The root of happiness

Over dinner last night it occurred to me that, amidst the great and the good, the Nobel laureates and knights of the realm, the giants of history and legendary figures of the past, there is one man (or woman) who has never been awarded the recognition they deserve; someone whose exploration and discovery has perhaps contributed more than anyone else to the sum of human happiness (in exchange for minimal expenditure of labour)…

    I am referring, of course, to the man who first baked a potato.

Actually, I’ve always thought that one of the fun things about having a time machine would be to go back and research some of life’s more unexpected discoveries. Who was it, for example, who first thought of trying nettle soup? Someone either very adventurous, or exceedingly desperate, I imagine…

Of which discovery would you most like to uncover the true history?


How about rotten shark meat-type delicacies? Those really must have been born of desperation…

A little off topic, but I sometimes wonder about going forward in time to see the last remaining human in the universe. A person who almost certainly will be a distant relative of myself.

Very interesting idea Jason. Now, if you can work out how to go forward in time, have you immediately changed the future (by inventing time-travel) and therefore have you saved the last human by now being able to transport that person somewhere else in time? Or have I just veered off topic?

In the meantime (and veering back on topic) since hearing about it lutefisk has been a bit of a culinary mystery to me, though I’ve never eaten it so the mystery is based only on the complicated arrangements for making it (which I read about here –

Similarly Saltpetre/peter – Just who stuck with the unenviable task of this process – “…stale urine is placed in a container of straw and is allowed to “sour” (bacterially ferment) for many months…” – until they got it right???

I think outside of these two (squeamishly olfactic) examples, I’ve always been fascinated by bakelite and would have liked to track its development as a new material in the last century.

I’ve often wished for a time machine that would enable me to visit the past to see how things happened – even if it didn’t allow me to interact in any way.

One period I am curious about would be the times during which early humans were exploring Europe: I’ve read the books about Ayla (Clan of the Cave Bear) by J. Auel and it would be interesting to see how close they were. In the story, Ayla was the first to tame wild animals (a horse, then later a cave lion), and one of the first to discover the use of flint to make fire.

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© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser