Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human

Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human

3.7 14
by Richard Wrangham
     
 

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ISBN-10: 0465013627

ISBN-13: 9780465013623

Pub. Date: 05/26/2009

Publisher: Basic Books

Ever since Darwin and The Descent of Man, the existence of humans has been attributed to our intelligence and adaptability. But in Catching Fire, renowned primatologist Richard Wrangham presents a startling alternative: our evolutionary success is the result of cooking. In a groundbreaking theory of our origins, Wrangham shows that the shift from

Overview

Ever since Darwin and The Descent of Man, the existence of humans has been attributed to our intelligence and adaptability. But in Catching Fire, renowned primatologist Richard Wrangham presents a startling alternative: our evolutionary success is the result of cooking. In a groundbreaking theory of our origins, Wrangham shows that the shift from raw to cooked foods was the key factor in human evolution. When our ancestors adapted to using fire, humanity began. Once our hominid ancestors began cooking their food, the human digestive tract shrank and the brain grew. Time once spent chewing tough raw food could be sued instead to hunt and to tend camp. Cooking became the basis for pair bonding and marriage, created the household, and even led to a sexual division of labor. Tracing the contemporary implications of our ancestors’ diets, Catching Fire sheds new light on how we came to be the social, intelligent, and sexual species we are today. A pathbreaking new theory of human evolution, Catching Fire will provoke controversy and fascinate anyone interested in our ancient origins—or in our modern eating habits.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780465013623
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
05/26/2009
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Cooking Hypothesis 1

1 Quest for Raw-Foodists 15

2 The Cook's Body 37

3 The Energy Theory of Cooking 55

4 When Cooking Began 83

5 Brain Foods 105

6 How Cooking Frees Men 129

7 The Married Cook 147

8 The Cook's Journey 179

Epilogue: The Well-Informed Cook 195

Acknowledgments 209

Notes 213

Bibliography 257

Index 289

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Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
SSGSX More than 1 year ago
A pretty interesting read. I would not recommend this book if you are not interested in human evolution. But if you are, I think you will find this as a good interesting read. After you think about the basic ideas behind his theory it makes a lot of sense, especially when comparing our species to other mammalian species. Also, he does site a lot of examples with native tribes around the world, especially Aborigines and the Bush people. But all in all, a very good book!
agukal3 More than 1 year ago
The question is old: Where do we come from? Contemporary evolutionists point out that we, as with all other organisms, are the result of eons of genetic mutations caused by environmental pressures. However, Richard Wrangham draws an eye-opening conclusion in Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human; the invention of fire and hence cooking has shaped our intrinsic evolution from both biological and sociological standpoints, ultimately changing our own evolution as a species. Wrangham arrives at this powerful conclusion by drawing from various contemporary and archeological sources as well as evidence from gastronomical and chemical processes. Catching Fire sheds new light on how we came to be the social, intelligent, and sexual species we are today and provokes controversy by examining a different angle of human evolution. Wrangham first unravels the question of why humans are the only species to purposefully cook their food. Conventional wisdom has assumed that since humans are animals and animals eat raw food, ergo humans can eat and survive on raw food. However, since our gastronomical tract has evolved, we cannot efficiently process uncooked food. Wrangham draws an interesting conclusion that this was crucial for humans from an evolutionary standpoint. By unlocking caloric food potential through cooking by denaturing macromolecules, humans were able to expend less energy processing food and evolved a much smaller gut and the ability to travel long distances. In turn, this soon shaped our sociological viewpoints forming the rudiments of male-female interaction. That is, women becoming locked into cooking since raising infants and cooking are mainly stationary tasks. In essence, the author provides that human evolutionary success depends merely on inventiveness. Taken to extremes, our species seems to be free to create our own ecology, shaping the path of our evolution. The book gains its main strengths from anecdotes and relevant scientific studies pertaining to the chapter of choice. The informal writing style draws the reader in and assumes the appearance of enjoyable, novelistic writing rather than a hard, fact-driven scientific book. Scientific anecdotes merely enforce the logical thinking of the author as he divulges in various thought-provoking ideas. Wrangham weaves these together so elegantly that Catching Fire convinces and impresses the reader in argument and its explanatory power. However, the weakness in this book is mainly the repetitiveness. The author unfortunately states his main conclusions in the introduction and refers back to them again and again. His masterful work shows how cooking was and continues to be an essential part of humanity. Overall, Catching Fire was both an important and a highly enjoyable read.
Conor More than 1 year ago
This is an interesting and thought provoking theory on the leap from apes to mankind. The more you read and start to put the pieces together in your mind, the more sense the theory makes. Very well laid out and argued. It gets a little philosophical at times and assumes a few crucial events in history, but Wrangham's guess is as good as anyone's. Overall, though, this book is well researched and quite fascinating.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very interesting. I disagree that one should not read this if not interested in evolution. I find it applicable to freshmen in college seeking general education credit. Content is applicable to general views on nutrition (humans as omnivores) and the social ramifications of food preparation techniques. The explanation of the evolution of society and sexually dimorphic roles is revealing. Blah blah blah. In other words, this is a darn good book.
melsking More than 1 year ago
Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human by Richard Wrangham provides an interesting and in-depth look at how the progression from raw to cooked food that has helped humanity evolve from an ape-like creature to today's Homo sapiens actually took place quite earlier than most scientists had realized. Wrangham seeks to show that the cooking of food began with the early human ancestor named the habilines instead of a much later descendent. To set up his theories, Wrangham begins by proving that cooked food is inherently more energy-beneficial than raw food and that humans had control over fire, a necessity for cooking, by the time the habilines evolved. Once these two principles are established, Wrangham moves into his real thesis - how the cooking of food could jump-start evolution. Wrangham focuses greatly on human biology and sociology throughout the remainder of the book. He extrapolates from the few skeletal remains of the ancient habilines and their descendents, the Homo erectus and Homo hederbergeisis, and the condition of modern-day Homo sapiens that the digestive system, teeth, jaws and lips of humans are considerably shorter and smaller than other mammals our size, and that our intelligence is also greater. He attempts to show that the condensed energy value of cooked food is responsible for such physical differences. He also hypothesizes such social conventions as marriage and the sharing of food between people also began with the cooking of food, and that the sexual division of labor, with women as the main cooks and men as hunters, also is a direct result of cooking. Catching Fire is a well-written, very organized and very well evidenced theory as to how humans evolved. Wrangham provides numerous examples to prove each of his points in a clear and concise manner that all readers can understand and crosses over several branches of science, including human biology, chemistry and archaeology in order to prove his theory. The only true shortcoming of the book lays in the last few pages when Wrangham seeks to tie in his results to a modern-day application. The lack of evidence and the abrupt switch in topic from theory to application in this final point are incongruous with the rest of the book and does not fit into the book as a whole.
lawyermom More than 1 year ago
The basic premise of this book is clearly stated i.e. cooked food is easier to digest, produces more energy and thus supports a larger brain. However, once the author starts quoting authorities, confusion begins. Even though all of the above benefits of cooking are supposedly indisputable, he adds a lot of evidence about the benefits of other diets. Admittedly he picks some weird proponents- including people who bring their ouwn food (raw) to restaurants (one charming gentleman apparently dined on raw bone marrow) but he then proceeds to list some studies of the benefits of raw diets, including increased energy, healthier digeestive systems and, supposedly, a greater sense of well-being. He clearly disdains raw diets but in the early chapters, I had difficulty trying to understand why. Cooked food may have allowed an advantage in our early evolution but he really doesn't make a good case as to why a raw diet, outside of being difficult to maintain, is still to be avoided. The statistics he cites, do not appear to support the argument.
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