20/03/2014

Spring has Sprung!

The vernal equinox is upon us, but we don't need all that clever science to tell us that spring is upon us!

The weather is getting milder, the days feel longer, all manner of new things are growing and there's hope in the air ... hope for the new year and a bountiful one to come.

Wild garlic is the one natural phenomena that tells me spring is upon us. Walking through the hills, valleys and woods, suddenly in the still a single aroma permeates through everything ... garlic!

It is truly magical when that moment happens and upon looking round, there it is ... all around ... wild garlic!

And so, I know that spring is upon us and the cycle will start again, bringing us promise of seasonal produce and the magical combinations that are made possible only by nature, within nature. What grows together goes together ...

I've been writing this blog for three years now.

Three years since taking up a paleo diet, for the reset, and then maintaining an ancestral approach to nutrition. I have shunned "science" largely since I don't believe it - every time science comes up with something, it will disprove itself in a few years; no, what I follow is a natural sense of order.

If we've been doing the same thing for 2.5 million years then it's pretty certain that is the right thing to do. Changes to that which have come about in the last 25 years, 100 years, 2,000 years, 10,000 years, well, there is good to be taken from it, but largely those changes stand to re-affirm that what we've been doing for 2.5 million years of existence is largely right.

Where it is not right is almost certainly down to us not being in accordance with our evolutionary past. Nutrition is one third of an almost holy trinity of work, play and replenish.

Work is good. What we work at nowadays has its drawbacks and those of us who sit in an office for a third of the day might well look at folks who do manual work and feel jealous, and it is a sad fact that renumeration is often inversely proportionate to the action amount of use, or good, that a person's labour produces. That said, work is good ... dive in, do what you do well, put all your efforts into it, enjoy it, ensure those who you encounter, deal with, make deals for, undertake activity on behalf of, all those people - ensure that all those people enjoy your efforts. Delight them! Savour it and never get sour about who might be benefitting from what it is that you're putting in - you're winning! You win by living life well, working hard, playing hard and replenishing.

Play is good, and I will include rest in here, too. We've worked, we've worked hard and given it everything. Now play! Go out for a walk with your partner, your family, take the dog, take the cat if you can slip a lead onto it. Take a bottle, take a little food, enjoy a sit down, look at the views, watch the skies, watch the sun set. Play, be restful in your play, be competitive in your play, be collaborative in your play.

Replenish. This also includes sleep. Nutrition is largely what this blog is about, but sleep is so important especially to combat the ills of modern life. Make your bedroom your cave - remove all technology and place an alarm clock just outside the bedroom so that you're not intruded upon by time, but can still wake, rise and get up when you need to. Blackout curtains, sound-proofing, peace and quite; all paramount.

I've written this blog for three years ... I said that, already.

In that time I have seen "paleo" change, first on fats, then on dairy, then on starches, then on legumes, and you might be wondering what's left of "paleo" if we now enjoy saturated fats, fatty meats, good dairy, simple starches like potato and rice, even properly prepared legumes; what's left?

Well, everything, actually. Paleo is about so much more than simple nutrition - your lifestyle, your approach, your mindset, work, play and replenishment timing, and that's something I've been playing with for a while and have come up with what works for me: close to the Renegade Diet, certainly close to 'Eat Like a Predator' and very much akin to Cordain's musings on food timing.

Eat in the evening. Eat well, eat to fullness, perhaps overeat, perhaps not. Eat protein, fat and carbohydrate. Whenever you finish eating, give is a 16 hour break until you eat again. In our hunter/gatherer past, the day was spent collecting and hunting for the evening feast. Leftovers, if any, might have been nibbled at in the morning, but for the most part "breakfast" would not come until later in the day when crossing a stream and spearing a fish to eat or grabbing a handful of wild berries. You get my drift. So, come lunchtime, noon, maybe one o'clock, that is the time to break the fast and eat something simple - protein, a fish, a piece of chicken, an egg, perhaps some cottage cheese or some yoghurt and berries. Then comes the feast in the evening. This is working well for me and working well for my wife, although she likes a mid-morning "breakfast" of good, natural yoghurt and berries, lunch around one o'clock.

I've written this blog for three years ... I'm sure I've said that, already.

I don't do things traditionally, in fact I do, but that is a point of semantics. I don't "do" recipes. I don't do recipes for a reason and yes, it frustrates, but the whole point is, learn. Learn to cook, learn to know seasonality, learn to find the best reared or grown food, learn how they fit together, experiment, try new things, most of all don't follow recipes. Recipes constrain.

One of the earliest recipe books that I know of is the 'The Forme of Cury', a 14th Century English cook book. Let's look at an example recipe, one which I love: Loseyne, proving that Lasagne is actually English ...
"Take gode broth and do in an erthen pot, take flour of payndemayn and make therof past with water. and make therof thynne foyles as paper with a roller, drye it harde and seeth it in broth take Chese ruayn grated and lay it in disshes with powdour douce. and lay theron loseyns isode as hoole as thou mizt and above powdour and chese, and so twyse or thryse, & serue it forth."
So, flour sheets, cheese and something between them ...

