Author Topic: To what amount / degree of cooking are humans adapted to?  (Read 3665 times)

Offline goodsamaritan

  • General
  • ****
  • Posts: 1506
  • Karma: 59
  • I'm on Raw Paleo
    • View Profile
    • Cure Manual
To what amount / degree of cooking are humans adapted to?
« on: August 01, 2010, 11:20:11 PM »
To what amount / degree of cooking are humans adapted to?

For meat?
- raw
- rare
- medium
- well done
- grilled?

For veggies?
- raw
- steamed
- boiled
- fried?
- grilled?

For root crops?
- fermented?
- boiled?

Which type of cooking can we theorize as the oldest method?

Are we humans fully adapted to cooking?  And to which cooking?

All other insights welcome!

Offline avelin

  • Major
  • ***
  • Posts: 965
  • Karma: 59
  • Evolutionary
    • View Profile
Re: To what amount / degree of cooking are humans adapted to?
« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2010, 03:06:01 PM »
Remains at Abric Romani, a neanderthal site dated some 46000 years ago, demonstrates evidence of cooking food.

I think it irrelevant to categorise how food was cooked - the method of cooking is determined by technology. Initial remains indicative of cooking are in the middle paleolithic whilst many modern methods of cooking (such as cooking baskets) were not abailable until the upper paleolithic


Offline samjohn

  • Global Moderator
  • General
  • ****
  • Posts: 2563
  • Karma: 154
    • View Profile
    • Email
Re: To what amount / degree of cooking are humans adapted to?
« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2010, 10:41:16 PM »
To ask whether we are adapted to it presupposes that cooking causes changes in the meat that we would need to adapt to. I do not think this is the case. There are changes of course, but nothing that would require adaption on our part.

Offline el cogollero

  • Captain
  • ***
  • Posts: 713
  • Karma: 18
    • View Profile
Re: To what amount / degree of cooking are humans adapted to?
« Reply #3 on: August 27, 2010, 12:20:12 AM »
Richard Wrangam's "Catching Fire - How cooking made us human" is an interesting book on the subject. The "cooking hypothesis" claims that cooking is part of the definition of the homo genus; that cooking adds available energy to food, which gave the first cooks an evolutionary advantage.

Offline goodsamaritan

  • General
  • ****
  • Posts: 1506
  • Karma: 59
  • I'm on Raw Paleo
    • View Profile
    • Cure Manual
Re: To what amount / degree of cooking are humans adapted to?
« Reply #4 on: August 27, 2010, 12:44:20 AM »
Richard Wrangam's "Catching Fire - How cooking made us human" is an interesting book on the subject. The "cooking hypothesis" claims that cooking is part of the definition of the homo genus; that cooking adds available energy to food, which gave the first cooks an evolutionary advantage.

Yes, I know Wrangham's opinion, but to what degree of cooking are we adapted to?

Is it fried? pressure cookered? stewed in pot? open fire grill medium?

What kind of cooking is optimal for humans?

For example death to diabetes author says lightly steamed greens, lightly steamed fish.

So did our ancestors use steamers?  Or did their fire pit achieve the same result as lightly steamed?
« Last Edit: August 27, 2010, 12:46:20 AM by goodsamaritan »


Offline avelin

  • Major
  • ***
  • Posts: 965
  • Karma: 59
  • Evolutionary
    • View Profile
Re: To what amount / degree of cooking are humans adapted to?
« Reply #5 on: August 27, 2010, 03:06:35 AM »
Quote
To ask whether we are adapted to it presupposes that cooking causes changes in the meat that we would need to adapt to. I do not think this is the case. There are changes of course, but nothing that would require adaption on our part.

Actually, cooking meat could very well cause changes to the stomach and dentition. Cooking changes the requirements for both chewing and digestion.

Although many adherents of the paleo movement assume that we are the same as humans living 40000 years ago, I don't actually think this is the case. You have only to look at cultural adaptation to alcohol to see that humans continue to evolve and that in fact dietary adaptation has occured beyond the period in question. Likewise, it is entirely possible that our digestive systems have been modified by the use of fire, and changes to our food, and certainly there is a good argument that our teeth support this.

Quote
...but to what degree of cooking are we adapted to? Is it fried? pressure cookered? stewed in pot? open fire grill medium? What kind of cooking is optimal for humans?

As for your search for a cooking method goodsamaritan - to fry you need something metal, to stew or boil you need to immerse in liquid so you need a container that can do that. The use of metal would change our timeframe considerably and therefore the amount of adaptation possible. Suffice it to say that either cooking pits or hot stones or similar dry methods would be most appropriate before technological advance. None of this changes the fact that food gets softer and requires different chewing and digestion as a result.

Once you start talking about the method of cooking however, such as steaming, I think that you are talking about something other than adaptation, something cultural based on society or technology. It being that primitive humans existed in tribal groups, it is unreasonable to assume any single method and therefore any individual cooking technique. I think you are looking for an answer that simply doesn't exist, particularly given the fact that one of our survival techniques is our adaptability.

