In this stunningly original book, Richard Wrangham argues that it was cooking that caused the extraordinary transformation of our ancestors from apelike beings to Homo erectus. 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 labour. As our ancestors adapted to using fire, humans emerged as "the cooking apes".
Covering everything from food-labelling and overweight pets to raw-food faddists, Catching Fire offers a startlingly original argument about how we came to be the social, intelligent, and sexual species we are today.
Toothsome, skillfully prepared brain food. (Dwight Garner New York Times)
How exciting to see a distinguished scholar proving unequivocally that cookery is at the centre of our humanity (Sam Clark, Moro)
As easily digested as the cooked food it champions ... This book packs the punch of a Tournedo Rossini with the lightness of a foam infusion (Allegra McEvedy, Guardian chef-in-residence)
"This notion is surprising, fresh and, in the hands of Richard Wrangham, utterly persuasive ... Big, new ideas do not come along often in evolution these days, but this is one." -Matt Ridley, author of Genome Enthralling (Bookseller 2010-01-08)
Catching Fire offers a startlingly original argument about how we came to be the social, intelligent, and sexual species we are today. Richard Wrangham argues that it was cooking that caused the extraordinary transformation of our ancestors from apelike beings to Homo erectus. At the heart of Catching Fire lies the groundbreaking new theory that the habit of eating cooked rather than raw food made us human. More than language, emotional intelligence, or the opposable thumb, the mastery of fire created us. Once our ancestors began cooking their food, the human digestive tract began to shrink and the brain to grow. 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 labour. (The Judges of the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize 2010 2010-05-26)
Good public anthropology. With its balance of storytelling and coherently explained data, the book will enjoy a deservedly wide readership... Catching Fire, with its treasure trove of great stories, makes for pleasurable consumption (Barbara J King Times Literary Supplement 2010-06-04)
Wrangham is doing no small thing here; he's putting forward - in the most accessible way - his big new theory... Fascinating stuff, convincingly argued (Holly Kyte Sunday Telegraph 2010-06-13)
A breakthrough in evolutionary biology (Daily Telegraph 2010-06-12)
Intriguing... You need never feel guilty about opting for pie over salad again (Metro 2010-06-09)