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PaleoHipsters of New York
January 10, 2010 9:41 AM   Subscribe

The New Age Cavemen and the City: "The caveman lifestyle in New York was once a solitary pursuit. But Mr. Durant, who looks like a cheerful Jim Morrison, with shoulder-length curly hair, has emerged over the last year as a chieftain of sorts among 10 or so other cavemen." - Joseph Goldstein, writing in The New York Times.

Favorite quote:

“I like New York, but it’s hard to sit in a Midtown office all day,” said Ms. McEwen, a slim brunette, who prefers the term "hunter-gatherer" to describe her lifestyle.
posted by fourcheesemac (127 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Let it be said that few of their claims are actually based on anything sound.

Leaving aside the fact that good unbiased info on so-called hunter-gatherers is pretty rare, we don't really know that much about prehistoric human diet. We do know that it was much more varied than some would have us believe. Humans are, after all, quite the generalists, so claims that such-and-such diet is more "natural" are really not much more than pure romance.

After skimming the article, I'm pretty much going to say this is some weird expression of "the noble savage" and leave it at that.

Or, perhaps a reaction to that raw-foods trend?
posted by clvrmnky at 9:55 AM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Your pull-quote had my mouth all set for some real New-York style craziness, caveman clubs with animal-skin-wearing punk bands and tribal scarring, living in the tunnels, restaurants serving water buffalo, kids taking cave-painting lessons ...

So it's a bit of a letdown to see it's just a health craze. Oh well, to each their own.
posted by Bookhouse at 9:55 AM on January 10, 2010 [9 favorites]


Mr. De Vany’s blog promotes what he calls Evolutionary Fitness.

Ugh. I hate how "evolution" has joined "quantum" as a word to pin on to whatever bullshit you're peddling.
posted by brundlefly at 9:58 AM on January 10, 2010 [25 favorites]


Until they have a car that runs on foot-power and a baby elephant vaccuum cleaner, they're just fucking posuers, man.
posted by jonmc at 9:59 AM on January 10, 2010 [50 favorites]


Mr. Le Corre, 38, who once made soap for a living, promotes what he calls “mouvement naturel” at exercise retreats in West Virginia and elsewhere. His workouts include scooting around the underbrush on all fours, leaping between boulders, playing catch with stones, and other activities at which he believes early man excelled. These are the “primal, essential skills that I believe everyone should have,” he said in an interview.

This is a useful thing to know if you apply for a job with his organization.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:00 AM on January 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


Or if he ever asks you out on a date.
posted by mudpuppie at 10:03 AM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


These people seem to have very little familiarity with how hunter-gatherers actually live or lived.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:04 AM on January 10, 2010 [8 favorites]


Anecdotal evidence is piling up that humans are generally poorly adapted to a diet rich in carbohydrates. Some of us are better adapted to others; introducing a modern diet to any indiginous people seems to automatically cause a healthcare catastrophe. But some populations live on little other than rice and spices and stay healthy into their nineties. Others are in between, witha lot depending on how long your ancestors have been farming and what they farmed. And since the adaptation is recent it's not universal, and some unlucky people even in long-farming cultures suffer the consequence.

The #1 consequence is diabetes. Diabetes is the only health syndrome classified as an epidemic that is not contagious. Most of the other dreary consequences the cavemen are trying to avert are direct results of high blood sugar which doesn't have to get as high as you think to be dangerous; spiking above 140 mg/dl after a meal cannot be prevented by any drug if you are pre-diabetic and eat a potato, and those spikes progressively poison your pancreas, making the situation ever worse.

The cavemen have taken a kernel of truth -- a high carbohydrate diet is bad for a lot of people -- and rather irrationally extended this to other unrelated aspects of paleohuman lifestyle, which probably aren't as effective. Instead of reading Paleodiet, which is also full of New-Age generalities, I"d recommend anybody who is suspicious of their or a friend's health problems to read Life Without Bread which is by a doctor who has treated thousands of patients with the diet and carefully studied the results.
posted by localroger at 10:06 AM on January 10, 2010 [8 favorites]


I imagine a sort of meta-game among the hipsters of New York, where they meet over a latté and construct new niche lifestyles as bait for the style journalists, and see who they can entrap with ever weirder choices.

It's a challenging game of one-upsmanship, because success (i.e., getting the coveted writeup) draws n00bs and wannabes, diluting the lifestyle and forcing the originators to move on. Like the riddle "what's the hottest club in town?" ("The one you don't know about"), the game drives itself onwards, into more absurd modes of living.
posted by fatbird at 10:06 AM on January 10, 2010 [46 favorites]


Or if he ever asks you out on a date.

Having seen hundreds or thousands of resumes in my time, these skills would certainly catch my attention faster than the endless variations of "easily able to manage key deliverables in fast-paced environment" and "excellent interpersonal communication skills."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:07 AM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


The group’s lone woman, Melissa McEwen, 23, was searching for a treatment for stomach troubles. She started reading the blog of a 72-year-old retired economics professor who lives in Utah, Arthur De Vany.

Hmmm, this is never a good sign IMO.

Mr. De Vany seems a little Zany
posted by Windopaene at 10:19 AM on January 10, 2010


It's not just bollocks, it's mammoth bollocks...

The caveman lifestyle, in Mr. 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.
Macho bullshit. Most modern hunter-gatherer societies get most of their food intake from the 'gathered' bits; the meat's important, but weight for weight vegetables, fruits and the like are in the majority. The fact that women tend to be the gatherers is likely why he eschews those foods in his little 'I am man! Mighty hunter man!' fantasy.

Like his disciples in New York, he believes that ancient humans could perform physical feats that would awe the gym rats of today.
My great-grandma could carry sacks of coal up two flights of stairs in her 90s. It's bugger all to do with some magic paleolithic regime and everything to do with being very active, in difficult, muscular things from an early age.

His workouts include scooting around the underbrush on all fours, leaping between boulders, playing catch with stones, and other activities at which he believes early man excelled.
I want to invite anthropolgists and archaeologists round to laugh at them. Did he miss the bipedalism part of evolution? We've been walking about like this for a bloody long time, not going on all fours.

My overall interpretation: they're hip and eco, so can't over-compensate by having fast cars, so they pretend to be big butch cavemen.
posted by Coobeastie at 10:20 AM on January 10, 2010 [18 favorites]


“New York is the only city in America where you can walk,”

what
posted by fixedgear at 10:21 AM on January 10, 2010 [15 favorites]


“New York is the only city in America where you can walk,”

new york is the only city in america whose inhabitants could possibly believe something this absurd
posted by pyramid termite at 10:23 AM on January 10, 2010 [47 favorites]


Thank you fixedgear and pyramid termite: NYC centric weirdness drives me batty.

Also: I predict death by squirmy parasitic brainworm, which would be quite fitting.
posted by RedEmma at 10:28 AM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I imagine a sort of meta-game among the hipsters of New York, where they meet over a latté and construct new niche lifestyles as bait for the style journalists, and see who they can entrap with ever weirder choices.

Next up in NYT Fashion & Style: caveman-dates
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 10:30 AM on January 10, 2010


It's true, though. If they catch you walking in Boston or San Francisco, they'll hang some kind of blinking LED array around your neck and throw day-old bagels at you.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:31 AM on January 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


"Mr. Durant, 26, who works in online advertising, is part of a small New York subculture whose members seek good health through a selective return to the habits of their Paleolithic ancestors."

Ah...
posted by DanCall at 10:34 AM on January 10, 2010


“People treat walking like exercise,” he said, “but walking is how humans become humans.”

I'm pretty sure some humans in wheelchairs might find some evidence to the contrary.
posted by Hildegarde at 10:39 AM on January 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's a little ridiculous to take health cues from early man, whose average lifespan was only about 40 years.
posted by MegoSteve at 10:40 AM on January 10, 2010 [7 favorites]


I want to invite anthropolgists and archaeologists round to laugh at them.

I mustered a scoff and considerable eye-rolling.

There's so much misinformation and garbled thinking in this that it's actually more depressing than funny. But this, I felt, especially deserved comment:

The other cavemen in New York find Mr. Averbukh’s preference for raw beef a little strange.

“I draw the line at sushi,” Andrew Sanocki said. “Paleo man had fire, didn’t he?”


There were hunter/gatherers that ate more meat than veg (the Inuit for example), but they ate a lot of stuff raw because cooking destroys vitamin C. If you aren't eating veg then you have to get it from somewhere.

I guess the most frustratingly garbled ideas here are 1) that hunter-gatherers had a homogenous diet/lifestyle (it depended hugely on local resources: the Arctic is different from the Kalahari, is different from a tropical jungle, is different from the North American West Coast temperate zone, to name a few); and 2) that humans haven't evolved since the invention of agriculture. Humans 14000-12000 years ago were definitely sapiens, but they also had noticeably different physiology.
posted by carmen at 10:42 AM on January 10, 2010 [12 favorites]


Also, unless they live their daily life with a multi-generational band of people, they're completely missing the *main* health component of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle: rich, lasting, relationships with the same small group of people.

