1. Table of Contents
  2. About
  3. Solar Dispatch 2
  4. Schedule
  5. Alimentary Alliteration
  6. On Food
  7. Why Lettuce Doesn’t Take Over Your Lawn
  8. ReWild Yourself! Podcast: Samuel Thayer on Foraging Wild Foods
  9. The Process of Processing
  10. 3D Printed Food, Post-Natural Nutritional Dystopia
  11. Paleo Diet: Food Fad or Forager's Friend?
  12. ReWild Yourself! Podcast: Arthur Haines on Food Fads vs the Homo Sapiens Diet
  13. The Nutrient Density of Wild Plants
  14. Neoaboriginal Revolution
  15. Choosing Animal Foods
  16. Wild Woman Speaks
  17. ReWild Yourself! Podcast: Nora Gedgaudas on Cultivating the Feral Mindset
  18. ReWild Your Diet
  19. Voice of the Tribe
  20. Wiki Links Trail
  21. ElixirCraft Mastery
  22. 20 Tips for ReWilding Your Diet!
  23. Eating in Isolation — Plight of a Social Ape
  24. An Ode to Renegade Food Producers!
  25. Your Neo-Aboriginal Challenge
  26. ReWilding Resources
  27. Would You Like to Contribute to the Next Dispatch?
Daniel Vitalis

Let Food Be Thy Medicine

ReWild Yourself! — Dispatch 2

Let Food Be Thy Medicine
ReWild Yourself! — Dispatch 2
Table of Contents Table of Contents Table of Contents Table of Contents
About

Welcome to Dispatch 2 of ReWild Yourself! This online magazine is designed to function as more than a source of information, entertainment, and education, it is a kind of natural solar calendar, and will be released in accordance with the eight significant Earth/Sun events throughout the following year. These are the Vernal Equinox, Beltane, Summer Solstice, Lammas, Autumn Equinox, Samhain, Winter Solstice, and Imbolc. This natural sine-wave rhythm of solar time was once the calendar that we humans lived our lives by, however today we are living on the Gregorian calendar, which is really an artifice, having no real correlate to the events of the natural world. Conversely, the natural solar calendar is based on real, observable solar/planetary events, and is therefore a significant part of ReWilding Ourselves!

In this Dispatch, the focus is on food. If I have done my job, there will be many small “ah-ha” moments that arise as you make your way from the cover to the concluding comments. 

This month our regular columnists provide significant insights, from Arthur Haine’s exposition on wild phyto-nutrition and selecting near-wild farmed produce, to Frank Giglio’s body-balancing bone broth recipe — which will likely be a staple of many ReWilder's diets for decades to come. Wild Woman — Ali Schueler — Speaks, addressing optimizing our emotional eating patterns, and our guest Morgan Maher explores some of the nebulous ethics of animals-as-food. 

Prepare to be edified by this Dispatch's incredible interviews with Nora Gedgaudas on becoming a feral ninja warrior, Samuel Thayer on a life of foraging wild plants, and Arthur Haines on detecting fad diets!

All of these are punctuated by articles — which will make the most sense when read in the sequence that they appear — that help to fill in the blanks, addressing things our parents, teachers, and culture never told us about the food we eat.

It is my sincerest hope that you will find something meaningful and useful in the following articles and interviews, something that will be incorporated into your life and the life of your family — maybe even for generations to come.

I invite you to sit down with this magazine at a time when nothing else is competing for your attention, so you can focus on simply digesting the material before you. We have striven to provide content that is in dramatic contrast to the style of the day — short quips, photos with euphemisms plastered across them, and articles which over-promise and under-deliver. Instead, here you will find thorough, well composed, and truly valuable (maybe even life changing) articles written from an unapologetically feral mindset. With how much data we all have coming at us constantly, I personally want to thank you for taking the time — your time — and sharing it with me and the contributors who have written and spoken here. 

May your Wild heart be forever free!

Photo by LeighLon Anderson

Photo by LeighLon Anderson


All writing in ReWild Yourself! is by Daniel Vitalis unless otherwise noted.

Daniel Vitalis is a Leading Health, Nutrition, and Personal Development Strategist.  Encouraging us to “ReWild Ourselves”, Daniel teaches that Invincible Health is produced by a life aligned with our biological design. His entertaining, motivational and magnetic delivery style has made him an in-demand public speaker in North America and abroad. He is the creator of FindASpring.com, a resource helping people find fresh, clean, wild water wherever they live, and the founder of SurThrival.com, a brand pioneering a lifestyle of vigorously healthy living. Daniel was recently featured in the widely acclaimed film “Hungry For Change”. He can be found at DanielVitalis.com, as well as on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest.

Daniel Vitalis

Daniel Vitalis

Click here to read our disclaimer.

Solar Dispatch 2

It is now Beltane, the day that the Earth moves to the position equidistant betwixt the Vernal Equinox and the Summer Solstice. The days have grown noticeably longer and warmer, the shoots of young plants are now emerging, buds are becoming leaves, and humans are rising from the partial hibernation that so many of us experience in the wintery latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. 

Beltane is the time of year most associated with fertility, as the libido of many creatures becomes active with this early spring weather, including the erotic displays of so many plants, made visible in the sexual organs we call flowers. Perhaps we also feel our own carnal nature stirring after the long cold winter, like the unfurling of the fiddlehead into a fern, something too is awakened within us. Notice as this energy reemerges in you, and celebrate it, as it is intimately connected to your essential creative force. Allow this creativity to rise unhindered in you this season. 

Notice the way the disposition of people around you begins to change, the way that the pessimism of late winter melts away like a frosty layer from their faces, and a glow begins to return to their eyes, as they experience the upward thrust of the levity of spring. Notice how the first warm, penetrating rays of sunlight feel on your face, how solar heat accumulates in your tissues, awakening parts of you the way a candle flame ignites back into brightness after being nearly — but not quite — extinguished. 

This experience makes evident the simple reality of our relationship to the Sun, that we are charged by it, that we store its energy within ourselves like does a battery, and that its energy is depleted in us over the course of a winter lived without its warmth. You can utilize this season to store as much of this solar light as you can within you, preparing yourself — fully charged — for the winter that will proceed the conclusion of this summer cycle.

This is a time of year for celebrating the return of the sun with all the promise of abundance that it brings, and for the days that will grow in length as we approach the culmination of summer solstice!

Schedule

First Dispatch: Spring Equinox - The Intrinsic Taboo

March 20 - 2014

Second Dispatch: Beltane - Let Food Be Thy Medicine

May 5 - 2014

Third Dispatch: Summer Solstice 

June 21 - 2014

Fourth Dispatch: Lammas

August 7 - 2014

Fifth Dispatch: Autumnal Equinox 

September 22 - 2014

Sixth Dispatch: Samhain 

November 7 - 2014

Seventh Dispatch: Winter Solstice 

December 21 - 2014

Eighth Dispatch: Imbolc 

February 3  - 2015

Alimentary Alliteration

I have been passionately pursuing the enigma of human nutrition for — as of this year — fully two decades. In that time I have seen countless food fads both come and go, as one celebrated calorie source comes into vogue and another is displaced. It takes time in any pursuit to develop mastery, and when we are but neophytes we are easily swayed by the vociferousness of the pundits of our given field of inquiry. I was no different, and having decided to commit myself to glowing health and a life of sound nutriment, I simply assumed — naively in retrospect — that what was healthiest for humans to eat was a matter already in hand, long understood, existing in a vacuum of debate. With all the zeal and euphoria of the energetic-yet-inexperienced, I embraced — swallowed might be more appropriate — the wisdom of the day.

It is important to note that I am (though slowly reforming with time) something of a radical extremest. Not of the bomb-detonating ilk, but rather of the “once convinced I’ll take a thing further than most would dare” variety, and when it comes to food I am no different, lest doubly fervent.

Twenty years of avid research reveals much, and I now possess a significantly richer sense of the timeline of human nutritional trend, and in particular where my generation fits into the epic of the gastronomically gonzo. Initially, as you might imagine, I had no knowledge of any such thing, and my introductory research led me to what North American’s were certain of circa 1994; a diet chiefly comprised of complex carbohydrates is crucial to health, and fats must be avoided if we are to live healthy lives. Observe a fad for long enough and you'll often times see its opposite emerge.

My first forays into food fundamentalism found filaments of un-oiled fettuccine falling from my fork, infrequent a fat calorie to be found. I ate pasta by the box, bagels by the bakers dozen, and loaves upon loaves of leavened breads, all labeled “fat free”; washed down with the liquid chalk of cardboard be-cartoned soy milk. Carbohydrates were my messiah, and I followed the lipid-less gospel with all the devotion of the recently redeemed.

Since then I have seen countless trends come only to go just as quickly, each as ephemeral as the’ve been certain of themselves, each with their pseudo-scientific claims or singular scrap of evidence upon which the entirety of their body of ‘wisdom’ rests. I have been there for low fat and high fat, high protein and low, for simple carbs and complex, no meat and all-meat, for Zones and calories counts, for anuses leaking indigestible Olestra. I was there when eggs were angels, and when they fell from heavenly grace, saw them resurrected to their rightful place, only then to be cast out once more. I’ve heard solemn lips intone dirges to cholesterol the corruptor, and hymns sung to this same as savior, listened to the rumors of fiber’s rise and fall, and heard as machines reduced whole foods to lab extracted components, only to read recommendations urging their recombination to whole foods, restored. With time comes maturity and perspective, and above all, one thing has become clearly evident to me; human beings are proudly confused about what to eat.

On Food

There is something strange and unsettling about eating, something that I have wrestled with for no small span of years. It's a matter that is understood by most of us, if only intuitively, but that is rarely put into succinct words. We humans, like most of the animals of the world eat the bodies — or body-parts — of living or once living things. Allow me to be clearer, we eat the tissues of living or dead organisms. We cannot, after all, subsist on sand or stones, cannot live alone on a regimen of air, water, and sunlight, but must — despite the moral challenges of the notion — eat the bodies or body-parts of other living things. We can consume a few non-living things, salt for instance, or even manage to move manufactured items through our digestive lumen — such as finely cut up cars and television sets, feats of the gastronomic grotesque that we have seen food-fakirs preform for the Guinness Book of World Records — but when it comes to our caloric consumption, that which fuels us metabolically, what we actually eat are other species.

There are, of course, a great diversity of species that humans can eat — our appetite is vast —and their range spans many kingdoms of life, from the botanical to the zoological, the fungal to the bacteriological, yet in the end each is a representative of a species. We — and the same can be said of most of living things — feed on life, or at least on the bodies of once living things.

Consider it for a moment, sitting down to your dinner plate as you so often do, that there upon rests the corpses and dismembered body parts of creatures who once pulsed with the universal life-force. Be they plant or animal, here they lay — the broccoli floret cut from its stem, the leg of a chicken amputated to become your meal, the fruiting body of a shiitake mushroom torn away from its mycelia, a civilization of microbes carrying out the happenings of their metropolis in the small pile of fermented cabbage we call sauerkraut. All giving up life so that you might live.

For some this idea might appear novel, like some ancient, unearthed and now rediscovered text, and for others — particularly those living close to the land — the notion is passé, as obvious as is the need to breathe. While the urbanite may not have mused upon it as such, your ancestors most certainly did, living lives closely yolked to the earth, foraging plants and hunting animals, or later raising both, and ultimately harvested all. That food was life could not be obscured. 

Today, industrial food processing combined with urban living significantly camouflages the source of our foods, and as a result, the all important knowledge that our lives are inextricably linked to the web of life and to the ecosystems that give rise to our meals. For children growing up in the digital era, living virtual lives in our great urban centers and observing their world through monitors, what food is and where it comes from is about as obvious as the inner workings of their mobile phones. For many food is something that comes, not from life itself — that great and mysterious ineffable that has consumed the ponderings of great lineages of philosophers and sages — but rather from the store or restaurant, leaving them with the impression that food can simply be generated by humans, synthesized with chemicals and equipment. Our dependance on life becomes obfuscated, and our relationship to the species we eat, estranged.

One of the many often under-discussed benefits of wild food foraging is that proficiency depends upon one being fully aware of the species that he or she harvests. Correct identification is a crucial component of good foraging, both for safety and for sustainability. This, when combined with the quest to find the organism you search for, engenders a direct sense of relationship with, and connection to, that species. While these alliances are something we can all experience when wild-crafting, the reality is that most of us subsist primarily upon domesticated foods, and we usually purchase them having been harvested elsewhere and by someone else. It can be easy to slip into the insentient habituation of viewing these foods as no more than simple ingredients, rather than seeing them for what they are, the remains of once animated life forms. 

Photo by Frank Giglio

Photo by Frank Giglio

Whether eaten in full cognizance or with incomprehension, a simple fact remains; you are in a symbiotic relationship with those species that you are eating. How you choose to honor or conceal those relationships is a deeply personal — one might say “spiritual” —matter. 

What follows are a few simple suggestions for developing a species aware eating plan.

-Take stock of what you are eating from the species perspective. For example; modern apples are a species we call Malus domestica, and the history of how they came to be a part of our diet is a fascinating one. Take some time to learn a bit about them or the other species that you regularly eat.

