Friday, September 5, 2014

Rediscovering the obvious: Diet and hunting, fishing and gardening

For those who follow dietary trends, the current in vogue diet is the "Paley\o Diet".  And for those who take the National Geographic, you are aware that they've been running a semi scary series of articles on food in the 21st Century.

Elk hunter in northwest Wyoming, first decade of the 20th Century. For many in this region, this scene could have been taken any October.

The National Geographic articles have been inspired by the scare that's existed since at least the early 1970s that the planet is about to run out of food, although that particular article isn't really on that topic.  Quite frankly, and as well explored by an earlier National Geographic article, there's small chance of this indeed.  If anything, production agriculture has so vastly increased the global food supply that there's an overabundance of food and most fears of this type are very poorly placed.  Production agriculture, in fact, has hardly touched Africa and there's vast potential there, although not without vast cultural cost at the same time.

That's not what this article addresses, however. Rather, it addresses something that has been so obvious to me for decades that it not fits into one of those "geez, I wish I'd thought of marketing that way back when. . . " categories.

That is, human beings are evolved to eat a diet that we ate in our aboriginal state, for the most part, which we could still largely do.  Failing to do so has all sorts of negative health impacts.

Now, I am very well aware that this idea, which is an obvious truth, runs counter to the whole peak of the vegan trend, but that entire trend is one that is basically neopaganistic and hateful of nature.  We are part of nature, are evolved to eat a natural diet, and that diet was a wild one.

 Deer hunters with camp, early 20th Century.

So, hence the paleo diet trend, which I've largely ignored  A better study of this was presented by the National Geographic.

And what did the National Geographic discover? Well, people in their native states are hunter gatherers, with the emphasis on hunters. They eat a lot of vegetative material, but mostly because they're left with little choice.  When they don't have meat, it's because they can't find it, and they crave it.  If meat is abundant, their diet is heavy in it.  If it isn't, they feel deprived and make do with what they can find.

 Don't have the time, or perhaps energy to pursue deer or elk, or whatever.  Well, poultry lovers, perhaps you should try something a little more wild. Women hunters with pheasants.  Pheasant taste better than chicken any day.  For those who worry, moreover, about mass poultry production and how chickens are killed and raised, these pheasants enjoyed a wild bird life and generally when they're culled, they go from that to processed, so to speak, instantly.

And, as we now are increasing learning (and which I've known for decades) a natural diet of that type, with what you could locally hunt, is the best thing for you.

Now, as folks around here know I'm a fan of agriculture, and indeed I own beef cattle (although I'd live off of deer, elk and antelope if my wife, who is more of a beef fan, would allow).  And agriculture does have a peculiar role here.  

 Female pheasant hunter, 1960s, Colorado.

Agriculture is, or can be, the enemy of the wild in that it's allowed, as has long been known, civilization to rise.  Only the production of surplus foods can sustain urban development and our type of civilization, even though farmers and ranchers are often shunned by the people who depend upon them 100% in cities.  This has long been known, and some cultural anthropologist in fact make a big deal out of it and sort of smugly argue that all production agriculture is the enemy of the wild.

But in fact, as the National Geographic explores, agriculture can exist and does exist in a blurry line with hunting and gathering in those societies.  Nearly all, but not all, hunter gather societies are actually small farm, hunting, and gathering societies.  That's been obvious for millennia, but is generally ignored.

 Rabbit hunter, early 20th Century.  Rabbit taste nearly identical to chicken, and is the leanest meat on the planet.  It's so lean, in fact, you can't survive on a diet of it alone.  In many nations, domestic rabbit is a common table item.  It oddly isn't in the U.S., but there's no good reason for that. Wild rabbit taste like chicken and can be used anywhere chicken is.

Okay, so what's all this have to do with diet?

Just this.  While it puts me in the category of food campaigners, a wild diet is the best diet, and some direct relationship with your food is vastly superior to none.  People who sit around extolling vegetarianism or veganism are largely allowed to do that on the backs of farmers who are supporting their pagainistic anti natural dietary beliefs.  People who have a direct relationship with consumption and understand it (the two not necessarily being the same) tend to feel differently.

 Trout fishing in the Catskills.  Fishing is really fish hunting, and I've always thought that people who try to make a distinction between hunting and fishing are fooling themselves.  For that matter, anyone who eats fish, poultry or meat and doesn't think that they'd personally hunt or fish is really fooling themselves anyhow.  While on this, I'll also note that I truly find the modern emphasis on "catch and release" a bit bizarre.

Even now, in the 21st Century, many of us could have that direct relationship.  Most urbanites have the room to plant a garden (and yes, I've done so in the past but haven't the past several years, so I'm being a bit hypocritical).  And hunting is on the rise in the United States.  Taking some of your food in the field, either by hunting or fishing, is to be encouraged, and not only has the benefit of giving you a diet that somewhat replicates the one you are evolved to actually eat, but it gives you a lot of exercise as well.  Indeed, something non hunters don't appreciate is that the actual work in hunting involved can be quite intensive, and usually really dedicated hunters in the west try to stay in shape for that reason.  For those who can't do that, a direct relationship with your beef supplier, or pork supplier, or poultry supplier, is nearly always possible.  The cow in our freezer has always been the trendy "grass fed" beef just because of that sort of, but of course it's one of our own that's a "volunteer" having determined to retire from calf raising.

 World War One vintage poster campaigning for War Gardens, which the U.S. encouraged to be planted in towns and cities.

 World War Two photograph of a Victory Garden being planted.  This fellow had such a big yard (its in a town) that he's acquired a tractor to do it.

 School Gardens probably passed away about the time this poster was made during World War One, but there's plenty of space in most urban areas for yard gardening.

There's no down side to any of this, and we can only hope that this trend continues in the future, with more hunting, gathering and planting, on their own.  Shoot, most urban areas are so darned boring in real terms, the benefits can hardly cease.

Deer hunter bringing in a deer on skies. The uninitiated will think, "oh surely, that's the far distant past". Well, not always.  I haven't hunted deer on skies, but I have hunted snowshoe hares on skies many times.


Rich said...

I've always thought that there should also be something about seasonality to how a person eats.

There's something about that first asparagus in early spring, digging new potatoes out of the garden, peaches in summer, or venison in the fall that makes you appreciate it more than just going to the store and buying whatever you want whenever you want.

Eating a fresh-picked peach (if you can find one) in December doesn't seem quite the same as eating yourself sick on home-grown peaches in July.

Pat and Marcus said...

There's a group of people who term themselves "localvores" who espouse that view, with the added angle of "eat local", something that would be pretty tough in some areas of the country (which they'd likely acknowledge and probably make a point of). Still, that raises the interesting point of the costs of costs of food transportation, which is something we don't think of often (it's amazingly cheap, in context).

New blog threads in the making!