If the last six months has taught us anything, it’s that life doesn’t need to be so hectic. We have (re)learned what’s truly important. So let’s look back to how things used to be and take time to appreciate...time. In terms of food, our ancestors were not in a rush for things to mature, and would spend hours - sometimes days - hand-making gastronomic delights. Less stress, more flavour. What’s not to like about that?
As our lives are unexpectedly forced to slow down, we take a positive view at what this means and look to yesteryear’s ancestral practices across food and lifestyle. Could looking back provide a new way forward?
The industrial revolution kick started many fantastic ways to save time. In less than a century we let machines become the slaves of our daily chores, freeing up more time for us to..erm..work (thanks machines). Sure, many had the blessings of using their free hours to create artistic masterpieces, travel the world, become famous for doing nothing and other such privileges, but many of us simply used tech to support our increasingly busy lives.
Something went wrong in this equation. We were supposed to have more time to take care of ourselves and each other
Pre-tech, everything was painstakingly handmade, yet mass production had the opposite effect to our health and lifestyle that we perhaps had anticipated.
Image courtesy of Consorcio
The huge rise in obesity and other related conditions has made us rethink ‘painstakingly’ for ‘lovingly handmade,’ because science and data cannot be denied. In the last 200 years we have exponentially gained significant and deadly kilos and disease.
So, it’s no surprise that during lockdown items such as seeds and flour outsold most others. We now had the time and patience to bake and grow our own food. And given our collective concerns with our health, this underlined the fact we had to go back to nature and all that she provides.
Our ancestors lived off the land and appreciated how a well-reared stock would maintain health and serve them better. And every part of an animal was used, oftentimes with necessary blessings and rituals to thank them and mother nature for the bounty. Herds were part of a symbiotic relationship and respectfully treated - none more than the Japanese, whose delicate rearing of Kobe beef goes over and above the call of nurture. The proof, they say, is in the…meat - it’s supreme quality touted as the best in the world.
Ancestral farming practices were also what we now refer to as ‘local’ and ‘organic’ as their food was not on demand. Seasonal meant eating what was available at a particular time, which took planning and patience. And often that patience makes for exceptional class. Today, many of the hand grown and time consuming methods are still very much in place, with top quality vegetables being fastidiously picked and provided to the best restaurants and chefs world over.
The reason why Almas caviar is so highly valued is not because of it’s rarity, but because it comes from sturgeons that are between 60-100 years old. Distinction isn’t earned overnight. And these hand extracted pearls have been harvested since the 10th century when the Byzantine Greeks started to trade with the Kievan Rus (now modern Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.)
We have become accustomed to believe that waiting for something is a waste of time, when the opposite is true. A more laid back and traditional way of life means less stress, better health and more time for ourselves and those we care about. Many studies around the ‘blue zones’ of our planet have shown that health and longevity are intrinsically linked to time immemorial habits of whole food, slower way of life, being with family and loved ones and maintaining an active lifestyle.
In Santoña, on the Spanish Cantabrian coast, artesanal fishing methods have been practiced for hundreds of years, and whilst technology may have changed, the hand made processing of tuna and anchovies have remained the same for the best part of a century. This ensures not just quality control, but the exceptional taste of the ocean and all its benefits are delivered straight to your plate.
“Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.”
Image courtesy of Consorcio
There is a specific term for the ladies who take care of the trimming and packaging of these products, and in fact, being a ‘Sobadora’ is considered a highly specialised skill that has remained in families for generations. This art form ensures that anchovies are carefully handled to take away any of the bones and scales, leaving them perfectly clean and considered as the best in the world.
If nothing else, the time we live in right now is the perfect time to…take time. Because quality and our health demands it, as it has done throughout millennia.