Tom Standage

The Current Read

“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.”
— Julia Child

Our baby boy (John Henry) gave me Standage’s An Edible History of Humanity for Christmas. The author traces the impact of food on civilization from our beginnings as hunter/foragers to agriculture and all of its technology today. A very interesting point is made early on, to wit:

“[The switch from hunter/forager to farmer is the most] mysterious because the switch made people significantly worse off, from a nutritional perspective and in many other ways. Indeed, one anthropologist has described the adoption of farming as ‘the worst mistake in the history of the human race.’”

Standage explains that anthropologists have compared the skeletal remains of hunters living side by side or back to back with farmers. Hunters are larger, stronger people. Farmers show clear indications of malnutrition so assumedly did not live as long as the hunters. Besides, he says, the hunters had more fun - they could fill their food quotas in a couple of days, leaving themselves with 5 day weekends. More time to socialize and ponder the big questions, as we modern day farmers all know. It’s a 24/7/365 career.

I never thought about it that way, but it does remind me of the Comanche nation, one of our most interesting societies for the way they dominated the Plains so completely in the early days of the Republic and before. The Comanches transformed themselves from weak, malnourished and conquered people to the most dominant tribe of the Great Plains only when they adopted the horse which allowed them to harvest buffalo at will. There was nothing like the regular digestion of red meat to grow a tribe into superior beings.

As I get further into the book, I find that I like it less. But it is still a worthwhile read from which I conclude a couple of things - really just affirming what we preach at JVF:

Excluding meats from our diet is a colossal mistake, especially for the young; secondly, eat that widely diverse plate of food because while the vegetables and fruits cannot alone pack the nutritional punch of a piece of meat, they do contribute their own unique profile of vitamins and minerals necessary for a complete diet. They round out the meal.