New cave blog!

Posted in Uncategorized on January 2, 2013 by Adam McDowell

Hey there! This blog may have concluded, but I now write about paleo living and related stuff at Revenge of the Caveman. Visit today!

Out of the cave and into the sauce

Posted in Uncategorized on April 19, 2010 by Adam McDowell

Miss me? It’s been a fun few days since going non-caveman, but I will be coming back. Commentary to follow.


Caveman Month: Me make it to last day (sort of)

Posted in Uncategorized on April 16, 2010 by Adam McDowell

Any minute now, as I write, someone will bring the Friday afternoon snack into the office. Last week it was spring rolls (see above). Two weeks ago, McDonald’s hamburgers. The likelihood of a paleo-friendly snack being next to nil, I’ve gone ahead and peeled an orange for my cave-self.

Now, today is the last of my Caveman Month. In fact, I will end the fast a few hours early with a beer at my friend’s house in celebration of my birthday tomorrow. I’m sure I can be forgiven for that.

Oh, the snack is here. It’s muffins, coffee and apple pies from McDonald’s. I had a coffee.

I will have a lot of thoughts to share soon; apologies for being so distracted during my last cave-week. (Or is it?)

Bum me out at the ballgame

Posted in Uncategorized on April 14, 2010 by Adam McDowell

Monday night: Season opener at the Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays. I love baseball. I love beer. I love hot dogs. Ordinarily the three go together like a caveman, his club and some kind of animal bone to gnaw.

However, one cannot drink beer on a strict hunt-and-gather diet. Nor can processed meat in a grainy bun be considered compliant with eating like a pre-agricultural person, as I am attempting to do. So I restricted myself to sunflower seeds — which were salted; a minor cheat —  and water.

At first this made me a little miserable, but I kept it to myself. By the third inning I was enjoying the game, particularly happy to boo that bum Alex Rios. It was enough to forget about all the expensive Budweiser being swilled all around me (you’d think Major League Baseball’s only Canadian team would serve good Canadian beer at the ballpark, but that’s an argument for another day).

Meanwhile, the concession lineups swelled. One friend had to wait 50 minutes for a beer. The walking turnips manning the beer pumps were IDing everyone, including people clearly in their thirties — the drinking age in Ontario, meanwhile, is 19. (Even vigilance ought to have its limits.)

Everyone in my large party gave up on the idea of more beer or snacks. My brother displayed his tension by sitting forward in his seat and complaining almost nonstop about the incompetence of the Rogers Centre. I’m sure he didn’t enjoy anything after the fourth inning.

I stayed quiet in my contentment, glad not to have had my appetite stoked Bud-stoked, but mindful not to gloat about it.

The Jays lost. The caveman, in a sense, won, by keeping to a diet that drives my cravings to extinction.

Mind you, even if I maintain some paleo practices in my lifestyle after the current trial month is through (two days to go!), there’s no way in hell I’ll be sticking to it at the ballpark.

Photo: With nosebleed seats like these, can you blame me for wanting a beer?

Man rediscovers fire

Posted in Uncategorized on April 12, 2010 by Adam McDowell

Me not gone! Me just busy.

This is just a quick post to reassure you that I have not given up on the paleo adventure — in fact, I find it easier to continue with, being just days away from being able to eat “normally” again — I have just been juggling a lot of activities. And I’ve been keeping my diet pretty cave-like all the while.

Some notes to chew on while I find the time to expand on them later:

• First, it’s barbecue weather at last in my home in Toronto, which makes eating mostly meat and vegetables more gratifying. Plus, I cook on a charcoal grill, which just makes the food taste authentically cavemanly. Just the smell has a primal appeal to it.

• Second, a friend asked me last week if it’s been hard not to drink alcohol. No: It’s been annoying.

• Third, not to sound like a diet book, but: I’m at the point where just about everyone is commenting on my weight loss. I will get to a scale as soon as I can. Best guess is I’ve lost 10 pounds in three and a half weeks by eating paleo.

• Fourth, I’m running out of time to do some paleo-ish things I planned to do: Walk the 19 kilometres (11.8 miles) from work to home; give blood; switch to all-natural grooming products.

• Fifth, I have to run right now to catch the Blue Jays home opener. Going to a baseball game and not pigging out on beer and hot dogs is going to suck.

