One month ago I promised you a review of John Durant’s book, entitled The Paleo Manifesto.
I read it over the Holidays and scribbled some notes and then work and life got in the way and I never got the review written. Meanwhile, Jake, the guy who lent me the book, is threatening to slash my tires and break my legs. Not really, but I am sure he is wondering where in the world his book went.
If you read Paleo blogs, or listen to podcasts, you have probably heard of John Durant, or possibly listened to an interview or two. I’ve heard him interviewed at least three times, just since the publication of this book. He is a fascinating character.
Durant has crafted a “Paleo Persona” that has served him well in garnering publicity for himself and for the Paleo lifestyle. He has been featured in the New York Times and on the Colbert Report. He is often portrayed as an urban caveman. In spite of this he is an educated and articulate man who is adept at walking the fine line between generating intrigue regarding Paleo and not going so far as to be a caricature.
The book is a very easy read. I read it over a period of two days. It is not How-To Book. It is not a Cook Book. I would define it as Durant’s personal philosophy regarding ancestral health. It is fun to read, but there is little in here that a seasoned veteran of Paleo, Primal Blueprint or Westin A. Price wouldn’t already be familiar with.
It is, however, a viable primer to give to a person who is curious about such a departure from the Standard American Diet. The style is very conversation. It is sprinkled with science, philosophy, spirituality and humor. Simply stated, it is an excellent introduction to the lifestyle without being dogmatic or offensive to those who choose to reject the message.
The book is broken down into three distinct sections: Origins, The Here and Now, and Visions.
Origins describes how we have changed through the millenia and how these changes have affected how we live, eat, move, sleep, work, etc. Over time, we migrate from the harshness of foraging for game and plants, to the sedentary life of the Information Age.
The chapter entitled, Know Your Species is an interesting way to kickoff the book and to get readers to think what should be obvious: for optimum health, you must feed creatures what they were designed to eat. He cites zoo gorillas dying prematurely of heart disease. It appears that the gorillas were being fed a not-to-jungle-like diet of biscuits and other manufactured “foods”. They were also housed in cement cell-blocks to add to their stress. Someone actually had to dream up a solution of creating an environment and diet that was at least a reasonable facsimile of their native habitat for them to thrive and get healthy.
In Part II, The Here and Now, Durant outlines how we, as humans, can also replicate a reasonable facsimile for our human environment and diet. He provides a brief overview of the philosophy of Paleo, within the context of both food and fitness, the effects of sunlight and sleep. All of which have been grossly distorted with the advent of the electric light.
In Part III, Visions, Durant gets philosophical, discussing learning to hunt, so he could experience first hand, what is involved in taking an animal’s life to sustain his own. He discusses the ethics of food, environment and an industrialized food system, that is quite removed from the earth and nature. He challenges anti-meat and vegetarian readers in a very respectful fashion as he presses his Paleo agenda.
I mentioned in my opening, The Paleo Manifesto doesn’t break new ground to one who has been doing it for some time, but it is effective to help newbies or wannabes understand the concept. It’s worth reading and it is pleasant.