Synopses & Reviews
to listen to an interview with the author (or right-click and select 'Save As' to download it to your computer).
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 used 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.
"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 (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Until two million years ago, our ancestors were apelike beings the size of chimpanzees. Then Homo erectus
was born and we became human. What caused this extraordinary transformation?
In this stunningly original book, renowned primatologist Richard Wrangham argues that cooking created the human race. At the heart of Catching Fire lies an explosive new idea: The habit of eating cooked rather than raw food permitted the digestive tract to shrink and the human brain to grow, helped structure human society, and created the male-female division of labor. As our ancestors adapted to using fire, humans emerged as "the cooking apes."
A groundbreaking new theory of evolution, Catching Fire offers a startlingly original argument about how we came to be the social, intelligent, and sexual species we are today.
A startling new theory that the invention of cooking led to the creation of the human species.
In this stunningly original book, a renowned primatologist argues that cooking created the human race. A groundbreaking new theory of evolution, Catching Fire offers a startlingly original argument about how we have come to be the social, intelligent, and sexual species we are today.
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 Males and co-editor of Chimpanzee Cultures. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.