Cooking Issues Transcript

Episode 249: Catching Fire with Professor Richard Wrangham

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12 in Bushwick, Jack in the studio today Battlefield and said I got the horse ride inspired Brooklyn

so I think we we do not have nastase the hammer Lopez live in the studio today because she is out in Chicago I was about to lie and say she's covering the James Beard awards for cooking issues with straight apply on hair today is the the route be more professor of biological anthropology at Harvard and he wrote a kind of a book that I think was published in 2010 I think but I think it's remained influential and Eddie's more interesting actually to have him on Rio 6 years after it's been published so that we can see kind of what the impact of Baden and how its have the series in it

stayed over time is called Catching Fire cooking made him made us human a good a good to speak with you could speak with you so by the way I don't know whether I'd like to give the elevator pitch for what the books about for those people that don't already have or do you want me to meet elated for you or what do you want to do something call right back when I hope this is the right spot I've decided it's time I bring a Tandoor into my life could call the internet as a wash with videos and courageous DIY arts building set of hands in their backyards I have a little DIY experience but I'm not half

directions what do you think buy or build any tips or thoughts for a rookie learning to Feast on Tika and non shears Andrew listen dude if you don't like DIY stuff out the only reason to build a Tandoor is because you really really really really really want to build a Tandoor right if you'd rather just and you also like how much value does your time you don't have it like I bought mine and I am an avid DIY are just because I think in general is better the first time you use a piece of equipment if you think you grown up and use Pandora's your whole life and he knew what the geometry was and he knew how it was supposed to work and you roughly new what Mass it was supposed to be and you roughly knew what the kit you know that competition to Clay was and how was reinforced and how it was use over time and you know kind of knew all of those factors when I say you know what build one lot of fun but in answer to that if you haven't actually used one before probably a good idea to just get one from the professionals the one I have and they should pay me to send so many people today

it's cool body International and they're in New Jersey I was lucky enough I live close enough I was able to go get one but if you don't if you're not that lucky they will ship it but I think they're shipping is expensive because they're play and they they really want you to ship them by truck carrier so there you have it and Jack way back if not I will get to the second before the end of the show it's about barbusa the semolina cake do you want the elevator pitch or do you want me to get the elevator pitch and then you'll see it basically in what I got out of it so the question the question is this how is it or why is it that human beings have evolved in

very kind of particular way why do we have a big very energetically expensive frames to run wires are digestive system short why is our jaw muscles puny wire are relatively to other things like great apes why why is it that way they're all these kinds of things why are we relatively erect why can't we climb very well and if you if the question is is it these these kinds of things started happening a long long time ago what caused those things to happen and it kind of simplest explanation from an Occam's razor standpoint isn't any one of the normal kind of things have been posited like tool use or any of these other things really that the most simple Occam's razor thing is cooking cooking can accomplish all of those things because if you cook foods all of a sudden they are easy much easier to chew you don't have to chew is long it takes a lot less time and you get a lot more actual caloric value energy out of the

Foods once they're cooked versus Raw basically right Professor that you count live on raw food in the wild you know if you're a real food is then you can survive in an environment in which you can take the highest quality food do you can find on the Yukon blend it and tell him but but it's not good enough in the wild that's what we not realize for the past few years humans are unlike every other species we are adopted to eating all food cooked we have to they need to that's one one big Point well okay if that's true how long is it been true

it it it it 50,000 years ago was it 5000 years ago that the health of million years ago and I'm actually I think that there's a pretty easy on to this which is that it's being true a long as we have thought is like the bud is that we have nowadays when do we get those bodies of everybody knows it was just too many years ago was hit it right at the beginning and it said it's in the in the book and here's the baby there's been a lot of research since 2010 so one of the main arguments that critics have is there is no evidence of fire remote like cooking fire on non non happenstance fire

anywhere near that long ago your counter argument in the book is mostly well it's the easiest explanation and therefore should be accepted and tell an easier explanation is is given is that still your am I putting a position correctly and B has that changed over the past six years that no one can say yet but I thought it was definitely control if I buy human going all the way back to when I am predicting it been since the book was published we have had the date of Control Authority being pushed in nicely back so we've now got a couple of places in 800,000 years ago at the place of the million years ago because he had quite a lot more than the 250,000 years ago that people have traditionally thought

