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evolution and the maillard reaction

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
New Scientist has an interesting article on the possible evolution of cooking.
https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23230980-600-what-was-the-first-cooked

They mention some of the archaelogocial evdence for cooking, some of which predates Homo sapiens.

Cooking can destroy some nutrition, but also makes other nutrients more readily available. Humans have a "short" digestive ract so cooking is essential to get enough out of the food in the time we do digest. There are arguments (no proof) that cooking allowed Homo sapiens to diverge and support our large and hungry brains.

The other apes also exhbit a preference for cooked food. But the final part of the article is about the Maillard reaction which presents some conundrums.

Quote:
Browned off

One of the most important processes in cooking is the Maillard reaction, named after the French chemist who described it in 1912. A reaction between sugars and amino acids, it is what creates the brown compounds that make meat, toast, biscuits and fried foods so delicious. Humans generally prefer food that has undergone the Maillard reaction.

From an evolutionary perspective this is hard to explain. The Maillard reaction makes food – especially meat – less digestible, destroys nutrients and produces carcinogenic chemicals. It may be that the other benefits of cooking food massively outweigh these detriments, and so we have evolved to prefer browned food. But that doesn’t explain why it is also preferred by great apes, which can’t cook and won’t cook.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #2 of 8
Fascinating! I'll have to think about that one.


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post #3 of 8
Quote:
 From an evolutionary perspective this is hard to explain.

From a taste perspective, it is easier to explain.

 

When I am trimming and portioning a whole strip loin, I can and do eat some of the raw trimmings. If presented with a 12 oz NY steak and the option of cooking it or consuming it raw, I am going for some Maillard every time. I am with the great apes on this one.

 

It has nothing to do with evolution but pleasure centers in my brain because I am not evolved enough to wisely choose that Maillard makes it

Quote:
less digestible, destroys nutrients and produces carcinogenic chemicals 

over pleasure centers.

 

Over thinking it.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #4 of 8
Thread Starter 
The forces that would have played in the evolution of taste/cooking happened long after our divergence from the common ancestor. That's why it tastes good to us, but is curious in apes that didn't have that evolutionary path.

That we like it, we know. But why would our tastes evolve to like it if the dangers are greater than the satisfaction. When a rat chooses electric pleasure simulation over food, that's a dead end path.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #5 of 8

It's maybe an evolutionary spandrel, a "bug" that looks like a "feature".  There is no design behind evolution, just genetic drift that results in changes that can be beneficial, harmful or neutral.  A genetic mutation that results in a biological change that proves to be a good adaption to the current environment will be passed along, and changes that don't hinder can also be transmitted.  In apes perhaps the umami/maillard compounds are similar in taste or smell to other compound that is beneficial.  I'm just spitballing here, musing aloud.

"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
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"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
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post #6 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by phatch View Post

The forces that would have played in the evolution of taste/cooking happened long after our divergence from the common ancestor. That's why it tastes good to us, but is curious in apes that didn't have that evolutionary path.

That we like it, we know. But why would our tastes evolve to like it if the dangers are greater than the satisfaction. When a rat chooses electric pleasure simulation over food, that's a dead end path.


There are no great dangers in eating something less nutritious and less digestible. As for cancer, I'm not sure exactly how important a cause of death it was in prehistoric times as opposed to other causes of death. 

 

On the other hand, we know bacteria develops first on the surface of your food, and that may have been more of a thread to prehistoric populations. My guess is, grilling the food over a fire would achieve Maillard reaction AND kill the surface bacteria at the same time, so that could explain enjoying the Maillard reaction's taste from a evolutionary standpoint. 

post #7 of 8

Oh I thought this was about Mallard reactions

 

post #8 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by jake t buds View Post
 

What does this add to the convo? Humor perhaps? Careful, harmless humor gets deleted

It's off topic in the off topic forum, which kind of makes it on topic!

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