The name of this flatbread elicits more questions than the name of any other. Why? What does it mean? Who was Stephen Jay Gould?
My academic training is in the life sciences, so I have a bent toward scientific principles. It was in these studies that I was introduced to the biological logic of organic foods and the central unifying theory of Darwinian Evolution. The intuitive and long held view of Darwin’s theory of natural selection (as it is more properly called) was that species evolved by way of slow incremental change which gradually gave rise to new species. Graphically, this was shown as a gently sloping inclined plane inexorably leading to ever more fit species.
In 1972 Stephen Jay Gould and his colleague Niles Eldredge suggested an alternative process to better fit the existing data. Instead of species evolving gradually from one to the other with many intermediary transitional forms, the fossil record showed that species went for long periods without change (stasis). Gould and Eldredge referred to this stasis as a state of equilibrium. Equilibrium is followed by abrupt change at an environmental/ecological threshold which Gould and Eldredge referred to as a punctuation. So instead of an evolutionary graph of a shallow inclined plane marking a long continuous series of micro changes as originally conceived, the theory of punctuated equilibrium pictures evolution proceeding by long periods of stasis followed by sudden and short periods of rapid change leading directly to new species. This can be illustrated as a series of elongated steps with the run representing periods of equilibrium and the rise representing punctuation in new species.
So what’s this have to do with food and the name of a pizza?
It strikes me that the evolution of human food also exhibits a pattern of punctuated equilibrium. During the Paleolithic, humans and protohumans hunted and gathered. By occasional improvements in tools and hunting implements, the Paleolithic period was punctuated.
10-12,000 years ago the Neolithic revolution ushered in an era of farming which dramatically changed human activity and food patterns.
5-6,000 years ago along the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in present day Iraq and along the Nile in Egypt, farmers dug irrigation channels dramatically increasing crop yields and transforming village settlements into powerful and complex city states.
Iron and steel tools, the industrial revolution, and the green revolution of the early 20th century were, all in turn, transformative to our agriculture and to how and what we eat stand as examples of punctuation bounded on each side by periods of stasis or equilibrium.
Today American food is in a new period of punctuation. The organic and natural food movement along with its variants biodynamic, sustainable, and localvore foods has rapidly changed the dialogue and economics of food. Increasingly people see food as important; that how it is grown and where it comes from intimately affects human health and the well being of the world.
Punctuated Equilibrium Flatbread® marks this important event in the history of American food and honors an advancement in our evolutionary view of life.