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I’ve heard it said in some arguments that the activity of refining a carbohydrate in ancestral times e.g. wood pulp to make it edible (yes, that is a thing) or other plant-like crap was because when people are hungry that they are processing a said food for the sake of energy density or something like that. I’m probably remembering the exact explanation wrong.

To be fair there are some reasons why that might be true and there some reasons that perhaps raise more nuanced questions.

Nuanced questions can be exhausting depending on your disposition, how old you are, etc. Some folks settle on an idea, fully well knowing there is more to the story, but because the question is so exhausting to explore and there are so many interacting variables, the question is laid to rest and an assumption is made. And we are all guilty of that.

I largely find that behavior a symptom of aging or energy deficit. But some people will say well I don’t have time to think about such things, so I’m just going to continue on standing on that soapbox and promoting it as something good for the general public because it works for me. And I’m cool with that (the part where you do your own thing), except, then if you are going to be like that then you need to not be judgmental. Or if you are going to be judgmental which is your right, then STFU about it and tender some evidence.

Sometimes you see that in fanatical religious people, the world is changing around them, becoming more complicated, yet there is this disconnect and simple-minded resistance against recognizing that the world is changing around them and fossilizing their ideas. Which in the end means they are wrong and for those types is like hell-on-earth, but they’d probably admit that, which would lead to a conversation about heaven.

Now if I’m starving to death, I’m going to either be hunting for food or digging for food, then I’m going to light it on fire, cook it and eat it. Processing food can be very labor intensive. And in the case of processing wood pulp, can take 2-3 days before it’s finally edible. It also takes a group of people. A labor force of sorts. And so those folks are going to be expending a lot of energy and maybe they might need to eat more. So what would be the point of all that.

Maybe partly for security. Like job security except for food. Because maybe digging for der ders isn’t always a reliable source of food. You know how it is you go to your job you work, you might not like it that much or maybe you do, but you do it anyway because you know at the end of it, you’ll get your paycheck, and you’ll get your reliable source of food, your PS4, cable TV, and Internets. And according to some you’ll get obesity along with it. And that is a pretty sweet deal when you get to have this kind of guaranteed relaxation; even for diabetics. And because of that relaxation time some curious chap had the time to think about things and make some medicine that the diabetics could take to prolong their life for a while longer, even if in the end the medicine ends up killing them, it did allow them to prolong their habits for better or worse, got to die of something (lets not miss the overall point of that please).

Then you have these folks saying it is healthier and more evolutionary appropriate to go out sweat and look for food, expend energy, have irregular sleep patterns, maybe eat a poisonous root mistaken for a potato, or raped by a bear, etc., in a modern day context.

And maybe if that was the only thing you were doing you would be healthy and “happy” if you were lucky enough to avoid disaster. But that is like pulling the rat out of his cage that I mentioned in a previous post where you take a group who is in one context very healthy and drop them into another. Probably not going to have good results but who knows you might. There was a big experiment done called Paleo, and it’s still ongoing in various forms.

Because some people decided to promote this thing called Paleo. I’m talking about the low carbohydrate version which is probably on version 99 right now. And for some they say it worked and (in another post we are going to explore the term “worked” and what that entails) made their blood markers improve, made them loose weight, got them off medications, etc.

However, overall the general trend has moved back towards the argument of having carbohydrate despite those beneficial things (which tells me that at best restricting carbohydrate it is an effective intervention therapy for some that somewhat makes static, depending on how you look at it, or “reverses” in the sense of symptom relief, but not cures, a overall declining physiological state). First it was things like sweet der ders, der ders, rices, taro, etc., I think that started with Paul Jaminet and safe starches years back.

And now even though I don’t really pay attention anymore it seems like people have gravitated towards more of a whole foods type thing that seems pretty balanced. But the battle scars are there. I see a lot people who are now worse off. For example, a few months back someone posted a recent picture on Twitter where there were some notable Paleo folks sitting down around a table having steaks and salads. And the steaks I’ve got no problem with really, I have meat when I’m hungry for it. But they are were all balding to various degrees and they didn’t start that way. But hey, that way of eating is supposed to promote the image that fertile women are attracted to. Now they might talk about genetics and such and hey maybe people who are going to eventually be bald self-select for Paleo, but I don’t really buy into all that.