There's tons of evidence that what keeps people healthy in the long term is social connection-- and that we don't have anything like the number and quality of lasting social connections we evolved with. This is absolutely not to say that living with the same group of people all your life is paradise-- but there's a boatload more evidence supporting social connectedness as a key to longevity than there is about eating lots of meat and then fasting.

Women who do this should be absolutely sure they aren't pregnant, also: being either starving or overweight can set kids up for obesity and heart disease. Further, if you are doing a diet low calorie enough to count as caloric restriction, you're probably not doing it right if you are still fertile!

High stress sets your genes up for a nasty, brutish short life-- and if there's a baby in the womb, that's what its genes will be set up for, too. What these people are missing is that the stress of hunter-gatherer life probably didn't maximize longevity, but rather, survival long enough to reproduce and keep your kids alive till puberty when they could start doing so.
posted by Maias at 10:45 AM on January 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


Pretentious idiots... the worst kind...

Reminds me of some of the screwball cults/mental health techniques/hippie garbage of the 60's.

But, they won't last long, eventually someone will talk all of them into drinking the kool-aid....
posted by HuronBob at 10:46 AM on January 10, 2010


I want to invite anthropolgists and archaeologists round to laugh at them. Did he miss the bipedalism part of evolution? We've been walking about like this for a bloody long time, not going on all fours.

Scoff all you want, but there's alot of merit in ginastica/ mouvement naturel. Look on it as a kind of dynamic yoga.
posted by the cuban at 10:47 AM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


NY TIMES STYLE SECTION : Yet another thing that only 10 people are doing is now somehow a trend.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:52 AM on January 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Are they all planning to off themselves at age 33, you know, for that full on hipster upper paleolithic authenticity? 'Cause if not, they're poseurs.
posted by tractorfeed at 10:56 AM on January 10, 2010


I guess the most frustratingly garbled ideas here are 1) that hunter-gatherers had a homogenous diet/lifestyle (it depended hugely on local resources: the Arctic is different from the Kalahari, is different from a tropical jungle, is different from the North American West Coast temperate zone

Excellent point. You never see paleo guys talking about eating clams, oysters and mussels -- excellent sources of protein with rock-simple gathering techniques.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:57 AM on January 10, 2010


"It's a little ridiculous to take health cues from early man, whose average lifespan was only about 40 years."

As much as the original article is misguide and misinformed, we should question any claims that early man, in general, did not have a similar lifespan to (relatively) recently studied hunter-gatherers like the Inuit. The information we have suggests that hunter-gatherer lifespans were, by and large, similar to contemporary, urbanized humans.

We need too revise that "nasty, brutish" short-hand, at least in terms of longevity of robust individuals. The evidence we have just does not support it.
posted by clvrmnky at 10:59 AM on January 10, 2010


what a bunch of posers. if they really wanted to mimic a caveman's diet, they'd eat more bugs. i don't see any of them eating ants on the sidewalk during their lunch breaks. cheap, easy source of protein, guys.
posted by lester at 11:02 AM on January 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Not to crap in my own thread or anything, but just to be clear that this was posted in the spirit of WTF? I *am* an anthropologist, actually, and do work with what was a hunter-gatherer society, and consume a fair bit of raw meat as a result.

Maias also nails a key point about the concomitant intergenerational social organization of such societies as one of their chief adaptational innovations. I would also add that working out for three hours before you eat a big meal does not simulate "hunting," which is a total engagement of the mind and the body and the spirit in a task that defines your existence as a hunter, or a member of a hunter's family. One is never *not* hunting. It is not merely the exertion of caloric energy. It is the essential experiential component of the hunter's mind and hunting cultures. Killing consciously is at its center, and unless you've actually participated in the acts of killing and butchering for subsistence, you have no idea how much mental labor is involved in being a subsistence hunter. You can't simulate that by doing bench presses and working as a web developer. You must live on the same landscape as your prey.
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:03 AM on January 10, 2010 [36 favorites]


I"d recommend anybody who is suspicious of their or a friend's health problems to read....

I hate "fixed that for you" nonsense, but I'd leave friends out of it unless they're specifically asking you for dietary or medical advice. Or unless you're deliberately trying to lose your friends.

Signed, someone who has been on the receiving end of unwanted health advice.
posted by Salieri at 11:03 AM on January 10, 2010


they're completely missing the *main* health component of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle: rich, lasting, relationships with the same small group of people.

OH GOD NO that would be the worst part about being some noble savage/Na'vi hunter-gatherer. Can you imagine being stuck with your parents, grandparents, cousins and arranged-marriage-inlaws for the rest of your life?!?!?!?

Man, fuck that noise. I would gouge my eyes out with an obsidian arrowhead before I have to see Aunty T'kuneah in her smelly loincloth 'n pasties that she's been wearing since before time fucking began. Or listen to my dad drone on and on about how I'm nothing like S'ureyah, who was the best hunter he ever saw, and wasn't it a shame he was born into that other tribe instead of ours, blah blah blah.

No, hand me that fucking blanket. Yeah, the one with the smallpox. Yeah and some whiskey. I'll need some guns, too. Thanks, white dudes! you guys are the best.
posted by Avenger at 11:05 AM on January 10, 2010 [15 favorites]


You never see paleo guys talking about eating clams, oysters and mussels

Or bugs. Bugs! Termites & Grubs! Now those are some easily gathered nutritious foods.
posted by morganw at 11:06 AM on January 10, 2010


FU, Battlestar Galactica finale, for probably inspiring this crap.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:08 AM on January 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


NY TIMES STYLE SECTION : Yet another thing that only 10 people are doing is now somehow a trend.

Indeed. If you're already neck-deep in self-parody and then you jump a caricature of a shark, what do you even call the place where you land? The Happy Trendhunting Ground? Ironichalla? Uncorny Valley?

Seriously, this could be an Onion Sunday Magazine cover story by changing nothing but the URL.
posted by gompa at 11:09 AM on January 10, 2010 [9 favorites]


The fact that women tend to be the gatherers is likely why he eschews those foods in his little 'I am man! Mighty hunter man!' fantasy.

I noticed this too, along with this telling little quote:

“I didn’t want to do some faddish diet that my sister would do,” Mr. Durant said.

Like, diets are for chicks, man. Like salads and shit. This is the way Real Men eat!
posted by Salieri at 11:12 AM on January 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Pretentious idiots... the worst kind...

You know, they don't strike me this way. To me they seem like just another group of people that have decided they've found a way they believe might yield a better life for them and are going at it with gusto, even if they didn't arrive at it by a particularly scientific methodology (which, let's face it, most of us don't). I didn't see any remarks about weak, pathetic, carb eaters. Maybe they were there and the writers chose to ignore that angle. Or, maybe they're no more snide than average TV-averse specimen. Certainly no more pretentious than people who think they're going to escape the norm and live an atypically better life by getting really good at science, studying philosophy closely, really following their heart, being a truly original artist or general iconoclast, understanding money, being a religious disciple, being a committed cynic or optimist, etc., it goes on and on. Which is to say, probably like most of us at some point, except for a few who unfortunately never had any of the pride and zeal of fresh young adulthood. And these guys seem to have more discipline about it than many of us.

Not that I'm unhappy to read critical evaluations of their actual choices. I just think it's worth pointing out whatever their failings might be, rather than being "the worst kind," they're probably not uncommon.
posted by weston at 11:13 AM on January 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


Wow tractorfeed, that Wiki page sure has a lot of apples, oranges, kumquats, and rutabagas all lying around together.

Life expectancy at birth is not a very good measure of lifespan. For one thing, infant and childhood mortality was much higher before the Industrial Revolution, so there really weren't a lot of people dropping dead at 33; what it was was a lot of people dropping dead as kids averaged with a lot of people living into their 60's and the usual smattering of accidents, raids, wars, and diseases. The fact that the cave guys are probably not going to eschew modern medical care for things like accidents or get raided by the neighboring tribe and have already reached adulthood will work in their favor.

And in any case, why would they pull the plug at the average age of death for people of their lifestyle? Seriously, there's lots to criticize here, but life expectancy is not one of those things. There are far too many other factors at play.
posted by localroger at 11:14 AM on January 10, 2010


No, hand me that fucking blanket. Yeah, the one with the smallpox. Yeah and some whiskey. I'll need some guns, too. Thanks, white dudes! you guys are the best.

For some reason I don't find this nearly as funny as I think you intended it to be.
posted by jokeefe at 11:15 AM on January 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Humans 14000-12000 years ago were definitely sapiens, but they also had noticeably different physiology.

