I've occasionally considered opening some sort of counseling business for people composing wedding registries. Recently I heard from a bride who, like her future husband, is an eager adherent of the Paleo diet, in which she strives to eat like a caveman. . . and couldn't wait to get that KitchenAid mixer she'd always wanted. For what? Decoration? KitchenAid mixers are for serious bakers. If you don't bake, you don't need one, except as seriously expensive counter candy. And Paleo dieters don't eat grain, so there's not much worth baking in their repertoire.
In fact, forget the consulting idea: I think I'll start a line of fake high-end appliances for people who don't cook and call it "Counter Candy." If you like KitchenAid mixers, you'll love Counter Candy's non-working replica in high-gloss plastic. Only $50 retail! Just a fraction of the cost of the real thing but still has all the functionality you need: sitting on the counter and looking pretty.
But I digress. If you are Paleo, I was asked, and you're composing your registry, what should you put on it? I promoted a really good high-end food processor. But for true Paleo adherents, this may be the next big thing: a countertop larvae breeder.
Let me explain.
For those of you who aren't familiar, the basic idea of the Paleo diet is that you eat what our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate. That idea is only loosely connected to the actual reality of the Paleo diet, which tends to involve eating big hunks of animal muscle, cultivated nuts, and fruits and vegetables that aren't found in nature. Pretty much all of the plants and meat, and a lot of the seafood, that you buy in the supermarket are varieties that have been specially bred by people over the centuries to be larger and tastier than the stuff that hunter gatherers would have eaten. This is especially true of plant foods: Bitter chemicals and unpleasantly textured fiber have been bred out, while extra sugar and fat have been bred in. Meanwhile, our meat consumption is focused on a handful of birds and large ruminants. Compare this to the list of what the Ache of Paraguay consumed on their foraging trips.
As I discovered when I was researching my book (which has a chapter on how hunter-gatherers and farmers handle risk differently), the idea of brave hunters stalking huge herd beasts is somewhat overblown. Not a lot of large animals with loads of succulent muscle and belly meat on that list. The majority of their diet is palm fiber and fruit, honey, larvae and small animals.
Presuming that you actually want to eat Paleo, this is the sort of diet you should be emulating, not a big chunk of leg muscle with a side salad. Unfortunately, few adherents of the Paleo diet can afford to spend the equivalent of a full time job foraging for their food . . . even if they had the miles and miles of virgin territory required to support each forager. And lizards, possums and monkeys are not efficient for large-scale cultivation; it's easier to invest in larger animals that repay effort with more meat. So they end up eating cultivars and domesticated animals, not actual Paleo food.
But there's one food that is still in its virgin state, untouched by human manipulation: bug larvae. Abundant and loaded with protein, they made up a significant portion of human diets before agriculture. This gadget will allow the serious Paleo adherent to eat bug larvae every day, just as many of their ancestors did.
Will I be getting one? After all, don't I have every other appliance ever made? Hell no, my friends. As far as I'm concerned, there's a reason we left off foraging, and it was so we could stop eating bugs. Which is one reason why I do have a KitchenAid mixer and don't have any books on the Paleo diet.
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