No table of ingredients, no dictated and numbered method, just a description of the food and how to put it together. Sound familiar? Why, thank you! Yes, you spotted it - just like I write. I do this for the single reason that I don't want to constrain you to my list of availabilities, skills and equipment. I set out what I did and hope to inspire.

I've written this blog for three years ...

From here, I think I'll probably do things a little different and just post up what it is I'm eating. I might add some dialogue, but don't expect recipes and method. Don't expect them because they are not useful; useful is learning how to cook instinctively, inspirationally and enjoying the hell out of what it is you've cooked.

Recipes are a construct of modern cooking and are anathema to ancestral eating. Recipes exist because modern food and modern cooking is so uniform ... and mundane. Imagine writing "175C for three hours" in 'The Forme of Cury' for Cooks who were cooking on open fires in ovens that had no standard whatsoever. It would not make sense and does not make sense for the ancestral Cook. I capitalise Cook, since it is a proper noun - use it and never be ashamed. Chefs train for years in tradition; Cooks know instinctively what to do with leftovers.

The ancestral Cook knows that some protein and some vegetables make a meal. It does not get more complicated than that and there are three key cooking methods that the ancestral Cook needs to know about: frying, steaming and stewing.

Steam veggies, steam fish. Fry meat, fry fish, fry organs, fry some veggies. Stew meat and organs.

That is all you need to know, but what you need to learn is which of each is best with each of those cooking methods, all of which are possible over an open fire outside. If a caveman could do it, surely we can, and that is why I reject recipe ingredient and method dogma, giving only "here's what I cooked and what I threw in with it", sometimes why.

I've written this blog for three years and I will carry on writing it - this is my blog, my adventure, my food, my life. As the years roll by and the seasons push through, you'll see some familiar food coming through, but that is the point - the wheel of life pushes ever on and in that comes repetition; repetition because of seasonality and availability. Embrace it and love it!

I will certainly come up with new ideas, fresh inspiration and take time to set that out here at 'Living in the Ice Age'.

Spring is upon us, the new year has dawned. Have another great year, folks. I do hope to hear from you, so don't be shy and drop your thoughts, ideas and comments into the form at the bottom of every post I make.

Work, play and replenish, folks.

6 comments :

  1. Great post! We get wild garlic in the woods round here and I, too, judge Spring by the smell although I have to admit it's often wafted into my car as I drive by!
    I love your sentiments about work, play and replenish. I am so pleased you intend to carry on blogging! I don't comment much but I always enjoy the pictures and ideas.
    Here's to (at least) another 3 years! Jean.

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    1. Thank you, Jean.

      Yes, here's to another three ... I do intend to do this for the rest of my life, and while what I present here might not always fit with the classic definition of "paleo" (whatever that may be at any given time), it is very much inspired by ancestral principles, particularly around macronutrient ratio, timing and attitude.

      Cheers!

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  2. What a great post for reading on a lazy Saturday morning. Although here we've just had the Autumnal Equinox, so the slowdown into winter is starting...yay, more soups, stews and slow cooked meats with a glass of red.
    I seem to be travelling along the same journey but a few months behind you, I started to add rice back, focus on stress/sleep and overall health rather than just the food. As an intuitive cook, I like your general guidelines to recipes, room for creativity!
    Congrats on 3 years, I'm a regular reader and looking forward to the next regeneration of the blog....

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    1. Fantastic to hear from you! I have your blog in my feeds.

      Best wishes for your journey. If there's one thing I hate it's dogma - an paleo is as full of it as veg*anism.

      Health is the key and I am certain that an ancestral focus is the right way, but being modern humans we need to engage with modern food supplies and so, being a clever, inventive and problem solving species, putting together the best that we can, reading between the scientific and the snake oil is the right thing to do.

      I don't think I spent enough time talking about learning. Up until about 10 years ago I had no idea how to cook. I could put together packaged food and ring a takeaway, even walk to one if the spirit of adventure caught me, but cooking? Nah.

      I learned. I learned by taking the ingredient, making a best guess and then tasting it. Each day, more and more ... until I had a reasonable idea what I was doing with most things I could find at the supermarket and a sensible approach to evaluating new things. I think this approach gave me the confidence to do weird and crazy things, like kiwi fruit, grapefruit and smoked salmon; poached salmon and blackberries; strawberries and sea bass, that kind of madness :D

      Learn ... try out.

      Once you're there, and let's be honest - real food does not need an instruction manual (read: recipes), let the food inspire you, do weird and crazy things because in the end real food is real food is real food. Putting together appetising combinations and visually appealing plates is the fun part of feeding.

      Carry on ...

      Beans next? :D

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  3. Don't tell the paleo police, but I might have eaten some hummus with my chips and kebab meat last night!
    Keep up the good work.

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    1. ... but I might tell the Kebab Police! Sacrilege! :D

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