Waldo Jaquith has posted a thought-provoking essay on preparing a cheeseburger from scratch. Not from scratch as in, buy the ground beef and make them into patties yourself, but as in, raise absolutely everything that is a part of the meal yourself. He comes to the surprising (at least for me) conclusion that this is actually impossible:
A cheeseburger cannot exist outside of a highly developed, post-agrarian society. It requires a complex interaction between a handful of vendors—in all likelihood, a couple of dozen—and the ability to ship ingredients vast distances while keeping them fresh.
His essay reminds me of a story about the Big Mac from a few years ago. This article and the research paper on which it is reporting focuses on the incredible diversity and global reach of a simple fast food meal. In this case, a #1 Combo meal at McD’s includes ingredients from 20 species of broad diversity across the tree of life:
We argue that the remarkable breadth of the human diet is the result of humans’ huge geographic range, diverse food-collection methods, and ability to process normally inedible items. Humans are thus generalist feeders in the broadest sense. Cross-cultural analyses of diversity in the plant diet of humans could represent a fascinating new field of research linking ecology, anthropology, history, and sociology.