Eating Time, Taming Food
Prehistoric Food Practice Experiments
Food is essential to our survival in any time and is one of the most direct connections to our environment. In the act of eating we consume our environment to sustain our bodies on a daily basis. Cooking, serving and eating are essential, ancient human rituals connected with subsistence and survival. Eating and food preparation is a connection that we have to the Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic peoples of Dartmoor. From this basic point of subsistence we can begin the investigation and reconstruction of prehistoric food practices. In this project, this investigation soon became a mission to reconstitute and recreate ancient, mummified food memories through blundering culinary experimentation. Based on information gleaned from books, websites, emails and a few scant stories we tried to follow procedures vaguely resembling those of the distant past. By processing acorns and making butter and cheese we have attempted to tap into and extract prehistoric food memories associated with these foods. These memories are deeply stored in the molecules and nutrients of the foods and seem to be revealed only through preparation and consumption.
In the tradition of “bog butter” the project culminated in the burial of boxes of butter and cheese as well as our research materials in a small bog on Dartmoor. Participants in the experience were given a page of directions to find and excavate the parcels in the bog. The excavated materials were then transported to the “lab” where they were examined, watched, listened to and eaten. Acorns breads, acorn coffee and rosehip tea were served to complete the “prehistoric tea party”.