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27 Oct 2021

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Made to Cook: The Cooking Hypothesis

22 Oct 2020

What makes us human? Some would argue that it’s the act of cooking — whether it’s boiling, broiling, roasting, baking, or barbecuing — that separates us from every other species on Earth. 

 In 1999, Harvard professor of biological anthropology Richard Wrangham published an article in the Current Anthropology journal called “The Raw and the Stolen: Cooking and the Ecology of Human Origins. Known as “the cooking hypothesis,” Wrangham’s groundbreaking new theory of human evolution proposed that taming fire to cook food changed the course of human evolution. 

 In his article and his 2009 book Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, Wrangham argued that cooking allowed our human ancestors to process food more efficiently — and this change had a profound impact on evolution. While all other animals eat raw foods, Wrangham theorized that our ancestors began cooking their food some 1.8 million years ago, a change that gave early man the ability to process food more efficiently. It takes a long time, and a very large jaw and teeth, to grind down raw meat and plant matter. Before our ancestors learned how to cook, Wrangham estimated that half of their waking hours were spent simply chewing enough food to subsist, leaving little time for anything else. Cooking alters the chemical structure of food, breaking down the connective tissues in meat, and softening the cells of plants to release their starches and fats. This makes cooked food easier to chew and digest. This also helpthe body to use less energy to convert food into calories. Once the cooking was introduced, he estimated that our ancestors had an extra four hours in their day — time that could be spent huntingforaging, and slowly beginning to organizinto societiesWrangham explained, “The extra energy gave the first cooks biological advantages. They survived and reproduced better than before. Their genes spread. Their bodies responded by biologically adapting to cooked food, shaped by natural selection to take maximum advantage of the new diet. There were changes in anatomy, physiology, ecology, life history, psychology, and society.”  

This higher calorie, higher-quality diet lead to the evolution of bigger brains and bodies, and smaller jaws and teeth—a transformation that gradually resulted in modern man. From the control of fire and the growth in brain size, it’s not such a large leap to the development of dedicated hearths, the introduction of pottery and other tools for cooking, and the domestication of plants and animals.  

(Also ReadWhat eating healthy looks like)

 Wrangham’s theory is, of course, just that: a theory. Archaeological history to support control of fire 1.8 million years ago has not yet been found, but the recent discovery of ash in a South African cave suggests that our ancestors were controlling fire at least 1 million years ago — far earlier than previous evidence suggested. It may be just a matter of time before definitive evidence that proves Wrangham’s theory is found.  

 And If Wrangham’s theory is correct, we truly are what we eat.  

 If cooking is so fundamental to our evolution as people, it is a wonder that we don’t have time to make home-cooked meals with wholesome ingredients. Modern life has created many barriers to our ability to prepare home-cooked meals. What do we do if we don’t have time for home cookingBusinesses like CookinGenie can help you bring cooking where it belongs—in your own kitchen—even when you don’t have time to cook yourself. Check out our menus, and book your Genie today for building healthy eating habits in the family.  

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26 Oct 2019

Lentils are one of the staple ingredients of Indian (& middle eastern) cuisine and with good reason.

Lentils, often referred to as Dal are really any type of split pulses (or legumes) A pulse refers to the dry edible seeds of the pod. (such as lentils, beans or peas) They are typically offered in a few ways, whole, split, some with skin some without.

The benefits of these are endless. Not only are they tasty but they add a nutrient dense component to any meal. To take a quick look at their nutritional profile they are high in protein and low in fat, high in fiber, as well as complex carbohydrates, and they are generally gluten-free (depending on farming techniques). Not to mention they are high in vitamins and minerals and they are even considered heart healthy. It’s such a powerful component to add to a meal.

Furthermore, lentils contain phytochemicals. Many of which protect against chronic diseases such as Heart Disease or Type 2 Diabetes. They also contain Polyphenols which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Studies have shown a link between eating lentils and lowered blood sugar.

They are also extremely popular if you are a vegan or vegetarian. Lentils pack an impressive number of vitamins and minerals. Also, when paired with rice, they are considered a complete protein. Meaning it can be a guilt free staple to your diet. Traditionally this is a dish that is often served to babies when they first start eating solid foods because it is soft, easily digested and nutrient dense.

