My Instagram for the past week+ were filled with chain-tagging people on questionnaires and “now you have to post this” games. To quote a good friend of mine from his blog :
For once, social media platform felt like a social media — and not just another platform to share only the most curated parts of our lives. It felt like the early 2010s again.
Alongside these “tag 5 more friends” bombs, there’s a significant increase of posts about food. Dalgona coffee dominated the cloud – it made world barista champion talk about instant coffee . Though really, I want to believe that house kitchens around the world are getting more traffic than usual from their tenants, mine included.
I didn’t cook at all before I started college. My cooking activity has been on an increasing trend since I started, until I moved to Bay Area late 2019 is when the graph declined. So really, prior to shelter-in-place, I was cooking less than ever since I started cooking.
I had also been on a loosely-enforced vegetarian diet on weekdays for about 2 months now. Sparing the details on this for another time.
Given the two background context, I started to go on a research journey about cooking like Charlie looking for Pepe Silvia .
🥚 + 🔥 = 🍳🐒?#
There are estimates that humans started cooking about 2 million years ago, where they would let the raw food be on fire and watch it sizzle1. Though the usage of hot stones as cooking tool2 did not start until ~64,000 years ago. Then ~30,000 years ago, humans started using “earth ovens” – pits dug in the ground, lined with stones, filled with hot coals.
The changes in how humans cook is quite fascinating. It took them 5-digit years to evolve on a new method.
The interesting bit is when we dig into how they justified the change. How would they convince their friends that hot stone cooking is superior to open fire? Was it driven by the flavor? Or was it convenience for the chef?
In the case of flavor, modern humans in general have evolved to enjoy and prefer cooked food. That’s not necessarily the case tens of thousands years ago. So what drew humans to spend time watching their food on fire over just eating them straight up?
Some hypotheses to justify those actions:
- being lazy makes us human – cooked food is easier to chew
- broken down connective tissue is easier to digest
- apparently apes today would take meatballs over raw food, everytime3
In the case of chef’s convenience, does this mean that even back then, there are designated chefs for a group, that these chefs have the totalitarian power to decide on cooking methods? Or is it because everyone cooks for their own, that increase in convenience benefits themselves?
Cooking, somehow became an easy significance on what defines human. No other species on this planet today cook food for themselves to consume.
Regardless of our ancestors' motives to cook (and iterate on the methods), it’s cool to think that cooking is an activity we share with our ancestors, similar to walking and talking4.
I find it fascinating that the difference we have in cooking and walking, compared to how our ancestor do it, is so subtle. We still cook our steak on open fire, just adding grills. We walk around with an inch of layer to cover our feet.
Maybe we’re closer to our ancestors than we think, yet these subtle improvements (hacks?) means so much in quality of life measures.
I feel obligated to put a disclaimer: I’m not health professional nor historian. This is my personal observation and notes. I still have more to learn and answers to find out. Take this whole thing as a grain of salt being used to cure meat.
Yes, foodprints is a pun from food and footprints.
I used chef over cook (noun) in this whole post to disambiguate the actor from the activity.
Sometime in primary school we were learning about states of matter (solid, liquid, gas). A few weeks passed by, we were learning a new chapter after states of matter. The teacher asked if there are any questions (regarding the most recent chapter). I had a question bugging my mind at that time, so I went on.
Me: “Which of the three states of matter represents fire and light?”
a few seconds pause
Teacher: “They aren’t really liquid or gas…”
turned to the class
Teacher: “Why is this kid asking question unrelated to the topic?”
This might be one of the early moments in my life when I started developing anxiousness from asking questions. Still, I do not have the answer to that question today.