DISCLAIMER: I am not an expert on anything I am about to say.
According to New York Times best-selling author Matt Ridley's book, The Rational Optimist, some anthropologists believe that the invention of cooked food (in particular meat) helped early homo sapiens make the evolutionary leap from omnivorous ape into a social, cultural, economic, and intellectual animal that is modern man.
The "invention" of fire, firstly, made it possible for the primates that could control it to leave the safety of the forest canopy and live on the ground. In short order, the use of fire lead to our ancestral critters roasting their fellow primates. This is a bigger deal than one might immediately expect. Chemical processes that occur in the meat during cooking make proteins more digestible, thus enabling early members of the homo genus to develop smaller digestive systems than their tree-dwelling cousins while spending less time chewing. Wild chimpanzees spend six hours or more per day simply masticating their food, and even longer lounging about while their largely vegetative fare is processed in the GI tract.
Obviously, the ancestors of homo sapiens discovered a way to cut down on the time needed to extract nutrition and calories from food. Moreover, the development of cooking lead to genes that promote larger brains and smaller intestines being favored, thus giving humans both the spare time and the mental capacities to invent things like stone tools, cave paintings, and supercomputers.
So, with apologies to our vegetarian and vegan friends, I take all of that to mean that barbecue is reason the human race is the way it is today. And with spring/summer weather right around the corner (as soon as it stops snowing in Portland, right?) that seems like all the more reason to talk about grilling meat!
My personal favorite place for information on fire-cooked meat is amazingribs.com. Even though the site is dedicated to ribs, they have great instructions, ideas, and recipes for literally everything barbecue related. If you've never learned how to grill a great steak, check out that section. Seriously. You'll thank me.
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