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In this gustatory tour of human history, Allen suggests that the everyday activity of eating offers deep insights into our cultural and biological heritage. Beginning with the diets of our earliest ancestors, he explores eating’s role in our evolving brain before considering our contemporary dinner plates and the preoccupations of foodies.
In this gustatory tour of human history, Allen suggests that the everyday activity of eating offers deep insights into our cultural and biological heritage. Beginning with the diets of our earliest ancestors, he explores eating’s role in our evolving brain before considering our contemporary dinner plates and the preoccupations of foodies.
Do your ears burn whenever you eat hot chile peppers? Does your face immediately flush when you drink alcohol? Does your stomach groan if you are exposed to raw milk or green fava beans? If so, you are probably among the one-third of the world's human population that is sensitive to certain foods due to your genes' interactions with them. Formerly misunderstood as "genetic disorders," many of these sensitivities are now considered to be adaptations that our ancestors evolved in response to the dietary choices and diseases they faced over millennia in particular landscapes. They are liabilities only when we are "out of place," on globalized diets depleted of certain chemicals that triggered adaptive responses in our ancestors. In Why Some Like It Hot, an award-winning natural historian takes us on a culinary odyssey to solve the puzzles posed by "the ghosts of evolution" hidden within every culture and its traditional cuisine. As we travel with Nabhan from Java and Bali to Crete and Sardinia, to Hawaii and Mexico, we learn how various ethnic cuisines formerly protected their traditional consumers from both infectious and nutrition-related diseases. We also bear witness to the tragic consequences of the loss of traditional foods, from adult-onset diabetes running rampant among 100 million indigenous peoples to the historic rise in heart disease among individuals of northern European descent. In this, the most insightful and far-reaching book of his career, Nabhan offers us a view of genes, diets, ethnicity, and place that will forever change the way we understand human health and cultural diversity. This book marks the dawning of evolutionary gastronomy in a way that may save and enrich millions of lives.
Originally published: New York: Scribner, c2013.
An ecological and anthropological study of eating offers insight into food consumption in the twenty-first century, explaining how an abundance of unlimited food varieties reveals the responsibilities of everyday consumers to protect their health and the environment. By the author of The Botany of Desire. 125,000 first printing.
Home is where the heart is. Security, comfort, even love, are all feelings that are centered on the humble abode. But what if there is more to the feeling of being at home? Neuroanthropologist John S. Allen believes that the human habitat is one of the most important products of human cognitive, technological, and cultural evolution over the past two million years. In Home, Allen argues that to "feel at home" is more than just an expression, but reflects a deep-seated cognitive basis for the human desire to have, use, and enjoy a place of one's own. Allen addresses the very basic question: How did a place to sleep become a home? Within human evolution, he ranks house and home as a signature development of our species, as it emerged alongside cooperative hunting, language, and other critical aspects of humanity. Many animals burrow, making permanent home bases, but primates, generally speaking, do not: most wander, making nests at night wherever they might find themselves. This is often in home territory, but it isn’t quite home. Our hominid ancestors were wanderers, too—so how did we, over the past several million years, find our way home? To tell that story Allen will take us through evolutionary anthropology, neuroscience, the study of emotion, and modern sociology. He examines the home from the inside (of our heads) out: homes are built with our brains as much as with our hands and tools. Allen argues that the thing that may have been most critical in our evolution is not the physical aspect of a home, but developing a feeling of defining, creating, and being in a home, whatever its physical form. The result was an environment, relatively secure against whatever horrors lurked outside, that enabled the expensive but creative human mind to reach its full flowering. Today, with the threat of homelessness, child foster-care, and foreclosure, this idea of having a home is more powerful than ever. In a clear and accessible writing style, Allen sheds light on the deep, cognitive sources of the pleasures of having a home, the evolution of those behaviors, and why the deep reasons why they matter. Home is the story about how humans evolved to create a space not only for shelter, but also for nurturing creativity, innovation, and culture—and why “feeling at home” is a fundamental aspect of the human condition.
The book that helped make Michael Pollan, the New York Times bestselling author of Cooked and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, one of the most trusted food experts in America In 1637, one Dutchman paid as much for a single tulip bulb as the going price of a town house in Amsterdam. Three and a half centuries later, Amsterdam is once again the mecca for people who care passionately about one particular plant—though this time the obsessions revolves around the intoxicating effects of marijuana rather than the visual beauty of the tulip. How could flowers, of all things, become such objects of desire that they can drive men to financial ruin? In The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan argues that the answer lies at the heart of the intimately reciprocal relationship between people and plants. In telling the stories of four familiar plant species that are deeply woven into the fabric of our lives, Pollan illustrates how they evolved to satisfy humankinds’s most basic yearnings—and by doing so made themselves indispensable. For, just as we’ve benefited from these plants, the plants, in the grand co-evolutionary scheme that Pollan evokes so brilliantly, have done well by us. The sweetness of apples, for example, induced the early Americans to spread the species, giving the tree a whole new continent in which to blossom. So who is really domesticating whom? Weaving fascinating anecdotes and accessible science into gorgeous prose, Pollan takes us on an absorbing journey that will change the way we think about our place in nature. From the Hardcover edition.
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