Keeping it Simple

Keeping it Simple

Since the beginning of the year we have removed car loads of junk and ‘stuff’ either to the tip or to the charity shop. This consisted of (amongst other things):

Magazine supplements going back over 10 years

Clothes that have not been worn for decades

Old newspapers

Kitchen stuff like plates, bowls, old mugs, etc. that either have never or will never be used

Old wires, bits of wood, plastic bags, tins of paint

Drawers full of bits and pieces – bent screws, plastic tops, old paintbrushes

Carrier bags (!)

Old vcrs, tape machines, amps and various electrical equipment that were broken

This list could go on and on and on…

For quite a while we were at the local dump every Sunday, joining a never-ending procession of people pulling up in their cars and getting rid of ‘stuff’. Mountains of it. Accumulating in the vast skips labelled ‘wood’, ‘hard plastic’, ‘glass’, ‘magazines’, ‘electrical.’ Each of these skips a testament to our consumption. On these trips we would sit and wait, looking at the ever-increasing heaps as people walked back and forth from their cars with junk and wondering just how we all managed to consume and accumulate so much; imagining this same scenario taking place at dumps all over the country, and then widening this out to think about the sheer amount of stuff that humans produce and discard – often with the most detrimental effects to the planet. It is mind-boggling.

What brought this on? Why were we not doing something more relaxing on a Sunday instead of sitting at the tip and mulling over our contribution to the world’s pollution problems?

The answer to that is this film. Just after Christmas, I watched Minimalism on Netflix, then as soon as it was finished I watched it again. Then I watched it with my partner and then I watched it with my mum (I did the same with the Happy Movie). Then I started to research and began reading more…

Minimalism: a documentary about the important things in life – if you haven’t heard of it yet – is an extremely thought-provoking documentary about the stuff that we accumulate in our lives and the profound affect that it has upon us as we place value on things that are ultimately meaningless. In the film, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus (The Minimalists) tell their story of transitioning from poor and volatile backgrounds to successful corporate careers, setting them both on a treadmill of rabid consumerism as they sought to add value and meaning to their lives by acquiring more and more stuff. It was Joshua who first became intrigued by a minimalist lifestyle after the death of his mother and the realisation that the things that he had once though important were actually insignificant. The order of things was turned upside down. It was the very things that he had previously taken for granted (or may have even neglected) that were important…

I will stop there with the description of the film as it really is a ‘must-watch’. Of course this is an issue that has been tackled by other people in many different ways and of course this is not the first time that we have thought about the impact of our consumerism, but for some reason the message in this film seems to resonate so strongly and really tap into something. I was struck immediately about the relationship of the minimalism philosophy to an ancestral health lifestyle. The overwhelming message of minimalism is one of simplicity and focus upon those things that add value to our life. Stripping away the superfluous until we are able to see what really matters – possessions, activities, thoughts, actions – allows us to concentrate on things that equip us to live a more meaningful and less stressful life. When we begin to do this, we are able to think more clearly about the purchases we make, how we spend our time, the people that we surround ourselves with and the work that we do. 

Following a Paleo lifestyle has for us also been a process of simplification; most dramatically with food but also in regard to all aspects of health and general lifestyle. Over the years, learning to look at many things through an evolutionary lens has pared things down; helping to focus judgement and see what is really important. Even down to thinking about the food choices and behaviour of the animals that we eat, what could be simpler than cows eating only pasture or large groups of animals moving from one place to another as they did millennia ago, regenerating the land underfoot? Some problems require complex solutions, but for many problems the solution is elegantly simple, it just might take a bit of work to get us there.

We obviously live in a completely different world to our hunter gatherer ancestors, along with all the benefits and advances in science, technology and medicine that we often take for granted. However, physiologically and psychologically we are not very different from our distant relations. It is no wonder that the 24/7 media and consumer-driven culture that we live in sends many of us spinning. We are still trying to adapt and paying a heavy price in the process. Looking at how our ancestors lived and thinking about what may have been important for them – shelter, food, social bonds, being in nature, creativity – pares things down to the essentials and helps us to reflect upon the necessities of these things to own lives.

