Tuesday, June 3, 2008

who was on first *first*?

Do you ever think about how, long ago, there was a "first" for everything? And that lots of these people must have been insane? Seriously. Consider...

...the first person to make coffee. "What if we take these little green beans, roast them until they're dry and brown, grind them up finely, then steep them in water until it turns dark, then strain out the granules and drink the dark brown goo that's left over? My, that's awfully strong. Needs something creamy. Why don't I go put my mouth on that cow's teat and see what happens..."

...the first person to eat an egg. "Wow, that bird just pooped a big, white, crap-splattered ball. Wonder what's in there? Shake-shake-shake. Sounds like water. Maybe i'll pop it open. Oooooh, a little white fetus and some yellow stuff. That looks really tasty!"

...the first person to make sushi. "Well, i've got some pieces of crab leg, some fish eggs, some pieces of avocado, some stinky black seaweed, some amazingly hot green play-doh, and lots of sticky white rice. What on earth am I going to do with all this nasty crap? Maybe if I rolled it all into a little ball, I could gulp it down faster and not taste it..."

...the first person to drink alcohol. "Huh, those monkeys are acting weird, like they're sleepy or sick or randy... or all at once. They're falling all over each other, eating this rancid, rotten, smelly fruit that's on the ground covered in wasps. That looks like a lot of fun, eating rotten food in a swarm of bugs, having a sticky monkey orgy, and then vomiting. I've totally got to get some of that rancid fruit!"

I'm sure none of these events occurred in this manner. I'm sure there were lots of little steps, little "a-ha" moments, that lead to the end result. I mean, natives probably watched animals eat coffee beans, tried them, chewed them for energy, then dried them for travel, then steeped them to make a beverage, then invented hazelnut-flavored Mini-Moos and red plastic stirrers. And when you think about the first person to mix lard and ashes to make soap, you really have to wonder what was going on.

Sometimes I mourn for times of invention, periods in history when ingenious and curious people made amazing discoveries from planting seeds to knitting. We think of our ancestors and picture hairy barbarians eating raw meat, but there was some sort of concrete light bulb, some flash of genius, and we have fire, or animal husbandry, or brassieres, things we simply couldn't live without.

Kinda makes the newest plasma TV or sugar substitute a bit anticlimactic by comparison, doesn't it? The biggest inventions we get nowadays, outside of the amazing strides being reached in medicine, have to do with new ways to slice vegetables or work out in 4 minutes, and you only learn about them if you watch late night TV. We're supposed to be the smartest, tallest, healthiest human beings in history, the apex of our species, but the biggest "moments of genius" most of us have regard ways to re-organize our bathroom or finally figuring out what the mysterious 4th light switch in the den does while global warming overtakes the planet and our cars continue to belch toxins.

I'm not saying we should start eating mysterious things that come out of animals' butts or boiling new and interesting kinds of beans... i'm just saying that we should spend a little more time thinking and a little less time shopping on www.amazon.com.

Rant over.


Valerie said...

oooo! I think about firsts all the time. Just not so eloquently as you. :-)

EttyOop said...

Have I mentioned that I adore reading your blog? It brightens my day, the way you look at the world...

stinestrain said...

I dunno, I don't think the age of invention is over. barely 100 years ago no one had cars. a town only had one phone. flying was something only birds could do.

heck even when I was a kid, if I wanted to know who first thought of drinking coffee, I'd have to ride my bike to the library, look it up in encyclopedia brittanica, hope it was in there, if not, hit the card catalogue, wade through 10 books on coffee and hope I hit on the right chapter easily...

now I can google "origin of drinking coffee" and bam. wikipedia:

"According to legend, Ethiopian shepherds were the first to observe the influence of the caffeine in coffee beans when the goats appeared to "dance" and to have an increased level of energy after consuming wild coffee berries.[12] The legend names the shepherd "Kaldi." From Ethiopia, coffee spread to Egypt and Yemen.[13] It was in Arabia that coffee beans were first roasted and brewed similarly as they are today"

I think firsts are very cool. but I don't think firsts are over... even though I couldn't personally invent my way out of a paper bag.