Some of the most mouth-watering recipes may not evoke principles of evolution in your mind, but scientists have now shown that these tried-and-tested dishes do have an evolutionary mechanism at work in the way recipes are passed down.
For the study, physicist Antonio Roque of the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil and colleagues examined thousands of recipes drawn from a large number of sources spanning nearly 60 years.
AdvertisementThese sources included French Larousse Gastronomique, the British New Penguin Cookery Book, three editions of the Brazilian Dona Benta and a medieval cookbook.
Roque said that when they analysed the rate at which ingredients appeared in recipes and ranked them accordingly, they saw a clear-cut mathematical relationship across the board between an ingredient's position on the list and how frequently used it was.
"There's a remarkable similarity, independent of culture and author," New Scientist magazine quoted Roque, as saying.
The researchers say that this similarity may suggest the presence of an evolutionary mechanism at work in the way recipes are passed down.
To test this idea, the team created a mathematical model in which additions, deletions or errors could be introduced into recipes.
After this experiment, the researchers obtained the same relationship as long as they assigned each ingredient an innate "fitness" which made it more likely to be retained.
According to the researchers, this fitness might actually reflect, say, its nutritional value or flavour.