While paleo dieters eat diverse diets that can include a wide variety of vegetables, the main dish is usually meat. While I think this diet is an optimal one, good meat is expensive and some people just don't feel comfortable eating lots of meat from an ethical, visceral, or spiritual standpoint. My father is a big proponent of paleo, but my mother has told me she doesn't want to eat so much meat.
This comment on Whole Health source got me thinking about those people:
To restore health, we move our nutritional approach back through time. First stop, Mesolithic. With the elimination of anti-nutrients (wheat, etc.) and the increased variety of food, nutrition becomes near optimal for most. Fat-soluble vitamins are at sufficient levels, either through the inclusion of specific foods (seafoods, organ meats) or supplementation.
This move to Mesolithic nutrition would likely resolve the vast majority of nutrition-driven health issues in the world today, essentially returning us to the lifestyle and health observed by Dr. Price in the 30's.
I have the limitation of illness, so my attempt to eat traditionally prepared grains and dairy products was not successful, but many people can thrive on this diet, which is espoused by the Weston A. Price Foundation.
For people interested in improving their diet this way, I recommend these books:
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon is a seminal cookbook and textbook on the value of preparing grains, legumes, and dairy the traditional way, as well as getting an abundance of fat soluble vitamins. To get these you only really need to eat a very small amount of high quality animal fat in the form of organ meats, oily fish, and raw dairy.
Full Moon Feast by Jessice Prentice is another great cookbook that adds on spiritual, social, and local aspects to eating traditionally.
Real Food by Nina Planck is a book that does a great job of spreading the word that eating traditionally is vital for the health of future children.
Why Some Like It Hot by Gary Nabhan or anything by Gary really. He is a big proponent of traditional crop varieties and much of his work is about how devastating it has been for native peoples to lose their traditional diets.
These books provide a wealth of valuable information no matter what traditional diet you follow. I own them and use them often.
I looked in the mirror with dismay. Right on my left eyeball was a blood vessel that had swelled to the size of a small red lightening blot. I knew I had been spending too much time on the computer, working on server migrations and slogging though the process of learning PhP. The effects were written all over my poor eye.
I write this because this morning I read an article featuring Ray Mears, an expert on primitivist skills, chiding paleo dieters for "pigging out on meat and pretending to have hunted it." One of my goals in this site and in my actions as a co-organizer of the Eating Paleo in NYC meetup group is to get people beyond this. So many paleo dieters think of it as just a way to lose weight and end up eating a bunch of chicken breasts, steak, and coconut milk ice cream. They not only miss out on nutrients, but on the overall holistic benefits of thinking evolutionarily and rewilding not only the self, but the world around you. I want to exhort people to think harder about where their food comes from, how much is out there that we should be eating and we aren't even thinking about whether its sheeps eyes or wild nettles, and how they can be involved in actual hunting and gathering.
I find the argument that cow's milk, which has much similarity to human milk, is a poisonous alien substance, yet the proteins found in the muscles and organs of the cow are the nectar of the gods a little inconsistent. I will once again point out that a fair number of those with casein allergy are also allergic to bovine serum albumin (BSA) in the muscle of beef. Yet no one suggests that beef is not paleo because some folks with a history of eating the SAD get a rash when they eat it. Same thing with shellfish. Hell, some people go into anaphylactic shock with prawns, even though hominids have eaten seafood for a million years or so. Beware the seductive logic of paleolithic food re-eanctment. PaNu is not about historical re-enactmant - it is about health informed by many lines of evidence and reasoning
That's why I made the paleo foods section on this site. Eating paleo is about a philosophy of eating, not about branding some foods as bad and others as good. All foods have the potential to cause people problems. Allergies seem to be malfunctions of the immune system and seem to have no baring on whether the food is appropriate for humans or not. Luckily, allergies are fairly easy to identify. The ones that are hard are foods that contain substances that cause chronic low-grade problems that may or may not turn into a full blown illness much later. These foods including sugar, gluten, and unfermented soy, are what the paleo diet identifies and really encourages completely eliminating.
Esther was so funny -- when she was helping me, she said with a sigh, "I love messing around with meat. Look! There are all of my favorite colors in this meat!" (I think she was talking about the pink in the meat and the silver of the fat/membrane). What fun to have a hardy Alaskan child.
When I was a child I ate some pretty awful things, but I always instinctually loved fat, particularly chicken and turkey skin.
From the reviews of the Continuum Concept on Amazon, an interesting question:
The book led me to the final question which I am still trying to answer. "Is the combination of our modern upbringing and the modern world we live in so grossly mutated from the environment that mankind evolved in, that there is no way to adapt and find our way back to intuitive living, and the kind of self acceptance (being comfortable in our own skins) that so many of us strive for?"
Haven't read it, but definitely plan to.
Speaking of reading, I've added some more interesting books to the reading list.
I packed the foods that would make up my lunch carefully: bright green arugula, crispy kale, a few clementines. I knew I had bacon from The Piggery in the fridge at the office and I envisioned a delicious stir fry. But somehow I managed to leave the entire bag on the table as I rushed to work.
