Why have we cooked food for tens of thousands of years? Is it a mistake? Some health teachers certainly think so. They recommendmainly raw salads and fruits like our earlier ancestors who hadn't learnt to use fire.
Macrobiotic teachers submit that human progress came about because of cooking. Our ability to think, plan, calculate, communicate in complex ways, and to love all came about because we learned to cook.
Breaking down enzymes with heat makes food easier to eat. As a result, one theory says, humans evolved smaller jaws and that allowed more space in the head for the brain to grow. And so we became smarter.
Hey! If we are so smart, counters the raw foods camp, why is everybody getting sick? Both sides put up convincing arguments.
BENEFITS OF HEAT
So what is it about cooking that strengthens us? Energy.
Cooking is the process of providing energy to food.
Three factors determine how much energy a food takes on during cooking:
The quality of that energy also makes a difference. Heat makes food contract, so cooking has contracting energy. But some forms of cooking are more contracting and tightening than others.
Baking in an oven involves high heat for along time (a few hours to bake a Christmas turkey), although little pressure. It is a high-energy form of cooking. Because the heat is so intense, baked foods tend to become hard and dry. The energy is exceptionally contracting. If you eat lots of baked foods, you will feel tight and tense.
Barbeque also involves strong, intense heat except that, because it is open, the effect is not as strong as baking in an enclosed oven.
Pressure-cooking involves moderately high heat (hotter than boiling, not as hot as baking), short time, and high pressure. It is also high energy. Because the heat is less intense, however, the effect is less intense. Eating some pressure-cooked foods can strengthen you (i.e. tighten you up) without making you overly tense.
Stewing involves low heat, long time and, if the pot is covered, moderate pressure. Foods stewed for a long time also tend to contract - try stewing watermelon for a few hours. All the water comes out and the flesh becomes slightly tough, and very delicious. The energy of stewing is a lot gentler; good for calming you down.
Steaming is slightly higher energy than boiling, but the energy is different because steam expands outwards. Eating steamed foods, therefore, tends to loosen you up.
Boiling or blanching involves medium heat, little time and no pressure. The energy is moderate and upward in nature (since boiling water bubbles rise), boosting your spirits.