Reading through this, one day you’ll understand why I often proclaim in my book that “Nutrition” – is simply a symbiosis of all interpretation/s.
If you are a vegan, consider my prior articles that are of relevant to you – pea protein meat loaf recipes (though that still require eggs). Otherwise for the absolute masochist – there’s my article on prepping / marinating TVPs.
Whomever you are new to this blog welcome to the Internet’s least visited alternative thoughts on nutrition.
So “Why” – do we cook?
Weeks on end – it’s extremely difficult for me to come up with a succinct yet sentimentalised reason. The best that I may call it a “reason” – is all derived from the instinct from us to (forcibly) assure that a potential nutrient is in its state of complete “rest.”
Both organic (movement) and microorganic (bacterial) – state of rest.
Before there was “language”, the primal man used his instinct. All from observation and feeling. Our ancestors knew how to survive by observing one thing at a time. They learned, through observation – the state of flora and fauna around them. If it is moving, it is alive. If not, then it is at rest. By inflicting pain and injury long enough – our ancestors discovered that life gradually subsides to an end; evidently as resistance subsides.
A clue that I gather from all of this – is observing the “what” before the gradual understanding of “why” we cook. Knowing the “what” presumes our ability to identify and observe through assessing states of objectivity – of all living beings in their externalised, manifestations. This assesment, once again simply relied on observational visual cues.
Then, like a toddler, curiosity unfolds within the primal man. He’d sniff and takes anything, literally anything motionless – with a small bite. This – is the earliest representation of the “How” – in all of learning processes. An interpretation of nature’s sensations. Beyond seeing. But feeling through chewing, gnawing, and ingesting.
Hot Versus Cold.
The next cue encapsulating everywhere around him were simply sensing that of temperatures. What is “Hot”. Versus What is “cold”.
Compared to “Cold”, “Heat” – seemingly bears the most relevance to survival. Because conveniently; it represents and conjures comfort and assurance. It allows conversations and storytelling flows through the night. Heat also conjures a wall of defense; to help temporarily deter any nearing predators.
Without discovery of fire or at least – very sensory perception of “heat” – life wouldn’t exist. Because nothing would continue; proceeding or remanifesting from one state to another.
The verb “enlighten“, stems from this very need – of clarifying for what is essential, minus the redundancies. Likewise, “clarified” in food terminology – interests only in the concentration of the essentials. Clarified butters, stocks, soups, to name a few.
Archeological evidences, alongside wide theoretical acceptance seemed to suggest the understanding first then ritual/s of heating food – believed to be responsible behind the evolution of our large(r) brains. Irrespective if you align yourselves in the disagreeing crowd – this concept of heat remains undeniably ubiquitous in every movement. Every word we speak or as subtle as a blink of an eye – both involves some oxidation or heat somewhere in their logistics.
“Heat” expediates a state of more complete rest.
In contrast, “cold” or “to cool” imposes arresting or stasis away from heat. Getting back to the example of our ancestors – food illnesses I’d wager, were dire everyday concerns. After all, bacterial thrives likewise on warmth. The longer it stays in stasis – the more threat it induces to the consumer. Illnesses; hence is a result from consuming any nutrient whilst at their incomplete state of rest.
If the primal man noticed a change of colour of trees upon it strucked by lighting. Why not then; replicating this phenomenon to anything else he finds and touch in nature?
Why not then try it on his existing cache of food? And, like instincts to that of a child – why not taste it a little?
From pit roasting, baking, or letting it all cook – in the sun. Little by little he discovered his meats gradually tasted more tender and far less laborious to chew. Thus allowing lesser digestive burden. Why? Because the microorganisms which were once parasitic – shrinks to a lesser and lesser amount by these added induction of heat.
The primal man finally understood “why” cooking was necessary. Gradually, with time and practise – allowed him to digest and assimilate from whatever hunted to usable, comfortable, and interpretively relevant to the physiology.
