Humans learned how to cook, long time ago
Writing about cooking
Do only humans cook their food? What is cooking? Who invented cooking? Can any food company file a patent on cooking like the drug companies patent natural herbs used as medicine by people for millennia?
I thought of writing about cooking as I was told by somebody that cooking has so many good keywords connected to it. I do not know cooking. I am scared of writing about popular topics like cooking because somebody may claim that I have copied his/her article. I have seen some authors of articles bring in their grandmothers to give evidence to prove the article is not a copy. They start with "My granny used to make ...... for me and I still remember how she made..." and so on. I can't remember what my grannies (I had two of course) made for me as they both passed away when I was too young. So I decided to write about history of cooking instead of popular grandma's cookery recipes.
cooking over an open fire
What is cooking?
As we have to include even the ancient forms of cooking we have to go to basics. Cooking is applying heat on raw food to prepare it for eating. The methods and the equipment used for heating the food, the vessels used for containing the food while being heated, other utensils and tools used for preparing raw food before heating have changed over the time. Cooking methods, equipment and types of food all have evolved in different parts of the world at different times. Eating habits of different societies also have evolved independently in different ways until recently. Shrinking of the world due to rapid developments in travel, transport, and communication have brought us different foods, different cooking methods, recipes and habits from faraway places.
Humans may have learned cooking after tasting the roasted meat from carcasses of the animals died in forest fires. They may have tries to get the same effect by roasting the meat on fires they kept going after a natural fire. But later on they may have learned to use utensils tools and other ingredients to cook meals like today.
Different Cooking Processes
Different cooking processes depending on the method of heating are known by different names.
The basic cooking methods are:
- Boiling is heating the food in water or water based liquids like milk, coconut milk or meat stock. While boiling is cooking at boiling temperature, heating at lower temperatures are known as simmering and poaching. Steaming also is another heating process that gets the same effect. As the boiling point of water changes with the altitude it is difficult to boil some foods at higher altitudes. Boiling softens food and sometimes makes chemical changes too. Some of the nutrients are destroyed by boiling. Boiling kills most of the germs and the parasites that may be present in the food. Boiling can take long time but modern cooking equipment like pressure cookers and rice cookers can help cooking problems.
- Frying is heating the food in oil or fat. At room temperatures some fats like vegetable oils, coconut oil and palm oil are liquids and called oils. There are many types of frying depending on the type of vessels used, amount of oil used, temperatures and the rapidity of heating. They are pan frying, stir frying, deep frying and sautéing. Fried food is loved by many because of the tenderness and crispy outer layer. The traditional utensils used for frying are frying pans, griddles, woks and tava. There are modern electric and gas heated equipment based on pans, griddles, woks and tavas.
- Baking is prolonged heating of food in a dry atmosphere. This is normally done in an oven, but primitive baking has been done on hot stones and under hot ashes. In the process of baking convection of heated air is used for heating the food. Modern baking is an art involving preparing the food for baking rather than baking process. There is evidence that history of baking goes back to 2500 B.C. Baked foods are bread, cakes, cookies, tarts and pies. Sometimes yams and fruits also are baked for food. Baked potatoes are a favorite in many parts of the world.
Roasting and Smoking
- Roasting is another form of heating foods. This method uses dry heating for a long period to slow cook large pieces of meat, yams and heating nuts and some vegetables. Heating is done by open flame or in an oven.
- Smoking is used to add flavors to meat and fish in addition to heat for preserving them.