Someone get us Hollywood on the phone, it’s been almost a year since we’ve had a Planet of the Apes movie, and we’ve got the next sequel: Kitchen of the Planet of the Apes. This idea comes on the heels of new research claiming that chimps, if given the chance, could actually cook food.
Now, no one is saying that if you leave a chimpanzee alone in a kitchen you could come back an hour later to a four-course meal—although the ability to chop and whisk with four limbs would make them wonderfully efficient. Instead, the research focused on a more fundamental question: Could chimps even wait long enough to eat for food to cook?
Most members of the animal kingdom are not known for their patience when it comes to food preparation. As a dog owner, I can attest that a burger’s state of preparedness bears not at all on her decision to grab it off the counter and eat it. But the chimps in this study passed on the opportunity to eat raw food in favor of delayed gratification in the form of cooked food.
The researchers used what they called a “magic cooking device.” It was really two tightly stacked bowls. They put a piece of raw sweet potato in the top, shook the contraption, waited and pulled a pre-cooked piece of sweet potato out of the bottom. The chimps were amazed by this. They liked the cooking process so much that they actually began carrying raw pieces of food across their cages and putting them in the device expecting it to produce cooked food for them later.
Simply having the patience for food to cook is quite different than operating a stove or oven. But one of the study’s lead researchers, Dr. Alexandra Rosati, thinks they could learn, and this research shows clearly that they “have the minimal causal understanding needed” to prepare food.
And while chefs certainly won’t be losing their jobs to chimps in the future, we would love to hear one yell, “Get your hands of my mise en place you damn dirty ape.”