You know that old one-liner, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach?

Well, when it comes to human evolution – that old wives’ tale may be on to something. Except that apparently cooking made us smarter.

Primatologist Richard Wrangham, in his upcoming book Catching Fire, argues that by filling our stomachs with cooked foods rather than raw foods a few millennia ago, humans were able to spend less time chewing. And all of that saved energy went to our heads.

“Cooking enabled this species to evolve larger brains, which are energetically costly: if you have a small gut thanks to a cooked diet, the energy spared from maintaining the gut can fuel the brain instead. Cooking also changed the way we use our time. Apes eating raw food spend half their day just chewing. Humans spend under an hour a day chewing, freeing us for creative and social activities.” - Wrangham in a Publishers' Weekly interview.

Of course was also instrumental in structuring society, especially the division of labor amongst the sexes.

“This is an ancient exchange: women give men food, men protect women’s food from being stolen. Women had to do the same thing every day: produce the evening meal. Men could hunt, go on war expeditions, lie under a tree and gamble—and still find dinner waiting. Because of cooking, women ended up chained to domestic responsibilities; men did not.” - Wrangham in a Publishers' Weekly interview.

I suppose hindsight is 20/20, but I think if I had my own spear and a heavy rock, I could have defended my food just fine. How does that old song go, ‘the female of the species is more deadly than the male . . .”

When Wrangham was asked in the New York Times about what he eats himself, Wrangham indicated that he hasn’t eaten a mammal in 30 years as he does not eat anything he wouldn’t kill himself.

So just for fun, following the slippery slope theory, does this mean that vegans who eat a primarily raw diet are at risk for de-evolution?

Sorry. I suppose I should confess that I’m a flexitarian.

-GE, 4/24/09 Leave a Comment
Gina Edwards is a cooking instructor and editor of
Cave art photo courtesy of Stock Exchange poster,

No comments:

Post a Comment