-Meet the foods you eat. It is a truly life-enriching experience to meet — while still living — a plant or animal that you have dined on your whole life, but have never seen in its animated, whole, intact form. When possible visit these species in person (in nature, on the farm, or in the garden) or raise them yourself, and consider doing a bit of research to uncover the biological origin of your mystery food. The stories of how the foods we eat came to be part of our modern lives are amongst the most fascinating things we can learn!

-Learn which wild organisms your domesticated favorites were bred from. Do some research to learn about the origin of the foods you love. Who were they before domestication? Where and how did they live? Who domesticated them and when? What varieties are closest in nutritional value to their wild progenitor?

-Prepare and eat your food with gratitude. Give thanks for these organisms who have given their lives that you might live.

-Acknowledge death. Despite our attempts for concealment and denial, our earthly lives will one day reach their conclusions, and when they do, specific species will in turn eat our bodies. This is the nature — the cycle — of life.

Why Lettuce Doesn’t Take Over Your Lawn

Remember the last time you were out on a hike, meandering along a forest trail, when suddenly  you came face to face with a wild cabbage? Or how about the last time you skipped through a field of flowering broccoli’s, their blooms glittering in the sunlight? Remember that time by the lakeside when you realized that the Brussels sprouts were everywhere, they like you, basking in the natural vista. Remember that time the neighbor’s lettuces escaped the garden, first taking over his lawn, only to eventually spread to yours — and soon to become the pestilence of the neighborhood?

Absurd, I know. This doesn’t happen. Precisely why is the purpose of this article. 

Imagine another scenario, one in which a picturesque suburban neighborhood is nestled betwixt the countryside and the urban sprawl. Finely divided plots, transected by the tightly winding streets and cul-de-sacs, like vascular branches delivering residents to homes like so many blood cells, pumped from the heart of the urban center. Each house a variant of the same design, each looking as if planned by a committee — revealing the truth of the matter; they were planned by a committee. 

In terms of plants, only foreign grasses dominate this landscape of utopian lawns, these and the ornamental trees that stand in their stoic sentinel’s isolation, emerging from manhole sized openings in the cement. The rest is artifact, houses, kid’s bicycles (training wheels still in place), little matching hybrid cars in the driveways, each a different color — expressing the individual tastes of the residents of this charming little burb. And then of course the lawn mowers, symbol of order, tamer of wilds, that — like the flaming sword of the archangel Michael, whose righteousness keeps the demon horde at bay — hews down the always reaching leaves of grass. These must be reduced to level nubs of course, lest they threaten to reduce this amusement park to a field, and ultimately, to a forest. Each household mows its lawn to perfection, taming the unkempt reality into something akin to a newly enlisted soldiers haircut. High and tight. Order prevails. 

What happens next is… unexpected. Little Jane encounters a wild thing on her walk from the bus stop to her house, a dandelion growing up from a crack in the sidewalk. Because this species isn’t well represented in her development, she has never been told it is a “weed”, one of the botanical untouchables, and in her ignorance, she mistakes its sun burst petals and vibrant glowing aura for a flower. Bewitched, as she is, by this noxious pest’s masquerade as a thing of desire, she unearths it, walks it into the development. Tugging a hole in the turf of her family’s viridescent lawn, she plugs this creature, roots and all, into the soil that she has just exposed. Pandoras box has been opened. A wild thing has been loosed.

How long until this dandelion establishes itself, begins to multiply, to spread. How long until those whose perfectly ordered lives and lawns are pitched into chaos, until the placidity which they have so carefully cultivated — husbanding their quarter acre lots as they have — is given over to bedlam. Soon starbursts of golden light begin to appear across the development, polka dots of yellow ships afloat upon an emerald sea; inciting the denizens to genocidal aggressions. Chemical warfare is the chosen method for the dispatch of this enemy, whose appearance signals a fall from the sublimity of civility to the corruption of wild nature. An attack is mounted, crazed by the pursuit of unblemished astroturf each resident poisons his own soil and himself; a fruitless effort — for the dandelion is a guerrilla in an asymmetrical war that cannot be won.

Why, might we ask, does this not happen with the lettuces that we grow in our gardens? It seems that just getting the lettuce to grow in the first place is a considerable labor unto itself. We must fluff the soil like the featherbed of a kings chamber, aerating it, and encouraging loft. We must continuously water, as even a full compliment of seasonal rains is like unto a drought to this, the prima donna of decorated dinner plates. And of course, to grow this plant without pesticide and herbicide requires vigilance and constant patrols, as every creeping thing threatens to consume the plant from above, and every green thing attempts to choke it down from below. Notice how once planted it never seems to spread, not out of the garden onto the lawn, not from your yard and into your neighbors. Like an infant born prematurely, kept alive in an incubator, requiring protection from the outside world that its delicate and still forming body is not yet ready for, so too do so many of our garden plants have “special needs”. Nature selects these plants for elimination almost immediately — they are about as hardy as a doily. In a race for survival, Dandelion would colonize the world barefoot before domesticated lettuce was done lacing up its shoes.

You may be thinking — conceivably — that dandelion is well adapted to this environment, while lettuce perhaps hails from places more hospitable. Not so, as wild lettuce (Lactuca serriola), the nature-born herb from which our translucent iceberg leaves were tamed, grows vigorously at the edges of our civilization, where fields meet forest, in abandoned lots, perhaps right in your backyard. Planted in your lawn it too would spread. What then separates these two?

Our lettuces — and I use them here only as an illustration, I could easily say the same of most of our food crops — are as fit to live amongst wild plants as a miniature dachshund is to run with wolves. These organisms, so weakened by domestication, require the constant hand of human intervention, lest they are picked off before they can even flower. And just as the miniature dachshund lacks the tooth, claw, and temperament to defend itself in the wild world, so too does lettuce lack its defenses, though these are not of the biting, scratching, and running kind, but rather of the chemical sort. Allow me to expound in parable:

If you were paid — and by this I mean paid well — to sit down, empty-stomached, to eat as much raw lettuce as is possible, how much do you suppose you could consume? Several pounds? It seems the only hindrance to consumption would be voluminous, what you could fit into your stomach at the tolerances of your digestion. 

Now, lets imagine you sat down to attempt the same with dandelion; raw. How much of this could you eat? Here the hinderance is not volume, but rather something that is lacking in the lettuce leaves. Bitterness. As you conduct this experiment now — in mind's eye at least (though if attempted in reality please film and send to me!) — notice how after a few leaves of dandelion further consumption becomes difficult at best, revolting at worst. While you are not conducting this experiment regularly, many insects and other animals are, and they too prefer our domesticated lettuce over wild-born dandelions.

Bitterness is the plant worlds equivalent to fight or flight, it is how a plant defends itself from beasts. Barring the dangerously extreme examples, it doesn’t stop us from eating a plant altogether, but rather slows us down and caps the quantity that we can eat without cooking or processing in some way. Many animals have adaptations to plant toxins, whether specific or general, and we humans are no different. Previous to the emergence of domestication and agriculture, we would use many processing methods to make otherwise unpalatable (or even anti-nutritious foods) more nutritious, digestible and pleasant to eat. We might cook something to deactivate the phytotoxins, we might leach these in cold water, we might remove portions of a plant that are more bitter than others. These acts are known collectively as processing. Not the industrial processing we think of when we hear the term “processed foods”, but instead of the kind from which the term first comes. The rendering of raw, wild foods into prepared and edible foods. But with the advent of agriculture a new concept emerged; plant domestication can be thought of as “genetically processed food”. Domestication breeds the defenses of plants away. They, now, forever requiring the care of the human hand, fend no longer for themselves. No defenses means no or low bitterness, and no or low bitterness means no defenses. This is why you can sit down to a plate full of raw lettuce (which we of course call a salad) but find yourself pushing back from the table after two or three dandelion leaves. Domesticated foods are genetically processed foods, my friends.

This too is why you will never fear an outbreak of lettuces in your lawn, why your mower will never spit shredded salad from its ejection port. Domesticated lettuce is too defenseless to grow on its own, having all the independence of a toddler with a trust-fund, the garden its playpen, keeping it safe from the rigors of the grown up world. Dandelion, however, is a rugged individualist, a traveler, a pilgrim and wanderer. Fearless and well-defended it walks the world with bitterness as if it were a form of kungfu. Self-made, it stands on its own, its nutritional and medicinal bounty is its wealth. Needing for nothing it grows as it pleases, vigorous and free.

Why, we must ask, do we weed away that superior thing which grows without our labors, and toil for that weaker thing, that provides us less but costs so much more?

ReWild Yourself! Podcast: Samuel Thayer on Foraging Wild Foods

In this episode of ReWild Yourself! podcast, I talk with Samuel Thayer, author of The Forager's Harvest and Nature's Garden.

We discuss:

  • Sam’s beginnings in foraging
  • How foraging effects your world view
  • How to get started foraging
  • How much wild food can you live on realistically
  • Is foraging sustainable for the future?
  • Sam’s favorite springtime wild foods

Foraging is not a skill; it’s just an idea. Each individual plant is its own skill.

Wild foods, and interacting with the landscape, has a huge place in our sustainable future.


Click here to listen!


Meet Samuel

Sam Thayer was born in Wausau, Wisconsin, where he first learned to gather wild food in vacant lots, backyards, city parks, and at the edge of town. Sam’s first presentation on edible wild plants was to his seventh grade science class, demonstrating the foods that he collected regularly on his three-mile walk to school.  Since 2000, when he won the Hazel Wood National Wild Foods Cooking Contest, Sam has been teaching regularly on edible wild plants, giving workshops across the United States. In 2002 he was inducted into the National Wild Foods Hall of Fame at North Bend State Park in West Virginia. His first book, The Forager’s Harvest, has won a Midwest Book Award, IPPY Book Award, and was a finalist for the USA Book News Best Books 2007 award. It has been a steady Amazon category best-seller and has sold more than 70,000 copies. His second book, Nature's Garden, has received similar acclaim and sold over 35,000 copies. He currently lives in the woods of northwestern Wisconsin with his wife, Melissa, their daughter, Myrica, and son, Joshua. Along with speaking and writing, he is also a maple syrup producer, wild rice harvester, and owns a small organic orchard.  You can find him at ForagersHarvest.com.

Samuel Thayer

Samuel Thayer

The Process of Processing

Processed food. The term elicits images of gold-glistening, creme-filled, trans-fatty pastry treats, arranged in uniform, fungible units upon a supermarket shelf. Their ingredients, scarcely discernible to the eye or tastebud, being no more perceivable as the species from which they were made than they would be from polymer or spray-foam. The ingredient deck on the crinkling cellophane package presenting as easy a read as the fine print of a credit card application.

Perhaps we envision pressurized cans of orange string confetti labeled as “cheese-food”, or cartoon inspired plastic dispensers ejecting candy treats from beneath the chin of your favorite character. Regardless, “processed food” is not a phrase we use to elucidate the benefits of a given edible. This has not always been the case.

raw |rô|

adj.

(of a material or substance) in its natural state; not yet processed or purified

Let's go back 10,000 years to a time when our species was universally foraging for its caloric needs. The foods that were gathered or hunted were procured in their “raw” state, and by that I mean the state in which they appeared when they were a living organism, or part of a living organism. Imagine a freshly harvested deer, still wearing its skin and its hair, still be-hooved and antlered. This animal, though no longer living, is still in its raw state. Imagine a root, pulled away from its purchase in the soil, brushed clean of its accompaniment of humus; it is still in its raw state. 

Today, we of course use the term “raw” more loosely, and largely as a marketing ploy for fad diets, e.g., “Raw Chocolate”, Raw Kale-Chips” etc. These of course are significantly processed foods, the former having been though fermentation, heat processing, oil separation, etc, the latter being “cooked” in a low heat oven known as a "dehydrator". To differentiate, and for the purpose of this article, here I use the term “raw” to refer to a thing that has not been processed.

process  |ˈpräˌses, ˈpräsəs, ˈprō-|

verb [ with obj. ]

perform a series of mechanical or chemical operations on (something) in order to change or preserve it

For the foraging group, few foods are eaten truly “raw”, but rather receive some form of processing. This may be simply cooking the raw food, but it may also refer to the removal of hulls, the leaching of toxins, fermentation to bring about chemical changes, the removal of seeds, wilting or drying, or any number of other techniques that humans have devised to render raw (or even inedible) foods more digestible, more nutritious, more palatable, or just easier to work with. 

Photo by Frank Giglio

Photo by Frank Giglio

Most species that humans eat require some processing. In an animal food it may be the removal of the digestive lumen, the butchering into cuts of meat, or the breaking of bones for marrow extraction. This isn’t always the case, but it is often true.

Even after the transition from the foraging life — about 6,000 - 10,000 years ago — the produce of agriculture still required significant processing; imagine the separation of wheat from chaff, corn from cob, nut from shell. This process-of-processing is time consuming, as the rendering of wild or domestic species into what we recognize as food is often a complex task. 

With the rise of agriculture and — following on its heels intrinsically — the city-state, so to do we see the emergence of an aristocracy. These individuals would have their servants process their food, this being “beneath” them, while for the serf class, food processing was still part of daily life. 

Skip ahead several civilizations, and several thousand years to the 20th century, wherein the “developed” world views processed foods as a luxury item, freeing them as it were from the rigors and toil of processing raw foods themselves. Processed food comes to represent wealth and status, as to process your own food was the menial labor of the peasant class. Better to put them to work for you than to do this chore yourself.

