Why do humans have such a unique relationship with food?

Dr. John S Allen

Not even our closest primate relatives think about food in the way humans do. What does the food we eat tell us about our own evolutionary history?

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Eating may be a basic human need but our relationship to food is anything but simple. We eat with our minds as much as our stomachs – it’s what makes us human.

Genetically, humans are remarkably similar to other omnivores. But when it comes to food we have behaviours and tastes all of our own. We use knives and forks despite the fact that – from an evolutionary perspective – using tools to process food weakens our teeth. And unlike other species, what we eat is as much about culture as it is about biology.

In this fascinating talk, Dr John S Allen joins us in The Garden to explore the biological and cultural forces that shape our eating habits, and share insight into how these habits have changed over time.

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50 minutes


Food for Thought

About the Fellow

Dr. John S Allen

John Allen is a brilliant neuroanthropologist with a passion for understanding the evolution of the human brain and behaviour.

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Food for Thought Collection

Why is food so important to us? Beyond its nutritional benefits, food connects people. This series explores how our relationship with food has evolved over time and the meanings that different cultures ascribe to food.

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