Foods me miss

Posted in Uncategorized on April 7, 2010 by Adam McDowell

In no particular order:

• beans — bean salads, refried beans, etc.
• cheese
• most Italian food, including pasta and chicken/veal/eggplant parmagiana
• sausages
• breaded spicy shrimp from the Chinese food place near my house
• just about anything else from the Chinese food place near my house
• pop (soft drinks)
• pizza
• Tex-Mex food in general
• sandwiches in general
• booze: cocktails, spirits, beer

And a few things that a Toronto-raised kid in particular will find painful to lack: hot dogs from vendor carts (a.k.a. street meat); and curries both East and West Indian (especially oxtail curry with rice and peas, or a roti with either boneless goat or mixed channa and spinach). Also, while I guess I can still have pho, it won’t be the same without noodles or bean sprouts. Also on the subject of Vietnamese food, I’d step on your foot for a bánh mì. Hard.

Looking at the list, none of it is particularly healthy — except maybe the beans, or so I thought pre-paleo — but you’d better believe I’m counting down the days before I can have them again. (Ten more sleeps, baby.)

Fastin’ easy

Posted in Uncategorized on April 7, 2010 by Adam McDowell

The shrinking of my appetite, from overpowering monster to soft-spoken weakling, has proved both remarkable and a little unbelievable. In three weeks of paleolithic eating I’ve gone from being an all-day grazer and craver to being the kind of person who can skip a meal and it’s no biggie. One of these days I might even forget to eat.

On Saturday I undertook an all-day fast, guided by my usual journalistic motivation: because other paleo lifestylers do. The thinking goes that hunter-gatherers must find food scarce at times, and will be subject to days without meals.

(However, based on a little research I’ve done, the reality for most hunter-gatherer groups seems the opposite: food is so abundant to them, the very concept of going hungry is alien; it’s those overpopulating agriculturalists who starve. Citation to come.)

I girded myself for a full 24 hours of water, tea and coffee only (the last item is a cheat; coffee is non-paleo — but can you blame me for indulging in a few free cups offered to me while doing volunteer work?). Ordinarily I would regard chewing gum as an aid to fasting, but I’ve foresworn my half-pack-a-day Excel habit at the moment for caveman reasons, too.

The reason for all this preamble is that the not eating was itself pretty easy; there’s not too much to say about it. Keeping busy helped: I worked at a Ten Thousand Villages fair trade store in my neighbourhood, as usual for a Saturday, then shopped with my fiancée for odds and ends for our upcoming wedding, then caught a screening of Crazy Heart at a local indie cinema — a film that was itself about craving, but for booze (which I’m doing fine without myself, by the way). It was a beautiful day until after the movie, and we walked for hours.

Oh, and watching a movie without snacks, for probably the first time ever, wasn’t so bad either. They had tea at the theatre, which was a relief.

The only moment of worry came at 4:26 p.m., when for a flash I felt a little light-headed while poking around a Pottery Barn. I didn’t tell my fiancée, who had been giving me unwarranted looks of pity and concern.

I’d considered allowing myself to eat at midnight, but in the end I went to bed with an empty belly (well, a belly full of herbal tea) and didn’t have anything until a banana the next morning at 10:30. It was my first bite to eat in about 34 hours. And yet my hunger was never any more powerful than the ordinary dinner-craving during my commute home — in the pre-paleolithic era, that is.

Nailed on the CrossFit

Posted in Uncategorized on April 6, 2010 by Adam McDowell

Want to feel deep shame for letting yourself devolve into a flabby slab of kitten-like weakness? Take it from me: Try CrossFit!

Staying in shape for me has lately consisted of endless dreary minutes on the treadmill, elliptical and other cardio machines plus the odd push-up and crunch. I don’t do any sports. Needless to say, I’ve never taken fitness too seriously.

Many paleolithic eaters do, on the other hand. And when they work out, they often visit CrossFit gyms. Google CrossFit to learn about the philosophy if you like, and Google CrossFit and paleo together to see how closely the two lifestyle choices go hand in beefy hand.

The idea seems to be that CrossFit exposes the body to a range of physical activity varied enough to mimic the daily grind of a hunter and/or gatherer.

My introduction to CrossFit came courtesy Dhani Oks, owner of CrossFit Academy of Lions (, which happens to be about a four-minute walk from my house.

I’d earlier heard frightening wails and clangs booming out of the former garage space on my walks home. I later discovered this was just Dhani’s musical taste ringing out. Another newbie and I were put through an initial fitness test to a soundtrack of Death From Above 1979, Wolfmother and Eagles of Death Metal. My kinda stuff. Already that’s better than the corporate gym where I have a membership.
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Offal-y tasty?