Just recently because I’ve been busy and under a rock I heard about this thing called Plant Paleo. I went into listening to the Podcast thinking this was going to be like a diet made mostly of starch and regular consumption of animal products just with the emphasis placed on carbohydrate. But it ended up being like not even a egg a day, low in animal protein, a lot of raw veggies, scheduled feasts, and a totally ridiculous bucket of horseshit. But it seemed to work for the guy, got him ripped and made him happy. That’s cool. I dig that. You are doing what works for you and gives the image for a male that is currently acceptable to our culture. I’m sorry but I prefer the softer looking appearance on males and females. If you are so ripped that I can see your internal organs it probably means you are useful for little else.

Like the first book I read close to a decade ago now was Weston Price’s, and for all it’s flaws the one thing I did not notice was the regular consumption of raw vegetables. But then there were other books I read like The Old Way and there too there was no impression that these folks were eating raw vegetables to maintain health.

And scheduled feasts, like that to me is just a reach around to again try to recreate some sort of fairy tale associated with good times and good health. I’m not into that and I feel it’s maladaptive and conducive to eating disorders.

I think the biggest lesson out of everything we learned about nutrition over the past decade is that industrial polyunsaturated fat should be avoided. Cholesterol is: who cares. And butter is good. And I say that being fully aware of some 90+ year olds and 100+ year olds had plenty of PUFA in their diet over their lifespan and where fine if we are ONLY considering longevity and not other factors that contribute to quality of life (such as sharpness of mind, mobility, etc.). And I have some interesting speculations as to why. And that same argument could be made against a lot of things to convince us that any risk when it comes to our diet is best avoided. But then that more often then not causes problems as well.

So the idea that carbohydrate was o.k. for our ancestors because they were looking for energy density and processed their carbohydrate for the sake of energy density makes little sense to me. Maybe they just wanted some pure ass, nutrient void carbohydrate, so that when they were out hunting the guy throwing the stone tip stick didn’t fall over because he got a cramp from all the fiber he ate and thus fail to bring home some food for his crew.

I often look at high level athletes for patterns and eating behaviors especially some of the differences between males and females, because I think performance, good performance dictates some important lessons (1) athletes often have some strange eating rituals, almost superstitious, instead of viewing this as some psychosomatic voodoo I’ve always taken the overall theme at face value and that athlete is eating what makes him feel well when he performs and when he is doing hard training which allows him to (a) perform, (b) recover and (c) wake up and do it again the next day because if (d) he can’t then he fails at whatever he is trying to accomplish. And I think we can extend some of those concepts to regular folks like you and me and apply them to life.

The whole paradigm of Paleo, or LCHF, started as a good thing not because it is the ultimate truth, but because it caused us to pause and reflect and look at things more carefully much the same way that for some Dr. Peat was and is an inspiration. But Dr. Peat went a step beyond and inspired some to go down a road that was less traveled and inspire meaningful thought and curiosity which in the end I believe is more health giving and enriching then rigid guidelines and inflexible eating frameworks and in reality just another case of herd mentality. Dr. Peat’s contributions are not about sugar and PUFA his main contribution in my opinion is having some balls. He demonstrates his ability to evolve with the ever changing scientific literature all while maintaining an overall consistency. That’s a beautiful thing. Having a big pair of balls i.e. the ability to think for yourself is increasingly important (not that it ever wasn’t). Being consistent does not mean you are biased. Being biased usually means you are inconsistent. 

Where Paleo and LCHF fails now in my opinion, and for a long time now, is that they are becoming exactly what they criticized rushing to conclusions too quickly. And then you have those bundles of sticks that are o.k. with sugar taxes, WTF. Like seriously, WTF. Why don’t you first figure how to make food affordable before you start imposing more taxes, that go to who exactly?, healthcare costs?, sounds like wishful thinking to me. What a bunch of tools. How such a “free thinking” and “critical” crowd can think more authoritarianism is conducive to better health because we are too stupid to know better is somehow the solution to ANY problem is beyond my simple mind. Why don’t we just allow people free access to published research show students how to access it preferably before college and teach them basic science and math and statistics so they can read it informed and let them and future generations draw their own conclusions.

