Thursday, 23 February 2012

It's illegal, it's immoral or it makes you fat

The modern world seems full of diets and theories about eating (almost to the point of obsession).

Now I realize some people have allergies, which can even prove life-threatening (anaphylactic shock from eating strawberries, say), but the general population seem like omnivores to me - like goats, we can eat and digest more or less anything, and survive with all kinds of strange combinations of food sources.

So the idea that everything I happen to like 'is' addictive does make me defensive.  But then addicts can often find themselves in denial.

I refer, of course, to the Paleolithic Diet - the theory that modern folks would thrive on the pre-agricultural diet of the gatherer-hunters.  I like the general idea.  I feel less certain about the skewing towards high meat consumption (not all gatherer-hunters have the 95% meat consumption of the peoples who inhabit the Arctic regions).  In more tropical zones the balance leans the other way to fruits, roots, shoots, leaves - and even the hunting/scavenging more likely includes insects, shellfish, eggs and baby animals than large animals.

But people still like that old Man the Hunter myth.  And that high-protein, meat-based diet has attracted some interesting and unusual people - from John Lilly to Augustus Owsley Stanley III who put The Grateful Dead on a totally carnivorous diet (so that destroys the myth of all hippies being veggies, doesn't it?) He did include dairy and eggs in that, though - he just hated vegetables and carbohydrates.  He made it to 76.

I became fully aware of my own sugar addiction 30 years ago, and gave it up totally.  I now allow myself tiny amounts - rather than obsessively read every packet label, but still don't miss it at all, not even at Christmas (no chocolate for me, or Christmas Pudding or Mince Pies, etc).

So now the story is that Wheat and Dairy 'are' addictive.  I suspect we should perhaps change that to 'potentially' or 'for some people' but people seem to prefer flat statements.   I never did get on with milk as a child (we call it 'lactose intolerant' these days, back then they called it 'fussy eater') but I was fed cheese and yoghurt, because at the time people believed vegetarians needed the animal-based protein.

So although I don't/can't drink milk, I do like my cheese, so perhaps I do have an addiction.  Likewise, I love bread, and although I often vary it with Oatmeal, Rye, etc, I obviously go through quite a lot of Wheat. Of course, the first time I heard about this sort of thing was from the Macrobiotic crowd, who saw no paradox in claiming all food should be locally grown, and then claimed rice as the basic food group. Which seemed strange to me, in Notting Hill, however appropriate in Japan.  I figured wheat as a staple.

Yet I was pretty happy in Mexico, where more of the peasant food had corn as a staple (I didn't see 'bread butter and cheese' for six months.)

But Vegan friends probably correctly dislike my cheese consumption. It ain't nice what we do to cows.

However, even when I have been settled enough to start devising my own food, from sprouting beans to cooking a little, I never stray from my vegetarian ways.   66 years and counting.  So the Paleolithic Diet just ain't for me.  I enjoyed a bit of seafood when living with gypsies in Spain.  It was alright.  I don't eat it now, though, it arose out of politeness to hosts.

People have disputed the theoretical basis fo the PaleoDiet, anyway (like most diets, it seems more like an idea than a proven scientific fact, true for all people).   Indeed, my own tendency leans to frugivore, like those wonderful great apes who share 98% of our genetic make-up.   They might occasionally eat grubs, or a baby bird, or something, but essentially Gorillas (for instance) have a vegetarian diet.

So I still don't quite buy the 'cave man' diet.  Or not for me, at least.

Apart from anything else, my desire not to eat other animals overrides my desire to be high energy, healthy, etc.  To me there remains the trade-off of living well at someone else's expense.  I have trouble with that.

But hey, each to their own.

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