I'm giving part of the attribution to Neal Stephenson's Baroque Series, and part of the attribution Michael Pollan to and part of the attribution to the developers of Assassin's Creed. Also, now that I think of it we should spread a few props to Niall Ferguson and Nassim Taleb. It was a combination of their concepts that helped me to understand that I could have lived very well in the past. Not just the recent past, but in the 18th Century. There were very good ways to live back then, and good ways prior to that as well.
So when I think about my own martial education, a lot of it has to do with ridding myself of priorities established by contemporaries. Particularly I emphasize those priorities directed to me as a member of the consumer society - of those priorities that would have me spend effort, time and money pursuing convenience at the expense of spending effort, time and money for the sake of self-sufficiency. To be independently wealthy in our connected society requires a great deal more than it used to. But I digress. The point here lies specifically around the area of food.
I have often speculated about the amount of desperation a man would have been in when he found himself eating the first oyster. He must have been really really hungry to go underwater and pull that horrid looking thing off of whatever mucky object it was attached to, crack it open and slurp up the gummy substance. But then somebody said, "Nah, it was a teenaged boy doing it on a dare." Suddenly it made perfect sense. Not so complicated at all. But if you look at the history of recipies for oysters, the sophistication arises over time. Of course you want to eat Oysters Rockefeller. You'd spend good money on that. I would.
And yet we have fast food. Fast food is for people on the go who may have neither the time nor the skill to Big Gulpify themselves, or craft up their own McNuggets. Indeed what part of a chicken is the nugget? It's not surprising that this stuff isn't the best for you, but what about margerine? What about artificial sweeteners? What's the point of all this scientifically engineered food product? What goes into making that sausage? We don't know, we don't care. We simply eat when we're hungry because, relatively speaking, we are all very rich and we have choices. But then again so did our grandparents have choices. So did people in the 18th Century.
They judge inventions against sliced bread, you know. Damned good idea, sliced bread. So now imagine you were someone other than a teenaged boy on a dare. How do you come up with the ingredients, much less the audacity, to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? You and I both know, it's pretty much a toss up between that and Oysters Rockefeller depending upon how much cold milk is in the fridge. But OK. Peanuts grow under ground, so you have to dig those up, crack open the shell and crush the nut. Then grapes grown on vines in a completely different climate, surely not right next to wheat. Where the heck do you get yeast? I don't know. So this is a recipe that took a lot of doing. A lot of trial and error.
So yeah, if I lived in the days of Leonardo, I might have had a steel sword, but probably not a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I probably would have had a good Italian sausage, though and probably a decent pizza. The recipe for pizza, specifically the combinations of all the foods possible we think about make a good pizza have been passed down for generations. Like the first oyster, it didn't kill anybody. How many generations of good pizza do we have? It proved itself to be a domesticated food a recipe worthy of handing down for generations. Just as I learned from my parents how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
What has survived for hundreds of years is better. Everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong. That's Murphy and Taleb. Pizza is the safe bet. I would say peanut butter and jelly will be a safe bet too, but probably not as safe as pizza, and certainly safer than say... well start reading this: http://www.fda.gov/Food/DietarySupplements/ I dare you. That's not a recipe from your parents, that's a recipe for disaster.
So ask yourself if this new thing you want to eat or avoid eating has been known to as many people over as much time as peanut butter and jelly.