Minimalism is not about discarding all our possessions, any more than Paleo is about just eating meat. It is about increasing the things that add value to our lives and decreasing the things that don’t. The particular things that do this may be different for each of us. I love books and music so I am hardly about to throw out my book collection but what I have found is that by getting rid of piles of additional magazines and other rubbish I am able to organise and focus on my books more, which brings me more enjoyment. This is applicable not just to material things but to how we spend our time, who we choose to be around, how we work… Freeing up time and energy allows us to contribute more, to interact more with people that are dear to us or that we can help. This is an essential part of the Minimalism message.

The Minimalist movement has taken some criticism – you can hear more about this here. People say that we are in an extremely privileged position to be able to discard possessions that others living in abject poverty may only dream of. This is true, but it doesn’t detract from the validity of the approach. We are consuming and wasting the earth’s resources as never before. The hedonic treadmill that results in more and more purchases – an insatiable drive to accumulate ‘things’ and thus to find ‘happiness’ – keeps us tied to the very behaviour that is harmful to both ourselves and the planet. In the condemnation that Minimalism has received in some parts of the media, there is an element of overlooking the message to criticise the messenger. To dismiss a philosophy that we truly believe is beneficial to us and the wider world around us just because some people have issues with those who espouse it is sad. I listened to an interview with the absolutely wonderful Matthieu Ricard (Buddhist monk and humanitarian) in which he talked about our value systems and the importance we place upon possessions. Whether it comes from relatively wealthy people or Buddhist monks, it’s the message that counts and this message is gathering pace.

“I’m simply asking the critics to consider whether they’re just being defensive, or if they’re arguing from an honest place with rational objections.” blogpost answering critics from Leo Babuata, Zen Habits

I believe that the Paleo community is naturally in tune with a minimalist philosophy and I was so excited to see that the Minimalism film was being shown at this year’s Paleof(x). The attention that Paleo gives to careful and conscious choices regarding lifestyle as well as the issue of personal responsibility (an important part of the movement) leads us to question how the choices we make affect not only our own health and wellbeing but that of the planet. Getting rid of our junk and questioning further purchases is only a tiny part of the Minimalism message and only the beginning of the journey, just as our diet is only part of the message with Paleo. Widening this out to look at our value systems in general and helping us to really decide what is important is the real (and increasing) power behind both these movements.

 

RESOURCES

A few to get started…

Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things – a fantastic film that also got me back to meditating – see my post here.

The Minimalists website and podcast

Zen Habits – Leo Babauta’s excellent website. Thought-provoking and very, very helpful advice.

Slow Home website and podcast – some really good interviews on here (check out ‘The simple art of meditation with Kevin Janksas’) well as practical advice on simplifying the home – from clothes to cleaning products

Becoming Minimalist – Joshua Becker gives some great practical tips on here.

Be More With Less – Courtney Carver’s diagnosis of MS forced her to re-examine her priorities and simplify her life

The Happy Movie – if you have not seen this film, it is an absolute must. It is available on Netflix if you have it. Watching this introduced me to the work of Buddhist monk, photographer and humanitarian Matthieu Ricard.

One of Richard’s favourite photographers is Eric Kim who approaches his art within the realms of a minimalist philosophy. He writes about this thoughtfully and to great effect on his blog

 

 

Thinking and Evolving

Thinking and Evolving

In the chaos that is life, we can find it increasingly difficult to pause, to take a step back and breathe, and to think clearly about our situation or the task at hand. The ability to do this simple thing can make a radical difference to the way we cope with everyday life and the situations and events that it throws at us.