and I'm feeling very excited about a post I've been hearing about some evidence is it going to take the the evidence of the control of five back to the very close to 2 when I think it will eventually be shown accepted site that does another one we should just being published in Spain I just about the same time and then there's a millionaire one in South Africa answer this if this is Austin I can understand curious is what is the difference between a 250000 year old site that has been easily identified for a long time as having control of fire and a site that a million years is a million years ago what's the difference in technology or placement or how how how the sites are preserve such that it makes it more

call to trace it back like why is there that line is that everything is going to sub to the point that you know there's going to be able to find what you're looking for I mean of the way in which is Disturbed the half-life of a cave those who say they the duration of the cave is going to exist it is something around a quarter to me than is the most caves I've gone off to that time because of erosion of the Lake of the Cave Rock that sort of thing for the control of fire in the very early times like a million years ago is more from microscopic grains of charcoal

that's a guy cannot be explained on the basis of anything else other than humans being responsible for making fire humidifier

well I mean natural fuzz dude comes reduce Choco Tacos but they tend to produce charcoal that ends up with zmola grains and then human made fire that's being shown in the sticks. Is the real thing that characterizes the evidence of the use of Fire by humans on a million years ago in South Africa is the fact that there is a very ancient cave it's like the it's really the only cave found that date I'm deep in the cave

lots of parades charcoal and people say there's no way that you could have had any natural process the broad in the fuel pump is not so single being but it have to be human you have to be very careful of two places where people have found some evidence of burning associated with humans Wayback 1.5 million 1.6 million years ago but there's always the possibility that it was a tree burning from a lightning strike first.

when I was driving the car I got it on on Audible and I was laughing out loud with the parts about the the raw diet because I lost a bet and had to do the raw diet for a week and I'll tell you you know I didn't need any scientific study to show that I wasn't absorbing my calories just ask ask my toilet you know obviously the stuff run straight through you and you were eating a Preposterous amount of you say no shopping in modern supermarkets and you know modern having you I have a very expensive high speed blender and taking a lot of time to soak things excetera excetera since using agricultural Foods into of course the quality of foods that are produced in on Tom's is it from the point of view of producing energy

then what you got in the wild so so you know they eat the fruits in the area that I work on study chimpanzees in Uganda the average Cruise has about as much sugar as a car has been done for less than an apple or an orange and tell him that you mentioned including eating domesticated foods and yes there's quite a lot of extra work is not being done on this since the book was published we've got a very nice day if you feed mice on cooked tubers or or uncooked meat or uncooked peanuts then they will get more energy than eating raw how do you say I mean anybody to try to roll food not know this but it's nice to be able to

I don't know what a lot of people bring it up when they talk to you about the book but the other thing I thought was very interesting and I didn't expect to hear in nutrition discussions and you never do never in your book is a basically a huge indictment of the way we and I don't think you even explicitly bring it out this way but a huge indictment of the way nutritional labels are printed because as a calorie is clearly not a calorie is clearly not a calorie depends on the the structure of it how much it's cooked or how it delivered to you how much you chew excetera excetera what are your thoughts are you even interested in that if it's not worth it just now part of your field of study the food-labeling right Rachel, day and I we run a section of the American Association results from the Sun 3 4 years ago

only brought together number of people to to reflect on the fact that has you say it so it's very clear to all sorts of people even though the system does not capture what you wanted to know which is how much weight will I put on for meeting this particular kind of food it is ironic because the scientists do know do they do understand on the hole that processing matters enormously I'm just a the more highly processed your food is whether it's fine cooking or by whatever has to be done by wave grinding it in another food company before you even get it everyone knows that so we should have a modified labeling system but the vena whole series of attempts to think about what the new system couldn't should be in no one can agree on what it should be so it's not going to

