The Inclusive Caveman: You Gotta Love It

Feb 2, 2009 by


“Better a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened calf and hatred therewith.” Proverbs 15:17

If the cavemen were here today, I think they would be amazed at how easy, yet complicated, keeping our children from starving to death has become.

Cavemen might be interested to know how many of us are as stressed as they were about feeding our children, not for fear of how long they might go hungry or that they might be eaten themselves, but rather, as the French would say, l’embarras du choix: the burden and confusion of our choices.

They might find it ironic that in our age of abundant, readily accessible Real Food options, so many children are weak and sick, turning up their noses at many of those foods and instead eating over-processed, lifeless edibles that that won’t keep body and soul together for long. That one of three humans in the world is starving even today in the face of this abundance would probably produce culture shock, too.

Cavemen might also get a good laugh out of the idea that some people want to bring eating back full circle, restricting themselves to the foods those hunter-gatherers were forced to make do with—before their descendants, the Neolithic humans, discovered cooking— and calling it “The Caveman Diet.”

The Caveman Diet in revival has actually been around for about 30 years. Based on the extraordinarily good health of modern-day hunter-gatherer societies, it proposes a return to the foods that the earliest humans are assumed to have eaten raw. We can also suppose they ate them all with enjoyment because they were so hungry:

· Meat (including organ meats—liver, kidneys, heart—and insects), poultry and fish

· Eggs

· Fruit, berries, nuts

· Vegetables (notably root vegetables, but not potatoes or sweet potatoes, which are toxic raw)

Like the shift in the last century from whole fresh foods to the advent of processed foods, the shift to cooking was seen as a huge step of progress at the time. Cooking made many inedible plants edible, and grains and beans could be stored for the times nothing could be found fresh. Farming of these foods and domestication of animals further increased the food supply. Getting enough to eat became far more common. Human population boomed.

This second stage in human diet brought in:

· Grains (rice, bread, pasta)

· Beans, lentils, peas, peanut

· Potatoes

· Milk and milk products

As we have since discovered, though, “advances” in food systems are a trade off, a mixed bag. The more food is easy and cheap, the further it strays from optimal nourishment. The further our food system departs from its origins, the worse off we’ve become, health-wise.

If it’s true that the Caveman Diet is The Answer, the optimum diet for humans, on first glance, one could say simply that we have a choice between the price of living by this Truth (effort, loss of enjoyment, higher food costs) and the price of not living by it: our health and that of our children.

Let’s be honest about the choice we’re making, some would tell you. No pressure or anything, but feeding your kids the perfect Caveman Diet is what we Should Do. We must increase the amount of optimal foods ingested by our children, some would insist.

Most of us, obviously, are willing to pay the price of being a bit less healthy than we could be, for the sake of ease, and in order to eat what we’re used to and like. If being healthy means eating only the Caveman Diet, we don’t need to be that healthy, we will probably decide. We all have our limits about how hard we want to work at being healthy, or what sacrifices we’re willing to make. That’s OK. Health is not the only thing that matters.

All that is true, yet it’s not really the point that needs to be made.

My good news is that our children can and must enjoy what they eat. Better a dinner of less optimal foods where love is—not only love of one another but love of the foods themselves—than a dinner of optimal foods with strife, especially strife over the food.

Research shows clearly that we get more out of foods we enjoy and little out of those we don’t. We can’t even digest, let alone assimilate, our dinner without the right frame of mind and a willing heart. Munching a hotdog with emotional relish is probably more life-giving than gagging down a raw organic rutabaga. Not enjoying healthy food largely cancels out its health benefits.

The only thing we need to do, then, is strive to increase the numbers and variety of good foods–yes, especially vegetables, that our children enjoy and eat with real happiness.

It’s not giving in and feeding kids junk so that they will eat and enjoy it. Rather, it is continually attempting to seduce your hungry children to love the widest possible variety of optimal foods (especially those eaten by Cavemen), all while permitting the less optimal (especially those included in the Neolithic diet and fewer of those known only to modern humans), one delicious new dish after another.

It may be a challenge, but it’s a light burden of love and that brings satisfaction to the cook and diners, parents and children.

I think the even the cavemen would agree.

To read more about the Caveman Diet:

© Sacred Appetite / Anna Migeon / 23 January 2009 / All rights reserved

this post was featured on Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday on Oct. 15, 2010.