That sounds interesting. How so?
posted by weston at 11:16 AM on January 10, 2010


“I didn’t want to do some faddish diet that my sister would do,” Mr. Durant said.

That sums it up for me. A bunch of guys so desperately wanting to be different and stand out that they latch on to the lifestyle that is the least like their friends' and families'.

Vegans? No way. Healthy diet? Let's eat tons of red meat instead and then fast and run around to make up for it! Bah.
posted by misha at 11:17 AM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Have any of these people read Cryptonomicon?
posted by b1tr0t at 11:22 AM on January 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


OH GOD NO that would be the worst part about being some noble savage/Na'vi hunter-gatherer. Can you imagine being stuck with your parents, grandparents, cousins and arranged-marriage-inlaws for the rest of your life?!?!?!?

Avenger, I don't have to imagine too hard, as I participate in such a world regularly. Perhaps I do so because I feel as you do about my own kinship networks. I practice what I call "postmodern kinship," which is to say, I choose which relatives I claim as my kin, and am closer to non-kin social networks of my own free adult choice.

Just as I said about hunting, above, traditional kinship-based social organization is something total. It's not like a reversion to such a thing by choice, or the pale shadow of intergenerational density familiar to most urban westerners now, with our nuclear family focus and deep individualism embedded even within our collective values. If you are born into such a world, it is as natural to you as the weak kinship bonds you now take for granted, and to leave it would be just as wrenching to you. There, in a nutshell, is one of the biggest psychocultural challenges facing the world's indigenous communities as they integrate their traditions (or try to maintain them separately) with modern ones like they wash down raw seal meat with RockStar energy drink.

I won't say much about it, but consider this: the indigenous world has embraced social networking online at a rate that is just stunning. Almost all of my Native friends are on facebook, and I mean *on* it (and before that, Bebo and MySpace), using it in ways that are distinctively Native to sustain elaborate ties of kinship over distance and time the way you and I might use it to keep our college networks alive as we move into our professional careers (oh, to be young enough to embody that example again). As a fictive ("adopted") kinsman, I find myself on facebook constantly just trying to keep up my social obligations to my "family," in a way I never bothered to use social networking before.

There are some real adaptive advantages to the intergenerational integration of traditional strong kinship-based social organization at the level of subsistence hunter-gathererculture. There are some real disadvantages to having to move between such a system and the "modern" one(s) many of us take for granted, and some interesting advantages too. There are real costs that follow from bulldozing such a system, fine tuned to a particular ecological niche over thousands of years, and replacing it with rationalized Western categories over less than a few generations. But there may be some surprising emergent advantages -- or lessons for all of us -- that follow from the creative synthesis of such systems with modern social challenges. One of the remarkable things about the way the *global* indigenous world has embraced the web, for example, is that it has hugely facilitated political alliances between indigenous groups in different parts of the world, who nonetheless have similar ("tribal") understandings of social organization that are relatively readily inter-translatable. There are a lot of marriages going on these days between Pacific Islanders and Alaskan Inuits, for example, and the cultural synthesis is relatively smooth (smoothed even more by a shared embrace of Christianity). This is creating kinship-level bonds that have political significance between formerly discrete and separated indigenous communities.

Not sure what this has to do with hipsters who like steak tartare, but there you have it.
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:23 AM on January 10, 2010 [37 favorites]


Salieri, I did not have to force my ideas on anybody. Everybody took note when I suddenly and without obvious effort lost 40 lb, stopped having attacks of gout, and became noticeably more energetic and healthy. Not everybody took the advice, but everybody did want to know what was up. One lady who kept putting it off finally tried the diet a couple of years after I suggested it because her doctor told her it was that or Metformin. After two weeks she was telling everyone who would listen "I should have listened to Roger!"

The beautiful thing about this is that the feedback is instant; you don't have to follow a difficult course for months to see if something happens. You borrow a glucose meter and take a couple of tests. It is completely unambiguous. You may or may not stick to the diet, you may or may not get such dramatic results, but you will know whether you have a problem or not and something that can be done about it. Your body can either handle carbohydrates or it can't, and if it can't the result shows up within half an hour or so when you drink a glass of orange juice. You may not be feeling it yet, but if that number is starting over 100 and boinging to 160 it will eventually kill you.

If you value your friends and they have the symptoms of diabetes you should hound them (as gently as necessary) to the gates of Hell, because if you do not you are going to lose them anyway. And probably quite horribly, after a lot of suffering.
posted by localroger at 11:26 AM on January 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yes, life expectancy at birth does not equal average age of death for an adult. I wish people would stop saying that.

Also, the agricultural revolution produced a net decline in human health by almost any definition. People became shorter, slighter, and show more nutritional stress and infectious disease than before agriculture -- until very, very recently. And they worked much harder to regress in that manner. So recently and narrowly is there a health benefit to agriculture, in fact, that I think the jury is out on whether the kind of industrialized agriculture which supports our technological society is going to be sustainable or even a net benefit.

Anyway, yes these clowns get a lot of things wrong, most noticeably a facile notion of what being a hunter is (as fourcheesemac points out), but in the sense they are having some fun in a healthy manner I am not going to sit behind my keyboard and mock them too hard.
posted by Rumple at 11:29 AM on January 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


I won't say much about it, but consider this: the indigenous world has embraced social networking online at a rate that is just stunning.

I hope you'll reconsider the first part of that---this is the most interesting take on social networking I've seen in awhile. Flagged as fantastic (and would love to hear/read more).
posted by availablelight at 11:30 AM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


These urban cavemen also choose exercise routines focused on sprinting and jumping, to replicate how a prehistoric person might have fled from a mastodon.

In a city crowded with vegetarian restaurants and yoga studios, the cavemen defy other people’s ideas of healthy living. There is an indisputable macho component to the lifestyle.

“I didn’t want to do some faddish diet that my sister would do,” Mr. Durant said.


Hahahahahaha! Whoooooo, hoo hoo hoo hoo!

Oh, my. Oh, my.

Whew! Man. best laugh I've had all week.
posted by toodleydoodley at 11:31 AM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


See, New York – this is why you have to forgive Texas. You really, really have to forgive Texas. Texas is just sitting over there, trying ever-so-hard to be the modern, respectable state that it knows it is. You probably don't know how many Democrats there are in Texas, for example – a lot more than you'd think. Texas doesn't want to be the backwoods yokel state, or the country state, or the "we think New York is goofy" state – that's really not who Texas is at all. Texas wants to be an egalitarian state, a state respectful of others and full of dignity, with none of this crap about petty rivalries between the East Coast and the West.

But then, New York – then you go and do a thing like this. And now, all over Texas, people who at least know what it means to ride a horse or hunt your dinner read about New Yorkers working out before eating sushi because it's like "we’ve gone out and killed something, and now we have to eat it," and scowling at tomatoes because "cavemen don’t eat nightshades" –

Well, New York, you have to forgive Texas if the entire state breaks out in a big goddamned belly laugh.
posted by koeselitz at 11:32 AM on January 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


Is "caveman lifestyle" the politically correct term for C.H.U.D.?
posted by ecurtz at 11:32 AM on January 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


If you value your friends and they have the symptoms of diabetes you should hound them (as gently as necessary) to the gates of Hell

No you shouldn't. No, no, no, no, no. Fuck that.

If your diet is truly so awesome and life-changing as you claim, and people ask you for advice, awesome. But no one needs proselytizers in their life.
posted by Salieri at 11:32 AM on January 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


fourcheesemac, flagged as fantastic. That comment was worth having to read about the linked article in the FPP.
posted by jokeefe at 11:34 AM on January 10, 2010


I am really surprised that this article did not mention this book. I got it when it first came out, but I soon found that living like that was not that much, um, fun.

It's good information to have though.
posted by Danf at 11:35 AM on January 10, 2010


bc every drawing of a caveman i've ever seen, they seem so hot...
posted by fuzzypantalones at 11:37 AM on January 10, 2010


He's a caveman who doesn't live in a cave? Doesn't that make him...

.....ApartmentMan! Able scrabble about in the bush on all fours and play catch with stones!

Does this guy use electricty? Then he's not a caveman. Does he shower? Then he's not a caveman. He's just some guy, like the guy who lives in a cave and then blogs about how he hates capitalism, who thinks he has a neat idea. I wish him luck with it, but I can't help feeling it's all a little illogical.
posted by Solomon at 11:43 AM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


FU, Battlestar Galactica finale, for probably inspiring this crap.

Hey, they were going to be farmers! Anyhow, we can't blame the paleo diet on BSG; it's been around for quite some time. The more "mainstream" version of the regime as I remember it is really just the healthy-organic-hippie diet minus the starchy carbs and plus animal protein.

