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What is the Healthiest Diet for the Human Animal? Further
'The Primal Feast: Food,
Foraging, and Love'
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'The Primal Feast: Food, Sex, Foraging, and Love' Allport,
Harmony Books, New York 2000. ISBN: 0-609-60149-0
Hardcover. Published March 2000, publication price $US23.
Body of the work 245 pages, bibliography 9 pages, index 5 pages.
This thoughtful and reflective book is written in anecdotal style,
but draws extensively on the primary literature on hunter gather
behavioural ecology and psychology - and more, of course.
It starts, more or less, with discussing the imperative of all
- eat. More than this, forage efficiently, don't waste energy in
and meeting basic metabolic needs to grow and reproduce. Knowing this
imperative, Susan Allport applies it to the crucial period of the last
common ancestor, just before apes and humans diverged. Drawing on the
of African chimpanzee populations in Africa, she teases out a plausible
evolutionary explaination of the different sexual and pairing motives
men and women, the part food may have played in this 'dance', and the
alliance we maintain as a result.
The natural history of foraging, hunting, intertwined with mating and
the tension between individual and group behaviour is followed from
primal ancestors, through todays remmnant hunter gatherers, through the
beginnings of agriculture, and to todays techno-agricultural world.
Along the way, the myth of the hunter gatherer idyllic lifestyle is
exploded, as well as the myth of monogamy as evolutionarily
except as a device for particular ecological circumstances.
The issue of which foods are 'natural' is woven throuhout the book.
Importantly, the author de-pedastels any given wild harvested diet as
but emphasises human dietary plasticity and the very patchy spread of
in the natural world. This patchiness comes into conflict with the very
success of human dietary plasticity, and provides interesting
for the origin of agriculture.
We are used to looking for a single explaination for phenomena. Susan
Allport provides entertaining and defensible mosaics of behaviours and
circumstances, nicely illustrated in story and anecdote, stiffened with
reference to science results ( the only minor gripe is that there are
subscripts to link to a specific reference in the quite extensive
that taken together give a thought provoking and fascinating insight
appropriate diet, the relationship of the sexes to food, and what food
Besides being a good read, the particular value of this work is its
reach back to the formalisation of Australopithicine to explain not
what we eat, but the influence of foraging on mating and social
and how our present lives are still directed by these evolutionary
even if overlain with the cultural conditioning of the group and
we happen to be born into.
It is the only easily accessible book I know of that take an
species-ecology and species behaviour view of human evolution, and then
reflects it onto modern behaviours and attitudes -whether explicit or