Traditional Diets in the Scottish Highlands.

“Men bred in the rough bounds” while their clothing culture and arms were considered distinct from mainstream European culture, the physicality of the highlanders was also remarked upon by contemporaries. The following is a general view. Much changed over the centuries in Agriculture and culture but is factual in general. Changes in climate (especially severe in the 16th-17th centuries) will also have affected practices. The Highlands while not entirely homogeneous can be characterised as rough mountains with unpredictable weather (to say the least) and a land not particularly suitable to arable farming. Pastoralism and fishing were the mainstays of the culture though wherever possible crops were grown. Lazy beds, that is fields made from sea weed were also used to increase crop land.  Cattle, sheep chickens and goats were the domesticated animals of choice Highland cattle are still famous for the quality of their meat and at the time were famous for their marbling. I have read contradictory things about deer in Scotland, both that deer were hunted exclusively by the clan elite and conversely that they were free to be hunted by all men. I suspect the former to be true as my sources for this are older and it makes more sense in a feudal system. Whether this protection would extend to the smaller Roe deer (it didn’t in England) or other smaller game I can’t say. Poaching and gamekeeping are attested to in period sources Martin Martin states that deer “licenses” had to be applied for on … read more....

Long Distance Running in the Scottish Highlands

have just finished the extraordinary “Terra Incognita” by Martin Rackwitz. A truly superb resource which deals with travellers accounts of Scotland and particularly the highlands through the medieval and early modern periods. The level of research is very high and the work has provided a much richer picture of the highlands through this period, and given much context to the works I was already familiar with. I had not known that cancer became quite common in the later period (18th-19th century) thanks in large part to the Highlanders’ love of tobacco, this is interesting in light of the fact that some other “primitive societies” can have high levels of smoking and non-existent cancer rates. I suspect we could find a hypothesis for this in the phytic acids of oats vitamin D and insulin. Frankly causes and rates of cancer appear to be pretty much a mystery but it does suggest that lots of oatmeal, fish and exercise is not so protective of cancer as many would have us believe. Highlanders used seabird oil as a cure. I was also surprised at the level of grain import to the highlands. The agriculture of the mountains does not appear to have been self sufficient. Beef exports were vast and the Highlanders ate little themselves, the majority of beef was exported to England, a trade which increased through the 16-17th centuries. Cash generated by this trade was used to provide grain to see Highlanders through the gaps of the year.It was presumably also … read more....

Mesolithic Menu from Star Carr

The following is a list of the animals and plants used at the mesolithic site of Star Carr in the United Kingdom. Star Carr was used for over a thousand years and neatly fits into what I call the “wildwood” mesolithic. The environment the hunters lived in was the un-neotonised un-poisoned un-civilised Britain that lurks in every tuft of grass poking up between the flagstones. Analysis and study of this period can be of use to bushcrafters and surivial bods or those like me interested in having a meaningful and harmonious relationship with the non-humans on our Island. Star Carr may have been periodically burnt to encourage growth, platforms were created on the marshes and it was likely a ritual site. It is an area fairly close to the sea. The flora and fauna listed here may or may not have been consumed as food I will try to list alternative uses and if appropriate any notes I have in italics. sources clark 1954, legge and rowley-conwy 1988 mellers and dark 1998 Fauna roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) Small rather solitary deer. Antler, sinew, pelt., red deer (Cervus elaphus) remains of 80 deer found of which 73 were males representing 61% of faunal food. This figure has been questioned but revisions still place red deer as the most important animal. A Large herding deer (much larger than present UK specimens) 1 red deer= 52,267 oysters a major prehistorical food source antler, sinew, pelt elk (Alces alces) Huge and dangerous animal considered … read more....

Grains: food of the slaves, food of the ancestors?

Nothing annoys the mainstream dietitians, nothing is more at odds with conventional wisdom than the Paleo eschewing of grains. Grains in Paleo are not only unhealthy because of their effects on our blood sugar but also because of the phytic acid and other anti-nutrients contained within.Wholegrains being even fuller of anti-nutrients are especially shunned.  In the revisionist way of dietitians wholegrains are used to explain the health of such peoples as the Mediterranean people, the Japanese and various European groups despite the unpleasant reality that very few people have eaten  wholegrains who didn’t have the technology/resources not to. I was one of those “gaijin” in Japan who would smugly buy brown rice which the Japanese very wisely have used as punishment food for a long time, in Japan brown rice is fed to prisoners.  As modern nutritionists don’t feel the need to argue for the purported healthiness of grains, their health giving properties being so widely acknowledged, arguments for wholegrain use come in some different varieties  the rather odd “grains fuelled civilisation” of MacDougall etc, the “we need to feed the world…” non argument. The argument we are going to explore in this piece is about hunter gatherer consumption of grains.  In the nasty world of perpetual argument that exists on the Internet the words “myth” and “debunked” are continually, unwisely and inappropriately used when coupled with opinion and sometimes even facts which are as much myth as those they are purporting to de-bunk. “Paleo” usually a monolith strawman has been … read more....

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