I.e., no flour or processed or pre-made foods, little to no grain (and only whole grains), no legumes, lots of nuts, greens, veggies, and the less sugary fruits, healthy fats (sardines, olive oil, avocados, etc.), and a variety of lean protein -- and indeed as much variety in food as you can manage. I never felt better in my life than when I came relatively close to that approach, except for the animal fats.
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:48 AM on January 10, 2010


The depressing part is that both the writer and subjects seem complicit in making the notion of modern people eating in a pre-agrarian style to be absurd and indulgent, even though I'm sure it's really true that there is a lot of value to eating more like your pre-ag ancestors ate.

I was just reading earlier that all the NBA is hot to find out what Old Steve Nash is eating because he's shed his back pain tendency and is playing like a 22-year-old. He's not eating raw meat and roots, but he is eating a lot of minimally processed chicken, fish, fruit, nuts and leaves. is that what's making him feel and play better? maybe.

I'd love to know what and how my forbears ate, suspecting it would probably be a lot of shellfish and inshore fish and...what else? stuff I love anyway. could I be a lot healthier than I am now? Probably. would it cost me a lot in money, time and travel, given the current food institutions in the rural US South? yup. OTOH, as localroger says, you can just stop eating some stuff that's not working, pretty much for free.

bottom line, both the subject of the article and the writer knew what they were doing when they sprung that "fad diet...my sister" crap, and that's too bad. because that's the part you remember.
posted by toodleydoodley at 11:49 AM on January 10, 2010


Salieri, it's not that my diet is awesome and life-changing. It was for me, but wouldn't be for anyone whose glucose control is adequate. What is awesome andl life changing is that I had a terrible disease, and I found out about it before it became too terrible to easily treat and terrible enough to kill me.

This is what I tell people who have prediabetic symptoms, and nobody has ever expressed resentment over it: You really ought to borrow a meter and check yourself. Really. You should. I don't tell this to people who don't seem to have the problem. And after a couple of suggestions, if I realize they're totally in denial and just aren't going to do it, I let go, because some people just don't care and at that point it's moot. But to not let them know is tantamount to not caring whether they live or die.

Sometimes it's the doctors' fault, and there's not much you can do about that. Sometimes. It was my mother's diagnosis of Type II that made me suspicious, and when my parents saw my improvement they asked what was going on, and I told them. So she started eating to the meter too, even though she was on a drug that stimulates insulin production. The first time they showed their records to the doctor he told them they were wasting their time.

The second time, six months later, he reduced her drug dosage and asked for photocopies.

So this is not about diets fad or otherwise, or some cool group of paleo poseurs; this is about a disease that causes great suffering, kills more people than automobiles, and can easily be treated without drugs if it is caught early. If you do not care whether your friends live or die, I have to wonder why you value their friendship at all.
posted by localroger at 11:51 AM on January 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Further, if you are doing a diet low calorie enough to count as caloric restriction, you're probably not doing it right if you are still fertile!

The loss of menstruation is one of the criteria for anorexia, so you should definitely not restrict calories to the point you stop menstrating.

I am not sure if there was something I missed, but this part of your comment lunged out at me, Maias. Stopping menstuation is a sign that something is very wrong, not a goalpost on the way to being healthy.
posted by winna at 11:53 AM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Like fourcheesemac, I have lived and worked with aboriginal people who are doing the complex tango with the outside world, the off-island world. I don't claim any special insight, but it would be good if everyone could realise the seriousness with which kinship, for example, is taken and like 4cm I have seen how these connections are now being maintained on facebook and other social media -- a third space between the rez and the "urban Indian" is being created. By taking it seriously, I don't mean that it is somber or solemn in any way, just that it is close to the soul and none can ignore it.

With the group I work with mostly, not as a cultural anthropologist, the society has historically been divided into two "exogamous moieties" , kin groups whose members must marry a member of the opposite group - the Ravens and the Eagles. All kinds of accomodations are now made to assign outsiders to one group or the other so they can "marry in". But a naturally-born Eagle, and Eagle whose mother is Eagle before him, will still not marry or have a relationship with a Raven.

So very anthropological, you may think, and old-fashioned, quaint, and so forth. Or, you may think, how restrictive, and arbitrary, and constraining and, uh, primitive.

But the sense of this can be seen at any bar (you don't need to out to a fishing camp or some apparently "traditional" locale) -- say, a young Eagle chats up a young man or woman in the bar. Soon, the talk turns, by one means or another, to clan membership -- often by proxy of, who is your mother? Your grandmother? (kinship is determined through women). It soon becomes clear, even if not stated, if the other person is Eagle or Raven. If Raven, then romantic game on.

But if both are Eagles, then the conversation becomes even more interesting -- the person is now fitted into a relationship that is more brother/sister and the sexual tension is converted into affectionate flirting, as there is no "risk" of a relationship forming. The outcome being, social relationships are formed and reinforced -- there is not much 'striking out', so to speak, because failure in the one dimension is success in the other. And these social networks then, truly represent the backbone, the strength, of the society, a society under intense ecological, social, and technological pressures. It then becomes a small step to see these networks instantiated and reinforced on the internet as well. There are no neutral people in this society, there are no "nobodies", no "unpersons" everyone is someone (for better or worse - I am not spinning this as everyone has equal respect) - but the social dance to the music of kinship is something extremely profound.

Therefore, yes, there are some concerns with people dabbling with some huntery-gatherery things but if it does point people towards different ways of being rooted in this postmodern, fragmentary, contingent and centrifugal world, then I am all for it.
posted by Rumple at 11:54 AM on January 10, 2010 [15 favorites]


Well, New York, you have to forgive Texas if the entire state breaks out in a big goddamned belly laugh.

I'm from Texas, and live in New York. You have to realize this article's about 10 people in a city of 8 million, you know. In the NYT Style section, fer chrissakes. It represents nothing.

Meanwhile, you guys voted for Bush and McCain, as a state. Oh snap!
posted by fungible at 11:56 AM on January 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also:

Mr. Le Corre, 38, who once made soap for a living,

OMG HE'S TYLER DURDEN
posted by fungible at 11:57 AM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


You laugh article, me like. Me favorite article, no snark.
posted by mattholomew at 12:15 PM on January 10, 2010



The loss of menstruation is one of the criteria for anorexia, so you should definitely not restrict calories to the point you stop menstrating.

I am not sure if there was something I missed, but this part of your comment lunged out at me, Maias. Stopping menstuation is a sign that something is very wrong, not a goalpost on the way to being healthy.


My point was that I'm not sure caloric restriction *is* healthy-- if it's true that the reason metabolism slows down and lengthens life is to basically "wait" until circumstances are less stressful and more propitious for reproduction, if your body is working well enough to reproduce, the diet might not be doing what it's supposed to in order to shut down enough to have "benefit." I don't think the animals in the studies that showed lengthened life reproduced-- but I could be wrong.

And there could be a sweet spot where you are still fertile but have your metabolism slowed. But then there wouldn't be much evolutionary sense in the mechanism.
posted by Maias at 12:17 PM on January 10, 2010


I get your point, localroger, and I apologize if I'm overreacting.

I think the reason I'm reacting so strongly to this is that there's this undercurrent in modern society that Health Is Everything - and that your health is wholly and entirely under your control. And that the way to control your health is through your diet.

I'm not denying here the importance of a balanced diet that focuses on whole foods, and the importance of physical activity. I think those are both very, very good things, and I'm trying to improve myself in regards to both of those. Improving your diet/exercise is usually a benefit health-wise, no question. But I'm also concerned by this attitude I see (and I'm speaking more broadly here, not just in regards to this thread) that we, as humans, have complete control of our health, and if we're unhealthy then we've fucked up in some way.

Everything - from diabetes to cancer to migraines to back pain - becomes something we can control. It leaves out a hell of a lot of nuance, ignoring important things like genes and environment and whatnot. Frankly, it doesn't strike me as any better than the people who would blame your cancer on the sins you committed against God in the past. In this mindset, Good People don't get sick - only the smokers and fatties and people who have desk jobs. If there's something wrong with you, it's your fault for not eating better.

There's also the issue with how this attitude treats those with disabilities and chronic health conditions, and those who rely on modern medicine to sustain their lives. Not everyone can do the "all natural" thing, and in modern America, if you're not one of the Healthy you're nobody.

