Food and cuisine contribute a lot to our daily lives and cultures. There are so many different ways to cook any single type of food. Choosing one method over the other depends on preference, timing, availability of the right tools and ingredients, as well as health concerns. It’s hard to imagine our lives without all the food varieties that are now so common. The beginning of cooking as a regular human activity is worth looking at.
When Cooking Started
Cuisine is now a whole industry racking in trillions of dollars each year. Human beings must eat to live, but the food industry has made food much more interesting and found ways to cater to different palates. In the earliest days, human beings were hunters and gatherers. Our pre-historic ancestors survived on wild fruits and nuts as well as raw meat and insects. as time moved on, the early cavemen began to settle down and transition to a farming culture.
The exact beginning of cooking cannot be easily found by archaeologists, but fossils, tools, and other finding give some evidence of when this might have been. Cooking is believed to date back to as far back as 2 million years ago. The evidence yet found, however, goes as far back as 1 million years. The history of cooking is naturally tied to the discovery and use of fire. Some of the evidence includes some fragments of burnt bone as well as plant ashes, which were found in the Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa. This supports the theory that early human beings had learned to control fire at least 1 million years ago. Further evidence of using fire for cooking dates back to 300,000-500,000 years and is widely accepted by archaeologists.
There are several reasons why early humans may have transitioned to cooking more and more of their food. Some of the reasons could include enhanced taste, making food more palatable and digestible, and increased food options. Since the early days, cooking methods and technology have only become more and more complex and intricate. Cooking methods have also helped to increase the lifespan of certain foods.
Benefits of Cooking
One of the ways in which human beings are unique to the animal kingdom is that they cook their food. No other animal does it or anything similar. There are, however, many animals that chew their food and then regurgitate it for their young, which can be looked at as some kind of food processing.
The benefits of cooking food in this day and age, on top of the reasons that early humans had, are numerous. Not all foods need to be cooked, and eating food with minimal cooking and processing is often recommended because more of the nutritional value is preserved. This applies particularly to foods such as vegetables.
For foods like meat, cooking is necessary for several reasons. Cooking makes the meat easier to chew and digest. In fact, in terms of nutritional value, cooking meat actually allows more of the value to be extracted than raw meat does. Cooking also kills many pathogens such as bacteria that may be present in the meat. This makes cooking a safer and healthier option.
Human teeth have evolved based on their diet and environment, and this has also made chewing raw meat more difficult, but not impossible. In a science experiment, Harvard University professor and paleoanthropologist, Daniel Lieberman, endeavored to sample raw meat. After chewing on some goat meat, he described the salty and tough nature of the meat. He went on to describe the difficulty that humans face in breaking down such meet because of the structure of modern teeth.