Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Paleo was great 100,000 years ago but…..

Home grown kale, home-smoked trout and an egg.

It is interesting how popular the Paleo diet has become recently. Based on the idea of our gut being attuned to eating the diet of the hunters and gatherers in early human history, it embraces meat and vegetables whilst restricting certain fruits and omitting dairy and grains. In theory this seems a plausible, natural way for many to regain the health they have lost due to over-consumption of modern, processed foods.

However, meat today is a far cry from the meat of our early ancestors, where all animals were wild and diversity of the diet would have included everything from lizards and small mammals to kangaroos (in Australia) and deer etc. Fossicking and fishing in pristine waters would have brought shellfish, crabs, cockles and wild fish, all free from heavy metals and other contaminants.

All parts of the animals were eaten and nothing wasted as who knew when the next animal would be caught. Organs, brains flesh would be shared with the tribe; your share being determined by status, age and sex. Never would there have been unlimited amounts of meat and never would you have eaten one cut of one animal, over and over, for years, as people seem to do today with steak or chicken breast or fillets of a favourite fish. Bones were made into broths, the marrow being prized for its rich mineral content.

Vegetables and fruit were foraged and therefore always seasonal. Plant food was not always abundant but it was always organic, fresh, natural and not bred for high yield or anything else. Grains and seeds were picked by hand from fields of diversity, not by mechanical harvesters on super-farms stretching as far as the eye can see. Thus they were also seasonal and vastly reduced in abundance compared to today.

It is impossible and ridiculous to think that anyone could regain that diet. Our seas and air and soil are degrading faster than ever. Supermarket meat is factory grown and processed, very limited in range and not seasonal. Rarely do people eat organs or make real broths or venture outside their favourite cuts of meat. Show me where to buy lizards and snakes and other wild animals!

Vegetables, even wonderful, organic, home grown ones, are produced from seeds developed after hundreds of years of selecting varieties for shape, size, colour or taste but never for nutrient value or for wildness. And they are far better than those filled with chemicals which people are eating on a Paleo diet, thinking they are copying their wild ancestors.

Food is abundant and most people have no idea of its seasonality or how hard it would be to eat only what you can gather from the wild. There would certainly be no obesity if you only ate what you grew or foraged; the exercise of growing and collecting it would see to that!

Home grown lunch... Freshly picked salad + wild greens dip

My philosophy is to eat local, seasonal food and eat as much diversity as I can without overeating anything. I eat no fresh food at all from a supermarket. I either grow it or buy it from someone who does. I eat a huge diversity of home grown vegetables. I eat wallaby killed nearby and meat raised by friends and I eat all parts of the animal. I eat local fish and shellfish but, surprisingly for an island, it is hard to get fish from a fisherman….. it all goes to restaurants and to other parts of the world because of Tasmania’s clean, green image. I eat organic, Australian-grown grains and seeds but I eat them irregularly, unprocessed and in small amounts, trying to use as many different grains and seeds as I can. I ferment a lot of stuff, including milk (in its most original state). I eat cheeses cut from a round and never ever processed cheese in blocks. I grow and eat a lot of sprouts; red and green lentils, chickpeas, fenugreek and mung beans are my favourites.

(Wild weeds and leaves pesto dip recipe… as in photo above.)

Hugh and Hugsli at the Showgrounds Farmers Market, AdelaideMy big food-mile weaknesses are organic bananas and the odd mango from Queensland, coffee from East Timor, certain cheeses from France and Pellegrino mineral water from Italy (even though mineral water is produced here in Cygnet!). I also love treats from son Hugh, of Hughsli, in Adelaide whose mueslis, chocolates, carrot kasundi, crème brulee, sprouted dips and everything else are made with his local farmers market ingredients and with a passion for the seasonal, local and best quality.

Life is good. It can never be like it was 100,000 years ago or most of us would have died by now. Eat less, think long and deep and don’t be swayed from a healthy lifestyle because of fads.

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Rowing our skiff, The Swan, to Hobart in the Parade of Sails at The Wooden Boat Festival recently…. what a wonderful day and wonderful way to stay healthy and happy!

3 comments:

africanaussie said...

Kate I love your down to earth and honest philosophy. You are so right that people take a theory and change it to be totally unlike the original idea. I have just started fermenting and made my first bottle of kimchi. I will have to look around your site and see if you have any tips and hints.

Kate said...

Thanks Jillian. I often think I will comment on your lovely blog but usually 25 others have beat me to it!!

Fermenting is soo easy. Cut radishes in halves or smaller, fill a jar with them to 2cms from the top. Fill with cool brine (1 Tbl salt to 1 litre of water, heated to dissolve then cooled). Put a zip lock bag of water on top to hold the radishes under the brine. Put the lid on.

Leave at room temp for 3 - 5 days then refrigerate for 2 weeks or more.
Eat daily. Yum. Feel your body zing!

Farmer Liz said...

Hi Kate, you might be surprised to learn then that paleo actually advocated free-range meat (and organs), and lots of organic vegetables. Sure its not exactly the same as what our ancestors ate, but its closer than the standard diet of processed foods. For people who do not have the ability or inclination to raise food the way you and I do, its better than the alternative. Personally I am not comfortable with the amount of coconut used and prefer to include dairy from my own cows. I don't live by paleo myself, but if I have to eat out in the city (where I unfortunately work), I'd rather go to a paleo cafe and know that I'm eating free-range organic food. (Not trying to criticise you, just thought you would be interested in another view).