I want to emphasize that this isn't about you, localroger. Your comment just triggered some thoughts for me.
posted by Salieri at 12:18 PM on January 10, 2010 [8 favorites]


Fourcheesemac: I have totally seen the rapid uptake of social networking too in the E. Asian diaspora. I would go so far as to say that the kinship/clan/chosen subgroup loyalty network model is the norm throughout the world. It is the atomized, shut in culture of the USA that is the exception.
posted by wuwei at 12:19 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


localroger, I am so with you in spirit, because several members of my extended family have been diabetic for going on a decade or more. some of them just take their insulin, grudgingly, and go on with their same lifestyle, diet, and refusal to exercise, occasionally bitching about the magazine story they read that told them that taking insulin was making them fat. at least one is actively using (abusing) her uncontrolled diabetes for weight loss, deliberately eating food she can't process and refusing insulin in order to stay thin.

not everybody behaves rationally WRT health. for some people, saving face and being in control - ie: eating what they want rather than what they should - is more important than survival, even. I wish I could nag (in a good way) as effectively as you. instead, my family and I are stuck watching (and riding) a train wreck in slow motion, powerless to take any of the (many) available vital diversions.

btw congratulations on persuading your parents and a big thump on the head to their doctor. who knows how many people he misadvised before finally seeing the light.
posted by toodleydoodley at 12:23 PM on January 10, 2010


Can you imagine being stuck with your parents, grandparents, cousins and arranged-marriage-inlaws for the rest of your life?!?!?!?

Possibly this is the very impulse which led bands of hunter-gatherers to split and wander away from each other, from the kindly African and Mediterranean heartlands all the hell of the way to Tierra del Fuego over the past fifty thousand years.

Still, I wonder about this very question. Most of us here on Metafilter live in an atomized society in which nuclear and extended families have quarreled, split, and let their members live individually due to a whole host of factors that may not have been at play in the Paleolithic. Economic disparities; abuse and denial; untreated mental illness; large-scale societal pressures such as religious prejudice and racism. . . what would your family have been like if they didn't have to face some of this, or had a tight-knit net for help?

It is possible, I think, that one's own family was less likely to be unbearable if you lived in a Paleolithic culture. This is not to suggest that it would have been so for everyone, certainly not anyone unlucky enough to be born different -- an albino, say, or one of a pair of twins. (I've read Sick Societies and I'm certainly familiar with the nasty downsides of, say, being Yanomamo; but they are not a Paleolithic people.) Maybe we were just a bit less difficult in our kin-groups when there were fewer of us.

Anyway! I am certainly glad for anyone that is healthy and thriving on an all-meat diet, but I aver that it makes you no more of a paleo-badass than drinking lots of beer puts you in touch with the wisdom of the ancient Sumerians.
posted by Countess Elena at 12:29 PM on January 10, 2010


Atkins Diet with attitude. Paleo attitude...
posted by zaelic at 12:35 PM on January 10, 2010


Just note: they were doing this before the Neanderthals found out about it and made it uncool.
posted by fuq at 12:40 PM on January 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


i stopped at "works in online advertising".
posted by billybobtoo at 12:45 PM on January 10, 2010


Salieri: I want to emphasize that this isn't about you, localroger. Your comment just triggered some thoughts for me.

Fair enough, and you're right that there are a lot of nags out there. Some people have admired my improvement, said I might have a point, then shrugged and said they couldn't face life without spaghetti. At that point there is nothing much to be done with the situation, and you're right that no more badgering should be done.

You make a very interesting point about how all these theories shift blame to the individual, which is a very pernicious truth. Is it our fault for eating potatoes, or McDonald's for bundling them with two pieces of bread and a bunch of sugar water at every meal and conditioning us to think that is normal?
posted by localroger at 12:51 PM on January 10, 2010


Came expecting crust punks who go upstate to hunt wild game for a food supply stayed for the comment snark.
posted by wcfields at 12:54 PM on January 10, 2010


toodley -- yikes. Yes, diagnosed diabetics are some of the hardest to talk to because they think the situation is "handled." I tell them, my resting glucose was only 110, my a1c was probably 5 or 6, and doing this improved my health a thousand percent because I cut out spiking after meals -- and they're taking a basal dose and eating bagels for breakfast and poboys on french bread for lunch and pasta for dinner and with a little prodding you can get them to admit that yeah, it's usually 250 after the pasta bowl but they don't care.

As for the girl who's abusing insulin to stay thin, I hope she's never alone so someone will be there to take her to the ER when she slips up and goes into insulin shock. I know a guy who died that way, and that was before I discovered my own condition (and one reason I was really motivated to find a non-insulin answer to my problem, since the insulin can kill you a hell of a lot faster than the diabetes).
posted by localroger at 12:58 PM on January 10, 2010


Cool Papa Bell: "You never see paleo guys talking about eating clams, oysters and mussels -- excellent sources of protein with rock-simple gathering techniques."

The only person I know who does the "caveman diet" loves eating seafood, especially shellfish. He lives ion the coast in New England, so it's pretty convenient for him (although his current Facebook status says the harbor was too frozen for him to gather any oysters).
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:59 PM on January 10, 2010


I'm sorry, but living in a cave is not a good thing.

I grew up on a farm in Montana where we raised much of our own food and hunted/fished whenever we could. Our house was heated in the winter (8 degrees F there now) with one wood stove, and we either gathered wood every spring or froze to death in the winter. Even with running water and electricity it sucked. But that is just my opinion.

But.... could I have lived that life in New York? Of course not. Try even storing several cords of firewood in a NY loft.

My point is... if these fucking morons want to live a hunter gatherer life style, go do it. I dare them. Montanans are happy to sell city-fied idiots a shack next to a stream in the mountains for quadruple what it's worth (less than a bad parking spot in NY). First step - buy guns. They feed you. Pro tip - When you shoot an owl or coyote going after your rabbits/chickens, nail it next to the door of the barn. Seems to actually work. The bigger the compost pile, the better. A big dog and a feral cat will be able to guard your property better than you can, so make them part of the family. Good luck hipster fucktards.
posted by y6y6y6 at 1:00 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


on re-reading -- oh she's refusing insulin so she can eat pasta without getting fat. Ask her how that's working out when she starts losing feeling in her toes.
posted by localroger at 1:00 PM on January 10, 2010


I think the "cavemen" mystique these people have built up around their diet is more than a little silly, but I'm not surprised it works for them -- a low-carb diet like this one did a lot for my reactive arthritis, when nothing else worked.

The average American diet is ridiculously heavy on empty carbs, especially when compared to the diets we ate in antiquity (and I mean all of them: yes, there were a stunning variety of different ancient diets, but if you can find me one where people commonly ate the equivalent of six slices of bread and 64 oz. of Mountain Dew once a day, I'll be shocked. Not even a rice-heavy traditional diet comes close to the carbpocalypse that is a meal at a diner or fast-food place.) It's not surprising that cutting carbs can make a huge difference in health, regardless of what else you're eating -- IMHO, these guys would probably be better off if they ate more vegetables, nuts, and fruits (you know, like hunter-gatherers did!), but simply cutting carbs goes a long way.

As for "couldn't face life without spaghetti", I used to say the same damn thing, but it's amazing how fast stabbing joint pain trains you not to enjoy pasta. Besides, if you sautee a bag of broccoli slaw, it works as delicious and surprisingly convincing "noodles" under spaghetti sauce...
posted by vorfeed at 1:03 PM on January 10, 2010


on re-reading -- oh she's refusing insulin so she can eat pasta without getting fat. Ask her how that's working out when she starts losing feeling in her toes.

there is no reasoning, or even sarcasm, in the face of the perverse.
posted by toodleydoodley at 1:12 PM on January 10, 2010


Several years ago, I stumbled on a linktrail that led to a smattering of sites and discussion groups supporting an online subculture devoted to paleo-fetishizing this and that, including diet. Sadly, there was not enough meat on the bone to really produce a worthwhile MeatFilter post and so my researches flagged. One supposes that there may now be more material available for the armchair anthropologist or anthrophagist to assemble such a post.
posted by mwhybark at 1:12 PM on January 10, 2010


> traditional kinship-based social organization is something total

In these societies, how do people deal with other people they don't like? Surely there must be some amount of friction, antagonism, rivalry, etc within families and larger groups, so how do they handle it?
posted by Quietgal at 1:30 PM on January 10, 2010


Have any of these people read Cryptonomicon?

I have, but I don't remember a part that addressed something like this. Remind me?
posted by billy pilgrim at 1:34 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Since this article is partially about me (yes, I'm the Melissa in the article), I think I should address some of the comments....there certainly are plenty, which is good because people really should be thinking about this.

John and Vlad eat rather meaty diets, but I personally eat mostly vegetables, seafood, and some meat on the side. I very much recognize the gatherer aspect. When I lived in Sweden I regularly went out in the forest and gathered mushrooms, berries, and various other medicinal plants. The article doesn't mention that we all buy our meat from farmers we know and sometimes even hunt our own animals. I'm personally pretty poor, so I eat lots of err...less prime cuts and I do consume some tubers.