Animals potentially share this learning process.
Preference for cooked foods over raw are evident amongst various animals.
Bonobos, an indirect relative to us humans – have been known to be able at starting a fire; and prefers cooked over uncooked. In an actual study – Chimpanzees were highlighted for their “cognitive capacity” to understand cooking.
Raccoons are amazingly flexible – as their preference ranged from peanut butters, cooked scraps off bins, eggs, vegetables, ripened fruits, all the way to also somewhat unappetisingly random compost piles.The same seemingly applies to orangutans with their longing on cooked sweet potatoes, tubers and carrots. Many scavengers from birds to Coyotes; seemingly prefer scouting for cooked foods – as soon as wildfires zones eases to a halt.
Often lived and taken for granted under cruelty name of “Science” experiments; rats clearly prefer cooked foods over uncooked. One study suggests that in the presence of hunger, this preference seems intensified.
Ray Peat, a prominent figure in alternative nutrition shared a finding out of a study in the 1940s comparing the wellbeing of rats being fed a variety of vegetables; both canned and raw. The rats fed canned vegetables, appeared more well nourished. The study unfortunately, could not be found to this very day.
This next example may not directly relate to animals’ visualised ability of “cooking” – but cougars have a strangely instinct to leaving out (yes, left overs) of unconsumed hunted meats, for a long enough time. Rather generously so, presumably -for other scavengers to eat. Leaving things out in the open heat of the sun – implies cooking was subconsciously done nevertheless, as a necessity for other beings – to thrive.
Even if hoarding or “caching” of food do not directly represent a learning process of cooking – these behaviours seen on animals nonetheless resembles our perception of heat and uses it to our advantage for either fermenting or storing – for later consumption. Crocodiles; famous for their very long fasting window (up two years without food) – frequently store their hunted carcasses deep in mangroves, and letting them rot. Crocodiles are seen seldom getting out of the waters – if however nearing presence of rotten meat – they are more likely to crawl out and drag the carcasses back to the mangroves.
What about salt? Institutions aka Dietary Guidelines dictates our pedestrian normalcy that salt deserves no place on the food pyramid.
The Japanese Macaques; are known to have habitual, salt-palatability preference by dipping their potatoes in nearby salty ocean waters.
….So what can we learn from animals? Their very own potential resemblance to our proximal curiosities at learning. They seemed cooperative enough that they could remotely learn something back from us. They appeared more wiser too, as they exchange on primarily instincts, primal admissions and principal resources. Rather than political superficials.
Whilst I highly doubt chimps would replace the next Michelin star chefs, the very idea of inviting them into the next episode of Kitchen Nightmares to me – seems not just for an overt humor. But nevertheless a logical testing. To attest their’s own – evolutionary curiosities.
TLDR; Cooking helps augment our survivability.
It bears worth repeating – that any realm of “consumption” – requires complete obligatory death of something else. An obligate prey must be free and cleansed of all suspecting elements that deter any effective digestion and/or nutrient assimilation pathways. Hence once again, to arrive at an assuringly state of complete rest.
Whether done primitively or assisted through technology – cooking is what led us to envelop our means of pragmatic understanding of living and interacting with our environment.
I highly doubt the Palaeolithic man were lend out a saucepan, a gas tank or a portable freezer from willingly contributing extra terrestrial/s from outer space.
We must nonetheless be thankful of our ancestors. Having well survived through learning much of the unpredictable and untamed ecosystems of nature. Having carried long list of illnesses, scrutinies and thus experiences; led them to our evolution thus far. Nevertheless capably leading us to this very day of unprecedented sustenance.
There is no other convincing evidence; from us all having enveloped our interpretations of the world we live in. By nurturing ourselves, through each and every small learning steps of cooking.
To have ensured that all the meats we cached, milks we carried in our saddles, and the potatoes we boiled – rationally led to our very own survival from one day to the next.