Why Do We Cook?

Why Do We Cook?


[music] People around the world celebrate many different
holidays for many different reasons. But no matter how we celebrate, most of us have one
thing in common, and that’s sitting down to a big holiday meal together. We’re not the only social animals that sit
down to eat together, but we are the only ones who cook. Cultural anthropologist Claude
Levi-Strass, cooking establishes the difference between animals and people, although I think
he’d agree that pants make a big difference too. I think he was probably talking about
the cultural attachments to cooking, the ceremonies, or the tools, but he was right in a completely
different way. Cooking literally allowed us to become human,
in the most basic biological and evolutionary sense of the word. This theory is championed
by people like Harvard’s Richard Wrangham. He says, above all else, cooking allowed us
to transition from primitive ape to complex human. it allowed us to feed our growing brains,
and it opened up a lot of free time. The success of human culture and evolution
is because of our remarkably advanced brain, it’s 100 billion neurons full of language
and creativity and curiosity, but that brain comes at a cost. It uses 1/5th of the calories
that we eat. I guess with great power, comes great hunger. We’ve got enormous brains in relation to our
body size, and that’s one of the key differences between us and our primate cousins. Take gorillas
for instance: they’re three times as massive as humans, but their brains only have one-third
the number of neurons. Scientists actually estimate that for a gorilla to power a brain
the size of ours, they’d have to add 700 calories to their daily diet. The thing is gorillas
already spend 80% of their daylight hours eating. Their diet is mostly leaves and fruits,
and all raw. Chimpanzees, too, spend more than half of their day eating, compared with
just 5%, but most of that’s probably waiting in line. Gorillas and chimps share more in common with
human ancestors like Australopithecus than they do with us. Compared to humans, gorilla
skulls have enormous jaws, and huge teeth and powerful ridges to attach chewing muscles,
which are all adaptations to a diet that consists mainly of dense, fibrous plant matter. We see a lot of those same traits in Australopithecus,
but then something happened around 1.8 million years ago, brains and body sizes doubled,
in the form of Homo erectus, the first modern human. While Australopithecus looks distinctly ape-like,
if you saw Homo erectus walking down the street, you’d pretty much recognize it as human, except
for the lack of pants again. But inside of Homo erectus’ basically human skull is a basically
human brain, which means that it had figured out a way to get a lot more energy out of
its food. Part of that is thanks to hunting and eating
large animals, but also to tools that allowed it to cut meat from large animal carcasses
and break bones to get at their calorie-rich marrow. While Homo erectus probably ate meat
when they could get it, we think they still ate mostly plants, and it’s cooking that made
the difference. When plants are cooked, it breaks down their
tough cell walls, which lets them release more of their nutrients, and it makes them
easier to chew. Not only that, heat denatures or unwinds proteins, which allows our bodies
to digest them easier and it inactivates plant toxins. This means that our ancestors could
have gotten access to more foods, and more energy than ever before. This works with animal
and meat products too, you can see it every time you cook an egg, as you go from clear
to white. There’s a catch, though. Scientists haven’t
found definitive proof that Homo erectus harnessed fire 1.8 million years ago, but that could
be because things like burnt sticks don’t fossilize well, and well, fossils from that
era are pretty rare to begin with. Cooking can mean a lot more than just putting
your food over fire, though. Maybe it means crushing it up into a more edible form, or
it could mean preserving it and breaking down with salt, maybe it means cutting it into
pieces and drying it up in the sun, or mashing it up into an edible form like this, and maybe
you let nature do the work for you. Because our ancestors were spending less time
eating, that gave them a bunch of free time to do things like develop language, or invent
art, and tools. Chimps mostly eat food where they find it, and they’ll gladly take food
from another chimp. “I drink your milkshake” But when our ancestors started cooking food,
that means they’d bring it back to a central location, and that means they’d have to strengthen
social bonds and cooperation. Maybe cooking helped us evolve to just get along. They would have had to invent new tools to
carry their food around in, our children would have lived longer, and so would our adults.
We ate our way to becoming a stronger species. When you sit down to your next holiday meal
and your weird Uncle Larry starts talking about politics again, well, just remember
that cooking, together, is a big part of what makes you human, and hey, at least you’ll
have something else to talk about. Stay curious. If you’d like to know more about the evolution
of human cooking, check out Richard Wrangham’s “Catching Fire – How Cooking Made Us Human”
I’ve got a link down in the description. And of course, if you’d like to continue to feed
your brain, well, subscribe. Special thanks to the Thinkery, Austin’s new
children’s museum, where science and families play side by side. See ya later.

100 thoughts on “Why Do We Cook?”

  1. Hi you mention we modern humans only spend 5% of our time eating now. This is a likely very true statement. However you are making it sound like this is normal and healthy… But it is not at all. A large portion of the population has malocclusion and snoring or sleep apnea. Lack of jaw muscle exertion leading to recessed and narrowed jaws is one of the causes of this. Please look up the amazing dentist Mike Mew on YouTube. The video on the cause and cure of bruxism has more information on this topic. Thank you.

  2. Strongly respect your work,let people become smarter!

    I want to share with you couple theories or laws of the universe.

    !!!Want to know your opinion on this
    !!!

    1)The speed of light is not motion speed limit for matter it is energy exchange limit.

    Example = no matter what two points speed is, if the difference less than speed of light they can interactexchange energies.