Of course this is nothing new for the human condition – we have faced situations and challenges that may stress or overwhelm us from the beginning of time (fleeing from predators, fighting for our lives, recovering from injuries, defending our tribe) – but life in the 21st century presents us with a very different set of circumstances. In addition to (hopefully) very rare and extremely stressful events, we may experience the majority of our stress and anxiety very differently. Ongoing problems, worries or health issues that seem so much a part of contemporary living for many of us mean that cortisol (the ‘stress hormone’) released while fleeing from a Palaeolithic predator is now stretched over time; a continuous drip-drip effect of chronic stress which eventually proves detrimental to body and mind.

 

PALEO FUNDAMENTALS

There are a number of things that we can do to help mitigate the effects of stress and anxiety. Firstly – and true to Paleo-principles – we can ensure that the following are in place:

Getting enough sleep is the number one priority. This is often a hard thing when stress and worry take over but as with everything – any little improvement that can be achieved is a big bonus. As much as possible, everything should take a back seat to dialling in sleep patterns.

Eating real food, with a particular emphasis on good quality sources of fat (particularly important for brain health) is essential. But the cycle of stress (particularly if accompanied by reduced sleep) is like a vortex that drags us into irresponsible food choices often centered around carbs (sugar). Again, being gentle and kind to ourselves by making small improvements where possible (rather than spinning into self-recrimination) will help.

The will to exercise often disappears at times of stress yet it is so beneficial to our well-being. The very thing that we need becomes the thing we avoid if we are feeling unmotivated and lacking in energy. Keeping it simple – in particular getting out into nature for a walk – can be hugely beneficial.

Contact with friends, family or a local group reinforces the social bond that is so often neglected in times of stress. Interaction with others helps us to look outside ourselves; whether through engaging in group activities or through listening, chatting and just being with others.  This is particularly effective when we experience a feeling of contribution; a sense that we are helping with something bigger than ourselves. Making time for these things – and learning to ‘Be‘ instead of ‘Do’ – may help tremendously.

Making improvements wherever we can (and however small) in these areas will pay dividends – not only in periods of stress but in our everyday lives. But what else can we do?

 

FOCUSING IN

As research continues to show, practising meditation may be very effective in helping people overcome stress and anxiety. Of course,the addition of meditation fits well within a Paleo approach and mindfulness may contribute to making (and reinforcing) wise choices in how we sleep, eat and exercise. 

“Meditation is not just blissing out under a mango tree. It completely changes your brain and therefore changes what you are.” Matthieu Ricard, Molecular Geneticist, Buddhist monk and humanitarian

I recently began meditating again after a long break of many years. I used to go to my local Bethnal Green Buddhist Centre and practise basic meditation (in particular what is known as loving kindness meditation or ‘metta bhavana’). This was sometimes regular and sometimes sporadic but circumstances changed and I eventually stopped. Meditation inexplicably fell away and despite knowing that I should probably be meditating (and after many recommendations from people to practise), I never made the time. This was due to a mixture of perceived time poverty, rational scepticism and a feeling that I just wasn’t the sort of person (too hyper) that could meditate (even though it had helped me in the past). Clearly these excuses were a load of old nonsense but it made sense at the time (a bit like eating a low fat high carb diet)…

This changed at the beginning of the year after watching an interview with Dan Harris, journalist and author of the book and podcast 10% Happier on the wonderful documentary Minimalism (more to come on that in a future article – a MUST WATCH!). Here was a man who seemed like the last person on earth that would be meditating.  His live meltdown on Good Morning America is excruciating to watch and it was this watershed moment that prompted him to begin meditating in an effort to deal with soaring stress levels. His persuasive and enthusiastic approach made me rethink and I began cautiously with a 9-minute guided vipassana (mindfulness) meditation by Neuroscientist Sam Harris which you can find here (Sam is no relation to Dan, and has an excellent podcast).

I figured that I could spare 9 minutes out of a day in which I seem to fill every second and despite misgivings, I persevered. Needless to say, and being the sort of person that I am, I wanted to read the scientific research behind the effectiveness of meditation and it is fascinating and compelling. In combination with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (which I have also tried), meditation can be extremely effective as a therapeutic tool to fight stress, anxiety and depression, obsessive compulsive disorders and generally improve mood (for more on the effectiveness of this dual treatment – see the video link below).

