In Cod We Trust

Posted on November 3, 2009

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Due to circumstances beyond my control, I was unable to complete this post yesterday, as planned.  But here it is now!

For those who had trouble finding the link to The Plan and Progress So Far, here it is explicitly: http://grokproject.net/the-plan-and-progress-so-far/.  When I refer to “the list of tasks” or just “the list”, that’s what I’m talking about.

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I spent the weekend at my brother’s home in Salem, MA.  It was my job to bring the candy for trick-or-treaters.  As you might guess, they take their trick-or-treating pretty seriously in Salem, so I made sure not to skimp on the candy.  Alas, this turned out to be a lighter year and I ended up taking a lot of candy home with me.  I mean … a lot.  …their shiny, colorful, tantalizing wrappers all beckoning me to chocolatey delights within.  “Pick me!  Pick me!”  Could I tell them “no”?  Of course I couldn’t.  But it’s all OK, because I’ll be on a “paleolithic diet” for an entire week to come, right?

Well… whether or not my sugar-addicted logic had any merit to it, Monday arrived and the diet began.  The poor little candies are now relegated to the lab’s dining table, an inexhaustible sink in which any and all unattended food will be anonymously devoured.  Of course, the devouring happens all too slowly.  I had to walk past those scrumptious morsels over and over again yesterday.  “Why have you abandoned us?  What did we do wrong?  Are we no longer tasty?”

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So what is this “paleolithic diet” thing anyway?  No, I won’t be hunting and gathering my food all week long.  It’s a modern diet movement which became popular in the 1970s (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleolithic_diet).  It is based on the notion that, while human cultures have changed relatively quickly, human physiology, being derived from genetics, has changed relatively slowly.  The argument is that our bodies are still better adapted to the types of food humans ate in the paleolithic age than to the types of food which became available during and after the neolithic age.

Various proponents of paleolithic dieting suggest different restrictions and guidelines.  It seems, in general, that all grains, legumes, refined sugars, fermented beverages, and dairy foods are off-limits and that all meats and fish are OK.  Refined salt is usually forbidden, but some publishers of paleolithic diet recipes do include it (e.g. http://www.fitnessandfreebies.com/paleo/).  Many advocates consider the “healthier oils” such as olive and canola oil to be acceptable.  Many fruits and vegetables are allowed, but not all.  Starchy root vegetables (e.g. potatoes) are never allowed.

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So why, you might ask, have I put what is arguably a fad diet onto my list of tasks?  The advisability of a long-term paleolithic diet is at least questionable.  I’m not recommending it to anyone.  But restricting what I can eat, and having to cook it myself to get it right, will help me identify some of the things I’m taking for granted in my purified, sterilized, distilled, pastuerized, homogenized, milled, finished, and polished way of life.  And I might also gain some insight by seeing what it’s like to go without any neolithic foods.

I decided to start by picking some recipes out of one of the lists I found online: http://www.thepaleodiet.com/nutritional_tools/recipes.shtml.  For Monday I picked out “Grilled Cod with Cayenne Citrus Marinade” and “Honey Dill Carrots”.  This may seem like no big deal to many of you, but I really don’t cook much at all (despite my best intentions).  When I got home on Sunday night with this wrapped-up piece of cod, read the ominous warnings on it about internal temperature, and recalled that I was NOT actually the proud owner of a meat thermometer, I was kind of worried.  “I guess I’ll just … overcook it,” I thought.  And that I did.  And even so, I was mentally preparing myself for asking coworkers to photograph me in a state of vert pallor as bloggable photographic evidence of my cautionary tale.

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But in the end, no food poisoning occurred.  It even tasted pretty good, despite the overcooking.  With a banana for breakfast and some walnuts to accompany lunch, I left the dining area satisfied and with enough food left in the refrigerator for dinner.  By dinnertime I was ravenous and tore through the remains of my food, another banana, and  some more nuts.  And then I was satiated for a half hour, give or take.  Hungry again.  “Quit messing around,” my body warned me, “Where are the damn calories?”  “We’re right over here,” the candy chimed in exuberantly.  I had to get out of there.

Oh no!  I had to get out of there also because I was going to be late for my martial arts class!  Off to the bus stop I went, but too late.  I figured I’d just have some dinner, then.  Oh right.  I already had dinner.  And standing at the bus stop lamenting my missed bus it occurred to me that I would probably also miss the closing of the supermarket if I went to class anyway.  I reluctantly chose to do my shopping rather than arrive 20 minutes late to class.

In the store, I pulled out my list of recipes and prepared to make a quick decision about what I should make for the next day.  But somehow I couldn’t.  The sights, the smells of food all around me … the breads, located so very close to the produce…  FOOD.  I am obviously very accustomed to carbohydrates, and the sudden lack of them threatens to unleash the Carb-enstein monster.  I did barely restrain myself from casting the diet aside, but shopping for food was now a primal experience.  Sniffing my way through the store, I quickly examined each item as I came to it.  “Do I want it?  Am I allowed to have it?  In the cart it goes.”  So it went, until I looked down into my cart and decided, “Good.  I will not starve.”

PB030157Today, not feeling very well, I stayed at home with newfound food and cooked it in the same way I had picked it out: no recipe.  Beef was grilled unseasoned.  Vegetables were cut just enough for them to be easy to eat.  Lunch, and dinner, are served.  NOW this is starting to feel like a paleolithic diet!  Pangs of hunger have come back to haunt me here and there, but I feel like I’m adapting.  A little.

Alright.  That’s it for now.  I told you I’d talk about what life was like in the paleolithic era in this post, but I lied.  I’m sneaky like that.  But I’ll do that soon.

Thank you for reading!