As time passed, processed food slowly and steadily morphed into “industrial food”, and “food science” replaced basic human food processing skills. Foods were broken down into base chemical components through laboratory and industrial processes, and then recombined to form all manner of “food products”. 

Eventually people began to understand that these foods did not sustain health, but rather contributed to many degenerative diseases and nutrient deficiencies. These foods were often too much of one thing (think white sugar), not enough of something (think vitamin and mineral deficient), or contained things that were not supposed to be there (think chemical additives). In the United States the processed food hey-day reached its Zenith in the late 1900’s when scarcely a well grown produce item could be found in a market place dominated by edible artifacts. As the public began to understand the problems associated with industrial food, the term “processed” began to take on a new meaning, one that has now become associated with reduced quality in terms of both taste and nutrition. 

Today, we see heavily processed foods competing alongside much more natural foods for market share. The fresh, organic, local, heirloom food market continues to expand, just as the industrial world continues to invent and promote foods that are more processed than ever. While for many of us, industrial foods never pass our lips, for the majority they are just one of the many wonders of modern technology, believing as they do, in the paradigm of infinite human “progress”. 

The great behemoth of industrial food is wounded, but won't lie down to die so easily, it has one more tasty transfiguration prepared, something stranger and more grotesque than anything we have seen before.

3D Printed Food, Post-Natural Nutritional Dystopia

“While only the very rich will be able to afford to eat real meat, fish and vegetables, Contractor predicts everyone else will eat customized, nutritionally-appropriate meals synthesized one layer at a time, from cartridges of powder and oil they buy at the corner grocery store. “  -Excerpt from DailyMail.co.uk Article on 3D Printed Food

Enter 3D printed food. Yes, that’s right, printed food.

The 3D printing revolution is now visible on the horizon, yet another technological juggernaut speeding into our lives with all the velocity that made the mobile phone an almost overnight ubiquity. Soon it seems, all manner of manufactured items will be built using these printers, from simple household items like coat hangers, to complex human organs like kidneys. As you might expect, those in the industrial food production complex are moving quickly to introduce us to the latest innovation in edible architecture, 3D printed foods.

“eventually we have to change our perception of what we see as food.” -Excerpt from NASA builds universal food synthesizer, 3D food printer

These foods are printed one layer at a time, making the 3D printer capable of creating complex shapes and geometrically rich textures. These ornate reliefs and renderings, which could only have been a dream to the food processors of the past, have now been made possible. Could this literally signal the end of food recognizable as the species from which it comes and usher in a generation of domesticated and urbanized children who do not know what whole food actually looks like?

Rather than “I don’t like peas” or “do I have to eat my vegetables” children might be heard saying “I don’t like dodecahedrons” or “mom do I have to eat all my reds”… 

One of the more unfortunate outcomes of eating from the modern processed food-shed is the removal of the recognition from a child’s mind (well from an adult's mind' too) of what the food they are eating actually is, where it comes from; what creature it was. How much more so, then, when a meal is something that comes from software and a printer, where ingredients are not individual species but cartridges of amino acids, glyco-nutrients, and lipids?

The last 10,000 years has seen the slow unfolding of a mal-adaptive trend, that of our species divorcing itself from the planets natural ecology in the pursuit of the creation of a human dominated, artificial landscape — a habitation I like to call “Artifact-Land”. It is a kind of virtual reality, where mono-cropped, urbanized humans live crowded together in isolation from most of Earth’s eco-diversity. The last 200 years — with its industrial and technological revolutions —  has plotted a parabolic curve away from a life recognizable as taking place on Earth towards one that takes place within the urban externalization of human imaginings. 3D printed foods represent a significant, if not paramount shift away from food as living organisms towards something far less recognizable. Rather than being a species eating other species, we will literally be a species eating manufactured artifacts. 

ChefJet | the sugar lab - 3D Systems

Paleo Diet: Food Fad or Forager's Friend?

This article first appeared in the Paleo f(x) blog prior to my presentation at Austin Paleo f(x) 2014.


diet |ˈdī-it|

noun

1 the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats

2 a special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons

Words. Each day we speak around 16,000 of them, despite the infrequency with which we revisit their meanings, or cross reference our inner dictionary against that of the people we are communicating with. In addition to the multiple meanings of the many lyrics of our lexicon, scores of our more emotionally charged words carry significant connotations that may we may not mean to imply, but which nonetheless are received by the hearer.

Take the word ‘diet’ for instance, a simple four letter ensemble, but one that can trigger — these days at least — nearly as many insecurities, arguments, and impromptu soap-box style proselytizations as politics and religion. And as important as these latter two may feel for us, neither have the implications on the basic survival of our species as that of the former. Diet is the very thing that both fuels the machine of—and provides the raw materials for — the construction of our bodies. It is the very thing that sustains not just the individual, but essentially, our very species.

I have been teaching about diet, nutrition, and lifestyle for several years now, and have found that the term has two distinct meanings, both related to each other, but having significantly different outcomes in how they influence our behavior. The first meaning is the biological one — the zoological one — the one that I am referring to when I teach on nutrition. I could sum it up as:

Diet: The foods to which a species is adapted and that it eats in its wild, unadulterated environment.

You could think of this as the antelope to the lion, or the eucalyptus leaves to the koala bear. This is the wild food program of a natural animal in its natural world, and this differs significantly from the idea of a dietary regimen, plan, or restriction of some kind.

The second definition, the one that most folks mean when they are talking about the subject — even and including the so called “experts” — has a tendency to confuse the matter, especially for those of us who are primarily interested in the natural, biologically adaptive diet of H. sapiens, our species. That definition reads as follows:

Diet: a special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons.

This meaning, the one that permeates and dominates the topic of human nutrition has, at least in the opinion of this author, led to a semantic mismatch that has significantly confused the subject. It is the topic of vast libraries of books, a surging river of which flows into bookstores each week, as we tread water in a deluge of dietary dogmas.

Let’s face it, humans are profoundly confused about what to eat. Hence the proliferation of “diet” in its lesser sense, in its restrictive sense, in its more commonly used sense. I’d like to let you in on a little secret, each of these diets has made a fatal error, and it’s a miscalculation that leads them into the eventual recycling bin that bears the label “fad diet”. Before we go further I’d like to mention the following; the Paleo diet approach is poised delicately on a precipice, balanced between a biologically adaptive, human ecology approach to nutriment and that bottomless abyss into which so many other diets have fallen, that final resting place of such experiments as the Atkins diet, the South Beach diet, the 3 hour diet, the Cabbage Soup diet, the Jenny Craig diet, and of course everyone’s favorite: Veganism. Ok, that last one is an ‘ism’, more of a religion than a diet, but you get my point.

Paleo’s greatest advantage is that it is — in concept at least — based on the understanding that the biological diet of humans must be that one on which we would ultimately thrive, and that the further we move away from our natural adaptive diet the less healthy we will be. Its greatest detriment is that all too often it is based on a suite of foods to which humans are not well adapted. Namely, the domesticated plants and animals that are available in our supermarkets, foods that have wild counterparts — often which they scarcely resemble in either appearance or nutritional value — but that themselves have existed for less than the last several millennia. These are new foods, and no rearrangement of them constitutes a natural human diet.

A walk about through the produce section of even the most progressive food market presents a rather revealing lesson in plant domestication, just as as the butcher’s shop is a museum-menagerie of domestic animal artifacts. Few of these, sparing perhaps such exceptions as the wild caught fishes, are foods that our much venerated ancestors of just 6-10 thousand years ago would even recognize. Perhaps one of the more revealing examples of this carnival of freak species would be the culturally ubiquitous plant known to science as Brassica oleracea, a pot-herb with which we are all intimately familiar. I say ‘intimately’ because throughout your life parts of your body have literally been composed of — shaped by — this species. You have probably eaten it this week. This protean organism shows more faces than the mythic Janus, appearing to be so many plants, yet all the while being, in truth, only variants of but one. You know it as kale and also collard greens, as broccoli and also cauliflower, as brussels sprouts and cabbage as well, as rapini and yet also as kohlrabi, each of these foods, appearing at first glance to be completely different vegetables, are but mutations of one single plant, originating in Western Europe, and having undergone such extensive domestication as to scarcely resemble its wild progenitor.

Wild Brassica oleracea - the plant from which kale, collard, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, rapini, a

Wild Brassica oleracea - the plant from which kale, collard, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, rapini, a

Or take beef — yes, I am including here even the holy grail of the modern back to the land movement, ‘grass-fed beef’ — which is the meat of Bos taurus, the domesticated and rather physically diminutive predecessor of the now extinct Auroch, the mighty beast that obsessed the minds of the earliest human artists, depicting them as they did on the vaulted walls of deep caverns — the iconic and much celebrated prehistoric cave paintings. This was a beast easily as large as a bison, and arguably as or more dangerous for the hunters who dared to confront them. Presenting a cow to our ancestors of just 8 thousand years ago would be akin to presenting a Chihuahua to one who contends with wolves.

Cave painting of Aurochs at Lascaux, France - dated to 15,000 BC

Cave painting of Aurochs at Lascaux, France - dated to 15,000 BC

Have you ever played the game where you rearrange a group of letters into as many words as possible? This is an optimal analogy for how the modern diet industry (that would be definition 2) works. The same domesticated species — novel, nutrient-deficient mutations on once wild foods — are endlessly rearranged into “new” approaches to eating. Each one has its meager scrap of scientifically validated wisdom on which it hangs its hat, each claiming to be that long awaited gastronomic-messiah come to save us from our now-known sinful sustenance. One diet restricts foods which another celebrates, still others claim a food poisonous that the next holds to be a panacea, yet all without anyone ever seeming to realize that none of these is based on the wild foods to which we boast some 200,000 years of nutritional adaptation. From the perspective of human ecology, these diets have all the accuracy of piñata strike, being a sort of stick swung in blindfolded darkness with hopes of hitting big.

Paleo, you have a chance, you could be the pillar of light which leads us out of the desert of dietary diaspora, the catalyst for a renaissance that brings an end to the dark age of domesticated rations into the enlightenment of biologically adaptive forage-for-all. Be admonished; hubris is the enemy of your potential, the saboteur of your success. Some backslapping is necessary, it builds moral and maintains the momentum we need to steer this ship to safe harbor, but I remind you — we are still out to sea and looking for safe passage. All of this grass-fed beef and organic vegetables are a necessary and important part of the journey, but remember no amount of cow-eating-grass does an Auroch make, neither does a lack of pesticide make wild a vegetable — whose body is to its progenitor what a strip-mall is to an old-growth forest.Be forewarned, if we allow this dietary approach to be just one more reconfiguration of the same foods that we have at once domesticated and at the same time been domesticated by, Paleo could slip from its sublime and lofty ideal as “diet-definition-1” to the banal and bathetic bottom of “diet-definition-2”.  

Let us then begin to move our locus of focus a bit further into the dietary-distance, to a point imagined but not yet glimpsed. Let us envision a truly paleo approach, one which celebrates truly natural food-stuff, genetically wild foods or those heirloom foods which are the closest relatives of their unadulterated progenitors. Let us put wild game meats upon the pedestal on which the sacred cow now resides and displace the disrepute of the dandelion with the reverence we now pay to kale. This approach takes us from “a” diet for people to “the” diet of our species. It won’t happen today or even tomorrow, but paleo could lead us from the doldrums of human domestication to the exhilarating path of ReWilding, from walls of Babylon to that proverbial Garden of Eden, from the cubicle to the forest, from famine back to feast.

So, next time you hear someone — or perhaps even yourself — speaking or behaving as if they have achieved the ideal and are eating the diet of our ancestors, I invite you to recall this gentle reminder: We still have a way to go!

ReWild Yourself! Podcast: Arthur Haines on Food Fads vs the Homo Sapiens Diet

In this episode of ReWild Yourself! podcast, Arthur Haines and I continue our conversation; this time delving into the difference between Food Fads and the Homo sapiens Diet.

We discuss:

  • All diets are fad diets
  • What constitutes a fad diet
  • The issues with the loss of seasonal foods
  • The good side of grains
  • Wild rice benefits
  • Cultivated foods vs. wild foods
  • 4 guidelines for choosing domesticated foods
  • Bitter lettuce over iceburg lettuce
  • How to eat animal foods
  • ReWild your mind 

Domesticated foods tend to be more immuno suppressive and inflammatory. Wild foods tend to me immune supportive and anti-inflammatory.

All fad diets are deficient in medicine.


Click here to listen!


Meet Arthur

Greetings! My name is Arthur Haines and I’ve been helping people explore human ecology for over 20 years. I’ve done this with the mission of developing deep awareness of and connection to nature, promoting individual health, and fostering self-reliance. Wild food is a passion of mine, and through this, I offer a glimpse of our past and a new picture of our future. Through this knowledge, and many other facets of our shared ancestral lifeways, we can awaken a rewilding of our body, mind, and heart.

I endeavor to share knowledge garnered from this perspective, one that merges the material knowledge of present-day people with the ecological knowledge of ancestral people.

You can find Arthur on Facebook and on his website ArthurHaines.com.

