It’s Not What You Eat – It’s That You Cook

Yes, I said “that”, not “what”.

Interesting article from The Economist, titled “What’s Cooking” from The American Association for the Advancement of Science. (Please do ignore the obvious capitalized letters and what they state in the shortening of that group’s name).

YOU are what you eat, or so the saying goes. But Richard Wrangham, of Harvard University, believes that this is true in a more profound sense than the one implied by the old proverb. It is not just you who are what you eat, but the entire human species. And with Homo sapiens, what makes the species unique in Dr Wrangham’s opinion is that its food is so often cooked.

Cooking is a human universal. No society is without it. No one other than a few faddists tries to survive on raw food alone. And the consumption of a cooked meal in the evening, usually in the company of family and friends, is normal in every known society. Moreover, without cooking, the human brain (which consumes 20-25% of the body’s energy) could not keep running. Dr Wrangham thus believes that cooking and humanity are coeval.

In fact, as he outlined to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), in Chicago, he thinks that cooking and other forms of preparing food are humanity’s “killer app”: the evolutionary change that underpins all of the other—and subsequent—changes that have made people such unusual animals.

Sounds good to me. In fact, it reminds me of a poem.

We may live without poetry, music and
We may live without conscience and live
without heart;
We may live without friends; we may
live without books;
But civilized man cannot live without
He may live without books,-what is
knowledge but grieving?
He may live without hope,- what is
hope but deceiving?
He may live without love,- what is
passion but pining?
But where is the man that can live
without dining?
Owen Meredith

Honestly, I got so excited about this idea that I just held out my hand to grasp my coffeecup and down a bit of the subtle delicious brew and was so focused on the page that I grabbed my pen and pencil pot instead, and almost swallowed a handful of sharp pencils and pens.

That’s the worst part.


3 thoughts on “It’s Not What You Eat – It’s That You Cook

  1. I suspect that humanity required a whole smorgasbord of coevolutionary breakthroughs.

    So in your taste test, is the pen mightier than the brew?

    And more specifically for the pen-and-pencil crew, would cooking the publishers’ books create higher-energy food for the readers’ brains, or just a raw deal for idea-men?

  2. Evolution does not “breakthrough.” That’s the point of the principle, Darwinian style evolution, that is. Evolution ambles on, nowhere, in no hurry. We probably have more dental problems because we cook our food. We certainly have weight problems that monkeys don’t have. And we eat really strange stuff because we with our opposable (spelling?) thumbs we can pat stuff together before cooking it. Hot dogs. Spring rolls. What nutty Neandrathal was inspired to chase down a lightning bolt with a marshmallow, a graham cracker, and a shard of chocolate? That was the beginning of something supreme. Fortunately, they enjoyed the result too much to draw about it on the cave wall. We are spared the theory-ladden analyses. Burn the books, eat the ‘smores, sing about the hunt.

  3. Whew. I think I’m getting dizzy.

    I’m going to go to the smorgasbord and have a cooked book along with lightning-bolt marshmallow and think of myself as having done my hunt for the day. 🙂

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