The nine minutes gradually crept up and I am making time to meditate on a daily basis, fitting it in wherever I can (although first thing mornings and last thing evenings work best). I have found guided meditations to be very helpful. These can be accessed via the internet and also with apps (for instance Buddhify, which has a huge selection of guided meditations for various situations). There are a number of sources below to help you get started.

I have definitely noticed and improvement in mind state after beginning meditation again. Feeling much more focused and calmer as well as learning to ‘let things go’ are some of the many benefits for me but of course it is different for everyone. The best thing is to begin with 9 minutes or even 5 minutes a day and do not deviate from this for a while. The problem is if you are like me, you will jump from 5 minutes to 30 minutes too soon, consequently fail to fit it in, and then begin to stress due to failing to achieve perfection (which is partly why I need to meditate in the first place). Like all of the areas listed above – sleep, food, and exercise – a little change is better than none at all…

 

ANCESTRAL PERSPECTIVE

I wondered about the evolutionary perspective on meditation and how it fitted in with ancestral health.  In an absolutely fascinating paper entitled ‘Did meditating make us human? (2007)’ Matt Rossano (Department of Psychology, Southeastern Louisiana University) posits a theory that ‘campfire rituals of focused attention’ through meditation-like periods of reflection or shamanic healing enhanced working memory capacity and symbolic thinking for our Homo sapiens ancestors. He suggests that such traits were essential for advances in the brain’s ability to innovate and experiment, thus leading to evolutionary advances:

‘Consciousness-altering rituals, often taking the form of shamanistic healing rituals, constituted an important and unique aspect of the human selective environment. This environment targeted those areas of the brain involved in focused attention and working memory, and in time, facilitated the genetic mutation(s) that ultimately fixed enhanced working memory and symbolic function in the human population…’

Rossano suggests that periods of reflection or meditation may have been an integral – but very natural – feature in the life of early humans:

‘ …The campfire rituals of focused attention practiced by our hominid ancestors need not have been as meditatively disciplined as that of Tibetan monks to have activated the brain regions important for attention and memory.’

He also highlights the increasing amount of research to show the benefits of meditation to brain function and general health:

‘…meditation produces short-term and long-term effects on both the structure and function of those areas of the brain closely associated with working memory and focused attention such as the dorsolateral pre-frontal cortex’. Such changes may have helped to propel Homo sapiens towards innovative and successful development as a species.

‘What is critical is that these rituals required focused attention which activated those areas of the brain associated with attention and working memory. Those whose brains were most ‘ritually-capable’ would also have been the ones to reap the greatest fitness reward. Enhanced working memory capacity was a by-product of ritually-induced fitness enhancing brain changes.’

The practice of ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’, of observing our thoughts dispassionately and with curiosity and detachment, a fluidity to the concept of ‘the self’ and a feeling of interconnectedness (particularly with the natural world), an ability for precision-like focus… These traits would have been beneficial to our hunter-gatherer ancestors and in some cases, may have meant the difference between life and death. Perhaps they came naturally to them without a conscious need to be cultivated or were partly induced through certain practices, as Rossano suggests. What we do know is that in our 21st century world, many of us have lost the ability to detach ourselves from the cacophony of chaos that surrounds us; from social, financial and personal pressures and from a 24/7 media culture, and to focus on what is important. Finding the time to pause, take a step back and breathe might go a little (or a long) way to helping us overcome this. In conjunction with a Paleo approach to health, meditation may provide wonderful benefits and yet again, our ancient ancestors may have more to teach us than we think.

‘…nightly around the fire – singing, chanting, eyes fixated on the hypnotic flame – our ancestors built their brains into human brains.’