Arthur Haines

Arthur Haines

The Nutrient Density of Wild Plants

By Arthur Haines

Humans (anatomically modern and archaic types) have been harvesting wild plants for food their entire existence (ca. 500,000 years) and, before them, their early hominid ancestors did the same.  It can be argued that consumption of wild plants is fundamentally built into our being.  Our bodies’ ability to carry out metabolic processes, heal from injury or sickness, and defend itself from pathogens has evolved concurrently with a diet that is very different from the one most people experience today.  Our relatively recent reliance on agribusiness to provide the bulk of our nutrition has not undone our need for wild food.  Many of today’s chronic illnesses, including cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes, obesity, certain vision problems, dental and periodontal ailments, and neurodegenerative diseases, are the result of nutrient-poor diets that supply excessive ω-6 fatty acids.  Such diets often rely heavily of refined sugars, overly processed grains, and cage-reared, grain-fed animals.

Price (1945) showed that primitive peoples were free from many of the degenerative diseases that are common today.  Diet, in large part, played an important role in promoting health.  The plants consumed by primitive people are different in several important ways from plants consumed by contemporary people (Eaton 2008):

  • On average, they are more nutrient dense.  This includes vitamins, minerals, and fiber.  These are needed by the human body for innumerable reasons and several vitamins (e.g., A, C, D, E) are antioxidants with cancer-protective properties.
  • On average, they are richer sources of beneficial phytochemicals (e.g., polyphenols, glutathione, bitters).  These plant chemicals can influence bodily metabolic reactions and some (e.g., flavonoids) have potent antioxidant activity.
  • On average, they supply a more balanced ratio of ω-6 to ω-3 fatty acids (note:  ω is the Greek lowercase letter omega).  Whereas primitive people participated in a diet that supplied an ω-6 to ω-3 ratio of 1–3:1, the current American diet supplies the same essential fatty acids in a ratio of 8–15:1.  This dramatic difference is primarily the result of amplified use of cereal grains and certain plant oils in cooking — safflower (Carthamus tinctorius), soybean (Glycine max), common sunflower (Helianthus annuus), and corn (Zea mays) — all rich in ω-6 fatty acids.
  • On average, they provide less energy per unit weight (i.e., they are less calorie dense).  This has important considerations with regard to blood glucose levels (lowering variance) and total amount of fiber consumed (which affects intestinal tract function).

This article presents some of the results of various studies that have examined the nutrient, phytochemical, and lipid content of wild plants.  Where possible, comparison has been made with cultivated plants to provide context.  Two examples of native intuition regarding food preparation are provided to elucidate aboriginal people’s close connection with wild plants.  Pro-vitamin A, vitamin C, minerals, and ω-3 fatty acids are then discussed.  Prior to the concluding remarks, an expanded discussion of wild rice (Zizania sp.) is presented.  This species supplies a nutritious wild grain that can be efficiently hand-harvested and hand-processed from water bodies in northern and eastern North America.

Native Intuition — click here to read more

Pro-vitamin A

Carotenoids are a group of naturally occurring pigments responsible, in large part, for the red, orange, and yellow color of vegetables and fruits (and the yellow color of butter).  They are also present in dark leafy greens.  Some of these pigment compounds can be converted to the active form of vitamin A in the small intestine (α-carotene, β-carotene, γ-carotene, β-cryptoxanthin); therefore, they are also referred to as pro-vitamin A.  Though not all persons are capable of converting pro-vitamin A to active forms of vitamin A (e.g., retinal, retinol), pro-vitamin A is still beneficial to the body due to its antioxidant capacity, which can protect the body from damage by free radicals.  The following paragraph presents pro-vitamin A values from the study of Zennie and Ogzewalla (1977).  Gibbons (1966; pages 269–270) presents some of the limitations of nutrient content measurements (especially in regard to seasonal, edaphic, and geographic differences in food plants).

Of the cultivated kinds of leafy greens, spinach (Spinacea oleracea) is considered by many to be a good source of pro-vitamin A.  It possesses 8100 International Units (IU) per 100 g of tissue.  Figures reported by Gibbons (1966) support this—Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris) has 6500 IU/100 g, cabbage (Brassica oleracea) has 130 IU/100 g, endive (Cicorium endevia) has 3300 IU/100 g, and lettuce (Lactuca sativa) has 330–1900 IU/100 g.  Therefore, spinach will serve here as the standard because it is one of the better leaf sources of pro-vitamin A that is widely available (Zennie and Ogzewalla 1977).  Spinach is easily surpassed by many common wild plants.  Garlic-mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is non-native plant that is now common (and invasive) in many forested riparian and upland settings of eastern North America.  Its growth in large colonies permits easy collection of large amounts of edible foliage.  It had pro-vitamin A values of 8600 IU, 12000 IU, and 19000 IU, with the higher values obtained from earlier season collections of basal leaves.  Another non-native species, ox-eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare), is a common component of open areas such as fields and lawns in the eastern United States.  One of its primary advantages is its possession of flavorsome greens throughout the growing season (i.e., it does not accumulate distasteful compounds as the growing season advances).  Ox-eye daisy had pro-vitamin A values of 7000 IU and 12000 IU.  Again, higher values were reported from collections earlier in the growing season.  Woolly violet (Viola sororia, reported as V. papilionacea) is a common spring-flowering plant of open and forested habitats.  It had values of 15000 IU and 20000 IU (yet again, the higher value was recorded from early season collection).  Other wild species that surpassed the carotene content of spinach include white goosefoot (Chenopodium album), Gill-over-the-ground (Glechoma hederacea), prickly lettuce (Lactuca serriola), common plantain (Plantago major), and purslane (Portulaca oleracea).  The research of Zennie and Ogzewalla (1977) showed that wild plants can offer significant nutritional value over many cultivated plants.

Vitamin C

Ascorbic acid is an important water-soluble vitamin that is also a powerful antioxidant.  Though animal sources of vitamin C do exist (highest concentrations are found in organ meats), plants are generally better sources per unit weight.  Citris fruits, such as orange (Citrus aurantium), are widely believed to be good sources of vitamin C.  However, as will be shown by the research of Gibbons (1966), Zennie and Ogzewalla (1977), and others, there are many wild plants that equal or surpass orange in terms of vitamin C content.

Click here to read more on Vitamin C.

Minerals

Minerals are needed by the human body to regulate cell function and provide cell structure.  Unlike vitamins, which are organic molecules that contain carbon, minerals are inorganic substances.  There are seven macrominerals needed in larger amounts and numerous trace minerals.

Gibbons (1966) examined eight wild plants and compared the mineral values of their shoots and leaves against eight cultivated plants of similar type (i.e., plants that supply edible shoots and leaves).  The nine wild plants were green amaranth (Amaranthus sp., an ambiguous common name applied to several different species), goosefoot (Chenopodium sp., a.k.a, lamb’s-quarters, the exact species not specified), chichory (Cichorium intybus), watercress, (Nasturtium sp., the exact species not specified), American pokeweed (Phytolacca americana), purslane (Portulaca oleracea), curly dock (Rumex crispus), and dandelion (Taraxacum officinale).  The nine cultivated species were green onion (Allium fistulosum), celery (Apium graveolens), Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris), cabbage (Brassica oleracea), endive (Cichorium endivia), iceburg lettuce (Lactuca sativa), leaf lettuce (Lactuca sativa), and spinach (Spinacea oleracea).  He reported values for calcium, phosphorus, iron, and potassium (in mg/100 g).  These results are summarized in Table 1.  Note that mean values and minimum values are higher in the wild species (i.e., on average, they supply a more minerals per unit weight).

Gibbons (1966) also examined eight wild plants and compared the mineral values of their fruits against eight cultivated plants of similar type (i.e., plants that supply edible fruits).  The eight wild plants were common persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), prickly-pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa), ground-cherry (Physalis sp., the exact species not specified), red raspberry (Rubus idaeus), black raspberry (Rubus occidentalis), blackberry (Rubus sp., the exact species not specified), black elderberry (Sambucus nigra), and blueberry (Vaccinium sp., the exact species not specified).  The eight cultivated species were green pepper (Capsicum annuum), orange (Citrus aurantium), Japanese persimmon (Diospyros kaki), apple (Malus pumila), peach (Prunus persica), pear (Pyrus communis), gooseberry (Ribes sp., the exact species not specified), and tomato (Solanum lycopersicon).  Again, he reported values for calcium, phosphorus, iron, and potassium (in mg/100 g).  These results are summarized in Table 2.  Note again that mean values and minimum values are higher in the wild species (with the exception of a low potassium value in blueberry).

As the data of Gibbons (1966) demonstrate, wild plants have, on average, higher mineral content values than cultivated plants.  It is noteworthy that common persimmon equaled (phosphorus) or exceeded (calcium, iron, potassium) the mineral values of Japanese persimmon.  The former is a wild plant native to eastern North America, whereas the latter is the most widely cultivated species of persimmon in the world.

Click here to read more on minerals.

Polyphenols

Polyphenols are bioactive, water-soluable compounds that have been shown to be effective in preventing some chronic illnesses (e.g., cancers, cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases), reducing inflammation, and promoting immune system health (Vemuri et al. 2008).  They are found only in plants and some have antioxidant activity several times stronger than vitamins C and E (Nijveldt et al. 2001).  Though studies do vary, many show a higher polyphenol content in wild vs. cultivated plants of the same species (Kähkönen et al. 2001, Vardavas et al. 2005, Wang 2007).  For example, Wang (2007) found common strawberry (Fragaria virginiana, a wild species of North America) to contain higher quercetin (a kind of polyphenol) concentration than did cultivated strawberry (Fragaria ×ananasa).  Differences in the observed total phenolic content (and hence antioxidant capacity) between wild and cultivated plants are partly due to alterations of genotypes for desired characteristics.  For example, Deighton et al. (2000) describe such desired characteristics in raspberry and blackberry (Rubus), including uniformity of product and maturation time (which affect machine harvestability), ability to survive transport, shape and color of product, and disease and pest resistance, etc.  Note that nutritional content is not included on this list.  Following are three examples of high-antioxidant wild plant foods.  Other studies have been conducted on blueberries (Vaccinium sp.; Braga et al. 2013) and blackberries (Rubus sp.; Deighton et al. 2000, Milivojević et al. 2011) with similar results — the wild species had greater phenolic content and/or antioxidant ability than the cultivated versions.

Black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) is a small, broad-leaved shrub of nutrient-poor soils, such as peatlands, swamps, and acidic summits. Click here to read more.

Black crowberry (Empetrum nigrum) is a dwarf, colonial shrub with trailing stems and short, narrow leaves that resemble the foliage of some evergreen trees. Click here to read more.  

Species of pine (Pinus sp.) have been used as sources of food and medicine by aboriginal people throughout much of North America (at least where these evergreen plants grow).  Click here to read more.

Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa)

Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa)

ω-3 Fatty Acids

Polyunsaturated ω-6 and ω-3 fatty acids are essential because they cannot be synthesized by the body.  Most contemporary diets (including the United States) are extremely high in ω-6 relative to ω-3 fatty acids.  This high ω-6/ω-3 ratio has been linked to several degenerative diseases (Simopoulos 2004).  This is, in part, due to the pro-inflammatory nature of ω-6 fatty acids.  Generally speaking, seeds, nuts, and underground organs (e.g., tubers, rhizomes, bulbs) contain much more ω-6 fatty acids than ω-3 fatty acids (i.e., the ω-6/ω-3 ratio is higher), whereas leafy greens and some berries tend to possess these two fatty acids in a more beneficial ratio (Malainey et al. 1999).

A comparison of three wild berries with three cultivated berries in Norway revealed that the wild fruits possessed significantly more ω-3 fatty acid (both actually and relatively; Bere 2007). Click here to read more.

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is a prostarte, succulent plant with dark green leaves that is native to Europe.  Click here to read more.

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)

Malainey et al. (1999) examined the fatty acid composition of native food plants of western Canada.  Though all of the samples of plant greens showed a beneficial ratio of ω-6/ω-3 fatty acids (i.e., a ratio of 2:1 or lower), there were some standouts in terms of total percent C18:3ω3 (i.e., α-linolenic acid) and the ratio of C18:2 (which includes C18:2ω6, i.e., linoleic acid) to C18:3ω3.  Wild sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) is a forest species with edible young shoots that combine aromatic and bitter qualities. Of its fatty acids, C18:3ω3 fatty acid represented a mean of 41.57% of the total.  This compares with its content of C18:2 at 11.34%.  Another standout includes dock (Rumex sp.; the exact species not specified), which are mainly perennial plants of varied, mainly open, habitats, with tasty young leaves.  The C18:3ω3 fatty acid represented a mean of 37.61% of the total fatty acids.  The C18:2 content was 14.08%.  A final standout was goosefoot (Chenopodium sp.; the exact species not specified), a group of mainly annual plants of open, disturbed and saline soils.  The C18:3ω3 fatty acid represented a mean of 34.89% of the total fatty acids.  The C18:2 content was 13.35%.  Additional species with a high total content of C18:3ω3 included false Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum sp.; the exact species not specified), stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), and violet (Viola sp.; the exact species not specified).

