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Dr. Bill Schindler on Food, Our Ancestors, and How We Became Human

Dr. Bill Schindler - Peak Human Podcast - Food Lies Film
Dr. Bill Schindler - Peak Human Podcast

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Dr. Bill Schindler is the director of the Eastern Shore Food Lab at Washington College where he is also an associate professor of archaeology and anthropology. Two years ago he co-hosted the National Geographic show The Great Human Race. He spent the last year abroad continuing his hands-on research and professional development by immersing himself and his family with indigenous and traditional groups around the world to learn about their food and diets. As an experimental archaeologist and primitive technologist his specialties are in recreating technologies of the past to better interpret our ancestral diets. His current focus is learning how to translate the outcomes of that research into something meaningful for modern day diet and health and is working to fuse lessons from our ancestral dietary past with modern culinary arts to create a food system that is relevant, accessible and meaningful to modern Western life.

We got into so many interesting things like the development of humans and how it tracked with food technology, drinking blood and milk with pastoral tribes in Africa, eating brains, ancient food preparation and hunting, my favorite topic - nutrient density, and so much more. It was so enlightening talking to him, I’ll stop talking now so you can have a listen.

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Show Notes

  • Dr. Bill Schindler is a professor at Washington College in Maryland

  • Director of Eastern Shore Food Lab

  • His whole life has led up to his career and interests

  • His dad took him into nature and he learned to deal with taking an animal’s life even though he didn’t enjoy it

  • Also grew up with mom and grandmother in kitchen cooking - realized it was all connected

  • Learned to hunt and make tools as our ancestors did

  • He became what’s known as an experimental archeologist

  • Almost every single primitive technology made is related to food. Every tool and invention was based on getting food, processing food, storing food

  • THe realization of the different types of food processing made all the difference

  • Food processing of the past all focused on INCREASING nutrient density

  • All modern food processing focused on money savings, shipping, shelf life, etc.

  • Modern food processing also DECREASES nutrient density

  • Not everything new we do is bad though

  • Dairy is a hot topic. Just because we didn’t always consume it or other mammals don't consume it past a certain time in their life, doesn't mean it’s not healthy (if you tolerate it)

  • Everything changed 3.4 million years ago when we made the first tool

  • Humans are one of the weakest species on the planet on our own

  • Our bodies and brains were quite small before we created tools to access meat

  • Our digestive systems are actually pretty inefficient. We need to process our food with tools and fire to feed our large brains

  • We have bones from Ethiopia that have butcher marks on them from this time, as well as impact fractures to get bone marrow inside

  • 2 million years ago the invention of fire and some other hunting techniques were monumental for our species

  • Humans started off as scavengers

  • Once we started actually hunting ourselves we had first access to the animals we killed so therefore all the most nutrient dense, choice parts like the organ meats, etc.

  • Results in a huge increase in body and brain size and women catch up in size to men more

  • We mimic other animals in techniques of acquiring and processing foods

  • Our biology isn't set up to eat meat like other carnivores - humans are set up to use tools and technology to consume nutrient dense animal products

  • As we changed our diets, our bodies adapted to it. Homo sapiens wouldn’t have made it 300,000 years ago if we didn’t develop these extensions of our physical form necessary to cook and process meat

  • We have brains that require high quality animal fats to function

  • What is domestication? Humans were the first domesticated species - we domesticated ourselves

  • Our teeth got smaller as we started relying on processing food outside of our bodies

  • If we had absolutely nothing and were left to survive, the first thing we’d have to do is create a tool or control fire. Our body can do almost nothing on it's own

  • Our food technology tracked with our body and brain size over history

  • Almost all our modern produce was at one point toxic

  • Nobody knows our exact diet 300k years ago, but that doesn’t matter - we have certain nutritional requirements that were established

  • We accomplished the impossible back then, but even more impossible we now have gotten ourselves obese and malnourished at the same time

  • We’re using modern processing to create nutrient-free food and it is what we are basically programmed to seek out in the modern food environment

  • He argued with a pediatrician who was demanding patients to drink skim milk

  • We evolved away from our chimp ancestors who’s digestive systems were made for digesting a ton of plant matter

  • When we became bipedal 5-7 million years ago, everything changed

  • Apes have to eat all day long and have giant jaw muscles to do this and tiny brains

  • Theories on why are brains doubled in size

  • Fat was prized for all of history

  • Eating the ENTIRE animal

  • White meat chicken breasts are the least nutrient dense, newest, wackiest thing we could eat

  • His family rule is kill the animal yourself or know the person who raised and killed it

  • Farmers markets are key

  • The advent of agriculture can clearly be seen in the fossil record with a decrease in physical size and brain size

  • What’s the real problem with agriculture?

  • How can we utilize modern agriculture and technology to feed the billions of earth today?

  • Connect yourself to your food. Try foraging. Go hunting. Go to a butcher. Make the foods you like from scratch at least once.

  • Know the story of food

  • Focus on quality

  • Animals are the most nutrient dense foods available, especially the organ meats, brains, marrow, etc.

  • He spent a year abroad in places like Kenya and Mongolia and studied many hunter gatherers such as the Hadza

  • He was with a group that brought down a genet cat and ate all the organs immediately

  • They were continuously hunting and gathering and hide a very varied diet

  • Picturesque physiques with wide, healthy jaws, white teeth, big smiles, almost prancing as they ran

  • Just blood and milk diet for 6 months

  • How to have a meaningful conversation about diet, health, and sustainability

  • Took a year off to live with these cultures and wrote a book

  • His TV show on NatGeo called The Great Human Race

  • We must use the lessons of the past to learn what to do now and the future

  • He painstakingly made all the period-accurate clothes for the show by hand

  • How did our ancient ancestors lived based on this knowledge?

  • We weren’t “surviving” - we must have been thriving to be able to continue having many babies who could then propagate our species

  • Food Lab

  • His personal site

  • Follow all his work over the past year

  • Twitter

  • Join the Sapien Movement http://SapienMovement.comIntro

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