I minored in anthropology and became interested in benefits of hunter-gatherer-like diets because of what I learned from my classes and readings. I recognize that there is no one special diet, that these cultures are and were very diverse, which is actually awesome because it means that there are plenty of eating options.

I am also aware of the genetic changes that have occurred in agrarian populations. The known changes are NOT drastic and allow for better digestion of starch and dairy, but probably do not completely mitigate the other negative effects of these foods.

One food in particular, gluten, has effects that can be mild enough in sensitive individuals that they don't even know to blame their problems on it. Celiac disease is very underdiagnosed, but gluten sensitivity is increasingly recognized in the scientific literature and is even more underdiagnosed. A certain % of the population is immune to gluten sensitivity, but it's not 50% yet and it's possible the selection pressure isn't strong enough. It's even more important for the very few people who really are descended from more recent hunter-gatherers to not eat foods like sugar. Metabolic syndrome has completely devastated such populations, such as Native Americans. My ex was a Sami (not hunter-gatherers, but not truly agrarian either) and his family really struggled with obesity and diabetes, while the Swedes around them remained svelte. Genes do matter in terms of severity of the effect, but I do believe most people can benefit from a paleo diet.

I was very ill before I adopted this diet and I am very happy not to be suffering anymore.

I was also a vegan before and I am very much aware of animal suffering. I have a degree in agriculture and also have slaughtered animals myself. I have read many vegan books, from The China Study to The Face on Your Plate , but ultimately the health I experience now is good enough that unless my physician tells me my cholesterol is through the roof...I think I'll keep eating this way. The only health issue I've had trouble with is hypotension, so I now consume salt again.

I also work in sustainable agriculture, so I get to hear lots about how meat is causing climate change. I agree it's a factor and I do not eat factory farmed meat, but as Wes Jackson head geneticist of the Land Institute said at a conference I recently attended "grain agriculture, both for animal feed AND for humans, is destroying the environment."

When I lived in Sweden I studied agroforestry and I firmly believe that is the future. My dream is to be a forester and have lots of beautiful trees that support a wealth of other species I can hunt and gather like I did in Sweden . I also think grass-based ecosystems with grazing animals, are far more sustainable than fields and fields of soybeans and make a point to buy buffalo and grass fed beef when I can afford it.

I didn't start this diet to look good or because it was fun, though I'm quite glad to have met others who I can have feasts with now. Honestly, it's easier to stick with the diet because of the mythos behind it, both romantic and factual. It has also gotten me into other beneficial habits besides just food such as getting enough sleep, getting sunlight, and exercising outside instead of toiling on the Stairmaster.

Eating this way opened my mind to looking at life through the lens of the past. I now shudder at the idea of nursing homes or retirement communities for my grandparents and value the benefits of the community-oriented culture I grew up in...without the religious fundamentalism.

But actually, my family has sort of been converted to the whole paleo thing. My father, who was obese, has lost 50 lbs so far and has also stopped having GERD. My mother is following a variation that is more fish and tuber heavy (because she thinks meat is bad), but so far it's been very successful in getting her stomach problems under control. Now that this article is out, other family members are curious. It's possible that we are descended from more recent hunter-gatherers and are more susceptible to problems, but last time I did research, the idea of a genetically distinct "Celtic fringe" had been debunked....though Ireland does have a high incidence of celiac disease and Scotland has some serious issues with diabetes and obesity for sure.

This article was in the Style section because it's more about quirky New Yorkers than eating paleo. If you are interested in paleo you should check out my site. http://huntgatherlove.com/

This quote "Unfortunately, life was short: If you made it to age 30 or so, you had done well" is particularly wrong. I suggest reading Jared' Diamond's excellent essay on the subject.
posted by melissam at 1:35 PM on January 10, 2010 [38 favorites]


y6y6y6, I've worked on several farms, shot plenty of marauding animals, lost plenty of important livestock to the ones I couldn't shoot, had no running water or electricity, and also had to gather wood all the time. Yeah, it did suck sometimes, but I sure was in great shape.

I'm not from New York, I'm Southern born and I went to Ag School in the Midwest.

I don't love New York, but I find the absolute disgust some people seem to have for us residents a little baffling.

Alas, I'm also not a hipster, I'm just a nerd who wanted to eat healthier.

Butchering has become hip in NYC, but people still are a little squeamish. A failed meetup idea I had was to slaughter some ducks a farmer I know wanted to get rid of...didn't get lots of replies to that one.
posted by melissam at 1:46 PM on January 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's made Gawker.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:50 PM on January 10, 2010


well, i'd grab some popcorn, but i don't know if i should anymore
posted by pyramid termite at 1:59 PM on January 10, 2010


melissam, if you want to call a butchering meetup south of atlanta, I'll go.

honestly, you seemed pretty out of place among the other subjects, kind of like the editor or writer said, "hey, gotta get a woman for this." your stated purpose in eating paleo - looking to relieve stomach problems - just doesn't match the rest of the tone.

bottom line, if I saw Goldstein on my caller ID, I'd screen it. stories like that have a way of making everybody in them look dumb.

were you at all suspicious when they wanted to photograph you in the museum of natural history? everything about the piece, from the selected subject quotes to the writer's own diction, seem crafted for maximum wackiness. I mean, seriously, "female visitor"? "slim brunette"?

on reread, you get two sentences in the first page and a single one-line quote in the second. you must not have seemed funny enough for his purposes.
posted by toodleydoodley at 2:02 PM on January 10, 2010


No snark, serious question: why don't they eat roadkill? Fresh, tasty deer? No grass feeding needed.
posted by fixedgear at 2:04 PM on January 10, 2010


Hi Melissa,
Cool post. Regarding rice consumption-- until recently most rice consumed in Asia was with the hull on. Polished white rice was a luxury item. I seem to remember reading in Karnow's book about the Vietnam War, that when the US started giving polished white rice as food aid, people started getting sick from vitamin deficiencies.

Personally I like wheat and brown rice, i.e. steamed buns, noodles and brown rice. Stopped eating white rice after living in Beijing for a while, because steamed bread is more filling. We used to eat sorghum as breakfast food. What do you think of sorghum? I really miss eating it but can't find it for sale in the US except as animal feed.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the northern diet is more optimum for athletic performance than the southern one.

Now you've got me curious about the Mongolian/Jurchen diet.

Fourcheesemac: Do you have any thoughts about the Micronesian Pacific Islanders and the dietary shift under the Spanish influence? There's been some shifts in the physical build of the population-- when the Spanish arrived in Guam and Sapian, they described the Chamorro people as tall and musucular, vs. the current typical build which is short and stocky. I wonder if it has to do with the introduction of rice?
posted by wuwei at 2:08 PM on January 10, 2010


No snark, serious question: why don't they eat roadkill? Fresh, tasty deer? No grass feeding needed.

is there a lot of available roadkill around NYC that doesn't eat garbage? because diet is important. where I live, people don't eat much raccoon/possum unless it's been trapped, caged, and fed properly for weeks beforehand. otherwise, ew. for big herbivore roadkill, well, some states (WVa) have laws on the books specifically to allow this.

and deer? my stepdad lives in a suburb of a very large city where there are so many deer the local commissions keep trying to write culling rules (recurve bows, dawn and dusk only, not near schools or bus stops) but can't agree on risk management. where and how would hipsters harvest deer?
posted by toodleydoodley at 2:10 PM on January 10, 2010


"y6y6y6, I've worked on several farms, shot plenty of marauding animals, lost plenty of important livestock to the ones I couldn't shoot, had no running water or electricity, and also had to gather wood all the time. Yeah, it did suck sometimes, but I sure was in great shape."

Well, tip of the hat then. Good for you. Seriously.

I don't miss being in shape. When the trade off is having my meat sold to me packaged in individual portions, cleaned, with no need to bite into shot or pin feathers (butchering ducks..... shudder...), let's just say I think a "paleo" life style is missing the point of what it is to be human. Wildly misguided even. If we absolutely must live that way, we can. But the vast majority of humans on this planet are lucky enough to never have to worry about the horrors of fresh milk (with "stuff" floaties), fresh eggs (always covered in poo), or fresh meat (the only good pig is a dead pig). And good for them. Seriously.

A sensible diet with less sugar and fat will always make people more healthy. Film at 11.
posted by y6y6y6 at 2:13 PM on January 10, 2010


and melissam, I loved your comment. too bad more of you didn't make it into the piece. but then we wouldn't be having this funfunfun snarkfest ;-)
posted by toodleydoodley at 2:17 PM on January 10, 2010


Are they all planning to off themselves at age 33, you know, for that full on hipster upper paleolithic authenticity? 'Cause if not, they're poseurs.

Much like animals kept in zoos, PaleoHipsters in captivity can live twice as long as their wild brethren.

