Monday, September 01, 2008

Monty Don on The Diet

Monty Don, surely the most sympathetic and informative of TV presenters, emails me about The Diet. Following my article he tried it for a week, but:
'Sure enough I lost some weight but the more I thought about it the more it struck me that the whole basis of thinking behind it is is completely out of kilter with a sense of a community as a healthy body. It is focused completely on the narcissistic individual –which, admittedly, most of us are to a degree. There was also the fact that as one who spends between 4 and 10 hours a day working physically outside it was an extremely impractical way of providing enough fuel. Along with the weight one loses the sense of harvest, of communal nurturing of crops, of subsistence, of garnering food for the future, of working the soil as part of a broad notion of personal and communal health. It also completely avoids the issue of cost and availability. How do all the billions that depend upon rice or wheat for their existence live according to this principal? How do the genuine poor of the 1st world do it? How does it help reduce the amount of grain used to feed animals for western consumption? How does it square with the health of good bread, good pasta, good rice – good being a summation of the growing, preparing and consumption as communal celebrations of food? I would suggest that our domesticated animals should be eating little or no grains and  humans rather more. As a result we should all eat less meat but relish it and pay it due accord when we do  and much more unrefined grains, fruit and vegetables.'
These are good points, not just about The Diet but also about biology versus civilisation. If human settlement produced a change in diet that is now damaging - and I think it did - then how far do we go to sacrifice all the benefits of communality associated with that diet in favour of our individual well-being? Bread, after all, is not just food. Thanks, Monty.


  1. Monty Don, TOP Man! Sadly missed from our screens; he is head and shoulders above anyone else in British gardening. His books are a delight to read.

  2. I second that, what a delightful and thoughtful person.

    There is another thing about "The Diet" I am not too sure about. Might not our genes have adapted to this new diet? More in some than others, perhaps, but an increase in the consumption of grains and cereals would have taken place gradually, here and there, over a very long period before full-on farming and human settlement proper arrived.

    I've no idea whether humans today (or some of them) are better able to digest a diet fuller in carbs - bread, rice, etc - than a hunter-gatherer of 50,000 years ago. But then I wonder if anyone really knows.

  3. Not really, Mark. If a grain-digesting gene mutation conveyed to its owner a sufficiently better chance of living long enough to make babies than his grain-geneless pals had, then we might all have it by now, but that seems improbable.

    If our genes could 'adapt' like that, then McDonalds and beer would make us thin and sexy. Alas, they don't. Bloody genes.

  4. As I said (private communication), there aren't enough sausages to go round!

  5. I honestly thought he was, well, dead. For that is sure the tone from the GW.

  6. As everyone appears to agree on the great nutritional value of nuts I wonder if they could play a much bigger role. How much grander could commercial production be and how much more extensive culinary use, I wonder.