Anwar et al. (2008) examined several aspects of the seeds of three native woody, prairie species — choke cherry (Prunus virginiana), Wood’s rose (Rosa woodsii), and silver buffaloberry (Shepherdia argentea).  One of the aspects they examined was the fatty acid content.  Wood’s rose and silver buffaloberry both contained high amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids (68.10% and 58.76%, respectively), with much of this coming in the form of ω-3 fatty acids.  Wood’s rose possessed 3.07 mg/g of 18:3ω3 fatty acids and silver buffaloberry possessed 2.92 mg/g 18:3ω3 fatty acids.  The ω-6/ω-3 fatty acid ratio for Wood’s rose and silver buffaloberry was 1.21 and 1.00, respectively. Anwar et al. (2008) also found that these seeds contained high amounts of tocopherols that would protect the seed lipids during storage and processing.

Wild Rice — click here to read more

Wild Rice Harvest

Wild Rice Harvest

Concluding Remarks

The plants utilized as food by primitive people were nutrient-dense and supplied more vitamins, minerals, beneficial phytochemicals, and fiber than contemporary, cultivated plants (especially in terms of nutrients per calorie).  They also supplied a better ratio of ω-6/ω-3 fatty acids.  Collectively, these traits contributed to health and vitality of aboriginal groups.  It is important to remember that our genetic make-up is essentially identical to pre-agricultural humans (i.e., hunter-gatherers); therefore, it is in our best interest to consume the foods to which the human genome is adapted to.  There is a massive discrepancy for most people living in civilized nations between the food they are designed to consume and the food they actually consume.  This incongruity has serious implications for physical health.  Health is not found in fad diets or bottles of supplements.  It is found by engaging in the activity humans have participated in for millennia — foraging for wild food.

Literature Cited

Neoaboriginal Revolution

When You Can't Gather Wild Plants...

By Arthur Haines of Delta Institute

Wild plants represent the most nutrient-dense plant foods on the planet. Numerous studies show they are vitamin- and mineral-rich and possess greater amounts of beneficial phytochemicals (i.e., plant compounds) than cultivated plants. These phytochemicals are important for supporting human health because they exert many beneficial actions, including antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, cardio-protective, detoxifying, hypotensive, immune modulating, and tonifying properties (and many others). The sometimes extensive breeding that cultivated plants have received, often to change features of the plant that don’t relate to maintaining nutrition (e.g., uniform ripening, ability to support long-distance transport, loss of “annoying” seeds), has resulted in plant foods with muted levels of phytochemistry. These losses of beneficial plant compounds equate to a loss of medicine in our food. We generally don’t think of phytochemicals as part of the nutrition that plants offer. But they are, as they assist in keeping our bodies running smoothly and free of infection and chronic disease.

There are two solutions to this problem (the loss of medicine from our cultivated foods):

  1. We can eat plants that have lost much of their medicine and then purchase medicine (in the form of pharmaceutical drugs) from local pharmacies; or
  2. We can eat plants that still contain their medicine and (in conjunction with a natural lifestyle) live lives that are relatively free of health ailments.

Actually, solution number 1 doesn’t work that well for many people because that is the Standard American Lifeway. Given that 1 in 3 children borne in the new millennium will contract diabetes in their lifetime and the fact that we experience a high degree of cancer in our society (lifetime odds of contracting cancer are currently 2 in 5), it is clear that the medicine we purchase doesn’t prevent ailments from appearing — it only treats the symptoms once our health is compromised. Prevention of a disease is always preferred over contracting a disease and then trying to treat it. So, let’s recognize that wild plants are fundamentally more nutrient dense than cultivated plants, especially when we consider nutrition to represent not just vitamins and minerals, but also beneficial compounds, essential fatty acids, fiber, and a host of items we haven’t even identified yet. See the article in this Dispatch of the ReWild Yourself! titled “The Nutrient Density of Wild Plants” for research on this topic.

The problem of course is that many people do not have access to wild plants. Sometimes this access issue relates to where they live (e.g., urban areas). Other times (and more often the case), people do not have the knowledge to locate, identify, gather, and process wild plants. This lack of knowledge effectively prevents access to the original plant foods of our ancestors. Fortunately, there is a “next best option” for bringing nutrition (in all its forms) into your life. This option is to focus on minimally modified plant foods that you can purchase at the farmer’s market and in supermarkets. Minimally modified plants are those that resemble their wild progenitors more closely in form, flavor, nutrition, fertility, and/or vigor.  Keep in mind that all the supermarket produce has been created by genetically modifying wild plants through breeding and sometimes also laboratory methods. Early in this process (i.e., thousands of years ago in most cases), the cultivated plants were relatively similar to wild plants in their nutrient content. Unfortunately, some of the produce we find in stores today shares little similarity with wild plants. These are the forms you would want to avoid because they have lost much of their beneficial phytochemistry. Below are four criteria I use to help guide my cultivated plant purchases.

Criteria

1. Does the cultivated plant food in question resemble that of the wild plant?

In other words, does the leaf or fruit look like that produced by the wild plant (in terms of morphological similarity). Good examples of cultivated plants that produce fruits that look very similar to their wild progenitor include blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. Examples of cultivated plant fruits that don’t look at all like their wild progenitor include sweet corn, eggplant, and watermelon.

2. Do the cultivated shoots or greens have a robust flavor?

By this, I’m referring to a stronger flavor, whether that is some bitterness, spiciness, or aromatic qualities. All of these traits indicate that the plants are still phytochemically potent. There are many examples of cultivated plants that have these traits. Bitterness can be experienced with endive and cultivated dandelion greens. Spiciness is found in garden rocket and other mustard greens, horse-radish roots, and spicy peppers. Aromatic plants include many mints (e.g., basil, oregano, spearmint), members of the onion family, and spices from the celery family (e.g., anise, dill, and cumin).

3. Does the cultivated fruit still contain its seeds?

Fruits that contain viable seeds are still able to perpetuate themselves. The loss of seeds from fruits represents both a further modification from the wild form as well as a loss of nutrition (some seeds are edible and contain essential fatty acids, vitamin E, and additional phytochemicals). Fruits that still contain their edible seeds include blueberries, seeded figs, and seeded grapes.

4. Can the cultivated plant escape the tended garden setting and grow wild?

If a wild plant has been modified extensively enough, it often loses its ability to grow in the wild (i.e., outside of cultivation where it is propagated and tended by humans).  The inability to grow in the wild demonstrates that a plant has lost its adaptations that allow it to survive the stresses it must endure, such as water shortage, insect herbivory, and fungal pathogens. Different regions will have cultivated plants that are capable of growing in the wild. For example, in the northeastern United States, species such as asparagus, parsnip, and turnip can (and often do) escape the garden setting and grow in the wild.

The List

To further provide an understanding of the idea of minimally modified plant foods (including wild plants that are available at markets), the following list in provided. Keep in mind, this list is, by no means, comprehensive. It is only meant to further illuminate the idea of what a minimally modified plant foods are.

Bulbs, tubers, and other underground organs

  • beets (Beta vulgaris)
  • burdock (Arctium lappa) — taproots are often available in stores
  • garlic (Allium sativum) — with a host of medicinal uses
  • ginger (Zingiber officinale)
  • horse-radish (Armoracia rusticana)
  • onion (Allium cepa)
  • parsnip (Pastinaca sativa)
  • purple carrots (Daucus carota subsp. sativus) — the original cultivated carrot was purple, not orange
  • tuberous sunflower (Helianthus tuberosus) — often referred to as Jerusalem-artichoke
  • turmeric (Curcuma longa) — well-studied for its cancer fighter ability

Fleshy Fruits

  • avocado (Persea americana)
  • blackberry (Rubus hybrids) — cultivated forms have complicated parentage
  • blueberry (mostly Vaccinium angustifolium and V. corymbosum in North America)
  • cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon)
  • currants (Ribes rubrum)
  • matrimony-vine (Lyceum barbarum) — also referred to as goji-berry.
  • mulberry (Morus alba)
  • Peruvian ground-cherry (Physalis peruviana) — often sold under the name goldenberry
  • prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica) — also called Indian-fig
  • red raspberry (Rubus idaeus)

Leaves and Shoots

  • asparagus (Asparagus officinalis)
  • beet greens (Beta vulgaris) — this is also called chard
  • dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) — though wild, a form is also cultivated
  • dill (Anethum graveolens)
  • endive (Cichorium endivia)
  • fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
  • garden rocket (Eruca vesicaria) — also called garden rocket
  • kale raab (Brassica oleracea) — some forms of this species are very modified
  • leaf lettuce (Lactuca sativa) —  iceberg and Romaine kinds are less nutritious
  • oregano (Origanum vulgare) — also known as wild majoram
  • sage (Salvia officinalis) — also known as West Indian sage
  • spearmint (Mentha spicata)
  • spinach (Spinacea oleracea)
  • sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum)
  • two-rowed water-cress (Nasturtium officinale)

Nuts, Seeds, and Other Dry Fruits

  • amaranth (Amaranthus caudatus, A. cruentus, A. hypochondriacus)
  • Brazil nuts (Bertholletia excelsa) — mostly collected from wild trees
  • coconut palm (Cocos nucifera)
  • chia (Salvia hispanica)
  • hazel nut (Corylus avellana and others)
  • hemp (Cannabis sativa) — the small, seed-like fruits are highly nutritious
  • pecan (Carya illinoinensis)
  • pine seeds (Pinus edulis and others) — usually, and incorrectly, referred to as “pine nuts”
  • quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa)
  • sunflower (Helianthus annuus) — the fruit is often referred to as “sunflower seeds”
  • wild rice (Zizania aquatica and Z. palustris) — find wild-harvested kinds, avoid paddy-grown versions

Notes.

1. Essentially all spice plants can be included on this list.  They are rich in phytochemistry (which provides their aromatic qualities).  Many spice plants are also more capable of surviving outside of the garden setting as they have not been genetically altered as much because we (humans) wanted to maintain their phytochemistry, not remove it.

2. There are companies that offer wild-collected seaweeds, such as dulse (Palmaria palmata) and kelp (Saccharina longicruris). These are additional examples of plants (algae) that contain their potent nutrition.

3. For fungi (not discussed in this article), many wild versions are available in markets because they cannot be cultivated on a substrate (or are very difficult to cultivate).  Examples include many mycorrhizal fungi, such as boletes, chanterelles, morels, and truffles.  These fungi possess their original mycochemistry.

Concluding Remarks

Given that wild plants are the versions of plants that have nourished anatomically modern humans for over 95% of their existence, it makes sense to think of our bodies as being adapted to the nutrition found in those wild organisms. Said another way, we need the levels of nourishment found in non-cultivated plants or our genetic expression can be compromised and our health can falter. If you are willing to examine your plant food purchases and make adjustments, it is possible to step up your nutrition, not just in terms of vitamins and minerals, but also in amounts of beneficial phytochemicals, fiber, and essential fatty acids. Large, seedless, incredibly sweet versions of plants are not a foundation to build health upon (especially when the wild progenitors were small, seeded, and bitter). Such cultivated fruits provide more fructose, less fiber, and less medicine than the species from which they were derived. Seek out plants that are not twisted into bizarre forms. For example, cabbage is very different from the wild mustard (Brassica oleracea) it hails from. Therefore, I would much prefer kale and kale raab (also from this same species) if the choice was available. Another way to achieve this goal is to identify the older versions of cultivated plants (sometimes referred to as “heirloom” breeds). Using this search criterion, I would seek out heirloom flint corn over a modern sweet corn (if I was to purchase corn). I do this for the simple reason that the more human-modified a plant becomes (i.e., the further it is contorted from the natural form of its wild ancestor), the more new it becomes as a food. The newer it becomes, the less understanding we have of how it affects our health and the health of the next generations. Further, the newer it becomes, the less nutrition (usually) it provides.  

Food’s purpose isn’t just to supply calories, it is to power our physical, emotional, and spiritual bodies so that we may achieve our full genetic potential.


Choosing Animal Foods

Domestication — that great man-made transmogrifier — changes animals in ways that differ from those that alter plants. While the morphology of both flora and fauna are dramatically transformed by the processes of husbandry, when it comes to its effects on nutrition we see that two distinctly different patterns emerge.

Plant domestication — a form of breeding we could call “unnatural selection” — most often focuses on reducing the wild phytochemistry of plants to make them taste more palatable, and often increases their size, their content of sugar or starch, and all the while reduces the amount of fiber (and sometimes seeds) they contain. The common result is a food that has been significantly increased in its calorie content whilst it has simultaneously been reduced in its medicinal and nutritional values.

Animal domestication presents a different tale altogether. Here the process is usually focused on altering temperament and yielding a beast that is more docile — more amicable to human handling and interaction — as well as removing the will or desire to escape its life in the artificial habitat we call the farm. Secondary to this is the goal of increasing the ratio of its muscle mass, body fat, or both, compared to its wild predecessor — a change that (though inadvertently) reduces the ratio of visceral organs, skin, and bones to its adipose and muscular tissue. This alteration of natural body composition can lead to a dietary imbalance, since the lean muscle meat of an animal is nutritionally balanced against nutrients found in its bones, connective tissues, and skin (see Frank Giglio's article "It's More Than Just the Meat You Eat" below).  While this compositional change is an important variable, it is a less immediate concern when selecting an animal for food than is the quality of its lipid profiles, which will differ significantly if we feed these domesticated animals not on their natural diet, but on domesticated foods themselves.

