This blog is about the intersection between evolutionary biology and food. But also about practical applications, sustainable agriculture, and general tasty things.
One of the most hilarious articles I've come across lately is by low-fat vegan diet promoter Dr. McDougall. It's titled The Paleo Diet Is Uncivilized (And Unhealthy and Untrue). Who the hell uses words like "uncivilized" these days? The whole time I was reading it, I imagined Dr. McDougall as a snobby British gentleman with a tophat and monocle, as well as a Richard Dawkins-like scowl, pontificating on the savages.
Part of the blame can be placed on Loren Cordain, who is the paleo diet paradigm that McDougall chooses to attack. You can tell that both are actually quite uncultured when it comes to food.
Dr. Cordain writes, “For most of us, the thought of eating organs is not only repulsive, but is also not practical as we simply do not have access to wild game.” (p 131). In addition to the usual beef, veal, pork, chicken, and fish, a Paleo follower is required to eat; alligator, bear, kangaroo, deer, rattlesnake, and wild boar are also on the menu. Mail-order suppliers for these wild animals are provided in his book.
More than half (55%) of a Paleo dieter’s food comes from lean meats, organ meats, fish, and seafood. (p 24) Eating wild animals is preferred, but grocery store-bought lean meat from cows, pigs, and chickens works, too. Bone marrow or brains of animals were both favorites of pre-civilization hunter-gathers. (p 27) For most of us the thought of eating bone marrow and brains is repulsive. But it gets worse.
Seriously what is wrong with these people and where do they live? Where I live in Chicago, there is LINE in the rain to eat at places that serve bone marrow and liver. The bone marrow at Au Cheval goes for around $20. In NYC, Montreal, San Francisco, London...any major city, these are common menu items. They are damn delicious and I refuse to take any dietary advice from people who clearly do not enjoy life. Although in my experience with such wretched diets, I eventually stopped desiring everything as I succumbed to being a catatonic libido-less appetite-less zombie.
Sorry, people in the centers of civilization are eating bone marrow, not disgusting veggie burgers or lean chicken breast and broccoli.
And does anyone else think it's hilarious that he says we should dismiss the paleolithic diet because there is some evidence for cannibalism and then says "Men and women following diets based on grains, legumes, and starchy vegetables have accomplished most of the great feats in history." His example? Genghis Khan. Yeah, because that guy never participated in bloodshed. Also we should refrain from eating any cuisines from cultures where people have resorted to cannibalism in hardship...which basically throws out almost all of them.
I'm all for starch, but like Genghis I'd love some butter on my potatoes.
But guess what? People like different things. They do well on different diets. I've met people who had success on McDougall's high-starch diets. But I guess it's hard to sell a dogma if you admit that.
Also this is a perfect example of how diet guru doctors are so manipulative. Even though McDougall is linking to sources, if you follow the trail, you will find many are not good sources. They are in scientific journals, but they are letters or commentary. Or they don't support his assertions.
Scene 1: I'm at a party. There isn't that much to eat that won't upset my stomach, except some nice roast potatoes. Suddenly a girl appears smiling benevolently. Is she about to say "Oh, actually we have steak in the kitchen"? Nope. Instead she giggles and asks "Are you allowed to have those?"
I grit my teeth and spitefully add an extra helping to my plate.
Scene 2: I'm at lunch snacking on some delicious French raw milk cheese. A man comes up to my table and looks at my lunch with squinting eyes. "I don't think cheese is paleo" he blithely announces. I eat the whole block of cheese in one sitting out of pure unremitting malice towards those who question my love of cheese.
Yes, such is the peril of being known as a "paleo" girl. So henceforth, if you call me "paleo," I will have to banish you from this blog and all parts hence. And by banish, I mean maybe we should settle this in a dark alley.
I'm not "paleo" since that is short for paleolithic. For your enlightenment, I was born in 1986, which was well into the neolithic era.
Yes, I am quite interested in the paleolithic and I think to eat like the people in the paleolithic is a powerful tool for healing. But honestly, I'm not going to put in more effort than I have to. If butter seems to cause me no problems, you betcha I'm going to eat it.
As for it making you fat, that is pure and utter nonsense. I am but one of many butter-loving health bloggers. I have low body fat and do not wish to impair my fertility by going lower. I have informed some of you of my earnest desire to bear many adorable butter-eating babies.
I have so far deigned to engage in the cupidity that seems to have grasped the "paleo" world as of late. The vultures are already circling, publicists and producers, cawing out commands to simplify our language and distill our philosophy into something politically correct and "readable."
Vanitas vanitatum omnia vanitas
I for one have nothing to sell. And I hope my writing style gets more and more obtuse and archaic. Soon I will start writing all my posts in Latin. Of course, I will never proofread anything, despite being certifiably dyslexic.
I was reading Tim Ferriss' new book yesterday. Like me, he knows the value of paleo principles, but he doesn't hew to dogma. I was very skeptical of this book, but he does what works and while I have some quibbles (egg beaters? eww, but maybe that's my inner snob), it was refreshing to see the lovely words cassoulet on the page. Until I see a study that shows that beans embedded with the ichor that is duck confit causes "leaky gut" or something in healthy adults, I will eat this wonderful food at least once a winter in a wood-paneled pub on the Lower East Side. I refuse to throw away such human accomplishments in the name of "paleo."
And honestly...where is the most innovative stuff coming from? It's from bloggers on the fringe of paleo who aren't out to make $$$ (yet)*. They don't call themselves paleo, but we all know who they are. I bet they are enjoying some cassoulet at this very moment in good cheer while in sad lonely loft apartments, some poor victim of "paleo" dogma is eating a pathetic skinless boneless chicken dressed with rancid olive oil.
Luckily because I'm not "paleo" I no longer have to pretend to be supportive or cheerful about such people and the promotors of such diets (who often eat certain "bad" foods while telling others not to).
*though I have nothing against those who do, as long as it's not at the expense of integrity...which sadly it often is