Red Lentils are probably one of the most common types in Indian Cuisine and can easily be found in most grocery stores. They can be sprouted and used in curries and soups and rice dishes. They are popular because of their versatility. Probably equally important to Indian cuisine are yellow lentils. They are an incredible source of B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. Often used in curry, sautéed with onions and garlic. These heart healthy foods can add extra nutrients to so many dishes.

Are you wondering where this superfood has been all your life? Believe it or not it’s probably sitting on the shelf of your local grocery store right now. You may feel intimidated about soaking, sprouting, and slow cooking these. Or maybe you are hung up on all the many varieties and benefits without being sure of which flavors will pair best. Our Genies can be an answer. Let us demonstrate how to incorporate this new ingredient into your diet. Ask all the questions you want and learn by watching us cook this fresh right in your kitchen. You might have just discovered a new favorite food, and your health will benefit too! You can’t go wrong. Call us today!

References:

Indian Pulses – A quick guide to lentils, beans and peas

Basics of Indian Cooking: Dal (Beans and Lentils)

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/lentils

 

 

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Chicken Tacos

25 Nov 2020

When thinking about famous foods from around the world, some key dishes come to mind. We’re willing to bet Mexican cuisine ranks high on many people’s lists, with tacos at the top. But, have you ever stopped to wonder how the tasty taco came to be?  

It turns out, the history of the taco is as colorful and varied as the taco fillings themselves.  

Tacos as we know them today were believed to have started in the 1800s as the humble lunch of Mexican silver miners. The word “taco” translates to “plug” or “wad” – reflecting the small sticks of dynamite used in the mines.  

There is evidence, however, that the taco’s origins began much earlier.  

It is believed that the Aztecs invented tortillas using masa cooked on hot stones. The Aztec emperor, Montezuma, used the tortillas like a spoon to scoop or hold food such as cochineal, beans, and chiles. The word “taco” stems from the Nahuatl word “tlahco,” meaning “half” or “in the middle” in reference to how it is formed. 

(Also ReadMade to Cook: The Cooking Hypothesis)

Early taco fillings were simple and reflected what was available, such as fishcooked organs, small insects, ants, locusts, and snails. It wasn’t until the 1500s, when Spanish soldiers arrived in Mexico with pigs from Cuba, that pork was introduced as a filling and served at large banquets (the first “taco parties” as documented in 1520 by Bernal Diaz del Castillo, a Spanish soldier sailing with Hernan Cortes). From here, the taco spread across the “New World” as a staple food 

Whether crediting the Aztecs or silver miners, the taco is a dish woven through the fabric of Mexican cuisine. 

Into America & Beyond 

Portable and easy to eat, tacos became a primary meal of the working class. In time, street food vendors filled soft corn tortillas with a simple, spicy filling to offer workers on their breaks. Around 1905, this delicious and practical meal crossed the border into the United States when Mexican laborers moved north to work on the railroads.  

It wasn’t until the 1920s that the traditional filling of organs was replaced by beef and chicken. In addition, lettuce, tomato, and cheddar cheese became standard fillings in America  this fusion brought forth by the availability of American ingredients and a more subtle palate.   

While some may prefer more traditional preparation, today, tacos in America include a vibrant blend of traditional Mexican flavors combined with new ingredients and influences from around the globe – a fusion of flavors to satiate a wide variety of tastes.  

Need further evidence of the taco’s cult-like following? In 2019, Netflix released the first season of Taco Chronicles, a docuseries that explores the rich histories of popular taco styles. From barbacoa to carnitas, cochinita to birria, and many others, watch this mouth-watering series on your next taco night.  

Whatever fillings you like, tacos are arguably one of the most-loved foods in the world. Whether you prefer vegetarian sweet potato and black bean, or chicken, pork or beef, CookinGenie offers fresh, authentic home-cooked Mexican-styled tacos to make every night taco night. We cook from scratch with wholesome ingredients, right in your kitchen. Whether meal prepping or organizing a small dinner party, our Genies can help create a taco bar like no other, connecting you back to hundreds of years of tradition and fusion of cultures through food.  

 

Sources 

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