Offline gnujoshua

  • Captain
  • ***
  • Posts: 505
  • Karma: 25
    • View Profile
Re: To what amount / degree of cooking are humans adapted to?
« Reply #6 on: August 27, 2010, 03:14:34 AM »
Primitive peoples of South America (only going back 10-12,000 years... I know) steam foods in banana leaves.

Post-modern primitive cultures of India, Pacific Islands, and Indo-China also steam food in various leaves (including banana).

So to really answer your question, I would say steamed (in leaves) or grilled over coals is about as traditional as you can get.

Offline samjohn

  • Global Moderator
  • General
  • ****
  • Posts: 2563
  • Karma: 154
    • View Profile
    • Email
Re: To what amount / degree of cooking are humans adapted to?
« Reply #7 on: August 27, 2010, 07:53:00 AM »
Quote
To ask whether we are adapted to it presupposes that cooking causes changes in the meat that we would need to adapt to. I do not think this is the case. There are changes of course, but nothing that would require adaption on our part.

Actually, cooking meat could very well cause changes to the stomach and dentition. Cooking changes the requirements for both chewing and digestion.

Although many adherents of the paleo movement assume that we are the same as humans living 40000 years ago, I don't actually think this is the case. You have only to look at cultural adaptation to alcohol to see that humans continue to evolve and that in fact dietary adaptation has occured beyond the period in question. Likewise, it is entirely possible that our digestive systems have been modified by the use of fire, and changes to our food, and certainly there is a good argument that our teeth support this.

But the question is not 'does cooking change meat'. We are talking about evolution here, which means the question is 'does cooking change meat to such an extent that one persons stomach might handle it better to a degree that he/she will be more reproductively successful, and subsequent offspring would also be more successful' and so on.

How is cultural adaptation relevant? I am only interested in genetic change brought on by evolution through natural selection.
« Last Edit: August 27, 2010, 07:56:07 AM by samjohn »

Offline Warren Dew

  • Global Moderator
  • General
  • ****
  • Posts: 5799
  • Karma: 371
    • View Profile
Re: To what amount / degree of cooking are humans adapted to?
« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2010, 08:19:50 AM »
We are not adapted to fully cooked meats by dry heat methods.  Meat loses potassium when cooked, and experiments done with such cooked meat had some negative effects - loss of muscle mass, if I recall correctly.

Stewing the meat and drinking the broth when eating the meat restores the potassium.

For meat, at most we are adapted to roasted meats cooked rather rare, or boiled meats in stews.

Offline avelin

  • Major
  • ***
  • Posts: 965
  • Karma: 59
  • Evolutionary
    • View Profile
Re: To what amount / degree of cooking are humans adapted to?
« Reply #9 on: August 27, 2010, 03:14:45 PM »
Clarification: I'm mostly quoting samjohn because he brought up interesting points for me

Quote
How is cultural adaptation relevant? I am only interested in genetic change brought on by evolution through natural selection.

Cultural adaptation simply means that one cultural/racial group has made an adaptation whereas another has not. An example is adaptation to alcohol. It is a result of evolution and is a genetic change.

Quote
But the question is not 'does cooking change meat'. We are talking about evolution here, which means the question is 'does cooking change meat to such an extent that one persons stomach might handle it better to a degree that he/she will be more reproductively successful, and subsequent offspring would also be more successful' and so on.

Because the stomach is soft tissue we don't have any to study. We base our ideas on skeletal structure. That is why I brought up teeth. From about 50,000 years ago to about 10,000, the size of human teeth decreased at a fairly steady rate (and some think this happened over the last 200,000 years). It is posited that the consumption of less vegetation and more meat reduced the size of the molars and that the shortening of the other teeth is the result of cooking food.

Summed up nicely here:
http://www.manticmoo.com/articles/jeff/scholarly/an-evolving-human-dentition.php

More here:
http://www.uic.edu/classes/osci/osci590/4_3RecentHumanDentitionEvolution.txt.htm

As an addition - you cannot discuss evolutionary success (in terms of who will reproduce) without looking at it from a sociological/anthropological viewpoint as well as the purely biological. Cooking, for instance, takes time and therefore requires social co-operation and division of labour. Social changes influence the way we do things which influences biological change and vice versa.

I'd also suggest that in terms of adaptation, we are still evolving and at a faster rate than previously but I'll put up another thread so as not to derail this one.

Offline Warren Dew

  • Global Moderator
  • General
  • ****
  • Posts: 5799
  • Karma: 371
    • View Profile
Re: To what amount / degree of cooking are humans adapted to?
« Reply #10 on: August 27, 2010, 07:31:37 PM »
Because the stomach is soft tissue we don't have any to study. We base our ideas on skeletal structure. That is why I brought up teeth. From about 50,000 years ago to about 10,000, the size of human teeth decreased at a fairly steady rate (and some think this happened over the last 200,000 years). It is posited that the consumption of less vegetation and more meat reduced the size of the molars and that the shortening of the other teeth is the result of cooking food.

I'm skeptical about the dependency on diet.  I think the competing idea that tooth size reduction over the past few hundred thousand years is more likely to be due to language.

Also, for the tail end of that period, tooth size reduction parallels body size reduction, so part of it may be the poorer quality diet that accompanied the broad spectrum and agricultural revolutions.