The truth about food – The ape that cooks (2005)

John Krebs

In his first lecture, John Krebs leads us on an exploration of what food has meant to humans throughout time.

Watch time: 38:23
A still from the 2005 CHRISTMAS LECTURES
Image credit: Royal Institution

Lecture 1 – The ape that cooks

As the 2005 audience are still recovering from their Christmas dinners, Sir John Krebs leads them on an exploration of what food has meant to humans throughout time in his first lecture.

How did we end up eating fabulous Christmas meals when our early ancestors scrabbled around for nuts and seeds? In this lecture, John explores the history of food, from our earliest predecessors, through the great ‘miracles’ which completely changed our diet and the way we lived, to today’s gourmet extravaganzas. This 3-million-year journey takes us through the prehistory of our early ancestors, the rise of civilisation, the spread of human beings across the planet and ends with the emergence of one of the greatest science labs of all: the domestic kitchen. There we can experiment with new ways to use food in our celebrations together.


John Krebs’ 2005 series delved into a topic as relevant today as it was then: food. From the food of our evolutionary ancestors to the meals of the future, the lectures explore what food means to humans. What makes food delicious? Why have we evolved to prefer some foods to others? Are we really what we eat, and how concerned should we be about the future of food?