Title: Basic Food: A History of Nutrition
By: Harold Kalve
Categories / Themes: Non-fiction, health & fitness, food, history.
Read: 12th January, 2017
Rating: 1 / 5
Obtained: Goodreads Giveaway
Crossposted Review to: Goodreads
Basic Food: A History of Nutrition by Harold Kalve is an essay that looks at the evolution of humans and the food we have eaten through time. It discusses a few diets as well as considers several nutritional benefits/ negatives of them.
It was an interesting look into history, but I felt it to be wildly inconsistent. I’ll explain using an example. The author states, on page 46, that he “started eliminating food I could not have eaten a thousand years ago, including corn (maize), corn products, and anything with corn products in it.” Moving on a sentence, he says he also cut out rice, potatoes pasta and he soon after comments that he cut out ALL grain products. To my knowledge, I was under the impression that cultures had been using corn for thousands of years. I Googled it and came up with an article from wholehealthsource.blogspot.com.au : “The first evidence of a calorically important domesticated crop I’m aware of was about 11,500 years ago in the fertile crescent. They were cultivating an early ancestor of wheat called emmer. Other grains popped up independently in what is now China (rice; ~10,000 years ago), and Central America (corn; ~9,000 years ago). That’s why people say humans have been eating grains for about 10,000 years.”
If we’re considering the foods a person could eat a thousand years ago we could still have all these things: corn, rice, other grain products, chocolate, cheese, beer… Heck, even the term “pizza” first appears in 997, according to Wikipedia / ~3000 BCE for Palm oil / ~5000 BCE: Fossilized remains of possibly cultivated potato tubers on a cave floor in Chilca Canyon.” – (Wikipedia). / “Polo ventured to China in the time of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) and the Chinese had been consuming noodles as early as 3000 B.C. in the Qinghai province. There is even some evidence there of 4,000-year-old noodles made from foxtail and broomcorn millet.” – (todayifoundout.com). Breads have been around for something like 30 thousand of years, according to the bread Wikipedia article.
Articles that I just referenced:
Grains and Human Evolution: http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com.au/2008/07/grains-and-human-evolution.html
Pasta Is Not Originally from Italy – Today I Found Out: http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2011/06/pasta-is-not-originally-from-italy/
Timeline of food: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_food
Anyway, my point about this is that he’s judging our diets for eating things so processed and mutated. He implies that we should go back to eating the same ways that our ancestors did. My position is that humans have been eating these things for thousands of years anyway. He himself cuts grain related products out of his own diet, yet we’ve been consuming things like bread for 30,000 years. He cuts pasta out, but we’ve been eating that for 4,000 years. Humans have been processing and farming foods for thousands of years. Obviously, to produce these things, they selectively farm to improve crops. Crops then evolve based on this.
The reason the author cuts back on these foods is because of domestic farming and that these foods have been mutated a LOT in the past thousand years. However, all foods have. Whether they be meat, grain, vegetable or fruit- they’ve all gone through massive changes.
For example, carrots used to come in all sorts of colours. However, due to selective farming, we mostly have orange ones these days. Things like crops have improved yields and animals have grown to very large sizes. Sure, the author suggests really negative things about such farming practices. But it’s only going to get worse as time goes on. Crops and animals are going to keep growing in size, especially over the next century. If you don’t like the way farmers do it, the only way you can pretty much avoid this is to grow your own animals and crops.
It’s an essay about real food vs processed food. But, to me, the author’s argument seems wildly un-researched. He vilifies carbohydrates in particular, and shames a lot of grain related products. However, in my knowledge, it’s fine for people to eat grains; the problem is overindulging. He suggests cutting back on processed and modern day food. By doing this, we’re meant to go back to the same food we would have eaten a thousand years ago- yet he lists things (to avoid) that we actually did have a thousand years ago (pasta, corn, rice, etc)… Apart from it being here and there, I’m a bit mystified. We have a huge list of what to avoid, but that doesn’t leave much left for us to eat.
It has a few interesting points about human evolution, but the book is more scare tactic than proper food advice. The bottom line: if you’re worried about your food intake, make and appointment with a health professional who can tailor make a diet for you.
Note: If you also end up reading the book, I encourage you to research and form your own conclusions.
I won a copy of this book via Goodreads Giveaways and these are just my honest thoughts on it.