I work in Midtown and while some street vendors make delicious and cheap food, it usually makes me feel kind of sick later. There are a smattering of healthy eateries, such as The Pump and Free Foods, but they require you exchange your entire paycheck for a measly salad. For the price of their food I could buy a bag of groceries....and I would, but unfortunately Midtown Manhattan does not have any real grocery stores.
Fortunately they do have some smaller stores, like Yamagura on 41st. While I'm not crazy about their greasy cafe, they have a wide selection of fresh vegetables. For under $10 I bought organic beech mushrooms, wakame seaweed, pretty tiny Japanese yams, black sesame seeds, red pepper flakes, and some flavorful greens. They might not have locally grown food, but everything is nutritious.
The bacon from The Piggery is perfect: not too salty, so it can actually be paired with nearly anything. I sauteed the mushrooms with bacon and made a delicious side salad of seaweed and greens sprinkled withsome sesame and red pepper. Today I roasted the yams in a toaster oven and topped them with bacon and ate that alongside the same tasty salad. I'm glad it's possible for me to back these kind of meals even if I am absent minded. I think more people would eat like this if offices encouraged cooking. All you really need is small plug in range and a toaster oven to make tasty meals.It might take time off of work, but healthy employees do better work and it might even save some money on health insurance.
An interesting exploration of the growing demand for meat in New York City
New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni and Anthony Bourdain. As an on- and off-again meat eater, Foer has publically made his decision to step into non-meat land and now is synonymous with whining about Bourdain to New Yorkmagazine for the No Reservations host’s admittance on Larry King Live that he thinks humans are supposed to eat animals. We wonder how he’ll respond to the recent Times story about the new “Caveman lifestyle,” described as “a small New York subculture whose members seek good health through a selective return to the habits of their Paleolithic ancestors.” One die-hard member purportedly indulges in “grass-fed ground beef, which he eats raw.”
I hope Bourdain will recognize us as kin rather than as "dieters." I hate that word because it implies a limitation. The limitation for me is I simply try to avoid eating foods that make me feel crappy and I always make exceptions if I feel something is awesome and uniquely delicious. Which is actually OK, because most of the body-damaging crap people shovel in their mouths isn't.
If anything, eating like this has awakened me to the wonders of delicious silky blood, insects, liver on a stick, and reindeer hearts. Bourdain probably doesn't think of himself as a diet guru, but his writing and shows have inspired many reluctant people to order foods like tripe.
My father is on the paleo diet (50 lbs lost and counting, though that's another story) and Les Halles, Bourdain's restaurant, is a favorite of ours.
Also mentioned is the Meat Hook, which is a veritable temple of meat in Brooklyn, the epicenter of the nose to tail locavore meat movement. Meat is big enough in Brooklyn that cuts previously had for pennies, like marrow bones, are inching up in price by the day.
Surprisingly, the people who are now going back to eating meat are more than willing to delve into the nasty bits of meat production. Sold out workshops involving the snapping the necks of rabbits and gutting them? Who would have thought. This is a good thing because people who are knowledgeable about the slaughter process are more demanding about how animals lived and how they died. I don't know how much of this has to do with the locavore movement and how much has to do with the fact that many vegetarian foods make people feel crappy.
And the Humane Society's argument that even animals at nice farms have miserable lives is unconvincing to the growing number of young urbanites who work a stint on a farm in the summer.
I do feel bad for vegetarian restaurants though. There are plenty of people that aren't comfortable with meat, and I understand that. I always was the girl who had no problem with dissecting worms, so I know I'm a little bit of an outlier. Many of my friends and family members are vegetarian and vegan, so the reality is that a visit to some of these restaurants is in my future. There are some I look forward to going to, like Souen or Pure Food & Wine, but most of them are crappy food excused by sparing cute animals. It doesn't have to be this way. I love Pure Food & Wine's fruit and nut based dishes and Souen's emphasis on seaweed and pumpkin. At each place it's possible to get a meal free of bloaty soy, fried industro-oils, and crampy wheat. Vegans and paleo dieters can dine together, restaurants just have to be more innovative and not just serve fried soy and gluten blobs.
The argument often heard about primitive people living on average less than 30 years ignores distribution around such average --life expectancy needs to be analyzed conditionally. Plenty died early, from injuries, many lived very long --and healthy --lives. This is exactly the very same elementary "fooled by randomness" mistake, relying on the notion of "average" in the presence of variance, that makes people underestimate the risks in the stock market.
Also see Stephan's take.
I never grew up eating much pork and until last year I had actually never cooked it before, except for some sausages, which I botched. It's actually pretty amazing how little I knew about cooking, it's no wonder people my age have such a hard time cooking healthy. Thankfully, New York City has become a capital of all things pork and there are tons of workshops and talkative butchers who have guided me well enough that my decision to buy pig shares at two farms (The Piggery and Old Field Farm) has not been a disaster.
