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.
This is what you will look like if you eat tasty animals
Some of the most common comments on blogs post related to the NYT paleo article seem to contend that we are idiots because meat was a rare treat in the paleolithic and most of the food came from women who gathered tubers and nuts.
Well, I eat tubers and nuts, but these misconceptions seem to be some legacy of politically correct nutrition education. Modern hunter-gatherers do rely heavily on tubers and nuts, but these populations are not representitive of paleolithic populations. The few modern hunter-gatherer populations left live in highly marginal environments are not models of the stone age. Thankfully, we do have isotopic analysis, which allows us to know that paleolithic humans ate meat and plenty of it.
Anthropologist Richard Wrangham is among the few that believe that tubers were very important in our evolution into humans, but most anthropologists consider tubers and nuts inadequate for providing the nutrients that would support the large human brain.
Gathering was important, but it's also important to remember that what anthropologists consider gathering includes foraging for shellfish, insects, and small game. The misconception that women didn't engage in hunting has led to lots of misguided stereotypes of women meekly digging for potatoes while men roamed the plains with spears.
Humans seem to eat tubers when they can, as they are a rich source of calories, but they are not rich in much else. And nuts make little sense as a food we evolved on considering how rich they are in omega-6 fatty acids, which overwhelming cause inflammation in humans.
In a good environment, even a decent hunter could procure some kind of flesh. Big game might have been rare, but there is no evidence that humanity evolved on a plant-based diet. I don't mean to downplay the importance of plants, as I eat plenty of them myself, but seafoods and meat provide nutrients they simply are inefficient in providing.
I hope to post more about this, as well as the other misguided idea that gorilla diets have much to tell us about the optimal human diet (hint: despite the digestive similarities, we don't have large enough colons to make the conversion of fiber into fatty acids a viable food source).
An Italian reporter asked me if I have a "paleo" boyfriend...haha, I don't and actually my boyfriend is pretty adverse to meat and fish, but thankfully part of the way I eat is vegetables and lots of them! I just try to steer boyfriend away from the most processed frankensoy foods and to my delicious pumpkin bisque and crunchy kale.
Wow, in really really exciting news, I and the others from the Eating Paleo in NYC group were featured in the New York Times in an article called The New Age Caveman and The City. I am very proud to have been involved in this article and the paleo community in the city.
However, some readers are concerned that the article makes us seem odd and faddish. I don't necessarily think that's true. It's a short article and they had to pick what was interesting. It's too bad this quote made it into the article "Unfortunately, life was short: If you made it to age 30 or so, you had done well." that once again perpetuates the myth that paleolithic life was nasty, brutish, and short. If you've done any reading at all on the subject, you will find that is simply not true.
Also, I was sad to see little discussion on meat itself, which is really what makes the diet unique. Both Vlad and I were photographed at farmer's markets buying from farmers that we know well who raise pastured animals rich in healthy fats, but the photos and the discussion of them did not make it into the article. I will certainly post plenty about that here to make up for it. I've done lots of posts about that too on my personal blog here.
But overall, I hope it will get more people thinking about the paleo diet or whatever you call it (I should post about this later). I remember I was pretty annoyed when I first heard about it, so even if people react negatively...at least they are thinking. The idea that bread might be bad never crossed my mind until I read Jared Diamond's essay.
Here are some of the questions I get and their answers:
Did the Paleo diet work for your stomach problems?
Yes, if it didn't I'd probably still be searching for a suitable cure. You can read more here.
How can you live without cake/beer/other assorted banned foods?
I indulge occasionally, but the stomach problems associated with most of these foods dissuade me more and more these days. Besides, there are plenty of treat options that do not seem to cause me problems. I do love beer's complex flavors in particular though and I find that if I consume only small amounts I don't seem to have problems.
You obviously have a medical condition and should see a doctor.
That's not a question, but I do have an answer. I have seen plenty of doctors and yes, I have been tested for celiac disease.
Why all this talk about sprinting when humans evolved to be persistence hunters and run long distances?
The running thing is pretty controversial. Some paleo dieters are fans of Born to Run and run pretty long distances barefoot. I'm more in the Art De Vany camp in that I believe endurance running is harmful. Humans certainly can run very well, but for most hunter-gatherers, persistence