I often get emails from people who are sick and they ask for advice. I usually respond with more questions or I engage the person in a way that offers support to their situation rather than answers. Because I don’t have the answers, I’m just a dude with a blog, anybody can do this, I just think in a way about things that sometimes makes people feel free to ask questions, there are lots of people out there like that. I’m not a Doctor, please stop sending me lists of symptoms and asking “What should I do?”. I think unless you are dying or have a GSW to the chest, that the helplessness and hopelessness that you feel is because you are looking for answers, stop looking for answers, look to ask the right questions and then SEEK the answer, that order is important.

Maybe our ancestors processed carbohydrate simply because they didn’t want a belly ache.

Maybe it’s a mixture of both energy density and not wanting a belly ache and security. But for sure it’s not simply energy density because I’m starving.


Below the butter: addendum

I’m very excited to type this post on my new full sized bilingual English/Russian keyboard, my tiny laptop was cramping my fingers, and because I’ve been learning Russian I need a keyboard with Cyrillic characters. My reason for learning Russian? I have always wanted to, I love the way it sounds, I love the way Cyrillic characters look, I love pronouncing it, I want to visit one day, and I want to be able to read some Russian science. Yeah Russian science, they do some cool shit over there when you can get a hold of the translations. Plus anything Russian including some of their traditional foods are cool.

I wanted to take a moment to clarify, in the case it was missed, the main point of the last post I wrote on bread. The post was about an experience and this blog will be moving towards more of a mixture of me sharing my experiences in life my expertise in my career field, blended with science, speculation, and sarcasm and “common sense”. There is so much that can be learned from each other by sharing experiences and the telling of stories. Any ultimately a lot more can be retained and learned from life which is in itself applied science (discovered or not) by weaving it into everyday experiences.

As such, let it be clear that the point of the last post was not to say that if we all slow fermented our bread the gluten problem would be solved. Instead, the post served to exercise two points: (1) my experience and (2) the fact that the gluten free fad is far from cut and dry. It’s more complicated than that. For instance, one of things I learned in my adventures in researching bread chemistry is that gluten and gliadin both are hydrolyzed and depolymerized during slow fermentation and also that the carbohydrate content drops. That’s kind of a big detail to explore. After all a lot of generations ate bread and seemed to do o.k. I mean we are still here right? Barely. Just kidding.

Humans aren’t stupid, the obesity epidemic is a modern problem, that’s not to say there weren’t obese people in the old days there were, but not on this scale, we need to move away from looking at the here and now context and explore the “human existence” pattern as best as we can with the caveat of being honest about what we can and can’t know i.e. rational thinking.

It’s been said there is no such thing as a dumb question, true to some extent, but there is such a thing when exploring a complex topic, of not asking the right questions that could have a big impact on whether or not a given data set holds any weight at all and whether or not it is applicable to anyone.


Below the butter: bread

Note: More pictures to come!

This weekend Elyse and I took a trip up to Massachusetts to visit the Berkshire Mountain Bakery featured in Michael Pollan‘s Cooked documentary.

Bread has always been an interesting topic for me and there is a past post where I talked about bread and butter and the idea that around the time we started removing the butter from our fridges and counters we started seeing more gluten intolerance.

When I was a kid I would pilfer butter and bread in the moonlight while everyone was sleeping. Bare chested I would take a plain slice of Wonder bread, spread a thick layer of butter on it, fold it in half and smash it together, and eat it.

[A superior butter transport is in fact raisin bread which allows 2 sometimes 3 layers of butter before caving in under structural stress. I studied this. The raisins act as miniature tension rods.]

Sometime in my 20’s I did this diet where I eliminated bread from my diet. I read things about gluten, gliadin, schizophrenia, gluten ataxia, various autoimmune disorders, etc., and decided to throw my main butter transport ship out the window. I most certainly ate less butter as a result.


20160626_160302This past year I really began to branch out in experimenting with various sources of carbohydrate. I largely avoided wheat before that, aside from the occasional sprinkle in stews and gravy. So I decided to spread my cheeks and blow a nice medium winded gluten free fart over the Internets gluten dusted bible and investigate it’s pages further. I started looking for plain breads that were made with no oils. I’ll give you a dollar for each loaf of bread I found without oil (feel free to laugh and/or cry on that one).

