Monday, January 11, 2010


I thought I was hip to diet trends—after all, I spend a lot of time thinking and reading about food. Low-fat, low-calorie, low-carb, Mediterranean, Japanese, no white foods, don’t eat after six, vegan until dinner (bwahahahaha), you name it. Yet the New York Times, that venerable institution, has enlightened me. Are you ready? Then behold, my darlings, the paleo-diet.

Once you’re done spluttering “What the fuck?” at these suave young urbanites who take pride in their meat lockers, blood donations, and days-long fasts (all designed to approximate the living conditions of early humans), let me know, because then we can have some fun. Believe me, I’m all for eating whole foods and not adulterating our diets with chemicals and preservatives and all that crap. But unless you’re actually planning to die at 30 as our ancestors did, this seems like a huge waste of energy. Never mind. They’re not interested in escaping modern life, just eating like they have.

Now, I realize that I’m basing my rebuttal on the Times piece. Perhaps my unwillingness to go deeper than the first few Google hits (one of which proudly links to an article entitled “The Naïve Vegetarian,” which I’m sure is a masterwork of scholarship unto itself) bespeaks an intellectual laziness, but the Times article is a feature, after all, not a conclusive examination of the modern caveman. (Curse you, Geico, for all the caveman pop-culture nonsense thou hast wrought.) So really, perhaps this will tend more towards an indictment of the silly, silly people the Times decided to profile. Well, then, so be it.

First, you’d probably like to know exactly what one eats on a paleo-diet:

“The caveman lifestyle, in [John] Durant’s interpretation, involves eating large quantities of meat and then fasting between meals to approximate the lean times that his distant ancestors faced between hunts. Vegetables and fruit are fine, but he avoids foods like bread that were unavailable before the invention of agriculture. Mr. Durant believes the human body evolved for a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, and his goal is to wean himself off what he sees as many millenniums of bad habits. These urban cavemen also choose exercise routines focused on sprinting and jumping, to replicate how a prehistoric person might have fled from a mastodon.”
Okay, Mr. Hunter-Gatherer. It was probably more like gatherer-hunter, but if you’re not going to cite your sources, then I won’t cite mine. Fleeing from a mastodon sounds like an excellent workout indeed, and I’m always in favor of whatever exercise gets you off the couch and moving your ass. At this point, I was mildly bemused, despite the sadness that gripped my heart at the prospect of no more bread or pasta. Then, my new friend decided to firmly locate himself at the intersection of Privileged White North American Male and Sexist Jackhole: “I didn’t want to do some faddish diet that my sister would do.” And he wonders why female guests might be turned off by his living-room meat locker?

In case you’re wondering, a woman, Melissa McEwen, is included in the article. She’s the token female among Durant’s cave-clan. Interestingly, she also refers to herself as a hunter-gatherer, despite the fact that both activities are tough to accomplish in New York. Yet she’s far from the most colorful character—‘scuse me, cave-person—profiled. That honor goes to Vladimir Averbukh, who takes his cave-diet to the extreme by eschewing tomatoes—“Cavemen don’t eat nightshades”—and eating his ground beef raw. Raw, people! Even for omnis, isn’t that horribly dangerous (see: digestive tract, NOT SHORT) as well as freakin’ gross? Cavemen, vote him off the island.

Oh, and lest you think that our cave-friends are happy to non-confrontationally bop around in their prehistoric corner of New York, think again: “They regularly grumble about vegans, whom they regard as a misguided, rival tribe.” YES! We did it! We succeeded in annoying a dozen New Yorkers who eat raw meat and argue over the appropriateness of tomatoes! We have threatened their meat lockers and jerky-making lessons and blood donations! My fellow tribe members, gather round. This calls for a celebration. Cruelty-free lasagna and cookies at my place tonight. Victory is ours!

How'd that TV series work out for you, ABC?


  1. Yes, we were not Hunter-gatherers, we were gatherer-hunters, at best, most likely gatherer-scavengers.

    And no, we did not start using tools to HUNT, we started using tools to help dig up roots, smash nuts and berries, etc.

    And no, we did not evolve communication skills to hunt and kill, we evolved communication skills to facilitate the gathering of plant matter and follow trails, and explain what we were doing to others in our group.

    Come on people, which is easier to do? Go out and run down a deer and rip it apart with my bare hands and wolf down the bloody flesh?

    Or....walk a few feet over to that bush and pluck a few berries or dig up the roots?

    Obviously, we, just like our nearest relatives, are supposed to be eating a vegan, or majority vegan, diet.

    This paleo crap sounds RIDICULOUS. Luckily, with all the meat they are ingesting this diet should prove it's own stupidity just as soon as the first massive coronaries start happening.

    I HATE the ridiculous notion that men must eat meat. When people find I'm vegan they often say 'but your husband isn't a vegan, right? Right?' It's like they are panicked by the idea. When I explain that hell yes he is a vegan they are crushed a little bit.

  2. It's even better when they assume that he must be vegan only because you *made* him, right? People think that about Red and I all. the. damn. time.

  3. haha, i don't think you needed to delve much deeper, from what I've read, that's basically all there is to it.

    this ties in to issues i have with evolutionary psychology (like, men need to procreate cuz that's what they DID in paleolithic times... RIGHT).

    i'm so gonna spend some time jumping up and down today and tell andrew it's cuz i'm practicing escaping from a mastodon. ya never can be too prepared!

  4. Then, for added paleolithic goodness, make a big show of feeling up Andrew's biceps and frown if they're not big enough to protect you and any future paleo-children from the mastodon! RAWR!

  5. hahaha RAWR!!! and he will say- 'ow, you pinched my biceps too hard!!!!'