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A new study of chimps may suggest our love of cooking has deeper roots than we ever thought.

New research shows that chimps prefer cooked food. Yes, that's actually a big deal — here's why.

A new study of chimps may suggest our love of cooking has deeper roots than we ever thought.

People LOVE to cook. A lot.

Like, a lot a lot.


"NOTHING makes me happier than watching my BF flip veggies. Except maybe this polo shirt." All images via Thinkstock.

No, but really. We love to cook so much that we'll spend money to watch other people cook.

"Iron Chef." "Chopped." "Cupcake Wars." "Hell's Kitchen." A bajillion other shows.

Maybe right now you're thinking, "OMG that is soooo true! Cooking is my favorite thing ever!" Or maybe you're more along the lines of, "What no no no get that thing away from me."

"Wow WTF are we even all looking at?" "Just. Keep. Smiling."

But despite your personal feelings (and abilities), you've gotta admit it: Cooking is a huge part of human culture.

So when did our love affair with cooking actually start?

There's some debate among experts as to when humans first started using fire for cooking. But a new study of chimpanzees may suggest that this development came a bit sooner than we'd previously thought — like, maybe a million years sooner.

As reported by The New York Times, Harvard and Yale scientists have been researching whether or not chimps have the necessary cognitive skill to cook.

"Should I make pasta? Or just order pizza???"

Turns out they do.

Not only do chimps prefer the taste of cooked food, they also have the patience and forethought required to forgo raw food.

In a series of experiments, researchers found that not only do chimps prefer the taste of cooked food, they also have the patience and forethought required to forgo raw food to allow someone to cook it for them.

Here's what the scientists did.

They presented the chimps with a slice of raw potato. The chimps would place the potato into the "cooking device" (which was actually just hiding a piece of cooked potato), and the scientists would "cook" it and return the piece of cooked potato to the chimps to eat.

Step 1: Put raw potato in cooking device.

All GIFs from Harvard University via The New York Times.

Step 2: Scientist cooks the potato for you. (Or really just unveils a hidden cooked potato.)

Step 3: Eat delicious cooked potato.

Turns out, the chimp study may tell us quite a bit about our own cooking history.

The fact that chimps could maybe cook — if they had the ability to manage fire — could be a sign that our human ancestors were developing the cognitive ability to cook quite a while before we previously thought they were.

See, experts of human origin believe that the big shift in human brain capacity came when we started using tools about 2.6 million to 3.3 million years ago. More nutrients, more energy, bigger brains.

"TBH I would so much rather be eating cooked banana rn."

But some scientists, including British primatologist Richard Wrangham, believe that we also started cooking shortly after that and that cooking food was actually a bigger deal for our development. Cooked food is advantageous because it's softer (which means less time chewing and smaller teeth) and gives us more energy (which means longer lives, more babies, more travel, and bigger brains).

Cooked food is advantageous because it's softer and gives us more energy.

The problem with Wrangham's theory has been that scientists simply haven't yet found physical evidence to support it. The earliest evidence of using fire for cooking dates back only about 1 million years, long after the use of tools began.

But that's part of why the chimpanzee study is so awesome: It's a mark in favor of Wrangham's theory. It shows that early humans, who would've been cognitively similar to modern-day chimps, just might have had the skills to start cooking many years (like, maybe over a million years) sooner than we thought.

Pretty darn cool, right?

So it's really no wonder cooking has become such a huge part of our culture — we've been doing it for at least 1 million years.

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Anne Hebert, a marketing writer living in Austin, TX, jokes that her closest friends think that her hobby is "low-key harassment for social good". She authors a website devoted entirely to People Doing Good Things. She's hosted a yearly canned food drive with up to 150 people stopping by to donate, resulting in hundreds of pounds of donations to take to the food bank for the past decade.

"I try to share info in a positive way that gives people hope and makes them aware of solutions or things they can do to try to make the world a little better," she said.

For now, she's encouraging people through a barrage of persistent, informative, and entertaining emails with one goal in mind: getting people to VOTE. The thing about emailing people and talking about politics, according to Hebert, is to catch their attention—which is how lice got involved.

"When my kids were in elementary school, I was class parent for a year, which meant I had to send the emails to the other parents. As I've learned over the years, a good intro will trick your audience into reading the rest of the email. In fact, another parent told me that my emails always stood out, especially the one that started: 'We need volunteers for the Valentine's Party...oh, and LICE.'"

Hebert isn't working with a specific organization. She is simply trying to motivate others to find ways to plug in to help get out the vote.

Photo by Phillip Goldsberry on Unsplash

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