By BoLOBOOLNE payday loans

Why does smoked food taste so good? Evolution.

Last night I cooked a chicken the really old-fashioned way: by roasting it over an open wood fire.  My buddy Mez and I made many observations about how much of an evolutionary throwback our dinner was.  Open fire cooking clearly precedes the invention of the oven.  It is incredibly inefficient in its use of fuel.  Most of the heat goes up into the air.  The food must be balanced at an appropriate distance to get the right amount of heat without burning to a crisp.

There’s an evolutionary advantage to cooking food — it kills parasites, bacteria and other food-borne diseases while doing little to decrease the nutritional value of the food.  So it makes sense that we would have evolved a predisposition to eating cooked food, and it seems likely this happened in the form of liking the taste of smoked food.  The genome helped to encourage food-safety rules for us that our brains hadn’t yet worked out.  The fact that smoky food is carcinogenic is a little sad.  I’m guessing it points to the fact that we’ve been subtly encouraged to eat this food for maybe only a couple hundred of thousands of years, which isn’t long enough for our digestive systems to learn how to render safe the multitude of different compounds found in smoke.  That and the fact that most cancers like this happen so late in life as to be essentially irrelevant from an evolutionary standpoint — once you’ve had your kids and raised them, it doesn’t much matter what happens to your body.

This also hearkens back to a time when humans knew how to use fire, but had not fully mastered it.  I’m convinced this is why we love to stare at a fire for hours on end. It is pacifying in a lizard-brain kind of way.  (How many times have you watched that chicken go around just now?) There almost certainly was a time when humans knew how to use fire, but not make it.  They gained benefits from it through cooking or heating, but had to get very lucky to capture it from the wild say  after a natural lightning strike.  As such, it was extremely important to the whole tribe that somebody was always watching the fire to make sure it didn’t go out.

If you’d like to follow along the antics of cooking large mammals over open flames, I’ll be posting regular updates to my food and recipe blog, Add Garlic.  There’s also a “recipe” for spit-roast chicken here.

  1. Morris Michello says:

    Hola cheers for the previous entry. It sure was mega interesting.

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