    If difference more then speed of light points will NOT interactexchange energies.Pass through each other without any consequences.
    (adaptable to the work of the brain, to any aspect of the universe)

    It is a key to multiverse.

    2)(adaptable to the work of the brain, to any aspect of the universe)

    Energy exchange take least resistance path every timein time, in each universe.

    It is in everyday life, in motion of water/air, in how people live their lives, in each atom behaves.

    I want to get a Nobel for it, but i am no one.

    Best regards Dynin A.I.

  3. Tell the whearing pant's joke somewhere in deep Africa. How they are less humans because of not whearing them. You pea.. Of sh. This pants jokes are a cultural tragedy

  4. So you say that people stoped killing each other and made a bond because they started to kill other animals and started eating together?

  5. Let's see if I can make this video a little more simple… We are omnivores. We eat everything. Because we don't immediately eat everything we catch and kill we cook it so that the meat of the animal we kill doesn't rot enough to make us sick.

  6. Why do we cook? The same reason we elected a black president and repealed don't ask don't tell. Progress?

  7. Yeah but if the gorrila had the size of of normal human being, he would not need the extra 700 kcal to mantain the larger brain. Because most of his kcall goes also to mantain his big body

  8. 4:07 Taking this definition of cooking, we are mot the only species that cooks. For example crocodiles leave fresh kills under rocks to make it easier to digest, bees make honey, elephants brew alcoholic beverages in their trunks…

  9. Is fermentation considered cooking? Or only intentional fermentation with yeast? I'd say some animals (other than humans) let starch rich and sugar rich food "spoil" to get inebriated hahaha aren't humans part of nature and the tree of life why else can we break down proteins from other organisms plant, fungus, bacterial or even more complex forms of protein. An alien world would poison us just like the Martian soil will. We are 100% earth, dirt, soil, goo…. we are the living earth and conscious matter. Lets continue to gain knowledge like making HBombs n ICBMs and computers that cut our daily chores by magnitudes! Gain knowledge or be guided by those that have gained knowledge. Its easy to let other think for you. Challenge yourself or leave us that do be.

  10. What level of intelligence would a hominid species need in order to create weapons, tools and cooking methods? Cooking definitely played a role, but there must have been an intelligence spike beforehand. Starchy tubers seem the most likely given that our brains run off glucose and so carbohydrate rich foods would be the best "brain food".

  11. The raw food movement is wasteful fight world luxury. Eating raw vegetables should be part of a balanced diet as it can help you reduce/maintain weight (from the lack of absorption).

  12. The mist awesome way to test the theory that cooking food helped humans evolve these fat brains would be feeding captive apes a mix of cooked foods for several generations. Or set up feeding stations in the wild. The research would take centuries, but I feel that it would be enlightening.

    A few generations in you could introduce cooking and processing tools. Imagine ushering in another species of intelligent creatures.

  13. 🍏🍊🍌🍑🍇🍉🍅🍎🍋🍐🍈🍓🍍🍆🍒🌰🍄🌽🍚🍛🍘🍙🍜🍝🍠🍕🍔🍟🍤🍗🍖🍣🍲🍥🍱🍴🍳

  14. and for some reason we look the most ridiculous and, frankly, we're not advanced just BIG HEADED

  15. m confused, if cooking breaks down the thick cell walls of plants that releases more nutrients, then why does some people say eating lightly cooked or raw vegetables is healthier?

  16. The difference between people and animals? We are animals, just because we are more intelligent doesn't mean we've transcended reality.

  17. Hot flat black rocks in the harsh African sun reach 165 degrees, which is cooking temperature for meat. All they had to do was use flint to slice it into thin strips and it's cooked in under an hour. Same for veggies.

  18. Why do some eggs look brown and some look white???????????????????🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔

  19. I’m atheist but my whole family is catholic, I pretend I’m catholic so I get Christmas presents! My brother got banned from Christmas for being athiest

  20. Great video, but it shows only a portion of the miracle.
    Indeed, cooking ist a consequence of a superpower that some primates got 1.5 million years ago by chance. FIRE.
    It allowed them to:
    1-cook, and therefore access to more energy and less desease.
    2-Protect themselves from predators.
    3.Warm themselves and thus extend beyond their original climatic zones.
    4.Create a central point of gathering. The group lived around the fireplace and extended the activity beyond daylight, allowing them to exchange the experiences of the day, telling stories, becoming thus more social still. Language would never develop as fire where it not for the fireplace. In spanish fireplace carries the name of Hogar, wich also means Home.

    Watch the following video, it opened my eyes to a new anthropological point of view to me:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qv6kcj6Uv2Y

  21. Evolution theroy is a false religion. It is also not scientific and it has zero evidence. The one who with his entire heart seeks God will find him. Something lile that i remember is written it the holy Bible. I whant to help you whovere is reading this. Here is proof that evolution theory is false https://youtu.be/vYLy7CCgqDk

  22. I have a theory that cooking came about when meat/food was on a hot ground it cooked the food. And where in the world is the hottest temps all located at? Mainly northern africa

  23. So no evidence of fire around this time period. Which means this entire video is just a theory with no evidence.

  24. So if the increase in protein from meat was responsible for our increased brain size then why are we the only one's?? Why aren't all the other carnivores evolving the same way? Anyone know? Any evolutionary biologists out there?

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