FOOD CULTURE: Why is cooking food important?
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Cooking is related to fire. There is very rare archeological evidence of the first flames but the earliest history already showed how closely food is related to fire. Archeologists found most of the evidence about fire and how it was used in caves. In South Africa, for instance, the traces of ashes found in the Wonderwerk cave trace the first fire that was controlled by our ancestors, Homo Erectus, back to at least 1 million years ago.
Findings including hearths containing burnt bones on many Neanderthal sites from 250 000 years ago suggest that they were making fire and consuming their food with spices and herbs, but there is no direct evidence that they used fire to cook their food. It is only about 20 000 years ago that the first pots were made in China.
The main evidence that humans started to cook their food comes from our physical structure. Indeed, our biology evolution shows that Homo erectus had a smaller body, smaller teeth and a larger brain. Richard Wrangham concluded that these changes resulted from the fact that the consumption of cooked food became common. The primatologist’s larger view of the Human Being’s development from ape to Homo Sapiens supposes that without the integration of cooked food, this evolution wouldn’t have happened. The transformation of these morphological features is to Wrangham adaptations that happened with the integration of cooked food about 1.9 million years ago.
Not to forget that cooked food represents quite a lot of advantages for the human being, even for the ape!
The food is softer when heated which results in less chewing and more calorie income. It is also safer as it kills germs and other unwanted bacteria in our bodies that could cause food poisoning. Last but not least, for most of the food, it tastes usually better when cooked. Studies also reported that apes preferred eating meals like baked potatoes or carrots rather than raw all the time that the choice was available.
Cooking is one of humanity’s most inventive elements with the development of techniques and exploration of thousands of products. Today, the human being spends more time thinking about food, researching information about it and planning it rather than eating it.
Today more than ever we are facing so much choice when it comes to food that it is crucial for the human being to eat and cook consciously. Food consumption habits have developed since we were children. Food education and food culture are very much related. Getting knowledge about the food we ingest and knowing how to cook it correctly in order to get all the benefits from it starts at a very young age. Our food routine and the products our bodies get used to will somehow rule the rest of our lives. As a consequence, it is very important that children are made aware of food and how to choose and consume it from the earliest age. It also contributes to their social development as cooking food and gathering around a table has a positive impact on the child’s evolution.