In fact, it's gotten me cooking eating plenty of pork cuts I would never think to buy. I also got the Momofuku cookbook. I'm ashamed to say I am a David Chang/Momofuku groupie (does that make me a PaleoHipster?). Momofuku restaurants serve good food at fairly reasonable prices and I really really admire that since I don't make tons of money, but besides that, his food really is damn delicious.
The thing I really like about his book is that it's so systematic. You can trace the ingredient cycle and see how far certain ingredients go. It's a pork-based nose to tail kitchen with pork meat, pork stock, and pork fat serving as the core of most dishes. That's great for me because I happen to know lots of hog farmers and so I have more pork than I know what to do with. It's great to learn how to extend your recipe for days. I'll make a cut of pork and while I might only eat the actual meat for one day, I'll be eating soups made for its bones and vegetables cooked in its fat for much longer.
Some of his recipes are a little time consuming, but I'm plebianized several with a crock pot. The technique of braising in a very simple brine of honey and salt, is actually very effective in a crock pot. Pork belly with just a little bit of Chang's brine, turn the crockpot on low, go to bed, and voila! you have not only pork belly (crisp it up to make it super delicious), but if you put the leftover liquid in the fridge, you get a layer of lard on top of a golden liquid that can be used to delicious-ize other less well endowed foods.
Here are my favorite cuts I've discovered:
- Pork belly: I really think this is better than bacon, but maybe I'm sensitive to amines in cured products. It's also quite simple with my crock pot method.
- Cheek: I use the same braising method and it comes out tender and succulent, thought it's less rich in fat, so it's advisible to brown it in whatever lard you have.
- Blood sausage: Unctuous and flavorful, don't be put off by the sludge-like color.
- Pate: a delicious way to eat liver and kidney, but unfortunately almost always contains dairy.
- Rilettes: A fatty pork jam? Count me in, but I will write later on my quest to find something paleo to spread it on.
- Tail: Fry it in lard and eat it up!
Least favorite: Tenderloin is too lean and bland for my tastes and I think I must be sensitive to something in bacon/cured sausages.
According to Natsuko I'm right in my instinct that pork is seasonal. I tend to only crave it in the winter, which also happens to be when most pigs slaughtering happens on small/scale traditional farms.
I sent the New York Times article to my grandma, who is now over 90 and doesn't have any health problems. She sent me an email saying how great it was that I was featured, but expressed concern that the diet itself is too extreme to follow for long. My grandmother is so healthy and sometimes I wonder why not just eat like she does, a no-nonsense Michael Pollan-style "eat food, not too much, mostly plants" diet. I suppose that with my involvement in sustainable agriculture, this would be my diet.
When I was at Stone Barns for the Young Farmer's Conference, that was the food that was served. Briefly, I thought that because it was so wholesome and from such a good place, I could indulge in the buttery scones, tangy bean chili, and whole grain bread with butter. This was the sort of food that has sustained my grandmother so well into her 90s, but by the second day I was doubled over in pain.
Whether it's because of genes or my upbringing... I don't know, but I and other younger members of my family struggle from health problems my grandmother is baffled by. That's how I discovered the paleo diet.
And in many ways I don't like the word "paleo" or "caveman" to describe the diet. In so many ways my own diet is not paleo, it's merely an evolutionary-aware diet that provided a framework to discover what foods cause problems for me. I could just have called it an elimination diet, but that would have eliminated all I've learned about evolution, other cultures, and food science. I never in a million gazillion years would have signed up for anthropology classes otherwise. I was an agricultural economics major and until I discovered the paleo diet, I thought I had no use for that.
It's interesting that so many of the biggest proponents of the paleo diet from Art De Vany to Nassim Taleb are economists. I think that is because this framework for thinking is actually fairly efficient. It's asking why certain aspects of modern life are crappy. The paleo framework, instead of waiting for scientists to develop pills for the problems, realizes that our ancestors didn't have such problems and tries to imitate what behaviors prevented them.
The reason I hated my food science classes was that the philosophy so reductionist....I remember my intro to food science professor telling the class that vitamins are just vitamins and it doesn't matter if you get them from fruit or from pills. More recent science is showing this isn't true, but the overarching point was that they snarked anytime you suggested their view was wrong, because hey, if there is no evidence that vitamins from pills aren't as good, then they must be just as good. They didn't even think to test traditional wisdom to prove or disprove its worth. That's why I like Loren Cordain so much, because that's exactly what he does and it makes so much more sense to study cultures where a disorder isn't present to figure out what they are doing wrong rather than tinker for untold hours in a lab.
Some paleo dieters fall into the trap of naturalistic fallacy, but the average paleo dieter is a technologically-savvy eccentric quants wanting quite simply to optimize their life the way they optimize their equations and code. We are constantly questioning foods, paleo or not, and asking if they make our lives better or worse.
Besides that, the paleo diet "lifestyle" framework is tons more fun and enriching to your whole life than just being, for example, dairy-free.