Short intro: Cooking food is a unique human activity spanning across all cultures, and humans appear to be evolutionarily adapted to this crucial aspect of their diet (Wrangham and Conklin-Brittain2003). The value of cooking lies in its ability to widen the range of foods that are safe to eat (whether by making their digestion easier or neutralizing toxic compounds) as well as extract more energy from the foods ingested. Both human and animal studies illustrate that the more cooked food there is in a diet, the greater the net energy gain for the eater (Carmody and Wrangham2009), and a diet of raw foods is energetically inadequate even when various nonthermal processing methods are employed (Koebnick et al.1999). The effect of cooking on the energy gain from eating includes several mechanisms: increasing digestibility and thus caloric value of ingested foods, lowering the body’s energetic costs of digesting, and mounting an immune defense against food pathogens.
So.. Yesterday I defended my doctoral dissertation. I’m not sure I believe this yet, but I do think i’m not dreaming right now. Almost teared up as my committee members shook my hand and congratulated me. What a journey!
I thank my committee for all the advice and support given yesterday: Daniel Hruschka, Alexandra Brewis, and Meg Bruening. I also could not have finished all the data collection (>80 lengthy interviews!) on time on my own without my 8 apprentices. My undergraduate assistants have been quite amazing.
In terms of the bigger picture- there are so many people to thank, so many that have played key roles in my academic journey. The foundation was laid down when I was 5 years old when, despite having to go to the assigned elementary school, my grandmother and parents managed to enroll me into an English-specialized school on the other end of the city. This was right after USSR ended and Ukraine was newly independent and chaotic… Yet my family had the foresight in those rough times to send me on the ambitious path in life!
I do plan to post a short video with some results of my dissertation work soon, since many of my students and colleagues couldn’t be there. Stay tuned!