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A partridge and a side of beef

A Paleo Diet Christmas

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It was around two years ago when I landed inexplicably on the web page of Art De Vany, a 74-year-old economist who demonstrates his fantastic health by pulling his Range Rover out of his driveway with a rope. Interestingly, De Vany’s claim to fame is not his workout routine, but his diet: no bread, nothing that has touched vegetable oil and no sugars other than those bound up in the flesh of fruits and vegetables. He does, however, eat lots of meat. This dietary philosophy is a common strain of an increasingly popular eating regime called the Paleo Diet. When I discovered De Vany, I was teaching English in Peru. I had been struggling with my inability to resist the local pastries and sweets – most cost only 10 cents apiece – and, after several failed attempts at self-control, I decided to employ the Paleo Diet as the nuclear option.

My first Paleo meal was a turkey leg and three hard-boiled eggs. I almost immediately felt better, less subservient. Since then, however, Paleo and I have had an on-again, off-again relationship. When we’re on, I am utterly convinced of its rightness – how can you argue with evolution? – and I am loving that bacon is considered healthier than tofu. When we’re off, I am inhaling pizza, beer and wings; I am a normal American male once more, agreeing with my friends that Paleo was a dumb idea, an unnecessary form of torture for both myself and countless restaurant servers.

As this issue goes to press, Paleo and I are on again, probably as a side effect of the research I was doing in order to write about how I used to eat. So now, ironically, this holiday wish-list is semi-serious. First and foremost, I want a few full-grown hens (Palmer Feed Store, palmerfeedstore.com, $12 apiece) to provide a steady stream of eggs, which I will cook in copious amounts of beef tallow (grasslandbeef.com, $100 for a five-gallon bucket). When it comes to meat, Paleo guru Kurt Harris recommends the flesh of “ruminant” animals like cow and lamb. I’ll take half a steer from DeLand’s Deep Creek Ranch (deepcreekranch.us, estimated at $1,300-$1,800), where the cattle forage on grass – evidently, grain is bad for cows, too. It’d be nice to store that mass of beef in a roomy walk-in meat locker made by the fine folks at U.S. Cooler (cabelas.com. $8,000). For the road, I’d like to take a “Paleokit,” or a shrink-wrapped cluster of beef jerky, macadamia nuts and dried berries (stevesoriginal.com, $19.75 for a five pack). And oh yes, exercise. Paleo man got his workouts by sprinting after prey and lifting heavy rocks, not by jogging in place. Well, that’s what I’m choosing to believe. Hence, I’d like to be registered for classes at CrossFit Orlando (crossfitorlando.com, $400 for 36 sessions over 12 weeks), where I can scale vines (ropes), jump over boulders (hurdles), and be, in the words of the gym, “better at life.” But then again, what’s the point of life without pizza?

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