Most of our farmed animals today are being reared on foods that differ significantly from those to which they are biologically adapted. Take the cow for instance, a ruminating ungulate, whose natural diet is chiefly comprised of grasses and herbaceous plants. Because the leaves of grasses and other wild plants most often have a favorable Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acid ratio, cows allowed to feed on pasture will bio-accumulate these essential fats in their adipose tissue in a ratio of about 1.5:1, which is well within the ideal, health promoting range for us (our ideal is 1-3:1), the end eater. Conversely grain-fed cows bio-accumulate these fats in a ratio of about 7.6:1, and because these oils are passed up the food chain, the meat of these animals (whose essential fat ratios are outside our ideal range, being too rich in Omega 6), become for us a slightly inflammatory food.

While there is certainly something to be said for consuming animals with wild genetics, there is (in contrast to plants) as of yet no significant nutritional science to validate this conclusion. Rather, what seems to be of most importance (from the more conventional perspective at least) is not which animal you eat, as much as what the animal you are eating ate.

When cows are transitioned away from their natural diet of herbaceous plants and the leaves of grasses, and placed upon a feeding regimen of the fruits of grasses (grains), a significant fatty acid compositional change occurs within their bodies; they begin to accumulate the Omega 6 fatty acids that dominate the lipid profile of grains. This in turn contributes to the out-of-balance Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio within our own bodies. The result is something similar to some of what we would experience if we had eaten those same grains ourselves; the contribution to our Omega 6 dietary over-sufficiency and the fanning of the flames of our unwanted inflammatory processes.

The terms "grass-fed" and "pastured" are currently in vogue, though it is vital that we understand that many domesticated animals are grass-fed throughout much of their early farm life only to be “grain-finished” before they've made their way to your plate. This essentially negates the benefits of an animal's earlier grass diet by altering the composition of its body oils. Grain-finishing (feeding a grain diet leading up to slaughter) "marbelize's" their muscle tissue (causes intramuscular fatty depositions) and “sweetens” the flavor of their flesh. By contrast “grass-finished” animals are often leaner, and have a flavor that many a fragilis has termed “gamey”. As a result, people transitioning away from a diet of grain finished animals are often unaccustomed to the more robust flavor of a healthy, well-fed animal, and may not be well acquainted with slightly different cooking requirements of these leaner meats. A bit of a palate and culinary reeducation is sometimes required!

While we still await evidence demonstrating that eating a wild or more “heirloom” breed of animal is superior (from a nutritional perspective) to eating a more domesticated one, many of us have concluded that this is most likely the case based upon the trend we see in the nutritional sciences — and in particular the emerging field of nutri-genomics. Cows, to continue with our example, come in many shapes and sizes, and some breeds are less altered from their natural appearance (and thus, body composition) than others. As a result many of us have become more breed specific when choosing to eat this highly-domesticated species (I have personally enjoyed the Scottish Highland when purchasing beef). While we await evidence suggesting that wild meats make for healthier human meals, what has become abundantly clear is that choosing animals that have eaten their biologically adapted diet is one of the most crucial nutritional distinctions that we can make.

Sometimes when selecting an animal for food, whether from a farm or a restaurant, we are faced with an interesting, if not befuddling conundrum. There are often "wild game meats" available, which would, at first glance, seem the ideal choice. That is until we recognize that these animals — though still "genetically wild" — have almost always been raised on farms or ranches, and in most cases are being fed a diet comprised chiefly of grains. In contrast, a domesticated option, like beef, may be available on the same menu or from the same butcher, but that is advertised as having been fed exclusively on grass. In this instance I would — at least at the time of this writing — recommend choosing the domesticated animal fed properly over the wild animal that has been fed an unnatural diet. The reasons for this harken back to the above; animals fed on grass will have flesh and fat denser in nutrients (such as fat soluble vitamin A), will have a more biologically appropriate Omega 6 to Omega 3 essential fatty acid ratio, and be a far richer source of the potent antioxidant compound conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). 

Photo by Frank Giglio

Photo by Frank Giglio

Examples of (though far from an exhaustive list) wild-genetic game meats you might see on a menu or offered from a local butcher could include bison, elk, deer, antelope, and boar. In all of these cases it is important to determine if these animals were pastured up to the end of their lives, or if they were grain-finished. While they certainly represent an excellent genetic choice, their body composition will not make for ideal human food. You are far better fed selecting the grass-fed-but-domesticated option.

Choosing grass-finished or "pasture-finished" animals or animal products (dairy, eggs) is a crucial part of the ReWilding approach. Be selective, letting your choice be based on the diet of that animal, before choosing based on that animal's species.

Of course, whenever possible, a healthy, ethically hunted wild animal is our best choice, being both a genetically wild creature, and one that has eaten a wild diet its entire life! Learning to hunt yourself, or befriending someone who does is a great way to experience the best of both!

Wild Woman Speaks

Optimizing Emotional Eating, Using Food To Our Advantage

By Ali Schueler of Wild Woman Speaks

Women are emotional creatures. We feel just about everything and we relate to the world, our surroundings, our experiences, and the people in our lives in a very emotive way.

This includes how we relate to food.

While it is important to cultivate a healthy relationship to the food that we consume so that we aren’t allowing emotional eating choices to control us, the belief that women can eat completely unemotionally is a romantic idea, in my opinion.

I understand that this statement could be a trigger for some people, though I say this from the perspective of how we woman relate emotively to everything in our lives. We respond to everything that we interface with and come into contact with emotionally. We can use this understanding to our benefit, so that it empowers us in our relationship with the foods we choose to consume. We can choose to feed ourselves nourishment that uplifts our emotional state, nourishes our health, and improves our well-being, rather than eating foods that weigh us down in any way, whether that’s physically, emotionally, or energetically.

When I refer to emotional eating, I don’t just define it as eating when we are upset, feeling down on ourselves, or depressed. Emotional eating can happen when we are feeling any range of emotions — be that incredibly positive energy, excitement, love — all of it.

I would like to suggest the following idea when it comes to women and emotional eating: what if we harnessed our emotional relationship to food with a positive attitude, instead of denying our intrinsic emotionality. Instead of resorting to foods that detract from our health to compensate for a potentially negative feeling-state, we were to fall back on core healthful foods that we know nourish our body, mind and soul?

A few examples come to mind.

What about when we are feeling incredibly inspired and excited, perhaps very high on life? We can encourage this emotional state by consuming foods that fuel this inspiration, foods that keep us light, energetic, focused, and on point. This could look like eating a fresh salad, full of local organic greens and other bright vegetables.

Perhaps you are on your menstrual cycle and you are feeling weepy, tender, vulnerable, and empathic. You could nourish yourself in this soft emotional state by consuming high-quality, organic raw chocolate and drinking a tea of herbs that nourish you in that particular physical and emotional experience, such as hibiscus, rose hips, nettle, or milky oats.

Maybe you are feeling particularly social, talkative, and happy, so you choose to go out for a meal at your favorite healthy restaurant with friends and have a glass of red wine with your meal.

Negative emotions happen — they aren’t mean to be suppressed or numbed out. We are meant to feel the whole spectrum — the good, the bad, and the ugly. You could be feeling a little depressed or sad. Instead of eating a low-quality cheeseburger that is far from organic and would weigh you down, you could steam some organic vegetables, douse them in olive oil and your favorite spices, and consume that instead! This is an example of not feeding an emotional state that you don’t really want to encourage. You can still feel your emotions, process the pain or sadness, yet not contribute to it more by eating something that, when all is said and done, won’t make you feel any better and will likely just make you feel worse.

The idea is to think of foods that resonate with whatever your current emotional state is — if it is a positive one. If you are in a negative emotional state, rather than fuel it with heavy and unhealthy foods, or foods that don’t make you feel good, you could consume things that cause the opposite feeling for you and instead make you feel light, healthy, inspired and energetic.

I believe it is of the utmost important to nurture our range of emotions, experience them all, but not stay stuck in the places that are challenging for too long. We’ve got to feel it to heal it — so do that and at the same time take action that supports you heading in the direction of how you do want to feel.

Emotional eating comes naturally to women since we are such emotional beings, so instead of trying to suppress this aspect of ourselves, let’s find ways to harness it and use it to our advantage instead. Feel it all and don’t numb out! Make choices that encourage more of what you want to feel, and less of what you don’t want to feel. This applies to all parts of life. We are contributing to our hurt and pain as humans when we suppress our wild nature in any way, shape, or form. Let the emotions move through as they come up.

Let’s put an end to suppressing ourselves and continue to allow our wild nature to flow freely in all its awesome expression!


Meet Ali

Ali is a writer and women’s embodiment mentor. She is committed to the re-sacralization of the feminine across the globe. Her mission is passionately providing women with experience-based tools that inspire life-changing awakening in the feminine, promoting emotional awareness, spiritual fulfillment, wild self-expression as well as a connection to our bodies and their natural cycles. She enjoys writing and video blogging weekly through her website WildWomanSpeaks.com and sharing inspiration with her Wild Woman Speaks community daily through Facebook, Twitter @alischueler, and Instagram.

Ali Schueler

Ali Schueler

ReWild Yourself! Podcast: Nora Gedgaudas on Cultivating the Feral Mindset

In this episode of ReWild Yourself! podcast, I talk with Nora Gedgaudas, author of the international best-selling book, Primal Body, Primal Mind and widely recognized expert on the Paleo Diet. 

We discuss:

  • The Paleo diet
  • Milankovitch cycles explained
  • Gobekli Tepi 
  • The human zoo vs. the factory farm
  • Nora’s thoughts on gluten
  • Climate of complacency
  • The wild mind vs. the domesticated mind
  • Cultivate the feral mindset

We have created this soft existence for ourselves that allows us to not pay attention to what’s going on around us.

There is nothing more important than owning and occupying your own primal mind.


Click here to listen!


Episode Resources

Gobekli Tepe: The World's First Temple?

Gobekli Tepe — National Geographic

What is Gobekli Tepe?

Go here for additional episode resources!


Meet Nora

Nora Gedgaudas, author of the international best-selling book, Primal Body, Primal Mind: Beyond the Paleo Diet for Total Health and A Longer Life is a widely recognized expert on the Paleo Diet.  She is a highly successful experienced nutritional consultant, speaker and educator, widely interviewed on national and international radio, popular podcasts, television and film.  Nora has appeared on The Dr. Oz Show, PBS, Sydney, Austalia's Today Show and Coast To Coast AM. Her own popular podcasts are widely listened to on iTunes and are available for free download at her website www.primalbody-primalmind.com, along with a free newsletter, articles and videos.  She maintains a private practice in Portland, Oregon as both a Board-Certified nutritional consultant and a Board-Certified clinical Neurofeedback Specialist.

You can also find Nora on Facebook and Twitter @NoraGedgaudas.

Nora Gedgaudas

Nora Gedgaudas

ReWild Your Diet

It's Not Just The Meat You Eat

By Chef Frank Giglio of Three Lily Farm

"Indeed, stock is everything in cooking. Without it, nothing can be done.” -Auguste Escoffier

In the early 1900’s chef Auguste Escoffier developed modern French cuisine, which has shaped restaurants, cooking schools, and various culinary programs since its creation. Escoffier understood the importance of using stock, and it was his 1903 cookbook, Le guide Culinaire, that gave me a deeper understanding of this important ingredient. 

My first memory of this nutrient dense liquid is with my grandparents, who would invite my family over for Sunday dinners, where we almost always had homemade chicken soup with Pastina (little pasta). While me and my sister added ice cubes to the rich broth, I recall my grandfather quickly slurping down the scalding hot soup in a matter of minutes. It was this simple recipe that brought our family together and left us feeling nourished and comforted deep to our cores.

Once I landed myself in culinary school, I was able to deepen my skills and learn to craft a variety of of stocks. In fact, my first day of school was spent chopping the mirepoix (carrots, celery, onions) for the copious amounts of stocks that were made on a daily basis. This basic preparation was driven into me and would play an important role in my life for years to come. 

With society's need for quick, convenient foods, homemade stocks and broths have been replaced in most homes with boxed, often flavored, broths. These poor replacements often don’t even contain real chicken or beef, and are loaded with excess salt, sugar, MSG, and stabilizers. One of the kitchen's simplest and most inexpensive ingredients has been replaced by a shelf stable box of chicken broth-like substance. 

The use of stocks and broths can be seen in countries all over the world. Not only is it a flavorful ingredient to add to your culinary creations, but it is also a sustainable practice for using all parts of the animals. Harvesting animals merely for their flesh is not practical without modern day factory farm and its processing plants. By raising animals humanely and using as much of the animal as possible, you can deepen your connection to the planet and get the most of out the food you eat. 

Herbs in Stock

Herbs in Stock

Photo by Frank Giglio

So, what is Stock?

Stock is a flavorful liquid made from the bones of various animals. Grass-fed beef, chicken, turkey, or wild game animals like deer and elk can be slowly simmered for hours, sometimes roasted beforehand, to make a nutrient dense broth that can serve as the base of many recipes, including soups, sauces, braises, and even savory elixirs.

Is the stock the same as bone broth?

Depending on what dietary circles you follow, you may hear the words stock, broth, or bone broth used interchangeably. While they are many similarities amongst the three, there are some key differences which set them apart. 

Stock

A stock is your most basic recipe, one that is used in home kitchens, restaurants, and culinary schools. It may include roasted or unroasted bones and is generally not simmered as long as a bone broth. In a stock, you will usually always add chopped vegetables (mirepoix), aromatics (fresh or dried herbs), as well as vegetable scraps.

