Today was the final day of the “Of Spice & Men” project. Students worked on their lab reports, and we finally got to the question we’ve been pondering all along: “Why do we humans like what we like?”
Imagine that there were three families of cave men living together on an island. The first family had a genetic trait that caused them to like the smell of pine bark, so they began to experiment with grinding it up and sprinkling it on their food. The second family had a trait that caused them to prefer cinnamon bark, so they began to sprinkle it on their food. And the third family preferred their food plain.
Which family would die off first? According to our results, the “pine bark family” would be in rough shape. Pine bark might even promote germ growth, so that family would probably be exposed to several diseases. Cinnamon, on the other hand, kills germs. The “cinnamon family” would have an advantage over the “plain family.” By sprinkling cinnamon on their food, they would actually kill germs, which would make their children healthier, stronger, and less likely to get sick. Over time, the “cinnamon family” would take over the island, perhaps even passing off their cinnamon-loving genes to members of the “plain family.”
That’s evolution, my friend. And that was the main take-away from this project. The reason we enjoy the tastes of things like cinnamon, nutmeg, and mint is because they all kill germs! And over thousands of years we have evolved to like their flavors. In fact, the vast majority of spices have germ-killing effects. Garlic, oregano, cloves, rosemary… we don’t just like them by accident. We have evolved to like them.