainly one of the answers.
It almost certainly isn't for reasons that have been explained in depth several times in this thread by numerous posters. The idea doesn't even make any sense.

Quote:
The social aspects mentioned also probably played a role as we became more intelligent and could reasonably take advice from others and pass on traditions to other generations.
You didn't actually read the thread before posting, did you?

Quote:
Some of it however is a great mystery. How do so many relatively unintelligent animals, insects etc. just seem to "know" to do the things they do for survival, even when taken from others of their kind at birth? Much of it is hardwired, some of it is taught (potentially becoming hardwired from teaching through generations), and most of it is unknown.
Nonsense. There is no mystery. None of it is unknown that I am aware of. Almost any species of animal you care to name will eat poisonous foods on a regular basis. The inability to distinguish between toxic and non-toxic food is one of the major reasons why several species are on the road to extinction. Far from having mysterious senses, the only way to save these species is to remove them from the poisonous food, lest every last one kill themselves.
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