Stock can be made from variety of bones including, but not limited to:

  • Chicken and other poultry
  • Grass-fed beef, sheep, pork, or goat
  • Venison, bear, elk, and other wild game
  • Wild fish carcasses 

Bone Broth

A bone broth is a long and slowly cooked stock, simmered usually anywhere from 12-24 hours. Simmering the bones for an extended amount of time pulls a larger amount of minerals and nutrients from the bones, to the point that they'll often crumble afterwards. A crock pot is a very useful tool for keeping the bone broth at a consistent temperature throughout the cooking process. 

With both stocks and bone broths, roasting the bones before simmering them in water will add a richer and deeper taste to your final product. 

Broth

A meat and bone-based broth that is simmered for only a few hours has a light and delicate flavor. Simmering a whole chicken until cooked through, then straining, picking out the meat and adding it back would be your typical broth. 

Nutritional Download

Higher quality bones create better tasting stock with more nutrition. Like the saying goes, “You are what you eat, and you are what you eat, eats.” Mineral rich stocks help to strengthen the immune system, repair joints and cartilage, and nourish the digestive system.

The average American, with regard to consuming animals foods, largely utilizes lean muscle meats over organ meats, skin, and connective tissue. This is due to the modern convenience of prepackaged-portioned cuts of meats that fill grocery stores. Most families are no longer eating a farm-to-table or nose-to-tail diet which was previously the norm for cultures all over the globe. 

Eating lean muscle meats to the complete or near complete exclusion of organs, skin, cartilage, marrow, etc., supplies the diet with an unhealthy balance of amino acids.  One in particular, methionine, when received in large amounts (relative to other amino acids, like glycine), can promote IGF-1, which in turn can support the growth of cancerous cells in unhealthy individuals.  Supplementation with glycine (or simply eating snout to tail) balances these amino acids out and does not promote this process. Omnivory that eats solely (or mainly) lean muscle meats is purported to promote cancer over a strict vegetarian diet, however, omnivory that fully utilizes the animal (as in hunter-gatherer diets) is known to produce almost no cancer, even in old age.

Here are 5 more reasons you should be making your own stock and consuming it often:

  1. Supports proper adrenal function
  2. Strengthens the immune system
  3. Builds Collagen
  4. Stocks are alkalizing
  5. Stocks mineralize the body, strengthening your bones!

Store bought stocks usually contain excess salt and sugar. Yes, they add sugar to boxed and canned stocks!

With a goal of always rewilding my diet, I add a few select ingredients to take this already nutritional powerhouse to the next level. Wild foods like sea vegetables and medicinal mushrooms are a crucial addition to my stocks, which I make by the gallons on a weekly basis. These wild ingredients add more nutrition and deepen the earthy essence of the final product. 

Below is my basic recipe for chicken stock. You can use the same recipe and just change out the chicken for beef, lamb, or even fish bones. For a more complex flavor, try roasting the bones beforehand. Your end goal should be to have a gelled stock once it is completely cooled down. This shows that the extraction process has been quite successful. Adding vinegar to the water in the beginning will help act like a solvent and extract more minerals from the bones.

Soup on wood stove

Soup on wood stove

Photo by Frank Giglio

Chicken Stock

Ingredients:

1 pasture raised chicken carcass 

4 cups mirepoix (2 cups chopped onions, 1 cup carrots, 1 cup celery)

A splash of apple cider vinegar

4 liters of high quality water

Aromatics- 

2 bay leaves

1 Tbsp black peppercorns

2 garlic cloves

2 tsp dried thyme

Vegetable Scraps-

Tomato

Leek tops

Parsley stems

Onion peels

Pro Tip: Begin collecting vegetable scraps like listed above, and store them in a produce bag in your freezer. When you accumulate a hefty portion, you can use them all in your next stock!

Medicine:

2 strips of kelp or wakame

A handful of dried mushrooms (turkey tail, reishi, shiitake, chaga, or other medicinal mushrooms)

Directions:

  1. Place the chicken bones into a heavy bottom stock pot. Add the remaining ingredients, including the vinegar. 
  2. Pour in cold water to cover by about 1-2 inches. Let stand for 10-15 minutes before gently raising the heat, and bring the water to just under a boil.
  3. Lower heat and simmer for 3-8 hours.
  4. While simmering, skim off any discolored foam that rises to the top.
  5. Remove pot from the stove and carefully strain through a cheese cloth of fine meshed colander.
  6. Cool the stock immediately in an ice bath; then store in a glass jar, in the fridge.
  7. Use within 3-4 days or freeze in appropriate containers.
Gelled Stock

Gelled Stock

Photo by Frank Giglio


about the chef

Frank Giglio exudes a passion for nature-based living in all that he does, from his culinary pursuits to the simplest of day to day projects. Along with his beautiful family, classically trained chef Frank runs Three Lily Farm — an off-the-grid permaculture minded homestead where he mentors and educates others on the importance of preparing and eating a real-food diet, growing their own fruits and vegetables, and connecting with nature through wild foraging, harvesting spring water, and simply spending time in the health-promoting glory of the outdoors. Every year, Frank continues to push his fitness to the elite level by competing in obstacle course races and ultra-marathons. A true Maine-Man, Frank maintains his beard by carrying water and splitting wood.

You can find him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Chef Franky G

Chef Franky G

Voice of the Tribe

Inviting the Spirits of Animals Inside You

A ReWild Yourself! Guest Contribution

By Morgan Maher

Often I'm asked if I "eat meat". It's a reasonable question and almost customary these days, with so many pathways and personal preferences. Like many folks, I've worked and played with a wide variety of food forces and dietary styley — from raw vegan to Ayahuasa dietas, to farmers' markets and vibrant veggie gardens, which have always been in my life, to home cookin' from Papa's old recipes, to this and that and in-between — so now, essentially, in moments of leisure, I might consider myself omnivore, yet one with deepest, deepest love for plants. 

However;

Food, these days, is as music — holographic, on-demand, wild, gentrified, and in a way; mp3'd — you know, everywhere, all around us, and always has been; yet now (in certain circles) the tendency is towards the plastic — with bits & pieces of food-like things. Whatever. Consider it all of distant memory — simply bad experiments, crude innuendo, innocent mistakes. Forget it. Fast Forward. Remember. Now — create and learn and love your lessons; on new horizons — there's ever wilder ways to grow. Flow and flourish towards the analog, back to where we all belong.

Where is that?

Well, it's up to you.

For Food is fuel for your journey, through Universe, Life, Death; your Days.

In myriad ways, the topic of foods of plants and animals comes up like wind and rain and snow. By turns serious, furious, curious, and delirious. For me at least, since branded "plant-person" — there's a specific story I'd like to tell.

No big secret; There came a point where I took a break, or if you will — abstained/avoided/cold-turkey'd — animal foods, like no big deal. At the time, familiar as I was with the discipline, purpose and power of dieta; respectfully learning specific, significant, sacred plants, such as Ayahuasca — when it came time to apply this same principle to Animals — well, something other took control.

Backing up, just a wee bit, and to completely clarify — yes, I took a break in general from eating animals — there was however, one very important exception; out in the deep green jungles of Amazonia, I always invite the absolute entire forest, all the good spirits, including animals, to live and thrive inside me.

This is connected to a few perspectives. 

First, and basic: if my Peruvian or Matsés friends have been out fishing all morning, and arrive home with Piranha, Catfish or Peacock Bass, and a wonderful group of women have prepared and cooked the catch on a fire they've kept going all day — I'm not going to refuse such dedication and such delicacy. 

Same goes if someone has hunted Majas (Agouti) and someone else has made Majas soup, while someone else hunted Sajino (Peccary) and carried it for a few hours through the jungle, on their back. It's the food of life in the jungle, a place where one needs to be at all times ultra fluid, sharp and strong. Add to these animals some yucca, perhaps a lime, a few fresh camu camu, and you're feeling good and ready.

This approach is ultimately born out of respect, friendship, family, tribe and traditions. As well; adventure and the exhilaration of plunging head-first into  wide, wonderful worlds.

Still, on occasion I have chosen not to eat a specific jungle animal. Such was the case when I was offered Howler Monkey, which came served as a whole forearm, with five tiny fingers curled, tufts of hair slightly singed — I just couldn't do it. I wanted to, I had intended to. But with my guts a bit wrenched from weeks of drinking river water, and expecting, naively, a non-descript piece of “bragging-rights” meat, I was simply not up to the physical, mental and spiritual challenge of ripping into a roasted, miniature version of my own human arm. 

My pale-faced refusal was met with some chuckles, which was rather more welcome than cross-cultural condemnation. More giggling-at-the-gringo ensued when I couldn't dig in on dessert: scooping out and lapping up the Howler Monkey's brains.

Howler Monkey Head

Howler Monkey Head

Photo by Morgan Maher

We were weeks deep into deep forest and it was Monkey on the menu that night. I opted for chonta and limes, chopped down and picked up from around camp. This Monkey, however, helped form the foundation for a second, deeper, perspective on eating animals, reflecting my intentions to invite the whole of the jungle into my body and soul, and illuminating one absolutely vital ingredient: discernment.

The notion of "you are what you eat" seems to me rather profound when eating animals, and the idea of "eating meat" sounds to me incredibly vague, or absurdly specific — as though someone might ask "do you eat stamens?".

There is, on a certain level, greater and more direct relation between humans and animals than there is between humans and plants. It's just a mammal thing. Plants, on the other hand, convey something almost alien, and they are definitely Elders. That plants have Spirits is a concept now widely accepted, and engaged with great verve, for very good reason. Animals of course have Spirits as well, yet this sense of Spirit appears all too often in Big Broader Culture on the shy and thin sheets of the pseudo-spiritual. In the sense that “What's your spirit animal?” is the new “What's your sign?”.

When it comes to eating an Animal, inviting it into your body — the Spirit of the Animal is also consumed and assumed — it is an extremely powerful force to invite. 

The Animal becomes You and You Become the Animal.

So, send your invitations with care, respect and attention.

For example, I'm not particularly interested in eating cows or chickens or pigs. I simply do not want to create my body, my energy, and my power with domesticated, mediocre entities. There's always room to bend rules of course, and in this regard Bovine Colostrum has proven itself a unique ally.

Still, on the whole, and on my path I am drawn towards those animals that appear to speak higher languages — those beings capable of communicating their gifts, life-force, and powers with elegant articulation. 

Elk, Moose, Bison, Deer, Salmon, Piranha, Kaaw/Herring Roe, and Gecko, are in this league, for me at least, and for many others, across many generations. And, while not a food -- the venom/medicine of the phyllo-medusa bicolour tree frog, commonly known as Sapo or Kambo, is another potent intelligence I'll invite inside of me. The Amphibian, I'd like to point out, is a valuable asset these days, as things go strange and boundaries dissolve.

Amazonian Jungle Fish

Amazonian Jungle Fish

Photo by Morgan Maher

Insects are yet another story, and these food-beings, Black Ants and Dragonflies in particular, have incredible tales to tell. Further, and it goes without saying, there is ultimate intelligence offered by wilderness and wild things.

Engage and invite the Animals with Ceremony, at all times possible. Animals, with their wise and clever ways, can apply characteristics and provide certain forces for you and to you.

For example, if I need to “swim upstream against strong currents”, I'll eat Salmon. If I am required to withstand cold Winter winds, I'll eat Bison. If my body and soul calls for stealth elegance, I'll eat Elk.

Elk is one who really brought forth to me the power of Ceremony when eating animals. Subsequently, I've never eaten Elk in a city. This majestic and special animal responded to my invitations with a request to meet and eat it in the forest. So eating Elk, specifically it's Liver, requires a full day, a trip and trek to some backcountry river, where also on the menu is fire, wind, flow, wild berries,  swimming, contemplation, reflection, prayer, gratitude, reverence, incantations.

Plants! Earth! Sky! Trees! 

Be in me — Live in me. 

Waters, Rain, Rivers, Lakes, Mist, and the Mysteries! 

Live in me — Be in me. 

Animals! The Forces, Life! 

Fluid, good, surrounding Sun! 

We are one — I say to them — to all Good Spirits! Wisdom! Intelligence! 

I invite you inside, 

become part of me 

I will be part of you.

Eat, consume, snack, savour — call it what you will.  

Life! Force! Spirit! Worlds! — this is what we run on.

When you engage, invite, or in your way, nourish and encounter the Life and Spirits of the Animals, with degrees of ritual and respect reserved for highest order sacred plants — a new frontier, like deepest Jing — emerges as your guardian, with gifts and with great guidance. 

The Animal's benevolence, their beauty, bestowed for your benefit.


Meet Morgan

Morgan Maher is an artist, designer, writer and teacher creating and exploring relationships between food, medicine, plants, health, art, music, optimism, adventure, ecology-economy, and the future.

He lives near Big Hill Springs in Rocky View, Alberta, and energizes art, design, web and media with the Light Cellar, in Calgary.

Dive deeper on placesintheforest.com, keep in touch on Instagram.

Morgan Maher

Morgan Maher


Voice of the Tribe is ReWild Yourself! Dispatch's guest contribution column.  If you would like to contribute an article for consideration in a future Dispatch click here.

Wiki Links Trail

Join me on a stroll through the collective commons of wikipedia, as we deepen our understanding of the forces at play in the domestication process. Reading through these entries will add depth and breadth to your knowledge base, and greatly enhance your user experience as an embodied being on the present day planet Earth!