If nothing else, everyone loves a caveman lawyer. And I've heard that gorillas are actually a naturally bread-eating species, though they do not know how to bake.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:29 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


and deer? my stepdad lives in a suburb of a very large city where there are so many deer the local commissions keep trying to write culling rules (recurve bows, dawn and dusk only, not near schools or bus stops) but can't agree on risk management. where and how would hipsters harvest deer?

Yeah, I live in a suburb of a very large city where there are many deer. That's why I asked. They wouldn't have to harvest them, they would be roadkill. Just pick 'em up and butcher them, assuming local laws allow it.
posted by fixedgear at 2:29 PM on January 10, 2010


Answering this is sort of off-topic, but I thought it might be interesting. Plus any excuse to talk about research :)

In these societies, how do people deal with other people they don't like? Surely there must be some amount of friction, antagonism, rivalry, etc within families and larger groups, so how do they handle it?

The society I studied was urban Asante in Kumasi, Ghana. Not at all, nor in recent memory, hunter-gatherers. But definitely a huge and encompassing kinship system. There are a lot of ways that people handle antagonisms and frictions. At the most basic level, when your family is quite huge, it is possible to fulfill familial obligations without necessarily having to interact with the members that most irritate you. Daily interactions among the people I knew tended to focus around those family members that they felt the most affinity towards, with other interactions tending towards more formal family events.

But that, of course, does not take care of everything. One really interesting thing that I observed, and that emerged explicitly when I asked renters what might make their household members feel like family members, is that people consider it a social obligation to avoid fighting. If someone, for example, takes something of yours, you can go and ask them about it, but to act "like family" means to accept whatever explanation they give you and to be at peace with it.

Of course, this only goes so far. People are people and bitterness and anger arises at times. The Asante have ways of settling disputes that range from informal (in terms of authority) household gattherings to courts held by paramount chiefs, the king, and Queen Mothers. At even the most informal gatherings, there will be a beginning to the meeting that is signified with an exchange of drinks and a statement of the problem. The elders who consider the case will hear both sides and try to seek compromise (if necessary). Sometimes, if it is deemed necessary, there will be a sort of punishment (really, it's the wrong word, but I can't think of a better one here) that redresses the wrong that was done. If it was the kind of serious offence or conflict that makes it to the king's court, there is a a strong chance that the losing party will incur a heavy fine, but in family cases, it might just be a matter of apologizing, paying for or replacing some property, or giving something symbolic.

Both party's must accept the elders' resolution for it to truly be considered resolved. Once it is resolved in the meeting, they seal it with drinks. Once the final drinks are drunk, the matter is considered dropped (other than any restitutional exchanges/fines that are due as a result of the meeting). It is my strong impression (I'm still working through the data) that this system provides real feelings of closure on many issues.

Some issues are really too contentious to achieve real closure. What happens in these cases depends somewhat on how many people they affect and what those people's resources are, and what kind of familial relationship they have. Sometimes it can cause schisms, with one group not talking to another, maybe even moving away. Other times it can cause a sort of low-level antagonism between two subgroups with respect to familial obligations. Sometime people will use every family meeting to bring up an old debt/fight, resulting in a lot of off-topic fighting. It can also result (depending on the nature of the dispute) in going to the state courts, but generally this is seen as a last resort, not just because of the time and money involved, but because that level of litigation is seen as permanently destroying social relationships.

posted by carmen at 2:43 PM on January 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


They wouldn't have to harvest them, they would be roadkill. Just pick 'em up and butcher them, assuming local laws allow it.

yeah, true - but you have to do it quick, which presumes a culture of trust and contact between the cops/road dept/first responders and the roadkill-eating network. like, I know people around here who do that - go, "yeah, I went down to mop up a car-deer hit up around CR 345 & SR24 and then I called my buddy and he went down and scraped it up and bled it real quick," but does that network exist on, say, Long Island?
posted by toodleydoodley at 2:46 PM on January 10, 2010


well, I bet it probably does. forget I asked.
posted by toodleydoodley at 2:48 PM on January 10, 2010


I take solace in the fact that since this is in the New York Times Style section, it's no longer hip.
posted by condour75 at 3:11 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why aren't they wearing loincloths made of discarded H&M clothing?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:14 PM on January 10, 2010 [8 favorites]


Carmen,
What's interesting about your research is that the English common law incorporated a tribal/sectarian adjudication process. Once upon a time, the law courts were considered inflexible because they only could give you an up/down decision on the law or provide you with monetary damages. On the other hand you had the equity courts were administered by churchmen directly operating under the supervision of the sovereign. The equity courts had flexibility in how they decided cases. So an equity court could do something like stop a foreclosure or order someone to stop beating on a drum in their house every morning at 0500. Nowadays in the US most courts are both equity and law courts.
posted by wuwei at 3:17 PM on January 10, 2010


Why aren't they wearing loincloths made of discarded H&M clothing?

please tell me you're in the H&M thread offering to guide raccoon and possum hunts after hours...
posted by toodleydoodley at 3:23 PM on January 10, 2010


It does seem like every article on the NYT web site was linked to today, with the exception of the best one. The hardware store clerk. Check it out.
posted by fixedgear at 3:27 PM on January 10, 2010


Wow these people are asshole's. What kind of a jerk eats food this way??!! I don't see any spare tires around their waists they are New York Hipster Jerks god whats wrong with the little donuts you get at the store hmm? yah that's what i thought dummys.eating things without plastic on them is stupid how do you know its safe otherwise!!!
posted by Optimus Chyme at 3:42 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Check it out.

thanks for pointing that one out fixedgear, that was truly awesome.
posted by toodleydoodley at 4:14 PM on January 10, 2010


A group of people douchier and self-important than vegans. I'm genuinely impressed.
posted by bardic at 4:25 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just want to thank FourCheeseMac and the many, many other erudite and interesting commenters on this thread (including you, MellissaM). This is the best post I've read for a while, and I too would like to request a post on indigenous interactions with social media, FourCheese.
posted by smoke at 4:26 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks smoke (and jokeefe above). It's among the subjects of my active research these days. I'll see if I can put something interesting together. As wuwei says, kinship-based social organization extends beyond the narrowly "indigenous" world. Its replacement by affective bonds of nationality, class, ethnicity, religion, etc. is one of the hallmarks of modernity. But some aspects of "traditional" society have found new and very modern expressions thanks to the digital revolution.

Thousands of years of accumulated wisdom about how to sustain human society had seemed, for most of the last century or two, to be on the verge of disappearance or being rendered obsolete by scientific-technological "progress."

Small scale subsistence cultures may have much to teach us about how to live within our ecological means, and that might well include how we think about our diets. Let us not romanticize any of this, of course. Indigenous people are moderns too, just like us.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:47 PM on January 10, 2010


wuwei, I actually always wondered about that. My Asian friends seem to really dislike brown rice more than any other people I know.

I personally sometimes eat brown rice, I confess, because there are some Asian dishes that really lose texture without it. It's really weird and nice that my cravings have switched from Haagan Daaz and Reeses Cups to chickpeas, grits, and other much less bad carbs. I don't make them a regular part of my diet, but as treats I could do (and did do) much much worse.

You might be interested in this cool method of soaking it that makes it more digestible
http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2009/04/new-way-to-soak-brown-rice.html

Rice soaked this way doesn't bother me, but I've never had any success with soaking or fermenting beans...they still upset my stomach. I've had the sorghum beer and didn't really enjoy it, so I haven't experimented much with it. I'm a little bit involved with the NYC Weston A. Price group, which is a larger group devoted to traditional agrarian foods including fermented grains, dairy, grass fed meat, etc. We have in common that we believe in the goodness of fat, but we diverge on the grains, beans, and dairy. I would eat those things more, but I only seem to tolerate very small amounts.

y6y6y6, I think most of us aren't that romantic about the lifestyle considering almost everyone mentioned in the article works in web development. I love Star Wars and computers and XKCD....and I am more than happy to use a commercial scalder when processing poultry, spreadsheets to track cropping data, and a rifle to hunt, but my stomach really like it caveman style.

People might also be interested in the question of whether fat, particularly saturated fat, is actually bad. This article is a good start.

Also of interested is the higher carb Kitavan diet that I've used as the basis to guide my meat-adverse mother on eating
http://www.staffanlindeberg.com/TheKitavaStudy.html

Overall, it's too bad the article wasn't more substantial. I've had a fairly unusual life, but so have John and Vlad. I was annoyed they didn't write more about sustainable meat. They took pictures of me with a farmer friend, but didn't use them. I don't regret being involved with the article though, it was kind of interesting in both bad and good ways.

