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Uri Mayer-Chissick is a nutritional consultant, an expert on edible wild plants and a historian of food.
What is so important about the History of Food and Nutrition?
Napoleon Bonaparte once said that an army marches on its stomach. You might agree that there are times in which it takes a great emperor to define human nature. As a matter of a fact – like it or not, we all march on our stomach, and walk casually, and run and sit and stroll and read… well, you get it. So, food is essentially what we are all made of, that’s what the physicians of the Arab empire thought as well. In those days the practice of medicine was based on a theory named – the Houmoral system, a theory that presented physicians with guide-lines by which they could find out the influence of food on the physical, emotional and mental state of their patients.
But not only doctors held the knowledge for nutritional healing according to the Houmoral system, a system that seems too intricate for us to understand today. Laymen used it to decide on their market purchases, they used it to decide how to cook in the evening that sheep they butchered in the morning.
Now, if you don’t know that meat should not be eaten in the evening, my research might interest you too.
There is nothing like the excitement flared by finding a medieval love song to dates – brown, oval, sweet, cooling dates; Or finding a complicated thousand-years-old recipe that offers a way to serve bread for those that should generally not eat it; and how about the thrilling discovery that Maimonides objected to the use of pain medication…!?!
You might know that not only nowadays, but also in the past there lived people of great wisdom and stature who breathed, lived and had the passion for giving good health care and understanding the works of the human body. I believe we have much to learn from them today.
I strongly believe that a research that investigates the basics of our nutrition from evolutionary, historical and philosophical aspects can contribute to our future. Learning more about a healthy and balanced life from those who could not relay on sterile operating rooms or chemical drugs to step in when balance is lost, and educating our kids to notice the healthy balance of life can help us mend some of the modern ailments. My research looks to learn from the past about how laymen can acquire simple tools to improve their health.
As a kid I loved hiking, working the garden and watching nature, my school work was never as enjoyable. Later, I was diagnosed as dyslectic and found my own ways to concentrate on reading and writing. When it comes to research I believe we need to help every person find their own voice and special way. When I was 17-year-old I first got through a thick fiction, 15 years later I rummage through ancient Arab poetry books looking for any reference to food or nutrition. When one has the passion to find answers to questions that bother them, all of us benefit by letting that process play out.