Honey Butter and the Grain War

Ate a bunch of butter topped with raw honey and salt yesterday, and I feel just fine today. Increasingly impressed by Dave Asprey, who seems to hold an unusual posture with respect to health that involves just orienting towards value, not picking sides.

Paleo / low-carb / carnivore cluster is biased towards hunter-gatherer autonomy, against agricultural norms and social control, macho, individualistic. Vegan / puritan / low-fat / Kellogg cluster ends up promoting rules that favor people with compliant metabolism. Butter is very clearly an agricultural food, but has the desirable performance and health attributes that the *logic* of paleo/keto/carnivore points towards. Honey violates crude versions of this logic but empirically is just good. Noticing both as good requires equipoise.

(Salt is just straightforwardly necessary, it's kind of bizarre that it's controversial, but I guess eating too much bread actually screws up people's ability to handle salt? Plus it makes good taste straightforwardly better so the Puritans don't like it.)

I've seen *ayurvedic* recommendations of honey + ghee (but not bread), so it seems like someone there had the right orientation, though I lack the underlying cultural competency to explore in that direction. If anyone with a similarly openminded analytic bent has a well-grounded, causal model of the relevant part of ayurvedic medicine I'd love to talk. Unfortunately like most things the pop versions are terrible.

Overall it seems like there's enough material abundance - but also enough rapid change - that one should mostly be eating performance foods like these. I think I mostly eat vegetables for the aesthetic & palatability now, not longevity. If my longevity depends more on long-run effects of my current phytonutrient consumption than on my work over the next few years, then I've basically failed. So, foods I'd like to prioritize as clean-burning fuel:

  • Grass-Fed Butter and Ghee
  • Virgin Coconut Oil
  • Olives
  • Avocados
  • Salmon Roe
  • Liver (including cod liver), probably other organ meats
  • As little other protein as feels OK
  • Honey or berries in emergencies

Vegetables are good delivery mechanisms for these + EVOO, and I'll eat other stuff for pleasure of course. Eggs make liver and roe more palatable, there's lots of pleasure in roasting a bird or making a nice steak. Cultivating olive connoisseurship seems like the main *action* I should take in response to this. Continuing to avoid statins has the same health logic as not prioritizing vegetables, with none of the aesthetic downsides.

More on the Kellogg cluster: I'm increasingly convinced that there's an ongoing low-grade persecution of people who have trouble eating bread, which gives breadeaters with compliant metabolisms an advantage, suppresses activity & reproductive success of noncompliant. Passover is a sad relic of an ancient rebellion against Breadeater domination, which is now celebrated by the eating of really bad bread, out of spite. Isis' name in hieroglyphics is Throne Bread. Egypt is a breadeating kingdom. Moses promised the slaves that they'd be led to a land of Cream and Honey.

The word "lord" originates from a word meaning "custodian of the bread." Bread, unlike vegetables, is both addictive and a processed food that obscures the means of production. My people are not as metabolically disadvantaged under the current regime as the Celiacs, but it's not a contest. Self-righteous abstemiousness in diet is collective aggression against people whose performance is more sensitive to high-quality inputs.

I would very much not be surprised if the Xinjiang Uighurs eat noticeably more animal protein and fat, and less rice, than their likely Han Chinese replacements. Oh, and yak butter tea comes from Tibet, also in the process of being colonized by rice-eaters!

Followup: Succeeded in eating a bunch of high-quality olives. Honey seems bad for me in normal circumstances, but good if I've already eaten something interfering with my sleep, or if I'm otherwise in extremal states.


Compiled from a Twitter thread

4 thoughts on “Honey Butter and the Grain War

  1. Doug S.

    Isn't the thing about salt is that it's one of those things that used to be scarce but isn't any more, so there's no evolved mechanism to say "stop eating so much, it'll give you high blood pressure and take a few years off your old age"?

    Reply
    1. James Babcock

      Try eating a lot of salty food; you will very quickly run into an evolved mechanism that says "stop eating so much salt". Specifically, the subjective experience will switch from it tasting good (when you need it) to tasting bad (when you have too much of it).

      Also, while salt has been locally scarce in some places, the norm is that it's extremely abundant: you can make it by evaporating seawater, and mineral deposits of it are common (and used by animals).

      Reply
  2. Jason Green-Lowe

    I'm not sure how seriously this post was intended; if you're just telling a silly story about food and history, then obviously that's fine.

    If you're serious, though, then I think you've got the causation exactly backward -- it's not that city centers notice that pastoral fringes are bad at digesting bread and start pushing bread as a nutritional centerpiece in order to oppress them; it's that intensive grain-based agriculture promotes the rise of more centralized city-states, which then have an incentive to control as much grain as possible, and people who want to resist the control of the city states wind up branching out even more heavily into other food sources because honey and cream and figs and so on are harder for early city-states to tax and control than rice or wheat. After enough centuries, the people who have been living off of grain might get better at that and the people who have been living off of dairy might get better at that, but people didn't form cities *because* of their different nutritional needs; they developed different nutritional needs after centuries of living in cities.

    Right, like isn't that the main plot of Seeing Like a State and Against the Grain by James C. Scott?

    More prosaically, don't you find that you need some fiber in your diet along with your honey butter? I always assumed that your gut bacteria feed off of fiber and that your gut bacteria are good for your health. Maybe I'm wrong about some of that, or maybe you're an unusual case.

    Reply
    1. Benquo Post author

      After enough centuries, the people who have been living off of grain might get better at that and the people who have been living off of dairy might get better at that, but people didn't form cities *because* of their different nutritional needs; they developed different nutritional needs after centuries of living in cities.

      Kellogg lived after that time.

      don't you find that you need some fiber in your diet along with your honey butter?

      I find I can adapt to consuming some amount of pure fat without fiber or other macronutrients with some amount of training. Getting used to butter coffee involves this sort of adaptation. I've shifted back away from it on account of other convenience factors recently, though.

      Reply

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