Food + Wine

The Era of Your Ways

Raise your hand if you know what Paleo means.  Put your hand down.  Raise your hand if you slept through science class in junior high school.  Put your hand down.  Class is in session.  Hold your questions until the end. 

Paleo stands for Paleolithic. As in the Paleolithic era.  As in the Stone Age.  As in The Flinstones.  The ‘Stone Age’ refers to the usage of stones, chipped into tools for survival.  There were 3 parts of this era- The Lower, Middle and Upper PaleolithicAnd in each part, there were different versions of what we now know as humans and what they used as tools–  In the Lower Paleolithic you had your Homo Habilis and your Homo Erectus, and they carried around simple tools like cleavers and axes, or ‘core tools’.  In the Middle, you had archaic versions of Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals and the tools shifted from ‘core’ to ‘flake tools’, referring to the technique used to get the correct shape of the stone.  Then, during the last part of the era, in the Upper, you had more modern Homo Sapiens and those cool cats were using stuff like bones and antlers to make their tools.  OK, so we know there were ‘cavemen’ of some sort during this era and that they were using different blunt and sharp objects as tools.  But for what reason?  They had to eat, rightI mean, I know the life expectancy wasn’t what it is now and we have developed quite dramatically as a species, but some things never change Eating is a necessity.  So, what did they eat?  (Apparently, if you ask Dr. Cordain, the creator of the ‘Paleo Diet’, they ate grass fed filet mignon, broccoli and flaxseed oil, but we’ll get into that in a bit.)  A lot of research has been done to find out what our ancestors ate back then.  It’s been documented that the Homo Erectus, existing during the Lower Paleolithic Era, showed evidence of some of the first animal consumptionMeaning, before this time mostly plants were eaten.  It’s thought that the Homo Habilis, (also during the Lower period) were the first to eat an omnivorous diet, one that consisted of both plant and animal products.  Then, later on as the species developed into Homo Sapiens, evidence shows that the diet was quite close to pre-agricultural humans.  There are actually many scientists who believe that the early forms of humans during this era may have even been vegetarians.  

Fruits, roots, legumes, nuts and other non-cereals provided 65-75% of the average forager substance…which were generally consumed within hours of being gathered, (Eaton, Eaton III, Konner, 1992).  What this means is that the food was mainly plant-based and mainly eaten uncooked, as in RAW.  

Wait a second.  Legumes, you say?  That’s so interesting because, again, according to Dr. Cordain, legumes are off limits on the Paleo diet.  And those of you who raised your hands earlier, are you cooking your meat?  Hmm…interesting…

And research also suggests that the Paleolithic food intake consisted of about twice the amount of calcium, and more than 3X the amount of carbohydrates than modern day humans ingest.  (Last time I checked, meat, which is the main component of the modern day ‘Paleo diet’, isn’t considered a prime source of calcium…or carbohydrates.  Interesting…) 

Wait.  Carbohydrates?!?  As in CARBS?!?!  Oh no!  I thought those were the devil!!!  And, I’m so confused.  According to Dr. Cordain, the Paleo diet is one with a ‘higher protein intake’ and a ‘lower carbohydrate intake’.  Hmm…interesting…  
The ‘humans’
that existed during this era survived off of what they could forage or
hunt. There were no machines to grind wheat or
barley or rice, no milk, no
cheese…so the ‘no dairy’ part of the new Paleo diet is right on the money.  They didn’t have time to think of milking the animal, they were too
hungry and angry so they just ate it.  And it wasn’t a cow.  Cows didn’t exist in
the Paleolithic era.  It was maybe a saber tooth tiger, or cave lion, wooly
mammoth, wooly rhinoceros… (Mmm, wooly rhino milk. Delicious.)
Those of you who raised your hands earlier, are you eating cow?  As in steak?  Filet mignonHmm…interesting…  
So, those of you who think you’re eating Paleo because you
aren’t eating bread  Think again.  You better turn off those burners and eat that sabre tooth riger raw tonight.  Throw out that chicken, that pork, that steakGet ready to have an old fashioned salmonella party and get ready to get dirty and RAW.  Toss those forks and knives and plates.  Better yet, get out of that kitchen, that house, those clothes and those shoes.  You want Paleo?  You better find a butcher who has magical powers.
Research shows that there was no cooking of the food in the Paleolithic Era.  It’s believed that they didn’t start cooking their food untilthe Neolithic era. They also learned how to ‘farm’ in that era as well.  There is evidence of the farming of dogs, sheep, goats, cattle, and pigs during the Neolithic Era.  NOT in the Paleolithic era.

