Chapter 17. The Consequences of Cooking: How the Origin of Cuisine Shaped Human Culture, Ecology, and Biology

  1. Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
  1. Prof. Dr. Greg Laden

Published Online: 19 JUN 2007

DOI: 10.1002/9783527611492.ch17

Thermal Processing of Food: Potential Health Benefits and Risks

Thermal Processing of Food: Potential Health Benefits and Risks

How to Cite

Laden, G. (2007) The Consequences of Cooking: How the Origin of Cuisine Shaped Human Culture, Ecology, and Biology, in Thermal Processing of Food: Potential Health Benefits and Risks (ed Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)), Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim, Germany. doi: 10.1002/9783527611492.ch17

Author Information

  1. Department of Anthropology, University of Minnesota, 395 Hubert H. Humphrey Center, 301 19th Avenue S, Minneapolis MN 55455, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 19 JUN 2007
  2. Published Print: 23 FEB 2007

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9783527319091

Online ISBN: 9783527611492

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Keywords:

  • thermal processing of food;
  • health benefits;
  • health risks;
  • consequences of cooking;
  • human evolution;
  • two main food transitions;
  • incorporation of plant underground storage organs;
  • invention of processing food with fire;
  • cooking had the largest effect with respect to modern human traits;
  • changes in the bulk of the gastrointestinal system;
  • changes in the masticatory system;
  • cascade of changes in the overall body frame;
  • changes in social;
  • sexual, and cultural behavior

Summary

A strong argument can be made that the last common ancestor of humans and our nearest living relatives (the chimps) was physically and behaviourally similar to modern chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Therefore, the “story” of human evolution can be thought of as a collection of transitions that can explain the differences between chimps and humans, to the extent that we can clearly characterize each species and thus enumerate or describe differences. My research in many related areas has led me to believe that the most important of these differences have to do with sex, food, and the interaction between the two. There were two main and a few smaller food transitions prior to the invention of agriculture and husbandry: 1) The incorporation of plant underground storage organs as the principle fallback (lean times) food, replacing leaves; and 2) the invention of processing food with fire. While these two transitions are related, it is cooking that had the largest effect with respect to modern human traits. These effects included a few, but not many, changes in the bulk of the gastrointestinal system (chimps and humans are not too different), unprecedented changes in the masticatory system, a cascade of changes in the overall body frame (bones and muscles) both directly and indirectly, and of paramount importance, changes in social, sexual, and cultural behavior without which our species would probably be unrecognizable. The sparks that lit the first controlled fire also created our species.