Cooking up a nice dinner

10 Nov 2011

At we learn that cooking meat played a key role in driving the evolution of man from apes. The study is in PNAS and actually builds on earlier studies in the same field. I can remember something on these lines a couple of years ago. However, in the recent paper, Rachel Carmody of Harvard's dept of Human Evolutionary Biology, has expanded on what went before - but what will the vegans think?

We eat food to obtain energy - and energy is what is required to walk, run, do the humdrum tasks and the more exciting ones such as hunting and foraging, or fashioning a stone tool or wooden utensil. Scientists, it seems, have not really examined why we cook our food - nobody eats a raw piece of steak (apart from the odd foodie with a relish for cooking their meat excessively rare). There is no reason in particular why we don't eat raw meat - the Japanese have a penchant for raw fish, for example. Why do we cook food, dice and slice it, mash it and pulp it or turn it into a paste - how does this actually effect the desired energy we require? If a biologist wants to understand anatomical, physiological, and behavioural features in animals its diet is the most important part of the research. It has been assumed humans have become more advanced than other animal groups because they are good at solving problems - which strays from the fundamental biological concept of looking at the diet. In reality, it is the cooking of our food that provides the extra energy that allows us to solve problems, produce tools, art, and all the other attributes under the umbrella of culture. However, the study is not all about debunking ideas on human evolution as it has relevance to the modern world - calorie measurement for example.