Posted in Uncategorized on April 5, 2010 by Adam McDowell

Doing research on paleolithic/hunter-gatherer diets, I’ve stumbled across several allusions to your typical pre-agriculturalist’s preference for vitamin-rich offal over lean muscle meat. Some hunters will eat eyes, brain and bone marrow over, say, the meaty loin of an animal.

So naturally I bought some kidneys the other day. Mark’s Daily Apple, a primal living site belonging to author Mark Sisson, says:

We recommend that you ease into eating kidneys by first purchasing beef kidneys, which have a milder flavor and are also the easiest – and least expensive – variety.

Well, considered that one ignored. My kidneys were pork, but not exactly bank-breakers at $1.02 for a pair of nice pink ones (I’m told you’re supposed to seek out the lighter-coloured kidneys as they’re from younger animals and thus more pleasant).

The challenging thing about kidneys is, well, they used to have pee in them. I don’t know if cavemen soaked their kidneys in lemon water to leach the ammonia smell out, but I sure as hell did.

Once I’d cut the useful parts of the kidneys into small pieces, I sauteed them with lard, green onion (scallions to you Americans), diced apple and black pepper. Based on my limited previous kidney experience, I’d say I did a decent job of cooking them.

The kidneys were smelly and unattractive, but edible. The texture — firm yet yielding — seems the best thing about kidneys. I won’t be filling the shopping basket with kidneys on a regular basis nor seeking them out in Chinatown, but I wouldn’t refuse to eat them either.

I tried to keep the fact that I was cooking kidneys away from the delicate ears of my meat-squeamish fiancée. She did eventually recoil in horror when I left the receipt on the counter and she read it.

Perhaps we were hard-wired to react so differently to kidneys. Among the hunting-and-gathering Hadza of Tanzania, the men reserve certain coveted organ meats for themselves, including kidneys (and also genitals and hearts). Someone’s lucky they don’t sell balls down at the Price Chopper.

Bad caveman! Lazy with counting

Posted in Uncategorized on March 31, 2010 by Adam McDowell

I have a confession to make.

I haven’t eaten a slab of cake or a frozen burrito or anything else anti-hunter-gatherer. And I’m not confessing about eating plenty of fruit, which some paleos seem to consider sinful. No, I’ve broken one of the pledges I set at the outset of my Caveman Month: to keep track of my food spending to see if I could stick to my version of a paleo diet on my usual approximate food budget of $350 a month.

Thing is, there are lots of things going for this homo sapiens these days, both in and out of the old cave, and my early practice of keeping track of the money spent and saving receipts every time I buy food — well, it has fallen by the wayside. I could try to reconstruct my spending based on my memory and receipts, but that runs the risk of an inaccurate tally. Call it roughly $200, or somewhat more than half the money spent in somewhat less than half the month.

Besides, trying to stick to the budget had meant buying my meat not at the butcher’s but at the grocery store, where in typical Canadian fashion, nothing in the fridge is organic. Ordinarily, in my pre-paleo-eating life, I paid a weekly visit to The Healthy Butcher on Toronto’s Queen Street. It has a pro-animal-welfare philosophy I can get behind, even if it’s not always the cheapest.

But hey, sometimes even the organic butcher offers a deal. The package of roast beef for more you see above may seem expensive at $10, but it was quite the weighty pile of cow-meat; it formed the basis of three meals, and it went down nicer to know the animal lived somewhat better than a bovine destined for a major meat packer (I hope that’s the case at any rate).

If I kept to the budget I’d never have been able to afford the roast beef, nor eight raw oysters on Saturday, nor the sashimi I plan to pick up for dinner some evening soon. By the time Caveman Month is out I’ll probably have spent well over $400 on food.

My conclusion: Paleo eating is more expensive than 21st century eating, since I’ve gone from gorging on meat two or three times a week to eating it most days. Meanwhile I’m consuming more seafood as well, and I have ethical issues around that, too, which can steer me towards expensive choices like wild Pacific salmon. (Farmed salmon bad.)

Finding an extra $50 a month on food wouldn’t necessarily be easy, but I may decide the benefits outweigh the costs.

And speaking of “weigh,” I keep getting skinnier and people are noticing (more on that later).

Finally, to add one more consideration to the mix: I’m happier with much less food than usual these days: My meals are portioned like my former snacks, and my snacks are often replaced with cups of herbal tea. So maybe I’m not spending more on food overall. Makes a caveman wish he could have done a better job of tracking his food costs.