Fermentation, Fire, and Our Big Brains

Many Minds | 22 February 2024 | 1h 05m | Listen Later | Podcasts | Spotify
Interview with Katherine Bryant and Erin Hecht about their paper Fermentation Technology as a Driver of Human Brain Expansion. Argues that fermented foods could have provided the caloric boost that allowed our brains to expand. Discusses how the human body differs from the bodies of other great apes, not just in terms of our brains but also in terms of our bowels. Describes how fermented foods provide nutritional benefits over unfermented foods. Considers how fermentation – which basically happens whether you want it to or not – would have been cognitively easier to harness than fire. Along the way, touches on kiviaq, chicha, makgeolli, hákarl, natto, Limburger cheese, salt-rising bread, and other arguably delectable products of fermentation.

See also the episodes with Richard Wrangham about the arguments for cooked food providing the caloric boost that allowed our brains to expand.

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