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.

Me try and fail to make pun on quail

Posted in Uncategorized on March 29, 2010 by Adam McDowell

Eaten today: One orange, two apples, handful of sunflower seeds, two hard boiled eggs, brace of roast quail, large helping of turnips and Brussels sprouts roasted in lard, tea, tea, peppermint tea, handful of strawberries, handful of baby carrots.

Pants feel looser. Appetite satisfied. You comment on my paleo cred, I throw large bone at you.

That is all. Long day.

End war on fat. Processed carbs the enemy: Slate

Posted in Uncategorized on March 29, 2010 by Adam McDowell

A must-read for paleos: This piece in my favourite online magazine, Slate, headlined “End the war on fat: It could be making us sicker.” It dovetails nicely with my earlier post about lard. Enjoy.

Lard almighty

Posted in Uncategorized on March 29, 2010 by Adam McDowell

At first my vegetarian fiancée sat patiently and bemusedly by as I seemed to triple my red meat intake for Caveman Month. However, thanks to my simulated paleolithic cooking choices, she says our condo is starting to smell as though a dingy fast food restaurant has its exhaust fan pointed through our kitchen window.

As a caveman, I’ve chosen to cook with lard — an animal fat — over olive or canola oil.

My reasoning starts with this: You’ve got to sit there and squeeze a hell of a lot of olives before you end up with enough  oil to grease up your veggies. It seems to take 5.5 kilograms’ worth, or perhaps 1,200-1,600 olives, to make a litre of the golden fluid, at least according on my back-of-envelope estimate based on this and this.

Quite a few paleos rely on olive oil to make their food interesting, but, to concur with this fellow paleo blogger, I just don’t buy the idea of extra virgin olive oil as a Stone Age food.

I’ve not turned up my nose at grilled veggies at the work cafeteria, or during my one Cave Month restaurant visit so far, for being cooked in olive oil. However, I’m not using the stuff at home. It would be too easy to fall back on olive or other vegetable oils to make my food interesting. Meanwhile, it’s not hunter-gatherer food as I understand it.

Cooking with animal fats makes sense for a pre-agricultural person. You’re not going to spend your whole life squeezing thousands of oily plants when you’ve got fatty stuff sitting around from your kills anyway. Make that delicious fatty stuff, no matter what my fiancée says.

On the other hand, yes, I know lard is rendered in a factory and thus should count as a processed food. At least when selecting mine at the grocery store I chose a brand that wasn’t hydrogenated. Incidentally, finding the lard took a long search. I ended up having to track down a shelf stocker to ask him where it was; turns out the lard is next to the shortening, with the oils.

Why buy pre-made lard instead of making it myself? Because I couldn’t in good conscience render pig fat in my house. Cooking with it is trauma enough for my special lady friend.

I imagine your typical caveman would have found the pantry empty of meat on many occasions, so as a 21st-century cave poseur I’m having some vegetable meals myself.

On the plate you see below, I have sauteed collard greens, sauteed mixed mushrooms with parsley and garlic, and roasted turnips and Jerusalem artichokes.

All of it was slathered with a bit of lard prior to cooking. Result: Me like.

Update: Rest of workers eat burgers, me eat this

Posted in Uncategorized on March 26, 2010 by Adam McDowell

Every Friday afternoon there’s a free treat in my office. Today it’s going to be McDonald’s hamburgers.

I’ll be eating a salad with avacado and tuna.

I’d rather have a burger.

Update update: Now that I’m actually eating the salad, it’s pretty tasty and I’m happy about this. Never mind. Get back to your lives.