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Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human    by Richard Wrangham Amazon.com order for
Catching Fire
by Richard Wrangham
Order:  USA  Can
Perseus, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover

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* * *   Reviewed by Alex Telander

From Richard Wrangham, the professor of Biological Anthropology at Harvard University (also co-author of Demonic Males and co-editor of Primate Societies) comes Catching Fire, a thoroughly researched book on the importance of the discovery of fire and how it changed Homo sapiens forever.

Initially expecting that Catching Fire would be an in depth foray into our ancestral humanity, looking at different hominids and what it was that led to the discovery of fire and going on from there, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a book more in the style of Michael Pollan's Omnivores Dilemma. While the origin of fire and cooking are certainly discussed, the true story here is how humanity has benefited from cooking, and how it has aided us on the evolutionary path to becoming the dominant species on the planet. Wrangham boils it down (pun intended!) to energy and how when foods (especially meats) are cooked, more energy is generated from consuming them. The author scientifically breaks this down by analyzing the energy gained from raw meats as opposed to cooked, as well as vegetables, revealing the problems that some vegetarians and vegans can have in needing to make sure they get enough energy from the foods they consume.

Reading Catching Fire will educate you in a number of ways: you will learn the importance of our ancestors learning to cook foods and further our evolutionary development, but you will also learn why it is we cook foods on a biological level and how it can change how we grow and develop, both physically and intellectually.

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