7. Uniquely human

Early humans probably first realized the value of cooked food when they tasted tubers—root vegetables like potatoes and cassava—that had been roasted by a lightning-sparked grass fire. Not only are cooked tubers more delectable, but heat alters the structure of starches and proteins, making them easier to digest and rendering some poisonous vegetables edible.

How long ago humans were able to control fire is still under dispute. By 250,000 years ago, our ancestors could certainly invite the neighbors over for a barbeque. Across Europe and the Middle East, ancient earthen ovens with burned animal bones date ...

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