Foraging

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunter-gatherer

Wild Type

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_type

Phenotype

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phenotype

Genotype

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genotype

Crop Wild Relative

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crop_wild_relative

Ethnobotany

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnobotany

Cultivar

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultivar

Cultigen

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultigen

Naturalization

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naturalisation_(biology)

Introduced Species

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Introduced_species

Invasive Species

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invasive_species

Weed

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weed

Volunteer

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volunteer_(botany)

ElixirCraft Mastery

Cooling Aloe Elixir


Ingredients:

1/2 grapefruit

A lemon

A bit of ginger

Aloe vera (cut section about the width of your hand)

1tbsp Schizandra

Stevia, birch syrup, maple syrup or honey to sweeten

1250 mL spring water

Blend together in high speed blender. I use and recommend the Vitamix.

Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera


20 Tips for ReWilding Your Diet!
  1. Take a wild food foraging class — better yet, take several throughout the year.
  2. Consume a wide variety of nutritional fats, increase your omega 3 intake while reducing your omega 6's.
  3. Have a clean healthy animal food source you can rely on, purchase and use whole animals, and even consider learning to hunt. 
  4. Eat more berries and less sugary fruits.
  5. Make a "no domesticated grain" rule and stick to it 95% of the time.
  6. Determine what you are allergic to, and begin eliminating these foods most of or even all of the time.
  7. Always start with whole food ingredients, learn about the species you are eating.
  8. Learn to cook in ways that preserve nutrition, and minimize the creation of carcinogenic byproducts.
  9. Soak in water what grains, seeds, and legumes you eat to deactivate their phytic acid.
  10. Eat fermented foods to colonize yourself gut with healthy probiotic flora.
  11. Join a CSA, or start visiting your local farmers market, eat as much from your local food shed as you can.
  12. Learn what grows on your lawn — many of these plants are edible or medicinal, and fun and easy to use.
  13. Use more fresh spices — these come from plants that are still near wild and rich in nutritional and medicinal polyphenols and terpenes.
  14. Discern not just between individual ingredients, but varieties of that species. Choose varieties that are closer to their wild relative.
  15. Drink teas (herbal infusions) or decoctions (herbs boiled in water) and use these in recipes too.
  16. Choose foods that are fresh and local. Usually the older something is or the further it has traveled, the less nutrition it contains.
  17. Plant wild and semi-domestic edibles and medicinals near your home. They require no maintenance and offer abundant nutrients. 
  18. Choose wild caught seafood over farmed whenever clean and ethical.
  19. Eat from as many species as possible, seek genetic diversity in your diet.
  20. Eat like a forager, small light snacking throughout the day is part of our natural way.
Photo by Frank Giglio

Photo by Frank Giglio

Eating in Isolation — Plight of a Social Ape

Choosing a lifestyle that separates us from the rest of the pack is one of the most difficult decisions we can make, and maintaining that choice is all the more difficult still. This is due, in part, to the fact that this behavior would have been profoundly maladaptive during the first 95% of human ancestry. For nearly all of our hominid history our needs have been met through the cooperative efforts of our tribe. Isolation would have equaled death.

Homo sapiens are very interdependent organisms, and long term survival of a “lone wolf” individual is difficult if not extremely unrealistic (despite the media’s romanticism of the "mountain man" or the “rugged individualist”). Today we "moderns" find ourselves faced with altogether new challenges, such as eating in a kind of self imposed cultural exile in an effort to avoid the enfeebling feeding frenzy of the industrial-food-arians. What’s more, the decision to segregate ourselves from the habits and patterns of others is born from very new circumstances. Until only just recently (in the human epic at least) there were no such destructive diets, as foraging peoples and early agrarians were eating health promoting diets by default. Only relatively recently have human beings had access to foods destructive enough to undermine our health as significantly as industrial foods can. 

A formidable choice confronts the awake. Those of us with the holistic wisdom to see this are left having to choose between the natural, evolutionarily sound, highly adaptive trait of social conformity and the maladaptive trait of resistance to the current of cultural compulsion. It takes profound dedication to make this choice, as millions of years of instinct demands that we do as the tribe does, eat what the tribe eats.

We humans are social animals, and not just lightly; we are as social as they come. It occurs to me that the many challenges we face while maintaining an optimal diet have so much to do with the behaviors of the people we share our time with — our tribe. Humans are by nature tribal, and as a result we tend to conform to the dominant norms of our tribe as easily as water conforms to the shape of its vessel. 

Were we surrounded by others who chose to fully embrace the lifestyle we aspire to, eating a clean, nutritionally rich, ancestral diet would be easy, and we would slip into it as leisurely as the average American pulls into a fast food drive-through. There is — in group behavior — a momentum, an inertia, we become like so much flotsam swept along in a river’s current, so easily carried along by the impulses of those around us.

For human beings, exile is the punishment worse than death, and whether self imposed or externally enforced, feeling “other” is amongst the most disheartening of predicaments. Food, and more specifically the sharing of food together, is chief amongst our innate bonding strategies, and we use this act to say “we are in this together”. Choosing to eat "this" while others eat "that" carries profound implications. The sharing of food says “you and I are made from the same thing”, whereas refusing to eat what another partakes in can communicate “you and I are different, other, made of different things”.

Photo by Frank Giglio

Photo by Frank Giglio

Herein lies the conundrum. The food choices that we are presented with culturally are anything but satisfactory, and the evidence that modern industrial foods lead to a quantitative and qualitative life reduction is obvious. Yet even as we witness this, choosing to eat as “other”, to make decisions that will isolate you from the tribe to which you were born, that alienate you from that most primal bonding ritual is not a choice we can make lightly. Oh perhaps we can for for a time, like teenage rebellions that establish autonomy, but in the long term the decision to withdraw oneself from the communal table takes a resolve that is too easily underestimated.

I have often mused — and certainly this thought is anything but novel — over which is more important to our well-being, feeling “together” but eating foods to which so many ills can be ascribed, or feeling “other” and eating a biologically adaptive diet that we know supports health.

Of course, the optimal scenario is one in which we have both: where we eat the foods that can best support our health, and where we do so dining in the company of others who share our desire for the same; eating with our tribe.

Over the years I have sought out — and been blessed by — the company of people who share my dietary proclivities. I have found my tribe, and while we spend more time around the stove than the fire, and forage the farmer's market stands and health food store’s shelves more often than we do the forest’s floor and canopy, we do nonetheless share a culture — a food culture.

There have been many times (and there are many still) when I think that this is all so obsessive; that to define my community by the food choices we make is an exercise in vanity or elitism. Yet I can’t help at the same time recognizing that this is not dissimilar to what bonds together — in part at least — a tribe of naturally occurring peoples. It is hunting and gathering, foraging and cooking. Working together to meet our food needs and, ultimately, sharing those foods in meals together is a principle behavior pattern of our species. 

There are two distinct yet opposite strategies (ok, these are extremes; there is, of course, a lot of gray area in between) that I have seen people use when making radical lifestyle changes that steer them off of the course of the culinary conventional. 

The first — and what initially often provides the motivation — is a kind of angry rejection or aversion to the path of our culture and the food choices that it makes. This strategy often embitters a person, as they withdraw into self-imposed isolation. Having experienced this kind of dietary diaspora, I can honestly say (from no shortage of personal experience) that no matter how healthy your food choices are, eating in this emotionally isolated climate is self-destructive in far too many ways.

The second lies in the recognition that we are in fact making a radical choice — in the eyes of those who do not understand — and that we can scarcely expect others to join us, no matter how sane the choice appears to us now. Those around us often fear exile far more than the detriment to their bodily health that their current choices engender. Those who choose to recognize that their choice is personal —  and that anger and aversion are unhealthy — constantly resolve to live without judgment. This, of course, isn’t always easy either, and is something that comes with maturity. For many of us it takes time to realize that our happiness is crucial to our health, and that feeling great emotionally is at least as important to the well being of the world as our food choices are.

The most effective strategy I have found — and this is said after 2 decades in the culinary counter-culture — is to at once to accept everyone's sovereign food choices, no matter how destructive to self or others they appear, and at the same time develop connections with a community who shares your values. Both of these choices are like mental-technologies — "life hacks" is now the popular phrase — that assist us in thriving on a path that is narrow and far less trodden. Let me expand. The first part, accepting others choices, is much more about you than it is about anyone else. If you harbor judgment, aggression, frustration, and criticism, it is you who suffers most. These emotions are as stressful and caustic to an egalitarian social animal as are the foods that we are judging others for eating. 

The second prong of this strategy — finding community — makes our food-conscious lifestyle far easier for more reasons than one. We all know how it feels to be swept up in the momentum of the choices of those around us. When we find like-minded tribe, we set up a kind of positive peer pressure, and in this environment we more easily default to the choices that we want to make. So the “struggle” to live up to our own standards (and in opposition to those around us) begins to dissolve — and at the same time the feeling of being “other” for our choices diminishes. Instead we feel “part-of”, connected, and this inclusiveness satisfies the deep communal needs of our body-mind, needs driven by our species social genome.

It is — well it's my personal conclusion at least — unnatural to us (and therefore uncomfortable) to live and eat in opposition to the tribe. It is unfortunate that we have constructed a world in which basic survival necessitates that we do so. Finding our tribe, one that shares the desire to rewild, can lessen our sense of estrangement and help to reconnect us to that all important feeling of social inclusion. 

Here are three take aways that can help us adapt:

  1. Eating in social isolation isn’t easy, and in particular when we must say "no", when we must refuse to participate. This aversion to saying "no" to our tribe is natural, it is rooted in our biology and for good reason. We are social and communal apes at heart.
  2. Feeling angry about the choices of others provides us a convenient, but dirty burning fuel for motivation. It helps us to cope, but ultimately creates too much mental and emotional stress to be a sustainable healthy approach over the long term. 
  3. Finding a tribe who shares your values makes eating for health easy, fun, and helps to make our lifestyle feel more "normal". When we are surrounded by those who share our values, good decision making comes almost effortlessly.

An Ode to Renegade Food Producers!

It is to you, great and noble stewards of our food sheds, farmers and farmhands whom I meet at market, conservators of heirloom seeds, that I humbly express my gratitude. 

My philosophical love of wildness and derision of husbandry are not meant as disrespect to you, the small-scale, ethical, thoughtful and caring food producer. Not only do I depend on the work that you do, but I believe you are a crucial part of the restoration of our world’s habitat. 

We can not go back to a wild world today or even tomorrow, rather this epic of history must play out to its conclusion. I do however envision a day when organic farms become permacultures and when permacultures become tended wilds again, but until that bright day’s dawn is upon us, it is you who bring to us the foods that sustain our lives and communities. Thank you.

Rare is there fame or great riches rewarded for your work, rather it is but a labor of love and a commitment to an ethos. That you love soil, celebrate plants, and honor the animals, that you are committed to seeing nature restored, means we share in a mission, and I ask you to overlook my incessant agri-slander. It is not directed at you, but rather at a 10,000 year old mode of living that has estranged us from our planet and her eco-community, degraded the quality of our lives and health, and reduced what remains of Earth’s habitats and the species that make up the great diversity of our world. 

We, I know, are working together for the greater good, for a collective outcome. We at ReWild Yourself celebrate you! I celebrate you!

Three Lily Farm

Three Lily Farm

Photo by Camille Giglio

Your Neo-Aboriginal Challenge

Domestication literally means “of the house”, and for nearly everyone in the developed world, that is where you’ll find us sleeping at night; in the house. ReWild Yourself this season in the somniferous serenity of nature — which is to say, sleep outside! 

My challenge to you is to sleep 7 nights outside between now and the summer solstice! 

If you are living in the country side this should be straight forward enough, and if you are in the suburbs a yard or lawn might suffice. Those in the urban habitat might be best served on a balcony, fire escape, or roof top (if safe), though trying to sleep outdoors in the cityscape really helps to highlight the dangers and restrictions that urban living imposes on human nature!

Some of you are seasoned backpackers and campers, and so you know already how to provide for your own comfort in the outdoors. For those who have never slept outside, be sure to have something beneath you to insulate you from the ground, otherwise you will conduct your body heat into the cooler earth beneath you. If you begin this practice late into the season, you will likely encourage the attentiveness of some hungry mosquitos or befriend some biting flies, so a mesh tent will keep you far more comfortable!

Outdoor slumber is always the best sleep in my experience! Free from artificial temperatures of climate control, the invisible fence of our home's electrical grid, and immersed in the fresh, wild, ionized atmosphere, we can be rejuvenated in a way few domesticated humans ever experience!

Tell us about your nights outside on the ReWild Yourself Facebook group!

See you at the Solstice!

Would You Like to Contribute to the Next Dispatch?

We are looking for gifted, thorough, well researched writers to contribute articles for future Dispatches!

All submissions much be original material, ranging between 500 and 2000 words, be well-edited, and contain references where appropriate.  Images must be your originals or non-copyrighted.  And of course, all articles must be relevant to the ReWilding lifestyle!

Please include a brief 1-2 sentence bio, including your website or email address.  If you include your Twitter, Facebook or Instagram we will be sure to tag you!

We will contact you if your submission is selected for publication in the next — or in a future — Dispatch!

Please send your submission to info@danielvitalis.com.