even if you could do that you do you still need some sort of the body is so complicated that you simply can't really say what's going to happen even if there's no way to adjust it at all because my favorite you know example. I put everyone is here if I drank a gallon of vegetable oil right now if I could do it without throwing up I simply wouldn't absorb the vast majority of those calories even though I should be able to fairly well I just be overwhelming my system and it would all leave relatively unprocessed mean they just impossible to it's impossible to to account for the differences in the way humans consume and you can get probably some sort of clothes average based on what the average average person eats and how fast the average person eat but it's incredibly complicated system right

attention to the fact that the problem with the current system is that it is too simple but then by the same token any change to the system in terms of the way that we we put some some kind of numbers on the food labels is going to be complicated time complexity is it hard sell red and green you what you associate those with a particular numbers that you put on the on the food label and say if it's if it's if the Reds an appropriate I see you again on this very second that you're going to get more calories than you expect from this

don't have it be at 7 most of the health claims are garbage anyway so it's like based on expectations like that's an interesting idea nothing very precise is going to come out but do you hear some ways to think about what it's going to do to you that once you apply numbers to something and this is my problem with much of nutritional science in general once you apply number to something then the average person believes that those numbers have meaning and so now there is this idea that there is a simple number that has a meaning and in fact it it doesn't end until you can't go back and tell someone while your whole you know the whole mentality about the way of Food Works is based on this thing that you think is simple and is accurate but in fact I can't give you any good number sorry people with Hope by that you know what I mean

committee the ultimate example of this of course is backed up and cooked and if you just look at the numbers in the USDA website which is the source for a lot of the materials on food labels come from what you see is that you was all supposed to get the same number of calories from raw food as you do from cooked so if you take a car assigned you cook it roared roared and then you cook it according to the USDA website still going to get the same number of calories people believe in numbers and as you say you know people tend to believe in numbers once I give him them will stick to the gums and use them to support that the North Face could be dangerous is that

so you could as a result get to little food from eating it roll that's the choice of a child it's something that your parents give to you and that's where you really could be dangerous you know we We Have Faces but it being reported of infants dying from eating real food I mean so

I have a question when you're ready. I don't think it's related to read the book yet I encouraged him to go out and and get the book it's it's a fun read so well-written and right now we're really talking about the the except for the nutrition labels are talking about the first half of the first half I would guess Professor is more contentious in the scientific community and the second half is more contentious in the kind of sociological community in the second half is more contentious kind of sociological would you say that's true or no that's a better way to put it so let's stay with of the first half in the first half is really about this this thesis of cooking and and I was completely fascinated because you spent a lot of time Act

hanging out with with great apes in your chips and whatnot in in in Africa for observing them eating the way they eat doing these sorts of things how long how long per day how how much time per day does the average a great ape take eating

chimpanzee which way does something like a hundred pounds will spend roughly 5 or 6 hours just chewing chewing not Gathering just shooing it is about half the day I told him one of them quite a bit striking things about the difference between us and because you all then the more time you go to spend chewing to go get more food into your body and if we eating all food role in the same way that the chimpanzees and gorillas and orangutans Duke then we would be spending something around seven or eight hours chewing per day

the truth is that means I was guess not just because our muscles are less strong but because we require more energy to run our brains yes and we have a less efficient intestinal system in. Here's the funny thing about our brains are incredibly expensive to run and you can never tell them off I'm like a computer expensive expensive to run when when you're awake but I even though they are costing something like between a quarter and a fifth of all the energies that you eat when when you're resting up something like 25% of the energy in your body is you being used to run your brain

nevertheless the total amount of energy that humans are using when they're asleep is the same in proportion to body weight as it is in any other primates not taking in more energy on average is that because we're spending less energy on digestion my God it seems to really have a lot of sense to why it is that we are able to afford to run a big brain which is all this is important is that we cut back on running our guts and this makes every sense cuz we have the smallest digestive system in relationship to body size for any primate and we have the largest brain in relationship to go to the side for any primate is one of the most expensive pasta of the body is more expensive to run per gram

and most other brands we just run it at a faster rate we overclock ourselves yet

but it cost the same as a gram of my sprained but they have a bigger body so it's a smaller percentage

