Most Shared

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.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less