The eating habits of humans are fundamentally determined by their natural environment: by the flora and fauna that sorrounds them. Arctic people eat the meat of reindeers and seals, they consume fish and algae. Our environmental properties make it possible for us to have a diversified diet, as the Central European flora and fauna that surrounds us, is rich enough for that.
The human modification of the environment has radically altered the original flora. As the number of humans was increasing, humanity had to exchange hunting and gathering for agricultural production.
The way how traditional communities gathered and processed food was in harmony with the natural cycle and with the food-chain. A complex diet evolved which conformed to the change of seasons and to the specific needs of different professions: the human body's needs differ from period to period and from profession to profession. Our ancestors consumed lots of dairy products, fruits and vegatables. They spread a thin layer of bacon fat or pressed vegetable oil for cooking. Instead of roux, they used sour milk or sour cream liaison; instead of leavened bread, they consumed Johnny-cake, farl and mush. They rarely ate meat: it happened mainly on holidays. All in all, their diet was very healthy. While nowadays, we can meet only a few persons who gather mushrooms, herbs or wild fruits.
Popular medicine has herbal medications and teas for almost every illness. The majority of those herbs are used by drug factories, too..
Who would think, for example, that chestnut has been a basic food of humankind for one thousand years? That is because chestnut trees are in full bearing for a long time of the year, they do not require special care, and chestnut flour can be kept for a long time.
Once, when humankind still did not know preservation, humans could consume only that which they gathered day after day. The continuation of life has become safer as they invented newer and newer methods. Step by steps, man has devised the following techniques: desiccation, jam making, meat curing, pickling, and the making of dairy products.
Even in the old days of gathering and hunting, humans realised that wild fruits, nuts and seeds get a pleasant taste if they are browned or beaten. What is more, they become easier to digest. Fire annihilates the acrid taste, eliminates most of the poisonous or dangerous substances, softens the meal and makes it easier to eat.
As the domestication of fire is roughly contemporaneous with the dawn of humanity, man has become familiar with the taste of roast meat quite early. In addition, fire gives warmth and light and scares wild beasts away. These can be the most important reasons behind the fact that humankind has always particularly respected and valued fire. People attributed magical forces to it, and connected rites to its powers. But Fire indeed has cleansing power, for example, as its antiseptical nature is scientifically proved.
Let's take a look at some instruments for cooking, boiling, baking or roasting on stones or in open fire.
"One of the most impressive products of rural culture, bread is the result of a long process of development."
(3, Tarján Gábor: Mindennapi hagyomány, 1993, p. 38)
Bread-baking is a complex process, it is a special locus where various inventions meet.
The custom of baking bread at home has not yet disappeared totally: some some of the elderly ladies in small villages still know how to bake bread.
Human habitats from the stone age on has been erected almost solely in the proximity of water. In rural households, the cleanness of wells and springs has been considered a question of primary interest. Walking long in order to reach abounding springs was a common practice, while spas and medicate springs easily became sacred, resulting in pilgrimages to those places.