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This Just In: Eating Meat Made Us Smarter

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Ever since I started writing about food, indeed even before that, there has been a certain segment of the population who believes that I and others like me are evil (literally) because we eat meat.

I've come to refer to these people as carnivorous vegans. To be clear, I am not talking about all - or even most - vegetarian/vegans. Most are perfectly nice people and as the saying goes some of my best friends are vegetarians. But there is a select group of folks who patrol food blogging sites and other locales where people discuss their passions for food and scream that meat is murder and I and other carnivores are serial killers (as opposed to cereal killers I guess). You know who you are. Of course everyone is welcome to his or her opinions, and in fact I too find many people's eating habits disturbing, but I don't think a guy is Satan-spawn just because he went to McDonald's.

My arguments, as if I really needed to have any, for why I consume meat are manifold, and chief among them is that if it is raised with care, prepared with passion and served with love, then it's darn tasty. But another point I've always made is that humans are designed to be omnivores: we have eyes in the front of our heads (not the sides), large teeth, keen eyes and a digestive system that can handle it. We are predators, not prey. After all, when mankind crossed the Bering Straits we were not chasing the mushroom, we were chasing the mastodon.

This morning NPR ran a story that adds a little ammunition to this contention, evolutionary proof that meat made us smarter -- literally made our brains bigger. The additional protein in meat made it so our bodies could spend less energy on digestion, and more on creating gray matter. Not only that, but cooking the food -- actually applying heat to both the meat and the veggies -- is enormously beneficial as well. Not just nutritionally, but in terms of civilization:

It encourages people to share labor; it brings families and communities together at the end of the day and encourages conversation and story-telling -- all very human activities.

So we cooks are handy to have around.

All this is to say I am not a bad person. Or at least if I am it is not because I eat meat. But as my daughter once said, I could be a vegetarian if bacon grew on trees.

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