Bread is baked from the crushed (or ground) seeds of grain. Around 10,000 years ago people cooked porridge or gruel and at least 3000 years ago leavened the dough of bread. In Europe, north of the Alps, it was only from the 16th century that the consumption of bread (and porridge) spread widely. Urban population concentrations grew, while yields fell due to the climatic deterioration. Greater areas of land were ploughed for grain cultivation and, independently of the quality of flour improved as a result of technical innovations in milling. The main factors for the dominance of grain were given. In regions where little was produced due to the natural endowments, such as the Mediterranean, bread grain was imported from Antiquity (Panem et circenses!). In mediaeval Europe nutrition was still characterised by the consumption of meat and vegetables (mainly cabbage). The balance tilted in the towns where the predominance of cereals can be observed. North-western Europe imported grain from the Baltic region. Up to the 18th century Eastern Central Europe exported beef cattle to the towns of Central Europe. As the demand for grain grew grazing land was ploughed and in the 19th century the country exported grain. Cereal consumption took the forms mainly of porridge, griddle-cakes, and later bread, dumplings and various kinds of boiled noodles. At the same time the role of soups (hot pots) in the daily diet increased. Bread and soup marked a new era in the history of menus. The people of Eastern Europe are still porridge-eaters. Almost from the start brewing has been one of the technologies for cereal consumption. Beer, with an increasing alcohol content, was at first the drink of urban dwellers, but later after the Middle Ages the peasantry also drank increasing quantities of ever stronger beer. Together with this latter process, grain spirits (whisky, gin, vodka, etc.) were also drunk on a growing scale. Distillation was an Arab invention and spread in the monasteries from the Middle Ages. At first Aqua vitae was a medicine but later shifted to the profane sphere in almost all respects.
Authors:F. Samu, F. Kádár, G. Ónodi, M. Kertész, A. Szirányi, É. Szita, K. Fetykó, D. Neidert, E. Botos, and V. Altbäcker
Recent environmental and land use changes have made wildfires more frequent in natural habitats of the Kiskunság Sand Ridge on the Hungarian Plain. In a study initiated 2.5 years after an extensive fire that destroyed half of the area of a sand grassland — juniper, poplar forest steppe habitat, we assessed the effects of fire on two generalist arthropod groups: spiders and carabid beetles, as well as on the vegetation. Utilizing the natural experiment situation, samples were taken by pitfalls and suction sampling during a 1.5 years period in four 1 ha blocks, two of which were on the burnt part of the habitat, and two in the unburnt control. At the time of the investigation, in the burnt area the vegetation in the grass layer showed a quick but not complete recovery, while the canopy layer of the juniper bushes burnt down with no sign of regeneration. Carabid beetles and spiders showed differences in recovery after fire. In the carabid assemblages of the burnt parts — compared to the unburnt control — there were over three times more beetles, out of which significantly more represented the macropterous life form and granivorous feeding strategy. There was a higher ratio of pioneer species and a simplified assemblage structure in the burnt area, which meant that the conservation value of the carabid assemblage became lower there. In contrast, for the spider assemblage quantitative changes in abundance and species numbers were not significant, and the differences in species composition did not lead to a decrease in conservation value. Spider species in the burnt plots could not be described as pioneer species, rather they had ecological characteristics that suited the changed vegetation structure. Comparing the two groups, to repopulate the burnt areas, dispersal abilities proved to be more limiting for carabids. However, in both groups a strong assemblage level adaptation could be observed to the postfire conditions. In spiders, species with a stratum preference for the grass layer prevailed, while in carabids individuals with granivore strategy gained dominance. Thus, despite the differences in their speed, basically both assemblages tracked vegetation changes. The effect of future fires will depend on their scale, as well as land-use practices, such as grazing, that interact with fire frequency and recovery. If extensive fires in the future permanently change the vegetation, then it would also lead to a fundamental change in the arthropod fauna.
Aboling, S., M. Sternberg, A. Perevolotsky and J. Kigel. 2008. Effects of cattle grazing timing and intensity on soil seed banks and regeneration strategies in a Mediterranean grassland.