I went for which one for like a whale with a huge brain an elephant something with a giant on this give me some recent papers that have come out and it see what your response is your colleague colleagues in the building next to you at Harvard with each other think wrote a paper basically saying that they think that. Chewing is enough to allow us to get the extra energy out rather than cooking that what it what are your thoughts on that

it's a very old idea I mean good friends and my students and I think it's this particular conclusion is odd because it doesn't seem to pay attention to what we know about raw food you know we know that's that's incredibly high class food you put into electric blender you wasn't human will still lose weight and what they're saying is that way back in the Paleolithic crude stone tools that people could have done enough by way of pounding and cutting their food to increase the ease of digestion and I'm getting my food out of it I mean I think the the study by the way if people want to read is called impact of meat and lower Paleolithic food processing techniques on chewing and humans in

one of the main things about that the paper that I didn't get was there really just they're focusing on time to create a bolus to swallow right which is not necessarily the only thing that's important part of it right decreases the amount of time you have to chew but not the amount you have to consume to get at 2 to get the the calories required right is that so it's a tray Walker in humans because it's very difficult to get permission to be able to study what happens when people eat raw meat stay because they all started going to get some kind of a worm but something from eating raw meat stuck with time spent chewing and servants that showing that if you pound your meter or even just life it then you will spend less time chewing but it doesn't come to the heart of the matter as you said

we actually have very good evidence as a profession that stone tools of the types of that talkin about when you long before humans emerged into the present body form so so the genus homo homo sapiens or Homo erectus not happened to write 1.9 million years ago but then prior to that all the way back to 3 million years ago you've got some tools being used by somebody and those somebody's free human ape-like forms

no that's another difficulty is that site that if they were using those tools to modify that food it didn't do anything for them for a very long time

yeah you know what you know what you should do Professor you should get you should let people know here like on this or any other show we will volunteer to chew raw meat we don't have to spit it out because we're not part of a sanctioned study isn't there some way to just create a voluntary study or is that completely unethical showing that we didn't know that you can only write about it in a book than you can ever published in a journal be run out of the community on a rail I presume yes because it's the thing is right after you get your writing books right I mean clearly you you are a bunch of volunteers I can probably find a hundred volunteers like today would be willing to chew and swallow them eat and not worry about it

11 questions how would you trace our how do you trace our

we have to do it inside of us chamber to measure how much we were absorbing I guess which that love to be able to just follow what happens to the microbiome of people eating real food and people eating cooked food so you know what to think about that yeah yeah and it doesn't snow nobody anything that the difference between the role in the cooked Foods so shifting people from rural to cook donuts and price of us recording at microbiome would be something that people to investigate soon maybe we can find some

to have any more I'd like a pressing questions on the on the first section

my PlayStation move to the second section now and we could we can move back and forth so the first section describes a bunch of reasons why the best explanation at the cooking hypothesis I guess you call it the best explanation for how we got to be the way we are is that we started cooking now this second section of the book deals with the cultural impacts of that are and so you know that's the part where it's Waterford could potentially get in hot water because it feels a lot with gender difference and so I'm going to take a stab at a rundown of what what cooking allowed to have happened in

in Western Europe and the United States until you have men who weren't interested in cooking the fact is that and every culture around the world and everything in it is almost entirely a woman's role to do the dog breed domestic cooking they wouldn't household cooking the most high king of all of the economic differences between men and women that women do the cooking date the times when men do the cooking a special occasions when you have faith when you have some kind of great public Affair and Men come out

John clay roast Elephant of the war in the book right you point to that fact that the ability to not spend a lot of time chewing and having like your basic like some basic Staples in calories already cooked allowed more time for one one group the males to go out and hunt and therefore the other section 2 vault on the females to do that the kind of we know it's going to be there cooking is that accurate or no in a way because I mentioned that if we're eating our food roll then we be spending as I mean I save lots lots of time I'm in instead of 7 or 8 oz is 1 hour a day if you look or less than 1 hour a day or around the world doesn't matter where you are it's just the Human Condition

