We all eat.
Some of us find food rather interesting.
I see it as a window into the soul, both individual and cultural.
Feasting has been a hot topic for a few years in anthropology and archaeology. Feasting is group dining. We do it all the time, mostly to commemorate events—a raise, a birthday, a wedding. In prehistoric times, we find archaeological signatures of group dining—for example, large trash pits filled quickly or lots of simply made single-serving bowls.
Quite a few archaeologists link feasting activities to the changes that came about as people coalesced into more complex societies than the dispersed gathering and hunting groups that characterized the early modern human past. Certainly, when people gathered together for ritual and social activities for longer than a few hours, food had to have been present. It is also easy to see how people who came from areas with different food resources (some tastier or more prolific) could leverage those differences in power relationships. Quite a bit has been written about the role of alcoholic beverages in feasting and sociopolitical relationships.
Likewise, crafted items, some of which also preserve archaeologically, might also be traded or gifted during feasting events, as a means to political leverage.
Here’re references to three recent articles that discuss some of these issues vis-à-vis early Peruvian cultures.
- Jennings, Justin. 2005. “La Chichera y El Patrón: Chicha and the Energetics of Feasting in the Prehistoric Andes,” in Foundations of Power in the Prehispanic Andes, Archaeological Papers, no. 14. Edited by Kevin J. Vaughn, Dennis Ogburn, and Christina A. Conlee, pp. 241–59. Washington, D.C.: American Anthropological Association.
- Vaughn, Kevin J. 2004. Households, Crafts, and Feasting in the Ancient Andes: The Village Context of Early Nasca Craft Consumption. Latin American Antiquity 15:61–88.
- —. 2005. “Crafts and the Materialization of Chiefly Power in Nasca,” in Foundations of Power in the Prehispanic Andes, Archaeological Papers, no. 14. Edited by Kevin J. Vaughn, Dennis Ogburn, and Christina A. Conlee, pp. 113–30. Washington, D.C.: American Anthropological Association.
The chapters in this book delve into these issues on a more comparative basis:
- Dietler, Michael, and Brian Hayden. Editors. 2001. Feasts: Archaeological and Ethnographic Perspectives on Food, Politics, and Power. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.
In a different spirit, I’ve posted a few of my favorite recipes. I’ve tried all of them multiple times, and vouch for their appeal to people of all ages!