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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"The Cooking Apes, the Creatures of the Flame"

No, that's not a new blog—though it certainly would make a good name for one. It's a quote from the book review in today's New York Times. Dwight Garner reviews Richard Wrangham's Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human. The book asserts that our species' evolution was tied to cooking: 

Apes began to morph into humans, and the species Homo erectus emerged some two million years ago, Mr. Wrangham argues, for one fundamental reason: We learned to tame fire and heat our food.

“Cooked food does many familiar things,” he observes. “It makes our food safer, creates rich and delicious tastes and reduces spoilage. Heating can allow us to open, cut or mash tough foods. But none of these advantages is as important as a little-appreciated aspect: cooking increases the amount of energy our bodies obtain from food.”

According to Wrangham, our raw-food-eating ancestors had to devote vast energies to digestion; once cooking was employed, the human brain was able to develop.

This book is sure to be controversial with today's raw-food advocates, but it sounds fascinating.

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