Bee Pollen and Bit Man Invent Cooking

The scene: Scene: Qesem Cave, Central Israel. Middle Pleistocene, 400,000-200,000 years ago. Bee Pollen and Bit Man sit around the fire.
05/23/2013 01:54 pm ET Updated Jul 23, 2013

[Qesem Cave] inhabitants hunted cooperatively, bringing body-parts of fallow deer back to the cave, which were then butchered, shared, and - as evidenced by the use of fire... and the many burnt bones - eventually barbecued. Plenteous cutting tools were produced at the site, most significantly flint blade knives made by an innovative and thoughtful technology. Moreover, our analysis...indicate[s] a set of cutlery manufactured to handle the different stages of butchering, defleshing, and meat cutting. The preference for prime-age animals is apparent in this Acheulo-Yabrudian site, representing a unique human predator-prey relationship....H. erectus was indeed an omnivore.

  • Miki Ben-Dor et al, Man the Fat Hunter, 2011

"The cook stands squarely between nature and culture, conducting a process of translation and negotiation."
- Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation

"Eat vegan before 6:00."
- Mark Bittman, VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health...For Good

Scene: Qesem Cave, Central Israel

Middle Pleistocene, 400,000-200,000 years ago

Bee Pollen and Bit Man sit around the fire

Bee Pollen: (Grunts.) Hungry! But too tired to hunt, chop up, make fire, clean up.

Bit Man: Me hungry too. But look at this!

Bee Pollen: What that?

Bit Man: That food.

Bee Pollen: (Incredulous.) Green food?

Bit Man: Green-ish. Curly, like chest hair.

Bee Pollen: Where find?

Bit Man: Wife find. In garden.

Bee Pollen: What garden?

Bit Man: Dirt outside cave. With green plants.

Bee Pollen: What call green stuff?

Bit Man: Call "kale." Here, try it.

He chews a long time, makes a face, spits.

Bee Pollen: Tough. Like gristle.

Bit Man: Taste bad, I know.

Bee Pollen: Maybe need fire?

Bit Man: Sure!

He tosses it in the campfire. The kale sizzles, smokes, disappears.

Bee Pollen: Maybe water plus fire. Find clay pot.

They find a clay pot, pour water in, and boil another batch of raw kale over the fire.

Bit Man: (Tasting, grunts.) Sulfur.

Bee Pollen: Maybe need sea water.

Bit Man: (Disappointed.) What you call this?

Bee Pollen: Call!

Bit Man: (Glum.) Cooking need work. Kale give me bottom gas. Or maybe not a problem. I like bottom gas.

Bee Pollen: Maybe not call cooking. Call "gastronomy."

Bit Man: Why that?

Bee Pollan: "Gas" from "gas." "Tronomy" from "astronomy."

Bit Man: Good idea! Mean, "gas from heaven."

They laugh, then get sad again.

Bit Man: Maybe give up project. Just keep hunting.

Bee Pollen: (Sympathetic.) Roast wild boar also take time. But so delicious! Slow cooking!

Bit Man: (Confused.) What so great about slow? Hungry now! Want food fast, want now.

Bee Pollen: Cooking more than just stomach! Cooking link to nature, link to body! Too important to outsource to wife.

Bit Man: Agree. Cooking, job for man. (Sets off.) Find more plants! Better plants! (Stops, thinks.) Maybe wife will help find nuts, berries.

Bee Pollen: Still like meat. Liver and marrow.

Bit Man: No. Eat mostly plants!

Bee Pollen: Must remember that.

Bit Man: Meat so much hard work. Messy. So much blood.

Bit Man: And so fatty! But kale -- nothing to clean up!

They sit, thinking.

Bee Pollen: (Worried.) But maybe cooking all day get boring? Maybe wife get mad, wife get tired of doing all hunting, rock collecting, holding baby.

Bit Man: Hmmmm. Maybe get friend to find plants. Trade stone tools for kale.

Bee Pollan: (Glumly.) But still have to cook kale at home, in water.

Bit Man: New idea! Outsource cooking, too! Go to place with stone table! Trade food for more rocks! Plenty of time after eating to poke sticks in fire, tell old stories, about hunting. (Laughs.)

Bee Pollen: (Perks up.) Make my cave new Cooking Cave. Cook occupy new, special place. Between nature and culture.

Bit Man: I visit your cave, buy kale with water, tell friends, make cave drawings about kale!

Bee Pollan: (Elated, then fretful.) But still love bones! Want to eat more bones!

Bit Man: (Wags hairy finger.) Not before six.