 So…let’s see here…cows make steak and pigs make pork.  And both of those make up a large majority of the modern day version of the Paleo diet.  Very, very interesting…

My point (well, one of my points…) is that there has been a lot of research done on this subject, some of it conflicts, but it was a long, long time ago.  We know so much more about what our body’s need as fuel now than we did back then.  We have so many more resources now than we did back then.  The positive of this Paleo diet is that, in the beginning it started as one without processed foods.  It was a ‘back to basics’ type of diet.  And I dig that part.  I dig the no preservatives part of it, the whole foods part of it, but I don’t dig the lack of legumes and whole grains part of it.  I’m not talking about modern wheat and gluten, I’m talking about incredibly healthy foods like farro, barley, quinoa.  When you’re excluding that food group, you’re excluding vitamin B, which give us energy, among other vitamins and minerals 
But now I’m seeing Paleo this and Paleo that and it’s all a bunch of crap.  Stinky, smelly wooly mammoth crap.  All I seem to be reading about now is people showing you all these recipes for things you can eat on a Paleo diet.  Like… Here’s an example of a recipe for a Paleo snack I saw the other day online, a legitamate, click-able link to a recipe with a photo and everything- A bag of baby carrots.  A damn bag of baby carrots.  If I see another ad to a Paleo ‘recipe’ on the internet I am going to scream like a caveman.

Click Here!!  Check out the new Paleo Food Pyramid!!  It’s so tiny you can fit it in your pocket!!
Click Here!!  The answers to all your diet troubles!!  Eat like a hairy, angry man!!
Click Here!! Paleo Bread that tastes just like bread!  

You know what else tastes just like bread? BREAD. 

There are recipes for Paleo protein powder for protein shakes, (Right.  Because that’s how those cavemen bulked up)…Paleo pizza (if you’re that desperate for a slice,
go eat one and stop calling yourself Paleo).  All these recipes, showing you how to Paleo-ize modern day comfort food and indulgences, defeat the entire purpose of what the socalled diet had in the first place.  A lot of these recipes use chemicals and processed food replacements, such as sugar replacements instead of refined sugar because there is no sugar on the Paleo diet.  Well, you know what else isn’t on the Paleo diet?  The real Paleo dietChemicals and processed food replacements.  But the best one I saw last night,
the main reason why I decided to go on this rant was a recipe for Paleo McGriddles. No. No.
No. No. That’s not a thing. The cavemen were not food processing starchy
vegetables and arrowroot powder to mimic a bun, nor did they have access to the equipment needed to
process soy to make a patty (let alone have access to a pig or a cow), nor did they use agave syrup…

Look, You can eat whatever you want to eat, whatever happens in your house is
your business.  But let’s call it what it is.  This whole Paleo mess is just
another (incorrect) name for low carb…without the dairy.  And I’m sure it ‘works’ for
people.  I’m sure people have as much success as they did when they did Adkins 10
years ago but it won’t last forever, it isn’t realistic, it isn’t healthy,
your water weight will come back, and most
importantly the vast majority of you are not eating a Paleo diet in any way
shape or form.  If you’re eating only (cooked) animal protein and fruits and veggies and
you simply must have a prehistoric era name for what you’re doing, you’re most likely eating
a Neo diet.

But either way you slice it, these were cavemen
who were eating what was around them to survive. They would eat you if they were
hungry.  They didn’t care.  They didn’t try to make something different out of
what they had…they just ate it.  And that’s what I suggest you do.  Take
advantage of what’s fresh and local around you, start a garden, buy a farm or a ranch and live off the land, or at the very least shop at your local farmer’s markets.  I
t’s what the cavemen would have
done. That’s the real Paleo.

But if you want a McGriddle, I can’t help you there. 


*Raw Vegetable Barley Salad
(This recipe is so easy that it barely deserves to be typed.  I’ve posted it before but it seemed perfect for this occasion.  There’s no dairy involved, or meat because it’s a side-dish, but some cubed feta would be an excellent additionIt’s delicious, healthy and whole and how we all should be eating, in my small opinion.  It can be adapted for any season, using whatever herbs, vegetables or fruits are available locally.  And you can easily sub quinoa, spelt or farro for the barley, you would just need to adapt the cooking time.)  

 In a medium mixing bowl, combine the following (when the barley is still warm)…
-1 1/2 cup cooked barley (barley, like most grains will double in size
after cooked.  I like to make extra so I can use it in lunches
throughout the week, and I cook mine in salted water.)
-the juice of half a lemon
-roughly 2 tsp of red wine vinegar
-light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
-good drizzle of agave nectar (honey can be subbed)
-1 small shallot, minced (or about 1/4 cup of minced red onion)
-kosher salt to taste

Toss this to combine and allow the warm barley to soak up the liquid.  Allow to cool a bit at room temperature before adding…
-1/2 raw, standard cucumber, seeded and diced
-2 large, raw carrots, peeled and diced
-handful of chopped, fresh parsley
Taste to check your seasoning, adding more salt or acid if necessary.
Toss well and serve either cold or room temperature

(To see the original post for this recipe, which includes a Lamb and Oven Roasted Tomato Gyro recipe, click HEREFor another barley recipe, check out my Pumpkin Barley Risotto.  And for similar easy salad recipes using farro, check out my Green Farro with Summer Vegetables., or my Cucumber Farro Salad For 2.)

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