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Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human

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Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human Cover

ISBN13: 9780465020416
ISBN10: 0465020410
Condition: Standard
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Staff Pick

Richard Wrangham's lucid, fascinating book presents a strong case that the act of harnessing the power of fire to cook food might have created modern humanity. Convincing, thoughtful, and beautifully written, Catching Fire is a surprising look at the evolution of our species.
Recommended by Jill Owens, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Ever since Darwin and The Descent of Man, the existence of humans has been attributed to our intelligence and adaptability. But in Catching Fire, renowned primatologist Richard Wrangham presents a startling alternative: our evolutionary success is the result of cooking.

In a groundbreaking theory of our origins, Wrangham shows that the shift from raw to cooked foods was the key factor in human evolution. When our ancestors adapted to using fire, humanity began. Once our hominid ancestors began cooking their food, the human digestive tract shrank and the brain grew. Time once spent chewing tough raw food could be sued instead to hunt and to tend camp. Cooking became the basis for pair bonding and marriage, created the household, and even led to a sexual division of labor.

Tracing the contemporary implications of our ancestors' diets, Catching Fire sheds new light on how we came to be the social, intelligent, and sexual species we are today. A pathbreaking new theory of human evolution, Catching Fire will provoke controversy and fascinate anyone interested in our ancient origins — or in our modern eating habits.

Review:

"Contrary to the dogmas of raw-foods enthusiasts, cooked cuisine was central to the biological and social evolution of humanity, argues this fascinating study. Harvard biological anthropologist Wrangham (Demonic Males) dates the breakthrough in human evolution to a moment 1.8 million years ago, when, he conjectures, our forebears tamed fire and began cooking. Starting with Homo erectus — who should perhaps be renamed Homo gastronomicus — these innovations drove anatomical and physiological changes that make us "adapted to eating cooked food" the way "cows are adapted to eating grass." By making food more digestible and easier to extract energy from, Wrangham reasons, cooking enabled hominids' jaws, teeth and guts to shrink, freeing up calories to fuel their expanding brains. It also gave rise to pair bonding and table manners, and liberated mankind from the drudgery of chewing (while chaining womankind to the stove). 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. More than that, Wrangham offers a provocative take on evolution — suggesting that, rather than humans creating civilized technology, civilized technology created us. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.)

Review:

"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

Review:

"Wrangham has a curious mind, in all the best senses....[H]e never talks down, and he's a trustworthy guide through some daunting intellectual terrain." San Francisco Chronicle

Review:

"Experts will debate Wrangham's thesis, but most readerswill be convinced by this lucid, simulating foray into popular anthropology." Kirkus Reviews

Synopsis:

In Catching Fire, renowned primatologist Richard Wrangham argues that our evolutionary success is the result of cooking. Once our hominid ancestors began cooking, the human digestive tract shrank and the brain grew; and pair bonding, marriage, the household, and even the sexual division of labor emerged. A pathbreaking theory of human evolution, Catching Fire will fascinate anyone interested in our ancient origins — or our modern eating habits.

Synopsis:

A startling new theory that the invention of cooking led to the creation of the human species

About the Author

Richard Wrangham is the Ruth Moore Professor of Biological Anthropology at Harvard University. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

chorne, September 20, 2010 (view all comments by chorne)
Author and Harvard biological anthropologist Richard Wrangham takes a fresh look at what makes us human, and he comes to a conclusion that is both original and in hindsight obvious - cooking. Our capture of fire not only helped us to keep warm and scare off predators, but allowed us to turn difficult to digest and bland edible fare into such mouthwatering delectables as Sacher tortes, cassoulet and 8 treasures rice. More importantly than satisfying our gourmet (or gourmand) instincts, cooking has had profound impact on both our biology and our society. Wrangham skillfully weaves together a number of different lines of evidence, e.g., comparative anatomy, archaeology, biochemistry, anthropology, and sociology, to demonstrate that it is by this simple heating of food we have literally become human. No other animal cooks their food. Even our closest relatives - the primates - have not only very different behaviors around food, but even their taste and anatomy (geared for long hours of chewing and long times and alimentary tracks for processing the food) are quite divergent from hours. Cooking not only improves the flavor, but increases the accessibility to the protein and nutrients. Because we are able to more efficiently extract nutrients from cooked food, in essence our guts could shrink and our brains to grow. Alas, the American diet of late has been effecting the reverse, but that is another series of books. Wrangham extensively documents and cites the research that supports his hypotheses and findings. These notes are fortunately in the end of the book, so they do not distract from the reading. If there is a weakness, it is his repetitive style of writing. The book is divided into chapters that each support one major point in his hypothesis. However, he often repeats the same set of arguments 2 or 3 times within the chapter. This gets tiresome. However, the novelty of his arguments and clarity of his discussion make this book well worth reading.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780465020416
Author:
Wrangham, Richard
Publisher:
Basic Books (AZ)
Subject:
Life Sciences - Evolution - Human
Subject:
Anthropology - General
Subject:
History
Subject:
Paleontology
Subject:
Evolution
Subject:
Biology-Evolution
Edition Description:
First Trade Paper Edition
Publication Date:
20100931
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
from 9
Language:
English
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 x 0.81 in
Age Level:
14-UP

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Related Subjects

Cooking and Food » General
Cooking and Food » Reference and Etiquette » Historical Food and Cooking
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » Anatomy and Physiology
History and Social Science » Anthropology » General
History and Social Science » Anthropology » Physical
History and Social Science » Archaeology » General
History and Social Science » Sociology » General
Science and Mathematics » Biology » General
Science and Mathematics » Geology » Paleontology

Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$9.95 In Stock
Product details 320 pages Basic Books - English 9780465020416 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Richard Wrangham's lucid, fascinating book presents a strong case that the act of harnessing the power of fire to cook food might have created modern humanity. Convincing, thoughtful, and beautifully written, Catching Fire is a surprising look at the evolution of our species.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Contrary to the dogmas of raw-foods enthusiasts, cooked cuisine was central to the biological and social evolution of humanity, argues this fascinating study. Harvard biological anthropologist Wrangham (Demonic Males) dates the breakthrough in human evolution to a moment 1.8 million years ago, when, he conjectures, our forebears tamed fire and began cooking. Starting with Homo erectus — who should perhaps be renamed Homo gastronomicus — these innovations drove anatomical and physiological changes that make us "adapted to eating cooked food" the way "cows are adapted to eating grass." By making food more digestible and easier to extract energy from, Wrangham reasons, cooking enabled hominids' jaws, teeth and guts to shrink, freeing up calories to fuel their expanding brains. It also gave rise to pair bonding and table manners, and liberated mankind from the drudgery of chewing (while chaining womankind to the stove). 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. More than that, Wrangham offers a provocative take on evolution — suggesting that, rather than humans creating civilized technology, civilized technology created us. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.)
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "Wrangham has a curious mind, in all the best senses....[H]e never talks down, and he's a trustworthy guide through some daunting intellectual terrain."
"Review" by , "Experts will debate Wrangham's thesis, but most readerswill be convinced by this lucid, simulating foray into popular anthropology."
"Synopsis" by , In Catching Fire, renowned primatologist Richard Wrangham argues that our evolutionary success is the result of cooking. Once our hominid ancestors began cooking, the human digestive tract shrank and the brain grew; and pair bonding, marriage, the household, and even the sexual division of labor emerged. A pathbreaking theory of human evolution, Catching Fire will fascinate anyone interested in our ancient origins — or our modern eating habits.
"Synopsis" by ,
A startling new theory that the invention of cooking led to the creation of the human species
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