 

RESOURCES

There is a wealth of information out there on this subject. To get started, here are some videos, sites and article I have found interesting and helpful:

The Happy Movie – if you have not seen this film, it is an absolute must! It is available on Netflix if you have it. Watching this introduced me to the work of Buddhist monk, photographer and humanitarian Mathieu Ricard (tagged by the media as ‘the happiest man alive’ – a label that he has been trying to shake off with little success ever since). While I depart from Mathieu over the subject of eating animals, he seems a truly fascinating and wonderful person. His father was the famous French philosopher Jean-François Revel and they come together to discuss their relative views in the book The Monk and the Philosopher.

Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things – a wonderful film. Definitely check this out!

Sam Harris blog: Guided Meditations and article on How to Meditate. Great blog and podcast.

10% Happier with Dan Harris – Dan has quite a few guided meditations led by guests on his podcast, as well as some interesting interviews.

There is a wealth of meditation apps available such as Imagine Clarity (with Mathieu Ricard), many with a monthly charge but Buddhify seems to be one of the only apps with a one-off payment of £4.99. I have Buddhify and use it in combination with various other resources.

UCLA Health – free guided meditations. I have been using these and really enjoying them. There is also a great lecture by Diane Winston of UCLA on Introduction to Mindful Awareness.

Youtube: Jon Kabat-Zinn guided meditations are really helpful (Jon created the mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program and is associated with the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. There are also some excellent interviews on YouTube with Jon.

Youtube: Joseph Goldstein interviews and guided mediations. Joseph is the co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society (IMS)

The simple art of meditation with Kevin Janksas on the Slow Home website and podcast 

Extremely interesting lecture on Applying Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy to Treatment

7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change The Brain – great article with links to research papers on the benefits of meditation

Wandering mind not a happy mind

Does Meditation Reduce Pain through a Unique Neural Mechanism?

Paleof(x) 2017

Paleof(x) 2017

It’s that time again! The biggest and the best Paleo conference this weekend with a fantastic line-up of speakers. Wish I was there but looking forward to catching some of the presentations via the LIVESTREAM

Check out the SCHEDULE.

The following sessions look particularly good!

Art De Vaney on The Paleo Model of Longevity

Chris Kresser on Too Much Junk in the Trunk: The Growing Role of Environmental Toxins in Human Disease

Marc Angelo Coppola on Building Movements: How Sustainable Farming and an Education Based Revolution Will Change Our World

Kevin Johnson on Time In The Void: Flotation Tanks, Shamanic Journeys and the Esoteric Benefits of Floating – I have tried flotation sessions many times and can totally recommend them both from both a physical and mental perspective.

Trina Felber on Skincare. Cancer-Care. Sick-Care. Do YOU-CARE What’s in Your Beauty-Care?

Panel on How to Achieve Permaculture in the Digital Age

Wild Celebration

Wild Celebration

We do not have a large deer population in the Brecon Beacons but numbers in Wales have certainly increased over the last few years and continue to do so (although further towards the Wye Forest populations are much larger). Of our native species, Fallow Deer are the most common in Wales (introduced in the 11th or 12th Century. Roe Deer migrated into Wales in the 1970’s from the borders and are particularly at home in woodland areas. There are a small number of Red Deer in the Beacons (Wales’ largest native land mammal) that apparently originated from a deer farm in the 1980’s. Non-native Sica and Muntjac Deer are present in small numbers and the Chinese Water Deer are yet to become established in Wales. Obviously these increasing deer numbers have to be sustainably managed as they have no natural predators. Venison is a wonderful by-product of this management. The meat has an excellent Omega 3:6 ratio as the deer feed on their natural diet of grass and vegetation. It also has the highest amount of iron in any red meat.

I used my diced venison in a casserole with chestnuts and mushrooms and it was absolutely delicious. It had a very strong ‘gamey’ flavour which I love and was melt-in-the-mouth soft. For more information on game see the following excellent websites:

Taste of Game – fantastic recipes, news and information on this site. They are also promoting Great British Game Week. Check it out!

Game to Eat – Countryside Alliance campaign dedicated to increasing the eating and enjoyment of British wild game with lots of game facts, recipes, news and events.

The Wild Meat Company – mail order game birds and meat from Suffolk.

