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How to Eat Like a Forager

One of my favorite books of this year was Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Early in the book, the author discusses our ancestors, the hunter-gatherer tribes from 50,000 – 10,000 years ago. We tend to think of these early humans as simpleminded prehistoric cavemen. But Sapiens explains how they were almost certainly the happiness, healthiest, fittest, and most skilled human beings in the history of our species.

The interesting thing is that the DNA of humans was shaped during this time – the same DNA that we all share today. We are, in effect, foragers living in a very different environment.

This is a huge problem because many aspects of our modern life conflict with the nature of our DNA. I would suggest that this conflict is the primary cause of the suffering we experience. Things like loneliness, depression, anxiety disorders, unhappiness, overwork, and diet-related diseases that are so prevalent today would have been very rare to our ancestors. This conflict is happening in all areas, but nowhere can it be seen more clearly than with our diet. Our ancestors were eating the ideal human diet:

“In most places and at most times, foraging provided ideal nutrition. That is hardly surprising – this had been the human diet for hundreds of thousands of years, and the human body was well adapted to it. Evidence from fossilised skeletons indicates that ancient foragers were less likely to suffer from starvation or malnutrition, and were generally taller and healthier than their peasant descendants.”

It’s interesting to think about what these foragers’ lives would have been like. We might imagine some members of a tribe spending a few hours in the morning gathering root vegetables, berries, nuts, seeds, tree fruit, and leafy greens – all wild, organic pesticide free, non-GMO, sustainably grown, and free. Yes, they ate meat as well, but typically in small quantities to supplement a primarily plant-based diet. Thankfully, one of the positive things about our lives today is that we have developed such abundant supplies of plant protein in the form of legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds so that supplementing with animal protein is unnecessary.

The way our ancestors ate reminds me so much of the philosophy behind the One Ingredient Diet. “The foraging diet” is the One Ingredient Diet. These foragers were, in fact, the original One Ingredient Chefs. Everything they ate was one whole ingredient – and they didn’t even have my course to show them how! 🙂

Lately I often find myself approaching life through the lens of our foraging ancestors. They were happier and healthier versions of us, so why not follow their example? In terms of food, it leads right back to the One Ingredient Diet at its core: simple meals with simple ingredients. What I want to share today is a very simple recipe that I eat for lunch most days. It’s made from only one ingredient “forager foods” – seeds (quinoa, in this case), leafy greens, vegetables, nuts, and berries. That’s it. No fancy Vitamixed sauces, nothing too creative; just whole, simple, timeless ingredients in a bowl.

forager-bowl-ground

The incredible thing is, every time I eat this forager bowl it shows me the truth in these ideas. It’s not an exaggeration to say that eating food that aligns with our DNA makes everything right in the world. It’s almost impossible to eat this bowl and not feel a sense of joy and stability. Plus, the food tastes amazing, it’s naturally balanced with the right nutrients and caloric density, has tons of antioxidant protection, and is completely sustainable for the environment in which it was grown.

I think this massive contrast between human nature and our modern lifestyle is going to be one of the biggest challenges we need to face over the next century. It would be misguided to try going backwards and boycott all the good things about our modern lives. The only solution is to go forward, to use our greatest human strengths, ingenuity and technology, in positive ways to create healthier and more harmonious lives for ourselves and our larger ecosystem. All areas of our life need to be addressed: the way we work, the types of homes and communities in which we live, the way we build relationships, and more. I can think of no better place to start, however, than with the food we eat. Making this change is as simple as learning to eat like a forager.

So, let’s make a forager bowl!

How to Make a Forager Bowl

forager-bowl-stone

This bowl can be made any number of ways. Simply start with a base of quinoa, add some leafy greens, some root vegetables like green onions or carrots, berries, and top with nuts or seeds.

