- 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: #63,226 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human Reprint Edition
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This book is very well-researched. It is packed with information that the average person will find very interesting and eye opening. We give it all five stars.
Many college students will be assigned Catching Fire and will probably relegate it to the “Read it Later” pile. They may even put it in the “Too long, didn’t read” pile. They will be missing out on a lot of interesting reading.
We suggest that anyone who wants to know more about how diet evolved, how nutritionists determine how many calories are in food, or how we got certain gender roles when it comes to household duties, read this book. You will be glad you did.
Our daughter had this book in her personal library. It had been required reading at her university.
We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.
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.
easier to digest to give us quick energy, the very last chapter, then states that a study of Japanese women who ate mostly soft food (might it be a cultural cuisine was never mentioned), gained weight around their waists which could lead to mortality. Huh? No mention of Japanese men who
imbibe hi-calorie alcohol, nor bear children; the book simply ends. Sloppy editing and weak conclusions angered me. Maybe it was ghostwritten by a student?