- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Basic Books; Reprint edition (September 7, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0465020410
- ISBN-13: 978-0465020416
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 167 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #113,830 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human Reprint Edition
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
|New from||Used from|
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
"[Catching Fire] makes a convincing case for the importance of cooking in the human diet, finding a connection between our need to eat cooked food in order to survive and our preference for soft foods. The popularity of Wonderbread, the digestion of actual lumps of meat, and the dangers of indulging our taste buds all feature in this expository romp through our gustatory evolution."―Seed Magazine
"Catching Fire is a plain-spoken and thoroughly gripping scientific essay that presents nothing less than a new theory of human evolution...one that Darwin (among others) simply missed."―New York Times
"As new angles go, it's pretty much unbeatable."―San Francisco Chronicle
"Wrangham's attention to the most subtle of behaviors keeps the reader enrapt...a compelling picture, and one that I now contemplate every time I turn on my stove."―Texas Observer
"[A] fascinating study.... Wrangham's lucid, accessible treatise ranges across nutritional science, Paleontology and studies of ape behavior and hunter-gatherer societies; the result is a tour de force of natural history and a profound analysis of cooking's role in daily life."―Publishers Weekly
"An innovative argument that cooked food led to the rise of modern Homo sapiens.... Experts will debate Wrangham's thesis, but most readers will be convinced by this lucid, simulating foray into popular anthropology."―Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Richard Wrangham is the Ruth Moore Professor of Biological Anthropology at Harvard University and Curator of Primate Behavioral Biology at the Peabody Museum. He is the co-author of Demonic Malesand co-editor of Chimpanzee Cultures. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Try the Kindle edition and experience these great reading features:
167 customer reviews
Review this product
Read reviews that mention
Showing 1-2 of 167 reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Drawing on a number of food studies, ethnographic data, as well as his own primatological research, Dr. Wrangham argues that the transition from Homo habilis to Homo erectus would be impossible without a regular supply of cooked food. Citing the general unpalatability and undigestibility of a chimp's diet for modern humans, the seeming energy deficit seen in raw food proponents, the chemical changes that occur in foods that are cooked and the subsequent absorption of the unlocked calories, and the increasing reduction of our early ancestors' gastrointestinal tract through the millennia, he is convinced that the utilization of fire for cooking has its origins much farther in the past than the current evidence from the archaeological record tells us. The discrepancy between the archaeological record and his claim is around 1 million years, an incredibly large gap to bridge. In the latter third of the book, Wrangham makes the tangential argument that cooking is also what spurred our cultural evolution, e.g., concepts such as pair-bonding and the sexual division of labor, through the creation of a sort of "protection racket" that guards women from food thieves and ensures men a ready supply of food.
While I did enjoy reading Dr. Wrangham's book and readily admit that he makes some interesting and valid points, I am not convinced of the veracity of his hypothesis, especially in the light of more recent research on the variability and actions of the microbiome present in the digestive tracts of animals. In presenting his case for the need of cooked food for an increased energy supply in late habilines/early erectus, he ignores the fact that much of the successive change in the musculoskeletal morphology leading to our species had the effect of allowing us to conserve energy through increased efficiency of movement.
This does not necessarily mean that Dr. Wrangham is incorrect. However, the gaps in his arguments, coupled with the gaps in our own knowledge, have effectively rendered the cooking hypothesis unfalsifiable. There very well may come a time when the available physical evidence supports his position, but for now the only appropriate response is one of interest, skepticism, and further research.
Wrangham does not specifically state this but he implies it strongly. The Atwater system of calorie counting is wrong. That's the system that tells us that protein and carbohydrates yield 4 kilocalories per gram and fat 9. It also leads to the conclusion that raw food and cooked food are equal in their nutrition. This is a central point in the book. Atwater in the nineteenth century devised the procedure by which we measure the caloric value of a food article by burning it in a bomb calorimeter. This procedure is cheap and easy whereas Wrangham has to use evidence to the contrary based on measurements taken from the contents of person's colostomy bags who have eaten supervised diets. This procedure is more adequate scientifically but expensive and difficult. If you follow the simple, cheap Atwater conventions as almost everyone does then cooking hardly seems important at all. Food is food - no matter if raw or cooked. That's why Wrangham's insights will probably strike you as new.
As a primatologist Wrangham has a number of chimp anecdotes that stick with you. He points out that chimpanzees spend at least four or five hours each day just chewing. No wonder they never got around to building a civilization. Wrangham believes that <I> Homo erectus</I> emerged when they developed cooking as a way to externalize digestion thus freeing up their time and energy. Anthropology changes all the time, his specific theory may prove to have been wrong. Cooking may have arisen earlier or later than he thinks. But whatever else is subsequently learned, this is an important book.