I don't really like that it paints us as antagonistic to vegans though, because I know lots of vegans and eat at vegan restaurants often, I just order things like mushrooms and kale or lettuce seaweed carrot wraps. My"flexitarian" boyfriend doesn't eat much meat so I've also gotten pretty good at vegan cooking (Vlad says he can't imagine dating such a person, but I chose men based on nerdiness rather than what they eat). I made carrot bisque and balsamic glazed portobello mushrooms from Vegan With A Vengeance for dinner.
posted by melissam at 5:09 PM on January 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh. It seems harmless enough. I know a guy who did something like this diet before competing in the PanAms last year on the advice of several other world class competitors. He cut weight fairly painlessly and didn't seem to have all the common over training symptoms. And he won his division spectacularly. He's sticking with the diet and is very healthy. But that's all I know about it.

Personally, as a former hunter and fisherman and all that, I like the creature comforts of carbohydrate civilization a whole bunch and plan on committing carbocide with home made pasta in about half an hour.
posted by tkchrist at 5:20 PM on January 10, 2010


Can I just thank melissam for showing up and making the discussion of this article, and her part in it, much more reasonable?

I was as ready to snark as others were before that, but luckily all the good jokes were taken.
posted by rollbiz at 5:42 PM on January 10, 2010


Gawker's take.
posted by bardic at 5:43 PM on January 10, 2010


Melissa McEwen is participating in the comment section, interestingly enough.
posted by bardic at 5:44 PM on January 10, 2010


Err, need coffee. Obviously she's here as well.
posted by bardic at 5:47 PM on January 10, 2010


Melissa,
Thanks, I will try that. I don't seem to have any problems digesting brown rice, but then again, speeding digestion would be good because it would allow me to cut the amount of time I have to wait after eating and before physical training. Interestingly my Indian friends seem to like brown rice a lot. And, there's a subset of religious people in Japan that like it-- where (grossly simplifying) it's supposed to change your blood composition so that you can meditate better and reach enlightenment faster. Does it work? No idea.

Fourcheesemac,
I noticed that you put the quotes around indigenous. I always have some questions about the use of the term, because in some senses, aren't the people of, say, Korea, indigenous? What's interesting to me is how people can context switch, say, being part of a kinship based society and one with affective bonds as well.

In a sense, participation in modernity, to the extent that is mediated by the Anglo-American common law based legal system, is just another tribe. I say this because the Anglo-American legal system is really the codified dispute resolution system of the tribes of the British Isles.

That's why I have to laugh when I read people screaming about "zomg these new immigrants to the USA, so tribal."
posted by wuwei at 9:36 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


When asked for predictions about the future: “I reckon we’ll blend all our food. I just think, when you think about all the stuff we eat now — caveman chewing on big lumps of meat. We add wisdom teeth. Now they say: ‘we’ll take them out, you’re not using ‘em.’ Why are you not using them? Cos your food’s soft. Sorbet. Soups.” — Karl Pilkington
posted by BaxterG4 at 9:37 PM on January 10, 2010


I was just relieved that none of this "caveman in the big city" stuff had anything to do with Geico.
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:17 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


A couple more thoughts:
Erwan Le Corre really shouldn't have been thrown into the NYT article or this discussion because paleo isn't really his big thing (despite being called a "patriarch of paleo movement" in the article). Le Corre's big thing is a method of exercise that involves natural movement - yes, scooting around the underbrush on all fours, leaping between boulders, playing catch with stones. This method goes back to George Hebert and has led to what we now call "parkour", but it doesn't have a strong assumption that the benefit would derive from a simulation of paleolithic lifestyles. The Mens Health article mentioned by the NYT, the one that said that Le Corre "may rank as one of the most all-around physically fit men on the planet," is here. Le Corre is remarkably fit, and not what I would call a "paleoHipster".

Second, the paleo diet takes as axiomatic that prehistoric diets are "healthier" because they predate various innovations in food production (and hence they are more "natural".) But the concept of "health" is unclear here. Certainly it couldn't have much to do with individual longevity; if you look at the so-called Blue Zones - the areas of the world where people have the longest disease-free lifespans - one thing they have in common is that they eat less meat, not more. (And they don't exercise much either. There's a recently uploaded TED talk on this subject for those unfamiliar with these facts.) But a paleo lifestyle might be ideal if "health" means "well-adapted to paleolithic living conditions". If you do have to hunt for days before you can eat then perhaps a long fast, followed by a heavy workout, followed by a meat binge might be a good way to go. But for paleolithic people individual health wasn't the only objective; they also had to hunt for others (children, parents, etc.) because "health" would have meant securing the success of your offspring. It's hard to imagine that people who take the subway to work would be helping their progeny by eating more meat.
posted by twoleftfeet at 12:29 AM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wuwei, probably not the place to get into it, but I agree there's a big gray area around the word "indigenous" (or "native," "aboriginal," etc.). I do, however, think there is a significant distinction to be made. Making it is a controversial exercise. It has to do with the nature of the precolonial social world, the character of the colonial encounter, the relative isolation and self-sufficiency of societies, the length of time they have occupied particular places, and the genocidal effects of modernity.

My quote marks were meant to forestall the debate, which wouldn't belong in this thread. They were not meant ironically or to call the concept itself, and the distinction it names, into question.

A good measure, however, is how recently a society was reliant on its own local ecosystem completely for subsistence, and what the precolonial level of technological development of social complexity was.

100 years ago, while some Inuit were indeed working for cash on whaling ships or as expedition guides, the vast, vast majority still lived entirely on the resource base of the arctic. Amazingly, a huge number still do rely substantially on that subsistence resource base, and my rough guess is that even modern Alaskan Inuits derive about half their protein (maybe more, certainly in more remote communities) from subsistence hunting.

Very few societies can say that.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:06 AM on January 11, 2010


["OR" social complexity, not "of"]
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:16 AM on January 11, 2010


twoleftfeet , I read the Blue Zone book and found it very interesting, though a little gimmicky and annoyingly selectively biased (for example, meat loving Mormons seem to live just as long as Seventh-day Adventists...and where is Iceland?). Pretty interesting though that the cultures are overwhelmingly coastal, it's too bad we as humans are destroying the sea and the good health it brings. My grandmother on my mother's side follows a Mediterranean style diet and has never had health problems...and is 90 now.

Because I try very hard to only eat meat I killed myself or from farmers I know, my consumption of meat is probably similar to both the Blue Zones and hunter-gatherers both in terms of nutrient consumption in in terms of daily consumption. For example, in Sardinia, the killing of a pig is huge and rare feast that involves eating every part. I am lucky to know farmers well enough that I can take part in such things, though they are rare.

There is an unfortunate tendency among paleo dieters to view the diet as chicken breast and steak, but to do it well requires eating very differently. Small game, fish, shellfish, and plants should be the foods to rely on between the feasts and feasting should always involve the whole animal. Quality over quantity.
posted by melissam at 5:29 AM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


We add wisdom teeth. Now they say: ‘we’ll take them out, you’re not using ‘em.’ Why are you not using them? Cos your food’s soft. Sorbet. Soups.” — Karl Pilkington

well, I don't know about you, but I had mine out because they were horizontally impacted and they weren't ever going to line up and chew anything.
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:54 AM on January 11, 2010


Fourcheesemac:
Agreed that the wider discussion does not belong in this thread.

Thanks, what you write makes sense to me. Under that definition, littoral E. Asia has not been indigenous for a very long time.

And also, what smoke said-- great thread, thanks everyone.
posted by wuwei at 10:02 AM on January 11, 2010


Paleo-lite:
http://www.marksdailyapple.com/
posted by SouthCNorthNY at 11:46 AM on January 11, 2010


Did anyone figure out what the Cryptonomicon comment was about? Still baffled.
posted by fixedgear at 2:47 PM on January 11, 2010


fixedgear:

one of the antagonists (Andrew Loeb) in Cryptonomicon meets Randy Waterhouse when he (Loeb) is a graduate student doing research on the comparative caloric intake of Native American tribes and how it relates to cultural innovation. As part of his research, Loeb actually learns to survive in the same manner as the tribes themselves historically did. Randy joins Loeb on an outing in which the two attempt to survive on the diet of some chronically calorie-deprived tribe - Randy is convinced that some parts of an animal are too revolting for any human to ingest, regardless of how starved, but soon finds himself grimly bolting down whatever little bits of protein scuttle his way.
posted by logicpunk at 3:08 PM on January 11, 2010


You ain't gone caveman until you've eaten raw seal intestines or caribou eyeball. Trust me.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:24 PM on January 11, 2010


Thanks, logicpunk, I guess I had somehow forgotten that.
posted by fixedgear at 5:18 PM on January 11, 2010


he also points out that coastal tribes, with ready access to lots of high calorie protein and fat, have rich social and artistic cultures, while inland tribes who have to work harder to stay warm and fed sometimes scratch stick figures on rocks.

do urban cavemen produce art?
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:51 PM on January 11, 2010


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