It is a call hardly ignored by anyone! And let me tell you why...
It is humanity's basic call. The call that says, here it is! Your primitive yearning for the dish that is the foundation to all of our eating, of all of us, ready to fill your needs, your cravings; that will satisfy your hunger today, as it has been fulfilling the hunger of all of us, from ancient times. Not from the hunger from last year, nor that from what you have in your memory as your mom prepared. No.
When I say ancient times I mean it. From research I have done, I have gleaned from records collected now by Wikipedia and other phenomenal websites created for the sole purpose of enlightening all of us with knowledge regarding this or that, and I want to share these lines with you.
When we all dip our spoons or forks into a well-rounded bowl containing the "soul" of a Sancochado, we may not know that we have been doing this for hundreds of thousands of years!
In the beginning, and for hundreds of thousands of years, the evolving human race had been eating its food raw.
And then, sometime, between our first deliberate use of the fire we had discovered, and which became the fire in our bellies, our deepest motivations to do anything or be anything, be that in Africa in 1,400,000 BC and/or in Asia in 500,000 BC, we appeared on the pre-historic scene and! LO! cooking, as we know it today, was discovered.
Roasting was the earliest and most probable form of cooking whatever we gathered and hunted. That was the first form of cooking we all had.
Then, by accident, best described by Charles Lamb's imaginary tale of the discovery of roast pork, leads us to fire's general use for cooking which, according to paleonthological and archaeological records, only began some 40,000 to 50,000 years ago.
I personally tend to emphatize with the past; to place myself in that landscape I am thinking about or writing about. To imagine and feel it. To seek and hide with my ancestors in our much-sougth-after early shelters, those caves with the drawings we all later painted on, by sheer necessity as an outlet of our creative spirit, on the vaulted walls. Be that in northern Spain or France or other places as we now know them today.
To feel the fear of predators, the warmth of the sun, and the cold of bitter winters; to see the conforting flames that illuminated our surroundings and be able to wrap myself with whatever and feel cozy; to choke at the smoke some of us created but who were really only trying, really trying, in the beginning, to daringly dash for that which accommodated us and them; to make us all and them feel good and look for better ways to use the elements at hand.
I have found beautiful lines when French pre-historian Catherine Perles, accepts that we share many aspects of feeding with other animals. She says that us, as human beings, transform food on different levels than that of others in our journey.
She says that the human species prepares its food by heat, combining ingredients. She rightly proposes that the "culinary act" distinguishes the human species, and that it is not just a symbol of but a factor in the very humanization of it demonstrating that cooking is highly intentional and that the culinary act is 'essentially' sharing.
I can't go into how we found containers to cook with at different times and in different locations. I am just intend in giving you an idea about Sancochado's origins.
So, we discovered fire, we found the containers to boil things in, and these things were whatever we had found, with some quick-thinking, could be used as a "pot" and added gathered grains, vegetables and herbs we had found when prowling the area where we happened to live in and which had been found to be eatable after much trial and error. After much suffering and tears...
Chinese first started to boil rice. And then rice with different vegetables and herbs growing in their geographical location. And then added fish and/or seafood which were obviously accessible to them. And then chicken, which happened to be one of man's first domesticated animals.
In Sumerian times, in the Mesopotamia, boiled meals consisted of barley, wheat and millet; chick peas, lentils and beans; onions, garlic and leeks... and many others. And, fish, what with the numerous species found in their rivers. Something similar in Egypt.
So, in short. We have added many forms and shapes and aromas along our way to our early boiled dinners, which I think is why we crave and actually collapse at the idea of having a Sancochado!
Sancochado in Spanish means "cooked by boiling" - in short, "boiled". You will find that word or similar words when referring to this boiled stuff, akin in any language, wherever, with different names. No one can claim ownership of a good Sancochado. Be that if you call it Sancocho in Central American countries or those of the Caribbean; be that Cocido or Cozido or Olla Podrida or Cocido Madrileno or, I think, even, in Thousand Year Chinese Chicken soup or whatever.
These are, all of these, only variations and different rythms and cadences of an only song! Apart, from one or the other, only in that which was added to the original pot. Be that sausages, or meats, or poultry, or miso, or fish, or seafood, or game, or vegetables, or grains, or roots of vegetables, vegetables or different herbs that add to make a distinctive dish in the different areas where we now, after fifty thousand years, happen to live and make do and try to survive. With what we have.
That which makes a Peruvian Sancochado different, even in my own country, and even though people may think it is a fusion of Inka-like boiled stuff, and Spanish origins, most essentially in Lima, is the aggressive addition of Yerba Buena. At least I rely on Yerba Buena (a type of peppermint in the United States but not quite the type of yerba buena we have in Peru) to give that particular, unique aroma that arises out of a magnificent white porcelain Soup Tureen when you present it at the table.
The appearance of all or part of the veggies and meats in the container's white contrasting bowl, with the magic of the vapors emanating from it, is simply and amply a gastronomic delight! Sends me to dream and sleep!
I love you!