Books that inspire us: 'On fire. How cooking made us human 'by Richard Wrangham

It can take five or six hours for chimpanzees to chew and digest their food. It is what happens with many mammals. However, humans can cook. Pre-digest food in an oven or pan.

The energy that our ancestors saved in digestion, thanks to the discovery of fire, was used evolutionarily to feed an expanding brain. And it provided us with a long list of advantages, such as greater empathy and social cohesion, among others. All this is what this book of Richard Wrangham: On fire. How the kitchen made us human.

The power of fire

Diet is a fundamental key to understanding the social behavior of different species. The search for food is a priority to achieve evolutionary success, and social strategies affect the quality of food of individuals.

That is why the discovery of fire (first) and the development of cooking (later) has succeeded in exercising a series of biological and psychological changes in our species that are rarely taken into account. Changes that multiplied exponentially after the popularization of agriculture, ten thousand years ago.

In the book On fire, it deepens in all this dimension until its last consequences, and the route is certainly fascinating. Fascinating and original. That is why it has been a source of inspiration for Xataka Science articles, such as Is it healthy to eat raw eggs like Rocky did ?.

Professor of Biological Anthropology at Harvard University since 1989 and of primate behavior biology at the Peabody Museum, Wrangham is an excellent narrator, and allows us to delve into complex issues with simplicity and freshness (but not rawness, because we will discover that cooking is he doesn't go over technological development anymore). On fire sheds new light on how we become the social, intelligent and sexual species that we are today. An oblique way of approaching our ancestors, and also of our evolution, and that we should annex the other disciplines now.

Since Darwin and The Origin of Man, the evolution and worldwide dispersion of human beings have been attributed to our intelligence and adaptability. But renowned primatologist Richard Wrangham presents a surprising alternative: our evolutionary success is the result of cooking. In an innovative theory about our origins, Wrangham shows that the shift from consumption of raw foods to cooked foods was the key factor in human evolution. Once our hominid ancestors began cooking their food, the human digestive tract contracted and the brain grew. Time, once spent chewing raw and hard food, could be used to hunt and care for the camp. Thus, the kitchen became the basis for marriage and marriage, created the home and even led to a sexual division of labor.