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Some of our favorite foods are closer to this than this.
That's because coffee, bread, cheese, beer, even chocolate are all home to millions of microbes.
In fact, these foods only acquire the taste, smells, and textures we love because of tiny bacteria and fungi
The vast majority of microbes, about 99 percents, are actually quite harmless to humans.
But the other one percent are nasty enough that our ancestors and the ancestors of various other mammals and birds,
evolved an natural repulsion to stuff that might harbor nasty germs.
In general, we think rotten stuff looks and smells disgusting, which, considering what's at stake, isn't overly cautious.
Fortunately, if friendly microbes get to our food first, they can keep the bad guys at bay.
Meat left out on the counter provides the perfect conditions for pathogens to flourish.
It's warm, moist and protein-rich, just like our bodies.
But with some micro-management, adding lots of salt, for instance, we can help harmless,
salt-tolerant microbes out-compete their dangerous but salt-sensitive relatives.
A few unrefrigerated months later, we get salami, rather than Salmonella!
Our ancestors stumbled on this kind of controlled spoilage thousands of years ago, either by lucky accidents or out of serious desperation.
And we humans have been intentionally spoiling food ever since.
Not only to keep their food safe to eat, but also because the microbes we culture can transform it, almost magically, into awesome deliciousness.
Yeast, for example, gorge on the sugary starch in bread dough, then burp out carbon dioxide that helps give loaves their lift.
In a more exotic transformation, bacteria and fungi take turns munching on piles of cacao,
mellowing out better polyphenols and helping create the complex and delicious taste of chocolate.
And deep in cheese caves, mold spores populate small holes and cracks in soon to be blue cheese,
digesting big protein and fat molecules into a host of smaller aromatic and flavor compounds
that give the final product its smoothness and rich, funky flavor.
But to some, stinky cheese is about as appetizing as licking someone's toes.
Which isn't that far off, since the bacteria that make some cheeses super-stinky are the same ones that cause foot odor. Yum?
Even so, these flavors tend to grow on us, not just literally but also figuratively.
The more we were exposed to particular microbial funks, which can even start in the womb, the more we tend to like them.
As a result, people around the world have some very different ideas about how to microbe-ify foods.
But every culinary culture involves fermentation in one way or another.
If we didn't let food spoiled just a little bit, we have no sauerkraut, soy sauce, pickles, or prosciutto.
Not to mention Kefir, Kimchi, Kombucha, Koumiss, Katsuobushi, and plenty of other delicacies that don't start with K.
What's more, spoiled food may well have changed far more than our tastes.
Historical evidence suggests that when our ancestors gave up their wandering ways and settled down to grow grain,
it was likely for love of either bread or beer.
Whatever the case, one thing is clear: without the help of friendly fermenting microbes, we humans would be terribly uncultured.
This episode of Minute Earth is supported in part by tab for a cause.
One of our subscriber on Subbable and also a browser extension that gives money to charity each time you open a new tab in your web browser.
And it doesn't cost you a thing! Click the description to start raising the money for great charities simply by surfing the web.
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為什麼我們要吃腐敗的食物?(Why Do We Eat Spoiled Food?)

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許允迪 發佈於 2015 年 2 月 8 日    許允迪 翻譯    Eating 審核
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