Think of all the various foods you eat. Picture all the fruits and vegetables, the animal products (if that's your thing), the grains, oils, and fungi.
Would you have eaten any of those without knowing others did before you?
That was the question on peoples minds throughout a recent thread on Reddit. They imagined what it must have been like to decide to try all these foods for the first time.
Were people bored, starving, stupidly courageous, or winning a bet? Maybe all of the above.
Redditor DreamedJewel58 asked:
"What food makes you go 'how the hell did they find out this is edible?' "
Many people immediately turned their sights to the foods that, besides a particular sweet spot, are completely toxic. What went in to finding that sweet spot?
Trial and Error
"Cashews are hilarious. Literally every part of the plant is poisonous, but the nut isn't once toasted."
"At least a half dozen dudes probably died figuring that one out"
Know the Lay of the Land
"That one tiny sliver of the fugu fish that won't kill you. . .hopefully. . ." -- Kepheo
"Yeah and it numbs your mouth still or something I heard. That's way to sketchy for me. I'll stick with regular ole tuna rolls and eel I think." -- appleparkfive
Let Water Do the Work
"Cassava" -- Tingusspinguss
"Yeah like this thing right here is super poisonous, but if you soak it in water for a few days and cook it you should be good, also don't use the water it soaked in it's now full of cyanide. Who figured that out?" -- Coolnessmic
Others were more amazed by the bizarre preparation methods that go into some of the foods we know and love.
"Cheeses: Blue cheese, Linberger, and 'head cheese'. 'Oh theres stinking, rotten milk in the bottom of the milk bucket? …I'll taste it!' "
Assumedly Just Didn't Want To Waste It
"Gumbo. What person burnt flour for two hours on purpose?" -- Wooden-Discount7884
"A genius (or someone like me: formerly known as "smoke detector man" by my roommates for liking things too crispy)" -- Czernobog243
"An Icelandic delicacy, it's 'fermented shark meat' "
"Now, it's reasonable that people would figure out that sharks were edible. But what thought process led to digging a hole in the ground, throwing the dead shark in, pissing on it, covering up the hole, and leaving the corpse to
rot ferment for several months before digging it up and eating it?"
I Have No Words
"Kopi Luwak, the coffee bean that is fed to civits, digested, shat out, and then brewed into coffee. Hey Jim we're out of coffee! ….hold my beer"
And others offered up examples of foods that they simply couldn't understand.
Why? Just why?
Scooping Out Slime
"also oysters 'hey i found a rock with snot in it let's eat it' " -- HurricanRocker
"Feel similarly about sea urchin."
"A long time a guy some dude saw the spiky little thing and thought, "Hm. You know what? This probably tastes amazing." -- BigBaldPurpleTitan
Worth the Stings
"the first guy to think to himself 'them bees must be hiding something, I just know it.' " -- shroomheadfloridaman
Layers to Penetrate
"Coconut…how hungry and desperate were the first people who managed to find those edible? I'm surprised they weren't used as a weapon tbh." -- Plantayne
"Definitely this. A coconut in the store isn't like a coconut on the tree. There's a big, tough fibrous husk outside the fruit that requires sharp tools and/or a lot of effort to get open. I've done it and it takes a sh** ton of work. Don't know why anyone would go to that effort just to see what's inside." -- bdbr
However weird and ill-advised these early experiments with food were, all I can say is thank goodness those bygone ancestors put in the work instead of me.
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Imagine being hungry during the caveman days and contemplating whether or not you can eat that giant serpent that just slithered across your path.
Or being captivated by the brightness of a berry and assuming it is delicious enough to eat.
In both scenarios, you either lived to share your delectable discovery with others or died from ingesting something not meant for human consumption. That is, if you weren't consumed first.
Thanks to our intrepid ancestors who did all the hard work for us to determine what was good enough to eat, the only thing we need to worry about is the expiration date.
Curious to pick the brain of strangers, Redditor cplfromholland asked:
Maybe The Third Time's A Charm
"Not exactly a common food, but was watching an episode of one of those survival shows that were popular several years ago. The guy was trying to survive in the South American rainforests and came across a kind of frond eaten by the locals."
"The part that caught me off guard was that he explained the frond couldn't be eaten raw. Trying to eat it uncooked would cause horrible digestive problems, namely diarrhea and cramps, It would be unpleasant but survivable. So the guy boils the frond... and explains that it's still inedible. In order to safely eat this frond you had to boil it once, toss the water out, and then boil it a second time before eating it."
"Some dude a long time ago had to trial and error his way through this; what motherf'ker was like 'yes this made me violently sh*t myself the last two times I tried it, but maybe this time will be different.'"
All Fish Are Not Created Equal
"Pufferfish. Generally they are extremely poisonous to humans and will cause paralysis or death. However, you can eat it if properly handled. How many people had to die to figure out which parts could be consumed and how they needed to be prepared."
"You still occasionally see people getting sick from eating it at restaurants now. If I recall correctly, I think I once read chefs who use it in Japan must take a written examination regarding the proper food care when handling it before being able to serve it. Absolutely wild to think people take the risk to eat it."
"Legend has it that it was goats. A farmer noticed his goats acting differently when eating a certain cherry, and somehow, processing, roasting, and grinding the beans to drink became quite a popular thing."
"That's correct as far as I'm aware - an Ethiopian goat farmer in the 9th century noticed his goats became more energetic after eating the coffee cherry. I'm not sure if he was the one that then took the beans, roasted them and brewed them, but Kaldi, the goat farmer is often attributed with the discovery of the elixir of life."
"How bout some bird-spit soup."
"In a few Asian countries, swifts nest are collected to make soup. Swifts build their nest with their spit. Their saliva is a delicacy in south east Asia and it is supposed to have multiple health benefits."
The Foulest Fruit
"Dudes - who the f'k cracked open a durian and decided that yes, I will eat the thing that smells of dead and onion."
"I got curious and bought one from Chinatown in NYC."
"The man selling it asked me with broken English and a shit eating grin 'you want me open this?' To which I replied 'no, I know what I'm buying.'"
"I opened it on my back porch and the smell made me gag. Tastes like onion custard. Wouldn't recommend."
"F'kin Cashews man. The process is so complicated. They grow on the underside of a fruit, like a single testicle w a lump of cancer on the end. Once you take the nut off, you have to fry it past 190 degrees Celsius to process the shells, because inside those shells is not only the cashew, but an extremely caustic acid that will burn you if not cooked out. Who the f'k wanted to eat the cancer lump that bad?"
"Anything that takes multiple steps to make it edible always makes me wonder who had the patience to figure out all the steps."
Fungus Among Us
Mushrooms, so many are poisonous, but someone kept trying h them."
"'All fungi are edible. Some fungi are only edible once.' - Terry Pratchett"
"A lot of dairy products.... sour cream, it's in the name, it's sour, gone bad, but nope, let's just give it a taste, cottage cheese, I don't know where cottage comes from but it's literally curdled.... let's just dig in and see what we got here... I'm sure most of this stuff was discovered during a famine."
"Oysters. That mother f'ker was hungry."
"20,000 years ago: 'Hey, maybe if you pry open this rock there will be something to eat inside.'"
"What did you find?"
"Cool I bet it goes with cocktail sauce"
"Soy sauce. It's a bunch of rotten soy bean juice with salt in it. Who tf thought that was a good idea to try."