Ancient Egypt is an ideal example of a culture that lived sustainably. If its borders had been sealed by a Star Trek force-field, they would still probably be growing and eating their food sustainably (and perhaps distributing their abundance more democratically, you never know.) And like most peoples throughout history, the ancient Egyptians were omnivores. Now we’ve damned the Nile and when you damn things—rivers, emotions, thoughts, other cultures, certain kinds of food—you begin dangerously eroding nature’s vital creative rhythms, in other word’s, life.
When it comes to food, the world is increasingly split in half. There are the privileged—those of us who have so much, so much food, countless food magazines, restaurants of all kinds and even food TV. Then there are the people who are starving, or close to it, people who are always hungry, people of all races, cultures and ages. Feelings of guilt are inevitable—those who have so much can afford to give up a lot, are almost compelled to do so, and hence the labels (denominations) vegan, vegetarian, raw food movement, etc. the new churches of food. What suffers as a result of these ideological camps is the spirit of food—life’s amazingly diverse and delicious, awe-inspiring and indispensable (sacred) offerings. Nowadays, those with plenty often feel driven to pick and choose what they eat with something akin to religious fervor, in extreme cases almost as a kind of penance for the fact that our planet’s God-given abundance has either already been destroyed or is seriously threatened. But that isn’t any single individual’s fault, to blame is the boundless greed and hunger of certain corporate institutions and the self-serving nets they weave.
Even though it’s destined to die in the end, we love and respect our body. In the same vein, I can love and respect animals as well as eat them. Nothing lives forever (not on the physical plane at least) everything dies before it is consumed, whether it’s vegetables pulled out of the ground for a salad or a cow slaughtered for its meat. When we deny the reality of death, we break the circle of life. Inhumane factory farming of animals for consumption is an abomination, but eating meat is not. Exercised with totalitarian democracy, compassion for all living things—animals as well as plants—would kill us all.
We are the chefs “cooking” up our future with the ingredients of our circumstances, ideas, beliefs and dreams—the kitchen of our soul. I don’t believe we can make this a better world by turning food into a neurosis. All foods are a joy designed to be creatively played with and lovingly shared.
Anything in excess is unhealthy but there are no natural foods that are bad for you. The demonizing of certain foods echoes the witch burnings of the past. Pseudo-science is in great part to blame for this confusion, proclaiming as gospel test results that are later, more often than not, proved wrong.
There is nothing more intimate than putting something in your mouth, chewing and swallowing and then, without even thinking about it, transforming it into you. You can walk away from sex and from the person you had it with, but you can’t walk away from eating—a need that should be an intensely pleasurable union with a nature that makes this relationship not only possible but essential.
If you’re looking for kid pleading recipes, there are plenty of excellent blogs and websites out there, but though children would love, and happily devour, many of the dishes here, Ancient Omnivore is devoted to adults who are passionate about the art of joyfully fusing good health with culinary pleasure, because when understood properly, soulfully, the two are synonymous. Ancient Omnivore is dedicated to celebrating the mysterious alchemy of food, wine and friendship, which has the power to transport us to a worry-free island of moments where the heart-driven waves of our thoughts and feelings crest as conversations breaking into laughter. On such nights eternity, like the ocean, seems to lap at our feet.
Ancient Omnivore is my personal tribute to the sensual spirit of all natural foods.
Maria Isabel Pita