Every caveman must get stoned


Just like the last time I gave up booze for the sake of the paleo diet, I’ve been finding it annoying to forsake the hooch. Merely denying oneself a pleasure for the sake of a grander plan can be a drag. Meanwhile, being around drunk people while you’re sober is universally understood to be aggravating, and that has happened a few times.

However, it’s not challenging from a willpower point of view. I hope my mom is reading: I’m not addicted or emotionally dependent on alcohol. It’s not as if I’m being tortured by visions of dancing whisky bottles or anything. The other thing making this easier is the fact that I allowed myself to have drinks when it was necessary for work, which has come up a handful of times. So I’ve not been completely dry.

Which is a good thing, because as a guy who writes about drinks for a living, temptation surrounds me. I have roughly 180 to 200 bottles of booze in my place at any given time, and I’m continually sent new ones to sample and review.

A few times this month, I’ve been content to sip tea at pubs while patiently explaining to friends that my strict February paleo observance has to do with my conviction that booze is not native to hunter-gatherer societies as a rule. In order to experience a diet that mimics the primal as closely as possible in a 21st-century city setting, I’m minimizing the sauce. (The paleo community orthodoxy is that alcohol is OK in moderation. Such is the view of Loren Cordain at any rate.)

Of course, a caveman or hunter-gatherer could make rudimentary hooch. It’s easy to brew: All you have to do is leave some wet fruit or diluted honey in a container for a bit and naturally occurring airborne yeast takes care of the rest within days. On the one hand, I have a hard time believing that none of my ancestors figured this out for generations on end.

On the other, no hunter-gatherer society on Earth was familiar with alcohol until agriculturalists came along and introduced it, at least as far as I’ve ever read. It was unknown in the Americas before European contact, for example. Even among farming societies there was no booze. It’s puzzling but apparently true.

But while alcohol itself may or may not have been part of the paleolithic pantry, one can only imagine that most human societies have figured out some kind of way to get messed up by exploiting the local botany — or even by developing breathing or trance exercises. It’s part of human nature to seek ways of altering one’s consciousness. (This can be seen in the work of anthropologists Wade Davis and Napoleon Chagnon, and I’m sure also many others not known to a layman like me.)

All things considered, I’ve decided pot is pure paleo and alcohol is acceptable on occasion. If you’d like to quibble with that, meet me at a bar and we’ll debate it. Drinks are on you.

Still, for all the reasons mentioned here, I want to keep moderation the watchword. I’m trying to press the reset button on bad old habits here. So, from the beginning of March onwards, I’ll observe a simple rule: I’ll drink in moderation, and be allowed 10 drinks per week at the absolute maximum.* The count starts at zero the morning of next Friday, March 1.

Ten drinks is well within what the Canadian government considers acceptable, and fewer than the 15 or thereabouts** I estimate I’d been consuming for years. I think I can live with that from now on, or at least until the end of 2013’s year-long cavemanning experiment. Wish me luck next time you raise a glass.

* Of course, I need to make one concession to accommodate my nationality: All bets are off during vacations, and during those most primally spiritual and shamanistic Canadian rituals: the camping trip and especially the cottage weekend.

** (The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health notes that 15 drinks is “more alcohol than 90 per cent of other men in Canada [consume].” Yikes. Mind you, few in the 10% of high drinkers are booze journalists like I am, right?)

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