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Nomadic Feasts and Power Food!

  I have just read an article in The Art Of Eating about an ancient Mediterranean “power food” as I am calling it.  It is called trahana. Turkish nomadic tribes apparently discovered trahana from the Persians and carried these dried granules in their saddlebags from Mongolia to Asia Minor.  

What is trahana?  Trahana is called “The World’s Oldest Instant Soup” according to Diana Farr Louis in The Art of Eating.  It is also the world’s “oldest fermented pasta”  that combines durum wheat semolina with soured milk, fresh milk, or vegetable puree.  It is then laid out on a sheet and dried in the warm sun, or, alternatively, in the oven at 175.  Below is a recipe for Sour Trahana, which involves the beautiful powers of fermentation of which I love. 

960 ml fresh goat milk
coarse sea salt
400 grams (2 cups) cracked wheat
Boil the milk, add a little salt, remove to a bowl, and place in a sunny spot, covered with a clean cloth.  Give it a good stir every 2 days-it can stay as long as 10 days- oruntil bubbles start to form.  (It should smell sour but not nasty.)  Most people think 3 to 4 days are enough for milk to sour.
Put the sour milk in a large saucepan, and when it starts to boil add the wheat slowly and stir constantly, until tender and thick.  Cover the saucepan and let it stand overnight.  The next day, break it into clumps with your hands, place them on a tray or cloth and leave them in the sun, turning from time to time, until completely dry.  Or failing a sunny (even a windowsill), dry them in a very slow oven , 175 overnight. 

I have decided that I would like to explore all of these types of food.

  Cheese was initially created through nomadic lifestyles, where a horse, camel, or goat carried not only shelter, tools, and clothing, but also important proteins and fats that would keep the nomadic community intact and thriving.  A pact was born in 8000 BC between humans and lactating female animals…an intimate bond that lends itself to a true sense of nourishment and support in order to survive the harsh, hot climates.  

This perspective of the human-animal pact also reminds me of Michael Pollan’s book, The Botany of Desire.  In this text, Pollan speaks of the human-plant pact: the innate, survival-driven evolution of plants is to domesticate in order to reign as a dominant species.  Smart plants do not have human consciousness, but they do adapt to our behavioral needs and habits of consumption.  The main example of American mass production and consumption is Corn.  Corn has evolved and adapted over time in order to become the perfect food crop for mass industry.  To read more, visit The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan.

The Cow has become the example of American meat and dairy consumption and culture.   It is perfect for mass production of milk, yielding the highest amount per animal.  The Cow is also a huge animal that yields a mass amount of meat.  

Before industrialized lifestyle and in many countries today that are less industrially inclined, there were and remains other lactating animals that provide this human-animal evolutionary pact, at less cost to the environment.  The cost of mass production of cows and their milk can be summed up by feedlots that hold concentrations of animals in small, confined spaces, existing in their own feces.  These feces generate so much CO2 that contribute to air pollution/imbalance and also contribute to many animal health issues, leading to the purchasing of antibiotics and supplement feeding techniques that do not work for ruminants.  How much extra energy must we put out to let a dairy animal do what they do naturally?  Let them graze and digest and produce milk on healthy grounds!  The production may be lower, but so will the cost!

With the human-animal pact, we delve into politically and morality based issues, as mammals more closely resemble humans.  With plant domestication, however,  the morality issues are only associated with how these plants and their care effect our environment.  Should we care how animals are treated and how they feel?  That is a whole other debate and discussion about our impact on the earth, our destructive nature, and our capacity for humane treatment.  I’ll let that one be for now…

Convenience was coupled with environmental and economical impact in the nomadic lifestyle.  We then see that the nomadic survival mode becomes the most effective mode for producing nutritionally dense power foods.

So!  Let us explore!  Let us follow the footprints of nomadic tribes to the soul of the nomadic feast.

“…it seems likely that the technique of preserving dairy and wheat together was in fact invented by more than one civilization.”  (Diana Farr Louis)

List of preserved products

trahana

kishk (Lebanon and Syria: bulgur wheat and yogurt, fermented)

To be continued…

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