From the professor of Biological Anthropology at Harvard University, as well as the co-author of Demonic Males and co-editor of Primate Societies, comes Catching Fire, a thoroughly researched book on the importance of the discovery of fire and how it changed Homo sapiens sapiens forever.
While initially thinking Catching Fire would be an in-depth foray into our ancestral humanity, looking at different hominids and what it was that led to the discovery of fire and going on from there, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a book more in the style of Michael Pollan’s Omnivores Dilemma. The origin of fire and cooking are certainly discussed in this book, but the true story here is how humanity has benefited from cooking, and how it has aided us on the evolutionary path to making us the dominant species on the planet. Wrangham boils (pun intended!) it down to energy and how when foods (especially meats) are cooked, more energy is generated from consuming them. The author scientifically breaks this down by analyzing the energy gained from raw meats as opposed to cooked, as well as vegetables, revealing the problems that some vegetarians and vegans can have in needing to make sure they get enough energy from the foods they consume.
Reading Catching Fire will educate you in a number of ways: you will learn the importance of our ancestors learning to cook foods and further our evolutionary development, but you will also learn why it is we cook foods – on a biological level – and how it can change how we grow and develop, both physically and intellectually.
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Originally written on August 13th 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.