“Cooking, above all, connects us.” Michael Pollan
In ancient Greece the word for “cook” is also the same word for butcher and priest and it also shares the etymological root as magic. Making a meal and sitting down to eat it is a true magical event in many households these days where most families eat packaged foods on the go.
Cooking, according to anthropologists, is considered the one vitally important attribute of Homo Sapiens that sets us apart from all other animals. Even more than using tools, eating meat and developing language. When our hairy ancestors discovered how to cook food an amazing transformation happened, our jaws and guts got smaller and our brains got bigger.
You see, raw food takes an amazing amount of time to chew and energy to digest. If you look at our primate cousins their gut size is 2 to 3 times larger than ours and we don’t even need to talk about those jaws! They also spend about 6 hours a day chewing and chewing to get enough nutrition to fuel them. That’s almost 50% of the day, where we spend around 5% of the day chewing.
It is figured that our ancestors started cooking food around 2 million years ago as that it when they started showing up with the smaller jaws and molars. Cooking was a great evolutionary leap forward that helped to crack open more nutrients and partially break down the foods for our ancestors so we got a bigger brain out of this brilliant idea.
This also opened up another interesting and previously uncharted territory in our grunting ancient grandparents; culture. Think about it, if one goes from spending 50% to 5% of our day to get the daily nutrients out of food that we need, there would be some time to spend pursuing other interests like dwellings, clothing, weapons, art and more sophisticated tools, i.e. culture.
The other concept that birthed with cooked food is the family dinner time. Yes, our cavepeople ancestors “dinner” time was surely different than ours, but the concept started when the cooked food was ready to eat, called “primary eating”. Before that they were grazers eating all day long, and that is called “secondary eating”.
Primary eating, also more elegantly called family meals and the cooking of them, is teetering on extinction. A very interesting decline has happened since the advent of processed foods, we not only have vacated the kitchen but we have also become secondary grazers again grabbing food on the go just like our giant jawed, tiny brained ancestors. (Does that mean our brains are shrinking and our guts are getting larger?)
The family meal and cooking it is vitally important for us to take back. Around the family table we talk, we connect, we develop concepts and we enjoy home cooked meals. This two million year old tradition is the foundation of our health and culture. No light thing but it really isn’t that hard to do just start with the decision to cook your meals and to eat it together.
Back when our kids were pre-teens, I was so busy working that I settled for packaged and pre-made foods to save on time. We engaged in secondary eating and both I and the kids got overweight in short order. Paul sat me down one day and we made the landmark decision to cook and eat together. We put emphasis on making healthy meals and enjoying them together with no media and we all lost weight.
This was an incredible shift in our lives that we had no idea would be so far reaching. To this day, our adult children still love to cook and are very interested in their health. Paul and I both love to cook and eat at least one meal a day together (with no media involved) so that we can re-connect and enjoy the wonderful food. Cooking and eating together is truly paramount and the most profoundly powerful act each of us can take in our lives, day in day out.
This recipe is an easy one with ingredients in almost everyone’s cupboards. Just make sure and plan for the marinade time then fire up the ancient cook fire (the grill) and in minutes you have a delicious and wholesome meal. Eat it around a table with your loved ones, and grunt with delight if you want.
Garlic Mustard grilled beef skewers
The meat needs to marinade for at least 4 hours up and up to 8 so take that into consideration on your timing. Smoked paprika, my favorite spice in the whole word, is available at Mother Natures.
Garlic mustard glaze
1/4 cup of whole grain mustard
2-4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons of coconut aminos
1 tablespoon of honey
2 tablespoons of finely chopped rosemary leaves
2 teaspoons of smoked or sweet paprika
Salt and ground pepper to taste
2 pounds of beef or venison, tri-tip cut
Twelve bamboo skewers, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes
Get ready to connect with your ancestors from 2 million years ago… Whisk together all the glaze ingredients and let sit while you get the meat ready. Cut the meat into 24 thin strips, (bout 1/4” thick) more or less. (There will not be a test on this) Place the meat into a medium bowl, pour the glaze over it, stir it around till it is well coated then cover and marinade for 4-8 hours in the fridge.
Take out the meat and skewer two pieces of meat on each skewer by threading the meat strip on the skewer like a snake. (Hope that made sense) This is messy business with the marinade on the meat so I suggest you do it over the sink. Set the skewers in a baking sheet and pour the remaining glaze in the bowl over the skewers.
Lightly oil your grill then heat to high. (Feeling the ancestors now?) Place the skewers on the grill and cook for 4-5 minutes, flip over and grill a few more minutes till they get blacken bits on them. Test one and see it is to your liking. If not, grill a few more minutes. Don’t overcook or you will get tough meat that even Neanderthals can’t chew. Salt and pepper to taste and serve with mayo mixed with pressed garlic and mustard.