Review: Catching fire: how cooking made us human

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Book review: Catching fire: how cooking made us human
by Richard Wrangham

What makes us human? That vi can imagine, and talk about things that are not in our direct presence, neither in time nor space perhaps? Or that we have a language? Or maybe it is the fact that we cook our food…

The book” Catching fire  –  how cooking made us human” argues that the real reason why we have developed all our other human traits is the fact that we mastered fire – and began cooking our food.

In short: Having access to fire, and the warmth it provides at night enabled less body hair. This in turn lets us perspire better which makes us more ardent in a hot climate (ie better hunters on the African savannah). That gives ur more prey = an evolutionary advantage.

Cooking our food enabled a shorter digestive trait, and the energy we didnt spend on digesting food could instead be spent – on bigger brains!

Also cooking makes food supplies more reliable. We could cook roots and other starchy vegetables and get lots of energy, instead of relying on hunting (which can fail) or eating raw food (which requires endless hours of chewing). Now social structures began to evolve through this food gathering and sharing, and even man-woman-relationships evolved as a result of the cooking.

I, as a reader, am neither archaeologist, primatologist or evolutionary biologist. I cannot evaluate the probability of the claims in this book. I can however notice how well the author argues his hypothesis. I appreciate that he relies on biology (such as comparing digestive traits among species) instead of on archaeological findings when he estimates the time when humans first mastered fire. It seems much more logical to do so than to argue that the use of fire is as old as the oldest fireplace that has been found.

This book gives new and interesting perpectives on human evolution and I warmly (!) recommend it. It is also a very interesting read for us clean eaters who are interested in eating food our bodies are evolutionary prepared for. I am one of those “paleo”-foodies who argue that vegetable and starchy tubers should play a big, if not dominant role in our diet. This book makes me even more convinced of this.

Catching fire cover

Buy the book here (adlibris, sweden)

Or here (bokus, sweden)

or here (amazon)

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