Pete Evans (of MasterChef Australia fame) is a familiar face for most of us friends across the ditch, and here in Aotearoa he’s spreading the love for good food too – but this time it’s not a cooking contest but an advocacy project. That’s right, because, despite having a wealth of detailed knowledge with regards to nutrition, Evans admits that he just wasn’t feeling that great and neither were his family.
The solution? He decided to go back to the days before industrialization; before even the advent of agriculture, actually all the way back to when there wasn’t any such thing as a food pyramid (!!) and his DeLorean stops just about three million years ago outside the solution to the world’s eating problems: Going Paleo.
Now before you instantly associate Paleo with dinosaur related chronicles (which is tempting and probably a great way to get more followers) there is actually a surprising amount of substance to this lifestyle choice that advocates, among other things, ‘nose-to-tail eating; free-range pork and poultry; wild game and seafood; and organically grown nuts, seeds, produce and healthy sorts of fat.’
The biggest change is giving up dairy (cheese nights goodbye! sniff) and your conventional sources of carbs including grains and legumes. Aside from that it seems like a reasonably balanced healthy way to make some choices about what goes into your gob.
And to be honest, it’s not exactly ground breaking news.
My grandmother would pop the whole chicken into a large pot add whatever veggies were available, throw in some herbs and voila! Like her grandmother before her she would use the liquid as stock and then proceed to use every bit of the carcass including the formidable pope’s nose. Evans calls it his DIY bone broth but is it really that different? Hmm. Activated nuts also seem to get a pedestal but again but I’m sure it’s not just been my Nan who’s been soaking, rinsing and then drying a range of different nuts and seeds for years. True they didn’t have dehydrators but old fashioned sunshine did the trick. Aside from a tendency to glorify some tried and tested methods (pick up any old cook book from New Orleans and my granny’s recipe totally outdoes Evan’s) the recipes also have a tendency to drown everything in coconut oil. Again coconut has been used for generations (and not just in food but on the skin, hair and even eaten raw) but when sunflower, peanut and other oils are available (as well as good ole lard) it seems to be a tad over the top to drench everything in the same oil. Admittedly, it is delicious but for those with cholesterol concerns it’s probably worth looking into a bit more.
Aside from all those quibbles (which admittedly have to do more with a sense that advertising dollars have been well spent) the fundamental notion of eating healthier by eliminating what was traditionally foreign to our bodies makes a compelling, if not exactly earth-shattering, case.
And the recipes aren’t bad either.
Instead of rice why not blitz cauliflower or broccoli until they resemble grains? I might not throw out my quality Arborio anytime soon but it is an alternative. Similarly, serving a traditional Bolognese on kale might not be such a bad idea (unless you have a family of outlaws who persist in thinking leafy green should be kept for the exclusively for the refined palate of rabbits) and I have had the opportunity to try a number of the different salads (sautéed silver beet with garlic and hazelnuts and the Moroccan carrot salad) and have been very happy with the results.
Occasionally you will find that some recipes call for expensive items (let’s be honest free range isn’t cheap unless they’re clucking in your backyard or you have access to home kill) and despite its increased popularity, chia seeds seem to be stubbornly expensive. Oh well.
With so many dieting fads around it’s probably more productive to look at ‘Going Paleo’ as a lifestyle choice – and whether you wish to go the whole hog or not the choice is entirely yours.