1 hour day chewing your food so what do you do with all this bad time with his the irony of the irony is that the women on mostly spending that time Gathering food I'm cooking it but meanwhile the men in some ways got off lightly and the reason a man get off my plate is not that they don't do anything they do they they do a lot of complementary ways to get food I mean if you are living in a very simple way into full-scale society absolutely required culturally to be the everyday producing the the basic food but the men if they want to they don't have to hump me they can go off and underline under tree in gambolo Village girlfriends in the neighboring area or I'll go to war or whatever else it is

sort of opinions to go read the relevant sections of the book because a series of societies that appear to contradict you have arguments as to how they actually kind of fit into the general pattern correct

yes I mean that there is no inconsistency I would say that that's right

when does popcorn come from why is it that universally in in human societies it is the women who are doing the cooking and the men who have relative freedom and are able to rely on women providing food for them which is so unlike any other animal and this is got coming to do with a very basic feature of cooking the ones you rely on cooking then there's something funny about the way the food is produced and that is this that it is very easily stolen it's very easily used by people other than the ones who collected the food compare this with

so if you're a chimpanzee say you you promised Retreat you pick up fruit and pumping him out to nobody can take it from you cooking food you have to they have to put the food onto a file. So how long it takes for the food to cook and during that time someone else and come along and take the food then that means that the people who are doing the cooking and vulnerable in social competition of cooking on the campfire and I think that real estate leads to the following end up needing to be socially protected from the kids from the woman next door or from somebody Bachelor who doesn't have a wife or from some other visiting Mom and the person who protects her

so in the end it does fall back on the old men do that's kind of Labor because of his physical strength

well it's a good thing his part of it but it's probably even more important than just a compact among men then say it's a consensus among men that they will act as a sort of unified body to declare that if somebody has being accused and found guilty of finishing food from behind a woman's back then they will punish them until we think it's because somebody's be always taking food from my car then he doesn't necessarily going to confront them himself he'll go to the elders and say we got a problem in the camp and then the elders will do something. The real social power comes from and then your book you say that most most historical and small societies current smallest size ever studied the

the cooking keeping the cooking in the family unit unit the food is more important even than sex about sex I'm having babies I know but that's hugely important part of it but it's very striking finding places where a man's point of view what is absolutely more important than raising a time when he first entered his twenties and someone is becoming a man is that there is somebody to cook for him and if he doesn't have a mother who is still alive providing us food location is Sister then he needs someone else to do it and postmenopausal she might be another fixed is no way that she's going to bring him any children but he provides she provides him with food on that means that he can go away and do

manly activities during the day and the bee is masculine as he wants to be otherwise he's supposed to do the cooking and health in a world of stereotypes send that means that he can't really adopt a male role and and also saying these traditional size they're the one for when they bring back food 100 food meat is typically shared in the community where as they've gathered food Staples cooked foods that the women would are not that are not ever share typically are the relationships among men in in the small-scale societies operation in a way that is true of the womenfolk it tends to be the case that each woman has her own fire she puts her own food that she has gathered with her own personal hands and she shows up food

own children and maybe definitely a husband and then maybe want to try the closest relatives but it's pretty likely Monday had something if it's big enough to share then they will share it vary widely in the community and all right now let's get to the Crux here's the here's here's the big question so if that was the case for how we evolved not just physically but as culturally as a society to be where we are now Rite Aid let's just assume it's all that it's all completely accurate what does that tell us about the way we need to or does it tell us anything about the way that we need to interact today in a society where most people they cook if they want to they go to a restaurant if they want to they were out if they want him talking and Richard Society

like you know here in the US where we're completely unhinged from any of these needs right we all have actual jobs at take up you know 8 hours of the day and cooking and eating is relatively small proportion of time spent is there

I mean clearly there are echoes of what happened more than that goes right but is there is there any is there anything for the future like need we be bound by any more today we have to be bone by the social possums I mean we wouldn't we would have to acknowledge them if in fact there was any evidence of a of an evolutionary impact on psychology I didn't I haven't seen any evidence so far so it seems to me that's so we should look at what happens in the human species in the pasta in minutes. His today and it'll come to get away from it in the world between explicitly in the book but I mean the interesting thing to me is that we get there really doesn't seem to be once it's once it's no longer a physical necessity we no longer need

not that way anymore Ryan in the time since the book was published was one that Drew attention to the way that eating around the fire is

