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 independent thoughts on nutrition and frugality.
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 from outside forces.
One clue that I can 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 purely 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.
The two major forces of nature encapsulating every second around him were simply temperatures. Hot versus 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 flowing at night. Help bonding and communication even in complete darkness. It also assures safety against predators. Keeps him and his family warm at night.
Hence, the primal man learned that at least one goal derives from this curiosity: he longs to seek comfort. If he were to deprive of his sensations of “heat” – he would not have existed at all.
Heat: The constitution behind all curiosities.
Without discovery of fire or at least – very sensory perception of “heat” – life wouldn’t exist. Nothing would continue; from one state to another, only condensed.
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 concept of heating food – was mostly what paved the development of our large 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 a blink of an eye; all involving some oxidation or heat required in their manifested organic processes.
Getting back to the example of our ancestors – food illnesses I’d wager, were dire everyday concerns. Illnesses; occuring from consuming any suspecting nutrient is a side effect of unreconciled learning processes of handling that nutrient. Hence, a logical necessity through trial and erroring at scrutinising whatever else from the meat, or the rough, untreated raw grains; may yet be proven suspects.
If he noticed a change of colour of trees upon it strucked by lighting. Why not then; replicating this phenomenon to anything else?
Coincidentally, he knew how to start a fire. 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 and thus allowing lesser metabolic & 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 is 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.
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 – how it is orchestrated and/or even be taught upon amongst surrounding peers.
Preference for cooked foods over raw also are evident amongst various animals. 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 once a natural wildfires zones have eased or subsided.
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 interesting, socio-economical instinct to leave out (yes, left overs) unconsumed hunted meats, for a long enough time – rather generously for other scavengers to eat. Presumably, 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 sensory usage of heat to our advantage at 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 – however interestingly, if nearby presence of rotten meat is detected – 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.
Animals, on the other hand – appeared more wiser as they subscribe to no “-ics” or “-isms”. 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? Beyond nil subscription of politics – their very own potential resemblance to our proximal curiosities at learning; seems cooperative enough that they could remotely learn something back from us.
Whilst I highly doubt chimps would replace the next Michelin star chefs, but 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; of them and 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.
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 willing contributing extra terrestrial/s from outer space.
We must nonetheless be thankful for him and his generations before him – having surpassed and learned much of the very unpredictable and untamed – ecosystems of nature. Having both trialled long list of scrutinies and experiences, I’d remain humbling and grateful. That from all the sickness our ancestors carried; evolution thus nevertheless – capably led us to this very day of unprecedented sustenance.
There is no other convincing causality then; from us all having enveloped our interpretations of the world we live in, by nurturing ourselves, with 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.