Monday, 31 October 2011

Many Millenia Before the Edwardians: the "Caveman" Diet Trend

I recently read, via a friend in Berlin, news of a new restaurant "Sauvage Berlin," featured in a Daily Mail article on the newest culinary trend: the "Caveman (Paleolithic) Diet."

The restaurant's website, a veritable primordial swamp of amusing "Ger-glish" phrasing, promises:

After six months of hard labour we've transformed a former brothel into a small restaurant with great ambition. Sauvage represents the first Paleolithic - or Prehistoric- restaurant on the Eurasian continent. Rumor has it that Sauvage might in fact be the first restaurant of sorts in the whole World.

From the world's oldest profession to the world's oldest cuisine. No bread, pasta, cheese, or sugar. Diners are offered organic, unprocessed fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, and herbs. As the Daily Mail explains: "The menu includes salads with olives, capers and pine nuts; gluten-free bread with nut-based butter or olive tapenades; smoked salmon with herb dressing; and other various meat and fish dishes. Gluten- and sugar-free cakes, like a spicy pumpkin pie, are available for those Stone Age diners who don't want to skip dessert." Some critics have called the exclusionary food trend "socially disruptive" (read: you will exasperate absolutely everyone).

The health benefits touted regarding the paleolithic diet are impressive indeed (again, Ger-glish fabricated compound words run rife on the restaurant's website):

Higher and steady energy levels thoughout the whole day; bodyrecomposition- effortless fatburning and musclegrowth; Clear skin, softer hair and stronger teeth; Better immunesystem (Hence no more colds or flus. Major savings on doctorvisits and pharmaceutical purchases!); Higher sexdrive; Mental balance and general wellbeing.

Yes, all very hemp-sandals health-food wholesale brochure printed in sepia tones circa 1984. But do the health and, perhaps mostly importantly, weightless benefits of the Paleolithic diet stand up to scrutiny? Nutrition experts discount the potential of the paleolithic diet to attain significant weight loss. One of my knowledgeable "tweeps" has informed me that the diet has been effectively demolished in the book Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human by Richard Wrangham. Humans cannot, and in fact never did, live without carbohydrates. It is essential fuel for life, though this may do little to dissuade the significant numbers of individuals who claim that the diet has worked for them.

Perhaps their weight loss is due to all the running to and fro in bearskins, hunting and gathering. Or it may be that, like the placebo effect of imagining a pure pre-historical and noble human race, it is all in the mind. At the very least, however, food trends can be fun and diverting, provided that one does not go "ape" for them.

[NB: Yes, the Idle Historian does realize that the primordial swamp and Neanderthal man far pre-date Stone Age man in the evolutionary timeline. Sometimes one simply cannot help oneself when puns offer themselves up.]

Read more reflections on history, idleness, and the art of living from the Idle Historian in To The Idler The Spoils 


SloaneScholar1 said...

"Humans cannot, and in fact never did, live without carbohydrates." This needs to be sent to all Hollywood starlets and their nutritionists ... and, especially, GOOP.

IdleHistorian said...

Quite, SloaneScholar1, quite!

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