Wild Harvest Table: a US-based resource for game and fish recipes, nutrition information, and preparation techniques. Founders Moira Tidball and Dr. Keith G. Tidball also call for more research into the following:

1) Determining the importance of wild fish and game consumption to food security in local NYS communities;

2) Evaluating why people are motivated to eat, or not eat, wild fish and game;

3) Examining the importance or “legibility” of nutritional analysis for wild fish and game, and the way labeling influences consumer choices; and,

4) Determining how people learn about processing and preparing wild fish and game, and barriers to finding and adopting this information.

Check out Jeff Shaw’s Hunter Angler Gardener Cook blog for a huge resource of game recipes and videos.

We are now in the run-up to Great British Game Week which takes place 22nd- 29th November and celebrates all that is good about game. Game meat is increasing in popularity and from a Paleo perspective, game must surely represent one of the best choices if we wish to eat as closely as possible to a hunter-gatherer template. Choosing our meat sources wisely and taking into account the ethical and sustainable factors in its production is something that I believe is crucial to a Paleo lifestyle. It is sometimes easy to forget about including game in our diets and it is great to see it promoted as a healthy, seasonal, locally sourced and sustainable food (along with 100% pasture raised meat).

I was surprised to see that one of my local supermarkets (Morrisons) is now selling wild venison (Fallow Deer) from The Wild Meat Company based in Suffolk and formed in 1999. It is quite tricky to get hold of wild venison locally unless we are lucky enough to buy some from our friends (although farmed venison is easily available). The Wild Meat Company also sell directly to the consumer via mail order and offer a range of game meats and birds.

Abergavenny Food Festival

Abergavenny Food Festival

We had a great day out at Abergavenny Food Festival at the weekend. The sun was shining and there was a fantastic atmosphere with huge crowds at this increasingly popular foodie festival. The event has been running since 1999 and having not visited for quite a few years, we were surprised at just how big it has become. Set in the spectacular scenery of Abergavenny, the festival showcases some of the best producers in the UK and is a must for anyone interested in good food.

We each paid £12 for a day ticket and although I had reservations about paying that much, on reflection I really think it was worth it. The festival was split over several sites and there was just so much to see (and taste) that it would definitely be a real treat to get a weekend ticket in future. We didn’t know if we could attend until the night before so if we visit again next year I would like to plan the day a bit better and make sure that I saw everything that we wanted. There are also lots of special events and demonstrations throughout the weekend but these are at additional cost. It looks wise to book as soon as possible as so many were sold out, especially if it is a ‘big name’.

Great to meet Juliet from Monmouthshire Turkeys. We purchased one of their organic, free range Bronze turkeys for the first time last Christmas. After much research and a ton of questions to various different producers regarding the welfare of their birds, we happily settled on Monmouthshire Turkeys. Founder Caroline explained exactly how the birds are kept and fed and was clearly passionate about her product.  We were not disappointed to say the least. My Mum thought it was the best turkey she had tasted and she is 85. We shall definitely be putting another order in this year and as always, it is a pleasure to meet and chat with the people that raise our food.

Some very exciting charcuterie producers were at the festival, including the excellent Trealy Farm. We bought some fantastic Fennel Salami, Spicy Chorizo Salami and Wild Boar and Pork Salami. Their cooking Chorizo sausages are just gorgeous. Also The Forest Pig had a lovely stall. I tasted some of their produce at the Green Café in Ludlow a while back and it was very good. (The Green Cafe was such a great find and well worth a visit if you are in the area; using lots of locally sourced, seasonal ingredients to produce delicious meals – but be sure to book though). There was also Charcutier Ltd, another artisan producer selling across South Wales with a great blog that I have just discovered and look forward to reading more about. Founder Illtud Llyr Dunsford is so clearly passionate about charcuterie and pigs. I did not get to taste any products but will definitely be looking out for these in the future.

We tasted some really lovely biltong from Big Horn Biltong – no sugar or any nasty stuff and terrific value for money compared to some of the other biltong we have seen around. It is interestingly the first UK product to be certified via the Paleo Foundation. Great ‘ranting session’ from founder Simon Kennedy (see more on these below) .