I finally found some local artisan bread (artisan is short for hippies in garages charging high quality prices for low quality shit) at Whole Foods, had it sliced and began to nibble on it with butter. I made some grilled cheeses, some garlic bread at one point, etc. It was good, I was excited, but after a while I lost interest, it didn’t rekindle my childhood memories of bread and butter, and I’m definitely not the type of guy who wants good bread to sit down and eat a loaf of it, I just need a proper transport. And honestly I’ve never found in all these years a suitable alternative to bread and I’m not the type of guy to settle for anything but the best. So I went without it.  I moved on and began to look at approaching the bread problem myself, got a book, did research, figured out the problem, and then never followed through because of work related activities. But my plan was to work on my own starter and use long fermentation times. Stuff like that takes a lot of time to work on.

I was on Netflix one day looking for something interesting to watch and saw the Cooked documentary up there. See I really hate food documentaries, they give me reflux. But I couldn’t find anything, so I bit my brain tongue, turned it on, and prepared myself to be transformed. It turned out it was 4 episodes. I watched them all and was pretty impressed.

I liked all the episodes but the episode where they featured the Berkshire Mountain Bakery caught my eye, this guy did shit the right way and the one thing he said that I could experimentally test was the “spit test”. He said essentially that with fake bread you always have to have something to wash it down (I would agree), and that real bread causes your mouth to produce saliva as it begins the digestive process. So I looked to see where his bakery was and boy was I a happy camper when I found out he was only a few hours away.

There were two locations within 30 minutes of each other. One was like a pizza slash cafe type deal and the other was were the magic happened and the main bakery.


The town the place is located in was small and reminded me more of how New England is supposed to feel whereas Connecticut seems more like a ghetto the size of a state. I grew up in a conservative religious family and my father was essentially a fanatic. When you grow up that way and your brain develops and starts thinking freely you develop this kind of weird sixth sense. You know those small towns were everybody is polite and nice but you know they are engaging in candle lit cannibalism? Yeah that kind of town where even the hippies are conservative. I can detect that 10 miles out. I can’t be sure if it’s some type of electric field I’m tuned into or the faint smell of witches burning in the air.

The purpose of this trip was the spit test to see if this bread made my mouth salivate and to decide whether or not we would place a bigger order online to store in our freezer. We tried some samples, and holy shit, not only was my mouth salivating and producing an abundance of spit, but for 30 minutes after it was like my mouth was watering. We bought some raisin bread, various different named breads, a chocolate croissant, and some other things Elyse picked out. Everything was priced much less then what I’d expect for such a labor intensive product.

20160626_170452We then went over to their pizza and cafe place. Ordered a cheese pizza and waited about 15 minutes. It smelled wonderful. At first when we opened it was kind of strange seeing actual real mozzarella on a pizza as real mozzarella when melted has almost a wet rubbery appearance that can be off putting. So we went out in the car to try it while we were driving home. Holy crap, easily the best pizza I’ve had in my life and growing up I’ve had pizza from all the major pizza regions. The pizza crust was done the same way, slow fermentation, it caused elevated spit production, and there was not lead ball sitting in my stomach after eating it.

The entire experience was enlightening, stimulating, and the kind of thing I associate with curiosity and that curiosity eventually took us on this adventure. That is the way life should be, for better or worse, an adventure.

Beyond the butter, there is the bread, and if the bread sucks it ruins the butter and that is not a good thing. There are things that happen during slow fermentation that don’t happen with manufactured starters and other methods that are used to speed up the bread making process. I think there is good reason to believe that something is fundamentally changed when bread is done right and I think there are very few people who are reading this who have ever had a real piece of bread and felt the sensation, the tangy taste, the light spongy moist texture, and the pleasure of a proper butter transport.

[Europe your bread is better then America’s but this isolated bakery just beat you with a stick.]

In my past post I talked about how when we stopped putting butter on our bread it seemed like we started having an elevation in gluten intolerance and allergies. Not only did we stop eating butter on our bread we stopped making bread right.

If your feeling dangerous give it a try if you can. They have a $50 order minimum but it can be frozen. If you are in search of a butter battle ship this is the one, see on you on the starboard side, look for the guy having the left over roast beef sandwich.

Best wishes,