Sunday, November 21, 2010

Book Rec: Catching Fire

When I hear that an anthropologist writes a book, I groan. I think of some dry piece of writing with a ton of citations. I don't immediately think of it as thought-provoking, illuminating or quickly-paced. However, Catching Fire, How Cooking Made Us Human by Richard Wrangham was exactly that.

It was our book group pick and I dreaded reading it, but a few pages in, I couldn't wait to see what would happen. Wrangham postulates that the act of using fire to cook our food led to our development as humans. Cooking makes food easier to digest--raw meat would take hours to eat and process in our systems--and helped develop our brains and bodies.

What I most enjoyed about this book was that I truly wondered what would happen next. Like a good novel, I wondered how the hell did we get from ape to man. Oh, I know the theories from school, how we slowly evolved over time, from four-legged creatures to two-legged ones, but this books provides a missing link: cooking!

I know eating "raw" is in these days, with some claiming it to be healthy. Afterall, monkeys and apes eat things raw. Well, it turns out that if monkeys and apes actually had a choice, as some examples illustrated in the book showed, they much prefer cooked food over raw.

I'm never taking my stove for granted again.


Sundry said...

This looks really interesting! Thanks for the recommendation, Noel.

Cheryl said...

I heard this guy on NPR, and he was really interesting--and yeah, I felt released from the (mild) pressure to eat raw.

Don Cummings said...

This ape totally prefers his food cooked. Something about eating a load of raw vegetables that makes me want to drop out of my tree and into a state of nausea. Ah, cooking. I am just, recently, understanding how important it is. And so now, I make soups. All kinds. And you can have it all week. And it's so cheap. And it's so healthy. And---praise Allah for fire!