There were lovely displays of fruit and vegetables from Paul’s Organic Veg from Mitchel Troy near Monmouth and also from Riverford Organics. I was surprised not to see more organic vegetable producers though.

Great to see The Garlic Farm there. We bought some seed garlic to plant out; a mixture of Red Czech, Mikulov, Siberian Wight and Solent White.

There were so many stalls with cakes and pastries and also jams and marmalades. They really were everywhere and must have been the most represented food genres at the festival. However, more fermented products such as sauerkraut and kimchi would have been great, as well as some good sugar free pickles (of course we may have missed them!).

We did not eat at the festival apart from snacking on some Trealy Farm goodies. Richard bought some very nice nuts although these were quite sweet as well as spicy. We found it hard to locate protein meals that were not burgers or sausages, that did not use gluten or that were not wrapped in buns or served on bread. Some of the fish stalls looked good (although with lots of ‘extras’ that we would not eat) but the queues were horrendous by the time we got there. We will definitely try them next year though (I really liked the look of the Welshman’s Caviar from the Pembrokeshire Seafood Company). Overall, not really any suitable hot meals for us which was a bit of a disappointment. A stall selling Paleo/Primal-friendly meals using only meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, good fats, nuts and spices would be fantastic (if we missed them let me know!).

Be sure to visit the Rude Health ranting sessions if you visit next year. As I mentioned we did not plan our day but thanks to a tip-off from Simon at Big Horn Biltong we were able to catch a few.

A great rant on the benefits of ghee from Nick Barnard of Rude Health (complete with some lovely samples of ghee). Good to see the flag being flown for healthy fats.

Rosie Sage of Hurdlebrook Dairy talked about additives and why we should avoid any ingredients that our grandmother would not recognise. She stressed the importance of avoiding ‘low-fat’ products that have had all the good fat removed and replaced with carbs (sugar).

Bill King of Local and Great gave a very entertaining rant on why there should be no vegetarian options on menus. He explained that this is often an excuse for lazy and uninventive cooking, when really there should just be well thought out, exciting meat-free dishes without having to make a point of labelling them vegetarian. Real food for thought here.

Jacques Cop from Coco Caravan talked eloquently about his raw cacao products, something that he is clearly so proud of and which he enjoys immensely – a really thoughtful and impassioned rant. Apparently 75% of antioxidants are destroyed when cacao is roasted and roasting also affects the quantity of ‘happy hormones’ as well as destroying Vitamin C (see here for more). I had no idea about this. Jacques also explained that Coco Caravan uses coconut blossom nectar (a natural sugar that I saw used in products at Paleo Fx last year), which has a glycemic index score of 35 – relatively low compared to other sweeteners.

Arin Kapil of Green Saffron gave a superb talk on spices. We really loved this enthusiastic rant – what a speaker! Arin explained about the importance of using the best quality, freshest spices to get the maximum flavour. Spices are imported whole from their native lands (aiming for a maximum of 8 weeks from partner farms in India to Green Saffron where they are blended or sold whole). As Arin said, we would not grate a lemon, put it in a jar and then use it six months or a year later so why do we do the same with spices?

Simon Kennedy from Big Horn Biltong gave a great rant on the importance of sourcing quality ingredients to ensure quality products. A big-up for Paleo too! Snacks like this need to be in pubs across the land.

I wished we could have stayed for more rants but we had to leave. We also missed the earlier session of the day with a rant by James Swift of Trealy Farm but look forward to seeing them next year!

 

The Festival also needs some coffee stalls that provide a good whack of fat to go with your coffee such as cream, butter, ghee or coconut oil. What’s all this semi-skimmed nonsense about?

All in all a fantastic day! Thoroughly enjoyed it and realised how lucky we are to have such wonderful and passionate food producers here in the UK. We definitely won’t leave it this long again before visiting the festival and looking forward to next year already …