Monday, September 01, 2008

Monty Don 2: Arthur's Answer

Arthur de Vany responds to Monty Don's email:
'Montagu Don's email is elegant and moving in many ways. You can sense his attachment to the land. Sadly, that is lost here in the US with the advent of large scale commercial farming, a necessary adaption to feed the many foragers who dine on grains and corn: ethanol producers, animal feed pens, worthless breakfast cereal producers, vegetable oil producers (a novel an unwholesome substance better for lubing cars than humans), and the modern killers sugar and fructose.
The few family farms where this sense of community may remain are heavily subsidized by urban tax payers. So, the wholesome picture is not accurate.
On the other hand, if the fields were filled with animals grazing on open grass and wild to semi-wild lands, how beautiful that would be. Replacing rice, bean, wheat, corn, sorghum and other crops with vegetables would restore a balance to our diet and the land. It would reduce the rat population greatly (rats moved in with humans with the advent of grain-based agriculture) and many other pests who thrive in the managed rows of grains, with all their natural predators killed or chased to other places.
Range animals are healthier than animals trapped and crowded into feeding pens. They carry less fat in total, less saturated fat (grain feeding produces hydrogen which is trapped in body fat, hydrogenating it on the hoof, and expelled into the air as a potential contributor to warming). They carry fewer pathogens and antibiotics and their fatty acid profile is better for humans to consume. In the US, a return to range animals (range-fed chicken, cattle, pigs, goats, even fish) would restore the very environment Montagu Don loves. This change would produce a quantum leap in human health.
And, the dreaded interstate highway in the US has brought fresh vegetables and fruit to the hinterland where grain-based agriculture or just nothing-ness reduced the population to flour and flour-based products. The Navajo are dying of Type 2 diabetes on their far-removed reservations because they are fed so much flour from subsidized commercial farming.'


  1. Please do check out this book by Barbara Kingsolver, it's called – Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life.

    It's a fascinating read

    Bryan, please do pass this along to Monty; he'd really enjoy it.

  2. I'm sorry, but I really have to have some pretzels right now.

  3. Someone recently pointed out that what's really doing us in is worry. Day was when if you wanted an apple you bought (or picked) one and ate it. End of story. These days a purchase like this is beset with 1001 considerations of ethical this and chemically laden that. You can't blame folks for feeling they just can't take it anymore, especially when money is very tight. There's nothing sane about trying to balance in ones head the competing claims of myriad food companies, drug companies, doctors, supermarkets, green campaigners et al.

    If everything went free-range and vegetables replaced crops, then one guesses that we'd all starve apart from a few rich people. Imagine trying that on a country that knows famine - India, for example. So it's not really a solution. Life is short.

  4. Bryan,

    I have been following this and have some comments that begin at the beginning, so to speak.

    I enjoyed your article but was disappointed to see you use the word diet in the title and the clichéd tape measure picture. To me this created in the mind of the uninformed reader a misconception from the start. This surprised me because clearly you 'get' that EF is a lifestyle, not a diet.

    Monte Don's reply contains some good points and also points I take issue with. First, I believe strenuous gardening can easily be fuelled by the kind of good fats the EF diet would contain and is therefore not impractical. I was surprised Devany did not address this in his reply. I would even argue that it's a more practical way to provide the required calories because a high fat meat will fuel you for longer than a high carb meal. In any case, a week is not long enough to establish this one way or another.

    Whilst Monte's impassioned plea for the sense of community engendered by farming processes is very touching, it isn't really relevant and nor is the question about 'the health of good bread' etc. The fundamental premise of EF is that bread, by definition, is not healthy and it does not make sense to eat unhealthy food because it creates a sense of community. Clearly, the sensible thing to do is to stop eating bread and seek to create a sense of community in another way.

    Finally, the point about narcissism and the practicality of worldwide EF adoption. Monte is right that EF is an individialistic philosophy - but only because society has geared itself around another food source, as Devany points out. The point Monte does not explicitly state and Davany avoids is that it takes more land an money to produce meat than it does grain, so there would be huge economic barriers to wholesale adoption of EF.

    Nevertheless, the final point I would make is that the savings society could make in terms of medical bills and the vast sums spent by Pharmaceutical firms researching semi-effective drugs to treat diet-related conditions could ultimately square the circle. Clearly getting there would be a huge task for which the will, almost certainly, is not there.

    Pay Now Live Later

  5. I have read as much as I can from Arthur De Vaney's website without subscribing. 40+ dollars up front, I reckon is a tad too commercial, and from what I understand about Arthur, he is a wealthy man, so he does not need this income to survive.
    Reading Arthur's diet guidelines, I for one could not afford it. I balance my nutrition on budget.
    Arthur says avoid frozen vegetables. I eat frozen spinach, brocolli, sprouts and garden peas every day. I could not afford these as fresh produce financially or the time to purchase daily.

    Why can't Arthur open up his website to be free of charge? Or maybe he does need the extra income from the website. Not much altruism around these days it seems.

  6. Bill - to be fair to Art, his site was free of charge for a long time and I was a regular visitor, deriving a great deal of valuable insight and information. I did not pay the subscription when he introduced it about 6 months ago because I felt I had already understood the concept of EF and was able to implement it without further help. There are other great (free) sites such as Mark's Daily Apple and Modern Forager that espouse Paleolithic lifestyle. They may not pack the same intellectual and technical puch an Art's but then that won't matter for most people.

    Pay Now Live Later

  7. I've been reading Art's blog since its inception, though I only started eating the EF way after Bryan Appleyard's article was published. (Now, of course, I wish I'd started years earlier.)

    Anyway, two points to the cost issue:

    1. You can glean all the information you need from the public section of the website. Truly. In fact, one of the major things I have realized is that the EF way has some very simple rules that you adapt to fit your own life. (Basically: Eat mostly meat and vegetables, with smaller amounts of nuts, oils, spices. etc. Avoid processed food of all kinds. Be active. Seek variety in both eating and activity.) The rest is just refinement and encouragement.

    2. I've actually found the EF way of eating to be cheaper than my previous, fairly healthy diet--but that's because I now buy small quantities and use everything up. Cooking and meal preparation is much easier and still delicious. And if you make steak and green beans and cauliflower for dinner, you can eat the leftovers for breakfast. Or skip breakfast. It's easy!

  8. Bill said: Reading Arthur's diet guidelines, I for one could not afford it. I balance my nutrition on budget.

    i say: my mother is suffering from incurable breast cancer that has spread throughout her body. she is also diabetic and has heart disease. she is 74. she lives with me and i see her suffer daily. i think i can afford whatever it takes to keep myself and my family healthy.