On 2, 3 and 4 July, as part of the UPV/EHU Summer Courses, the Chair of Scientific Culture and the Ikerbasque Foundation have scheduled a new course under the name of “Natural History of Food”. The course will enable participants to find out more about the products we eat, their origin, varieties, history and possible future from a scientific perspective.
Human beings are omnivores. We consume foodstuffs of animal and plant origin. For most of our history, we have been devoted to collecting fungi, tubers and plants, and hunting and fishing for animals in order to eat. However, twelve thousand years ago, our predecessors started to grow plants and breed animals for this purpose. Fishing, agriculture and farming have fed humanity over the past centuries and more recently, aquatic animals have started to be bred to replace the diminishing fish stocks. Food has not stopped changing throughout our history.
We cook food to digest it better and we treat it in different ways to keep it for a long time. We want food with special properties, likely to improve our health. Furthermore, in a few decades there will be a lack of food to feed the ten thousand million human beings that will populate the planet. Food is therefore a topic of scientific research of the highest interest. Reviewing the history of humans and food and what awaits us in the future is an excellent way of finding out more about our food and about ourselves.
In the course, we will summarise the relations of our species with the products that have been used as food. The review will start with the Palaeolithic era, the largest part of our history, a period when food was based on hunting and harvesting. We will follow the innovations brought by the Neolithic era, namely the growing of vegetables and the domestication of animals for food purposes. We will also look into the history of the by-products (dairy products, for example), the preservation of food, the transition from fishing to aquaculture, and we will end up exploring the possibilities of science in the field of gastronomy, nutrition and the improvement of the plants and animals we eat.
The course will be given in accordance with the following programme:
Fernando Cossío (Faculty of Chemistry, UPV/EHU): Introduction to the natural history of food.
Eduardo Angulo Pinedo (Faculty of Science and Technology, UPV/EHU; retired professor): Eat everything: the Palaeolithic diet.
Rosa Porcel (Institute for the Preservation and Improvement of Valencian Agrodiversity , Universitat Politècnica de València): Modified food: the first two thousand years.
José Miguel Mulet (Institute for Plant Molecular and Cell Biology. Universitat Politècnica de València): Rise and fall of genetically modified food.
Juan Ignacio Pérez (Faculty of Science and Technology, UPV/EHU): History of the domestication of cattle.
Inma Estévez (Neiker Tecnalia-Ikerbasque; Research Fellow): Ethology and animal welfare, its repercussion in the quality of food.
Uxío Labarta (Institute for Marine Research, CSIC): Feeding from the sea, industrialising the seas: from cod to tuna, salmon and mussels.
Mertxe de Renobales (Faculty of Pharmacy, UPV/EHU; retired professor): Milk and dairy products: traditional biotechnology and evolution since Neolithic times.
Olaia Martínez González (Faculty of Pharmacy, UPV/EHU): Origins and evolution of food preservation techniques.
Deborah García Bello (University of A Coruña, PhD student; collaborator of the Chair of Scientific Culture): Traditional cuisine has its science.
Juan José Iruin (Faculty of Chemistry, UPV/EHU; retired professor): Molecular gastronomy.
Jose M. López Nicolás (Scientific Culture Unit, University of Murcia): The challenge of functional food.
The registration period is open. Those registering before 31 May will be given a discount, which will be bigger for members of different groups, including students. Consult course fees here.