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.
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
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:
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Sea salt & black pepper
- Green onions
- Avocado (optional)
- Minced chili (optional)
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.
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. 🙂
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.