The Second Half: Holiday cooking the primitive way

By Kathleen D. Tresemer

Holiday cooking has always been fun for me—until recently, when everything I eat turns to fat almost before I can swallow. 2010 was the year I started eating a lower-carb diet because doctors and researchers everywhere tell me that carbs are the bane of our Second-Half existence.

“Great, I can do that,” I thought. “How hard can it be to avoid carbs?”

Then, I discovered how plentiful carbohydrates really are in the foods we eat. Of course, all my comfort foods are loaded with carbs. I think they float around in our air and water, too, because I cannot seem to get away from them: picture me running with a pack of carbs chasing me, snarling and nipping at my heels. How to avoid them?

Second-Half pal Kay recently joined Weight Watchers, and explained, “They have a whole new plan that focuses more on reducing your carb intake.”

Well, Weight Watchers always had a decent program, but I found at some point my weight loss just stalled out. I could exercise, drink lots of water, and go to meetings every week, but I simply stopped losing. The low-carb diet changed that.

One doctor/nutritionist told me I had what is known as “a primitive system.” Really! He said I should eat like cave women did, because I require a more primitive diet and lifestyle to stay fit and healthy. Remember Wilma Flintstone? She was slim, right?

I like to think I have evolved as a person—open-minded, social servant, taking intellectual and spiritual leaps—but it seems my body is lagging behind in the Jurassic period somewhere. So, what is a primitive diet, anyway?

It is based on foods that would have been eaten prior to our agricultural society, foods our bodies were designed to eat. Here are the categories described in the article, “What Is A Primitive Diet?”:

1. Meat—Primitive humans ate mostly fish and wild game, eating pretty much the whole animal. No throwing the heart and gizzards to the cat, I’ll bet, and I can’t help but wonder how it felt to bite into a whole, uncooked brain…intellectually stimulating? Or more like eating cauliflower?

2. Dairy and eggs—Since cave women didn’t domesticate animals, nobody had a cow to milk; they did eat eggs, though, when they could find them. I imagine they ate ’em Rocky-style, only without the glass: poke a hole and slurp it down raw. It would have left their abundant body hair silky and shiny, too—that’s what it does for my dogs.

3. Nuts and seeds—They ate them for the beneficial fats and protein. The first nutcrackers—a rock and a hard place—would have made this treat a lot of work. Similarly, we used to put out bowls of nuts in the shells with nutcrackers and picks. Now, I buy the pretty holiday can of fancy nuts and plunk it on the table. No wasting energy that way, an evolutionary step to be proud of.

4. Grains and beans—Since they need to be cooked, these were not part of the human diet until agriculture appeared—so long, breads and cookies!

5. Fruits and vegetables—These were gathered and eaten, depending upon the location and season. I’m probably ruling out cranberries for the winter holidays and blueberry pie at their summer picnics…wait, when was the picnic invented?

6. Sugar and salt—These were mostly consumed through other foods or, if they lived on the coast, from salt water. Honey was around, but so were bees, and Celestial Seasonings had yet to produce their herbal teas to put it in…those were tough times!

(Source:, “What Is a Primitive Diet?” by Risa Edwards, April 14, 2010)

“That doesn’t sound too hard,” Second-Half pal Pam commented on eating a primitive diet. “Can I still use my microwave?” Yeah, Pam, just like the cave women did—AHEM!

Nutritionally, the cave woman’s diet was better, pound-per-pound, than ours is today. Early harvesting and artificial ripening of most grocery store produce prevents nutrients from fully developing. Our food storage techniques also deplete nutrients and natural enzymes that help with digestion and metabolism.

The Natural Holistic Health Blog says:

“… a fresh organically grown tomato provides around 1 gram of Vitamin C. The fact is that these days you are lucky to get 50 mg (1/20th of a gram) from an artificially ripened and stored tomato.”


“They might have eaten well and been really healthy,” Hubby chimed in, “but they didn’t live very long.”

“I’m pretty sure a short life expectancy had more to do with saber-toothed tigers chasing them than their diet,” I retorted, “and maybe the lack of good medical facilities.”

Another aspect of the primitive diet is the advantage of eating meat from grass-fed animals. Dr. Shannon Plummer’s “Beauty Through Balance” blog says:

“By eating grass-fed beef, buffalo, lamb and venison, you can eat a diet similar to the primitive diet, as grass-fed animals have similar lipid profile to that of wild game. The ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fat in wild game is 1 to 3.5 or 4. By comparison, the ratio of omega-3 fat to omega-6 fat in grain-fed beef is about 1 to 20.”


I buy grass-fed beef from a local rancher, and I raised some low-carb food in my own garden this year. In 2011, I might just get a couple of new lambs for myself and fill the freezer next October.

This Christmas season, we’ll be eating the healthiest holiday meals around (I confess…I might use the microwave). Get primitive, everybody!

In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at

From the Dec. 22-28, 2010 issue

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