One of the great gifts that you can give people is to cook for them, but have you ever pondered on why we cook?
Cultural anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss said cooking establishes the difference between animals and people, which is culture. Cooking sure allowed us to become human in the most basic biological and evolutionary sense of the word. This theory is championed by Harvard’s Richard Wrangham, who believed that cooking allows us to transition from primitive ape to complex, allowing us to feed our brains.
Hey with great power, comes great hunger!. Our enormous brain in relation to our body size uses 1/5th of the calories that we eat. It’s 100 billion neutrons which come at a cost. Scientists estimated that for a gorilla to power a brain the size of ours, they have to add 700 calories to their diet, but they already spend 80% of their daylight eating leaves, fruits, and all raw Compared to us 5%. We see a lot of the same traits in Australopithecus.
Around 1.8 million years ago, brain and body size doubled in form of Homo erectus, the first modern human. Australopithecus looks distinctly ape-like but can be mistaken for a human except for the lack of clothes. The brains of Homo erectus are like ours, which means it needs a lot more energy out of its food. Part of that is thanks for preying on massive animals, and the tools to cut the meat, break their bones. While Homo erectus ate meat when they could find one, they still are plants, and that’s where cooking made the difference.
Our ancestors could have obtained access to more food, and energy than ever before, since we know that cooking plants let them liberate more nutrients, making it facile to chew. Heat denatures proteins which allow our body to digest them easily, inactivates plant toxics too. This works with meat products too. We sure ate our way to become brawny species.
Scientists haven’t found proof that Homo erectus harnessed fire, because things like burnt sticks don’t fossilize well, which was the only snag to their cooking hypothesis is that they haven’t found evidence of hearths or fire pits for cooking that long ago.
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