Food Fads

The old and well-worn axiom “We are what we eat” has been around for a very long time. Of course, specialist diets are a modern fascination for the wealthy. Putting those perturbations of reality aside, and remembering that for any one individual they are short lived, it is interesting to look back through the historical to the pre-historical record. Fiorenza et al (1) have done just that. The comparison is between early homo sapiens, modern hunter gatherers (HGs) and our Neanderthal cousins to compare our dietary preferences . I must say that I was disappointed that the modern HGs were limited to Vancouver islanders, Australian aborigines and Fuegians (while the fiercest of the modern predators, located in Wall Street, were excluded from the study).

The teeth were examined to see how omnivorous the HGs were. The assumption had been that Neanderthalers were inordinately fond of large game animals and didn’t eat their greens. This is not correct. The new data shows that, by and large, we all take the easy route and eat what we can get cheaply. Meat, potatoes and cabbage is as good a lunch today as ever it was.

 To summarize, if the living is hard, the strategy was, as is now, to let the others do the hard work and then gobble them up. If the living is easy, we gather rosebuds where we may and mix in the odd root veggie or green stuff. The original Mediterranean diet was introduced by the Neanderthalers, who were sunning themselves and eating salads long before we invented the wines to compliment them.


3 Responses so far.

  1. jazgal says:

    I was just talking with my sister about this topic yesterday, she had read about the Paleolithic Diet, (which I didn't think was such a new revelation, given that Dr. Swank had based his diet on early studies), and that it was all meat, fruit and greens - no grains or root veg. I would think that it would vary based on where they lived, and what was easily available. I know that the Northwest tribes certainly ate camas roots, fish and berries - the seasonal stuff. Hunt and gather is not too demanding a lifestyle, if you've got the tribe working on it.

    Beware those wild Wall Streeters, they'll bite your head off in a minute, but they may not chew!

  2. You have it exactly right. They ate what was available. Don't we all? I'd sure be happy to eat my veggies and reserve the big angry bison for special occasions if I had the choice.

  3. jazgal says:

    I plan to give the big angry bison wide berth. I understand that they are going to be rounded up and sent back to the ranch - good luck on that!
    That being said, I am certainly looking forward to Farmers Markets opening soon - here's to fresh veg, grass fed beef and more! Makes the hunting and gathering a bit more fun, too.

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