Fire It Up!

Did you know that preparing food by utilizing fire or heat is a uniquely human phenomenon? We may have a hundred different ways to process food before we deem it suitable for consumption but it all boils down to one indispensable element and that is fire. Without fire any kind of boiling, frying, steaming, poaching, grilling, roasting, baking, toasting, to name but a few, would just not be possible. Mankind discovered fire and learned how to use it to our own advantage and we were never the same again.

In fact, prominent British primatologist Richard Wrangham argues that the act and eventual habit of cooking food was one of the key factors in the physiological evolution of man. This hypothesis follows the logic that this critical step in food preparation was a catalyst that triggered the change from smaller guts to bigger brains. He postulates that with the discovery of cooking our early predecessors now had better food efficiency that decreased the time and effort needed for hunting, foraging and digesting. In addition to this, Wrangham believes that cooking and the utilization of fire helped mankind evolve by providing warmth and effective protection against predators. He goes on to add that the previous practice of eating raw food had a detrimental impact on the reproductive fitness of our species.

There is a substantial body of evidence that suggests our early ancestors have been cooking food as early as 2.3 million years in the past. The latest discoveries have pegged the earliest hearths to at least be as old as 790,000 years old. It is said that the Peking Man, a prime example of Homo Erectus was roasting meat as early as 750,000 years ago.

The early origins of cooking continue to be shrouded in mystery up until now but it is speculated that our predecessors might have literally stumbled on the idea of using fire to prepare food when they first scavenged the remains of animals roasted by forest fires. However, it is generally accepted that the practice of roasting meat over the fire was the only way of cooking food up until the advent of the Paleolithic Age. It is believed that the first primitive method of steaming and toasting as part of food preparation was developed during the Paleolithic Age.

Fast forward to our time and food preparation has evolved by leaps and bounds. Human creativity and technological innovation have given rise to specialized cooking techniques that would have seemed like magic to the early hominid. The interest in cooking has reached new heights and nowhere is this more evident than in the proliferation of cooking shows from the classic Iron Chef franchise to the Great British Bake Off to the ever entertaining Gordon Ramsey led Hell’s Kitchen & Kitchen Nightmares to name but a few. It seems that everyone from thecookingexpert to the average Jane and Joe is interested not only in the result of cooking but also in the entire behind the scenes process. The Food Industry is a trillion dollar industry worldwide and everyone wants a piece of the action.

 
 

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