This is the most beautiful thing about real / One Ingredient food: there’s no wrong way to do it. Virtually any whole foods you want to throw in this bowl will create amazing flavors. Here’s how I make mine:

Ingredients:

  • Quinoa
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Sea salt & black pepper
  • Arugula
  • Green onions
  • Blueberries
  • Walnuts
  • Avocado (optional)
  • Minced chili (optional)

Step One

Prepare some quinoa by adding 1 part quinoa : 2 parts water in a saucepan. Allow to simmer until the water has been absorbed and the quinoa is fluffy (about 20 minutes). Then, season the quinoa with nothing more than a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a grind of sea salt and black pepper. Set aside to cool slightly.

Step Two

Meanwhile, slice a green onion or two, dice an avocado (if using), and mince a red or green chili (thai, jalapeño, etc., if using). Also gather some blueberries from the fields, pick some wild arugula from the hillside, and crack open some walnuts from the tree. 🙂

Step Three

When the quinoa has cooled slightly, simply throw everything into bowls to serve. Start with a base of quinoa, add a layer of arugula, and top with the green onions, berries, walnuts, avocado, and chili. I find this dish just as delicious at room temperature as chilled, so feel free to make a big batch and save the leftovers for 1-2 days.

forager-bowl-hand

17 Comments

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  1. This looks good!!! I have discovered quinoa some time ago and I have replaced rice with it. Which is huge, as I love rice. But that made me so full. In an unconfortable way.
    Quinoa is just great for being full and don’t feel like I need to open my pants.

    I will definitly try this!

    Yvonne

  2. Yes!!! I love this!! I’ve always joked with people that my meat eating boyfriend is the “hunter” and I’m the plant eating “gatherer”, but I like the term “forager” even better! You’ve inspired me to eat even better!!

  3. Not to be contrary, but our ancestor were as much prey as hunter and had nothing to speak of in the way of hygiene and medical care. In addition to that, they were extremely superstitious – that in and of itself creates all manner of anxiety.

    I think your book is based more on fantasy than reality.

    • That was not the most insightful comment, Nia.

      The percentage of the human population that died as prey in sabertooth tiger attacks or from snakebites (or even warring tribes) would have been exponentially smaller than those who now die in car accidents alone. The percentage who died because there were no emergency rooms vs. those who die of heart disease caused by our modern diet? Again, exponentially smaller. No dental care, sure, but they had virtually no cavities caused by processed sugars and starches.

      The issue of hygiene (i.e. disease and sanitation) wasn’t an issue until we left small tribes that were self contained and moved into cities during the agricultural revolution where disease spread between humans and their farm animals.

      Superstitions. We have more now than ever (religions, nationalism). The only issue now is that we have the technology to blow people up because of our superstitions and REALLY cause some anxiety, but that’s okay because we’ve now invented chemicals we can take for that.

      Sure, there’s positives and negatives to each time, but the idea that life today is ‘better’ because we have killed all the tigers, and because we have McDonalds, and emergency rooms to visit after we eat the McDonalds. That’s the fantasy.

  4. Yum! I totally agree. I need to check out the book you mentioned. I read 80/10/10 but I wasn’t completely into ALL raw, but I will say, my raw food makes me feel way better than cooked bread, pasta and rice dishes. I think without even thinking about it, my body is demanding a more “forager-esque” diet. I thoroughly enjoyed this post and hope to try this recipe out soon! Thanks! Betsi

  5. I’m into this! I eat a lot of raw salads with just a squeeze of lemon & salt & pepper for dressing. The creaminess of the avocado seems to be the key. =)

  6. An insightful and thought provoking recipe- which has to be rather rare!

    I really enjoyed your post. Thank you.

    Striving for simplicity in a complex society…

  7. I’ve eaten like this since childhood and my pediat ician told my parents I had a weird eating disorder and they needed to get me to eat differently.
    As a teen and young adult I caved in and did as my mom wished and ate a modern diet and well I developed diabetes and felt like complete garbage.
    Now I’ve taken my health back and am going on my instincts and eating as I use too.
    I just didn’t know what to call how I ate and you gave me the name for it.

    Thank you, thank you

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