Human beings are the only species who eat cooked food. Have you ever seen a raccoon cooking up a nice meal for himself? Or a crow pottering about in the kitchen cooking a wholesome meal for her husband, or the other way around? No. We need to know, we need to acknowledge and realize the importance of cooked food, among other things. Of how fire, that is lit at the convenient strike of a match should be applauded and be remembered often, if not always.The same fire that converts raw pig into crisp bacon and the humble potato into french fries.
Getting food has never been easier. But somehow, somewhere, we have taken this for granted. All other species who either eat plants or hunt have to spend hours looking for food and eventually eat it raw. No cheetah cares about having a juicy and very moist, beer battered, fried zebra. They eat it whole and raw, blood and flesh. Which honestly, is not a very delicious thought. Cooking the food, especially meats is not only a healthier option but also makes it easier for us to digest it. Gorillas have way bigger jaws and teeth than we do, simply because we evolved with time, discovered fire, started roasting the meats. Cooking these meats made it easier for the early human to chew the food, hence we eventually evolved and developed the tiny mouths we walk around with today.
I was surfing through Netflix recently and stumbled upon a documentary about how cooking ‘transforms and shapes our world.’ (It’s funny how we surf the internet instead of water. We are a lazy bunch, the 21st century. Anyway.)
Since childhood, I have loved watching cookery shows, all types of them. Be it Sanjeev Kapoor’s show on Zee tv or Nigella Lawson’s on TLC. In fact, I became such a big fan of Nigella that sometimes I would stream the episodes on YouTube. I never meant to cook these recipes, but I simply was hooked to the process of watching someone cook a proper meal from scratch.
Ever wondered why you can’t stop watching those 30-second videos made by ‘Tasty‘ on Facebook? Do you feel hungry when you think about butter sizzling in a pan? The phenomenon or element or process of cooking is what it is. Now days not everyone cooks, in other words, even if you only know how to boil water, you can survive.
This was not the case always, though.
So coming back to the documentary that is making me write this, the first episode tells the story of the ‘Martu’ tribe that resides in Western Australia. The documentary is titled, ‘Cooked‘.
Can you imagine hunting for your food every day? I mean, most of us don’t have the time or energy or even resources to do that. We are the people who reside in cities, are used to doing everything so so fast. Almost every service today is sold on how fast it can do something for us, how it can save us more time. Most of my lunches include staring at my phone or laptop screen and trying to finish the contents of the plastic container as soon as I can.
Moreover, dining tables have become more like a necessity, a societal code that we follow. That is, you need to have it in your home just because. Even when I am at home I want to be plonked on the couch like a blob of mashed potato and binge away to television.
This post is about how even today, a tribe in the distant deserts of Western Australia follows the traditional ways and what makes them unique. Anything that the majority does not follow is bound to be labeled as different or unique or exotic. Our way of living could soon be extinct, but that’s not the point. (I might digress in between, but deal with it.)
The Martu’s, in the 21st-century hunt for their food. 20-50% of their present diet comprises of bush foods. The astonishing fact is not that they hunt for food, it is that they STILL follow the old ways. Can most of us imagine that?Their life styles, diets, thought processes are so far-fetched, and it’s fantastic in it’s own way. In some ways Martu’s are better than us, read on to know why I think so.
Either it’s our mothers, or a cook, or persistent online ordering that saves our day. We don’t give a thought to where our food is coming from, and the story behind it. Although, staying away from home has definitely made me miss the food that my mother cooks. Because you know that your mom or maa, didn’t slack and made it with all her heart. Even though this sounds cheesy, I KNOW that I like the plain rice my mom cooks more than what I order in.
Among the Martu’s it’s not just the men, women are equally involved in the process of hunting and NOT just cooking. Men and women cook and hunt, there are no assigned job roles. It’s intriguing for the reason that these tribal people who don’t follow the ways of the world pay heed to equality, maybe unconsciously. The Martu men and women have different ways of hunting, however. While men are involved in the more risky kill that is, women want to hunt for animals that have a more probable outcome. Not only the young, the old people are also involved. In fact, one of the best foragers in the area is an old woman, Kumbaya Girgirba.
Martu’s believe that not owning more, but giving and sharing amongst the entire community signifies more prestige and honor. At the end of the day, whatever animal the members of the community managed to kill is meant for everyone. I mean, I don’t want to share the Krispy Kreme doughnut I conveniently ordered online, and here these people are sharing their sweat and hard work, just brilliant!
Martu women have a considerable amount of autonomy and exercise the freedom to make their decisions and even for the community. In the world we live in now, men and women are raising their voices for equality, feminism has never been more prominent. Martu’s, despite following the older ways do not put restrictions on women or stop them from exercising their rights.
The process of hunting is not as easy as taking a rifle and shooting at the target. These people reside in the desert area with soaring temperatures. Think of this relatively to your own life style, take Delhi in June, we can’t even walk 100 meters without cursing our decision to walk, let alone doing any sort of physical activity during this time. Martu women who usually look for goanna’s or small parnajarlpa walk around the area identifying prospective spots that could be the holes in which goannas hide. This doesn’t end there. This is followed by digging the hole with a stick which honestly, is not as easy as poking your nose. The dirt is then scooped out with their bare hands. After all this hard work it is possible that the goanna is not found. So they have to go on and on. If it were me, maggi would already have been prepared.
A martu woman beating the goanna against the sand to kill it.
Martu wangku is the language spoken by over 1000 martu people. There are over 12 groups within the Martu’s divided on the basis of the language spoken. Martu Wangka is one of them. It means, ‘Aboriginal language’ or the language of the indigenous. If you wish to know more about the dialect there is also a Martu Wangka to English dictionary available. The simplicity of these people is also reflected in the stories they write. One such book called, ‘Yalapara– Kamu Parnaparnti’ is about the time when a goanna goes hunting. (They sure know how to be ironical!)
While you and I trip over the Trump-Clinton debate, you can still find simpler stories and times. What is making me obsessed enough to write about this tribe and their way of living is that this is not a way of living that existed 100 of years ago. It is now, it is the present. A basic way of living in a complex and convoluted 2016. Must take some amount of courage to not live like the rest of the world does. Therefore, they are geniuses. Genius does not have to come with great inventions, discoveries and prizes alone. It can also mean not following what majority of the population is not doing. Being content and comfortable in your own ways and being fully aware of the downsides. Like how the children don’t have access to the kind of education city kids do, and how they are exposed to a number of diseases and infections and don’t get to witness other worldly pleasures and experiences.
To not care about advancement, economics, technology, but to simply immerse yourself in the age old traditions and culture is something. The Martu people living right now must hope that their lineage be carried forward. I don’t know if that will be possible indefinitely, but I sure have the urge to meet them and be astounded even more.
While there are other tribes who live such a life, some voluntarily and some because of lack of resources, the Martu tribe caught my attention simply because they have already been documented. Amongst waking up to an alarm clock, booking your transport through an app, listening to music through ear phones, swiping left and right on a screen, remember that in a distant but not inaccessible land, there are these bunch of people who live like the modern human cannot. They are happy, some of them write, some of them hunt, it is surreal!