Originally Answered: Where, When did the Kitchen Evolve? Your daily dose, Food for Thought!?
At various times throughout the history of humankind, people have registered their opposition to the cruel way in which animals are oppressed, and many have turned to a vegetarian way of life. For both ethical and economic reasons, countless millions of people throughout the world live on a vegetarian diet.
But the truth is more complicated than that. Certainly there were eras in human history when meat was a staple – during the Ice Age, for example, the ground was so cold and hard that vegetation was difficult to find, so that Neanderthal was forced to hunt down meat to fill his grumbling tummy. But the very earliest humans were more gatherer than hunter and actually scavenged the remains of animals that were killed by other predators, essentially gleaning from others’ roadkill. Studies by anthropologists indicate that early man was far more interested in feasting on the nutrient-rich bone marrow of found animals rather than on their flesh, using tools to cut away the meat not to eat it, but to remove it from the desired bones.
No, early man’s diet consisted of what he could find growing where he lived – vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. By combining those, and relying primarily on a diet of calcium-rich wild greens, he was able to get all of the vitamins, iron, protein, fats and carbohydrates that he needed. Animals had yet to be domesticated, so the only meat our ancestors had to eat was either what they chased down or found lying about – gathering nuts and seeds was simply more productive than counting on being able to catch and cook an animal by supper time. Eventually, man developed agriculture, raising vegetables and grains, and domesticating animals for meat and dairy. But before that time, some 10,000 years ago, man relied heavily on that which he could pluck from trees, bushes and the ground, and his diet was about 90 percent plant food. So toss out the idea that man is at heart a carnivore – we are, in fact, omnivores, able to eat meat but certainly nor required to by our biology or our history.
A number of religions and beliefs have lent support to vegetarianism. Brahminism, Buddhism, Jainism and Zoroastrianism all advocated an abstention from flesh foods. More recently, the Seventh Day Adventists and The Order of the Cross have advocated a vegetarian diet and many Hindus and some Roman Catholic groups adhere to a vegetarian diet.
Some early writers express their opposition to meat eating in no uncertain terms. Plutarch stated: "I am astonished to think what appetite first induced man to taste of a dead carcass or what motive could suggest the notion of nourishing himself with the flesh of animals which he saw, just before, bleating, bellowing, walking, and looking about them." Ovid, in the fifteenth book of his "Metamorphoses", puts into the mouth of Medea a forcible disquisition upon the Golden Age: "Blest is the produce of the trees and in the herbs which the earth brings forth, and the human mouth was not polluted with blood."
Seneca, the greatest of the Stoics wrote: "To abstain from the flesh of animals is to foster and to encourage innocence." In a later statement he claimed: "I resolved to abstain from flesh meat, and at the end of a year the habit of abstinence was not only easy but delightful." Pythagoras enjoined the abstention from the flesh of animals and his followers formed a vegetarian community.
Other famous early vegetarians were Diogenes, Plato, Plotinus and Socrates. Vegetarianism was not uncommon among early Christians, and some monastic orders follow a vegetarian diet to this day. Famous writers such as Voltaire, Paley, Pope, Shelley, Bentham and Lamartine urged the desirability of a humane diet. Alexander Pope expressed the opinion that: "Nothing can be more shocking and horrid than one of our kitchens sprinkled with blood and abounding with the cries of expiring victims or with the limbs of dead animals scattered or hung up here and there."
Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, and George Bernard Shaw were also vegetarians.
When you think of early man, odds are that the first image that pops into your mind is that of spear-carrying Neanderthal dragging a large, dead animal home to his cave for dinner. We’ve long held onto the erroneous notion that our ancestors were mighty warriors, taking down gigantic beasts with their bows, arrows and flint knives, and tearing into meat as their primary source of nourishment.