is that system that is conducive to the most lovely kinds of stories and conversations that occur in the hunters and gatherers is South Africa so the Bushmen that I started my Polly with no she recorded what people talk about all day basically during the day there were a few was just too involved in organizing each other as to where we're going and what we're doing and how to cut off a piece of meat and selling but the old conversation she said happened to run the fire in the evening when the store is a told about the original myths of a society or some tremendous something happened or some hilarious incident happened with someone in another group that whatever

the conversations around a meal with your children enormously important and that there's something that is very sadly lost when everyone just watching television while they're eating so I would hope that we can be gender the idea of sitting around a campfire and talking or or sitting around a meal I mean you don't want to throw out the baby with the bathwater right

is that has been showing off Austin I'm not that's fine from the point of view of us 30 times and signing people took particular role hopefully we can get way past that as we move into a post gendered world what are your thoughts on the kind of observation I've heard many times that most of the time in modern couples in the US when there is going to be a shared a share.

shared housework between the man and the woman in a couple that the man almost always takes the cooking and the women almost always take the cleaning roll on that is not my observation of her this room for many people that you think that's because cooking now is seen as a high Prestige thing

and she's getting another

well you can touch on that in your book right that meat cooking has since time immemorial meat cooking if men were going to cook anything is going to be the meat meat tends to be the center of attention for the the meal the thing that makes that particular meal specials then the men want to be in charge of it because he might mantova choosing is so even as we go towards less less gendering of things we actually still maintain this sort of

problematica gender differences

how many of the Dynamics involved with the children who take me to him to school and it was kind of a job since on but it doesn't seem to be any reason why all evolutionary post of women doing the cooking half. It does not have to be bothered with a question for the guess we are there around is fermentation play into that kind of caloric benefits

how do I answer a question because we don't know that much about some intuition is very clear that when you meant your grains in water temperature thing of beer are all you you ferment your meat that it increases the net energy gain for the Aether so it looks like his old ways in which cementation is the functional equivalent of cooking is how far this goes back in time as you probably know a pottery only goes back to something like 20 to 25 thousand years ago couldn't hang in bags for some tens of thousands maybe even hundreds thousands of years before then could they found ways to torment I even without

containers like that it does also to research and possibilities that we have any ideas about I think

that makes a lot of sense of food stockpiling in which case there would be Auto fermentation or reading and things like natural Wells or Hollows or anyting early very very recently for that sort of thing to find out where we can play with cooked starches could be kept for people sometimes think I'm good he is a cool places that's a great question to kicked off br1 question on the way out professor and I thank you so much for her for being on two people pester you about the paleo diet all the time

vacation day off going to be completely not in this part of what you talk about their but I'm sure people passed away about it because they see the word paleo. Myself and I think there's a lot of fantasy about the paleo diet that I like so much and really push it and it's it's still incredibly primitive area cooking all the energy production on the food and we have to do that book also I mean just really brings home the fact that this is a very exciting area the whole area nutrition

that says still has a tremendous way to go before we really understand it well alright well we've been speaking with Professor University author of Catching Fire how cooking made us human Professor thank you so much for being on the air with its it had a great time she wrote in about a bass boosted which is a simile and a cake soaked with a syrupy want to make it less sweet use a low d e that's dextrose equivalent glucose syrup you can get it on Amazon about 40% is sweet it's about 81 bricks you can water it down a little bit it'll be a little more than a little less than half the sweetness of the sugar that you want to add and one shot out the museum food and drinks to shout out to Museum of food and drinks spring benefit is next week there are still tickets available and my son the quad for a has a who's on the autistic Spectrum goes to a twice exceptional school called the quad preparatory school they're having a third

annual Founders Gala I'm going to making cocktails Franklin Becker is going to be cooking at Mark Ladner and Christina Tosi are putting stuff out there and you can go to eventbrite.com and type in Quad Preparatory thank you so much cooking issues thanks for listening to this program on Heritage Radio Network. Org you can find all of our archive programs on our website for as podcast in the iTunes Store by searching Heritage Radio Network you can like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter at Heritage underscore radio you can email us questions at any time at the info at Heritage Radio Network. Org Heritage Radio Network as a nonprofit organization to donate and become a member visit our website today thanks for listening