Holiday Meals and Breaking News: Neanderthals Ate Hot Pockets

Lots of time on hand up here at 4,500 feet elevation in the Sierras. Things winding down from Christmas with family who depart tomorrow and then will rev up again on Friday when another set of family show up for the New Year festivities.

Cooking meals is, of course, a big part of the enjoyment. Typically, we eat breakfast around noon, maybe snack a bit in the afternoon and then have dinner around 7pm or so.

Christmas day began with chili "verde" & eggs. Corn tortilla optional, but I had one.

Chili Verde
Chili Verde

I detailed how to make this way back here, March of 2008. I make it two ways. This way uses tomatoes instead of tomatillos in the classic way but I think it’s still called verde because you use green jalapeno peppers whereas, chili colorado uses red peppers. I prefer tomatoes when making it as a breakfast dish and tomatillos when it’s gonna be dinner.

One favorite way to eat it is in a bowl with a spoon and with the eggs on top so that the yolks run all over the cubes of pork. One thing I can’t emphasize enough is to get the cheap pork steaks with bones that are more red meat than white meat. You know it’s done when all the meat has fallen off the bones when you stir it.

My brother showed up with elk steaks from a recent wild kill in Montana by a friend of his (same animal that the elk salami came from in my last post).

Cooking Elk
Cooking Elk

The lighting is poor and I only have my iPhone 4 for picture taking up here, but this was actually more of a medium rare, not medium as it looks.

Elk Steaks
Elk Steak

We concluded that it was a bit chewy (perhaps rare would have been better), but very tasty. I’m definitely going to have to learn more about elk. My brother tells me there’s a French restaurant in San Jose that has elk tenderloin filets on its menu and it’s the best steak he’s ever had.

One final note: no need to email about the fossilized remains of Hot Pockets, Pop Tarts and Twinkies found in the plaque of Neanderthal teeth. I think Melissa’s take on the matter pretty much sums up my own.

I think it’s wise to avoid the major neolithic agents of inflammation: gluten, sugar, and high omega-6 vegetable oils, but what you eat beyond that should be targeted towards your own constitution rather than what "Grok" ate.

Yea, pretty much. And I agree too that Chris Kresser’s post is an excellent follow up.

Here’s the thing. As convenient as it would be to have a “one-size fits all” diet that works for everyone, we’re not robots. We’re more diverse than that. Someone who’s dealing with an autoimmune disease, leaky gut, arthritis and skin rashes would certainly benefit from a strict paleo diet and may even need to follow that approach for the rest of their lives. But for someone that is fundamentally healthy, such a diet may be unnecessarily restrictive.

Yea, pretty much, again. Here was my own perspective on the whole dogmatism two years ago: The Paleo Principle is Neither Authoritative nor Dogmatic.

In the end, I think it’s best to keep it simple. It’s about tweaking as much as you can from your own genetic makeup by synthesizing an environment for yourself that might, just maybe, fool your genes into keeping you around far longer than they give a damn about doing so (reproduction). While it’s [educated] guesswork, we have reason to believe we’re on the right track simply because of the body composition and health improvements of so many we’ve witnessed.

  1. Eat real food (meat, fowl, fish, natural fats from animals, coconuts & olives; veggies, fruits, & nuts) that you shop for and prepare yourself most of the time. Add a little dairy if you like it and can tolerate it. Find the range of balance that works best for you in terms of fat, protein & carbohydrate ratios. I say ‘range’ because I think you ought to mix things up; seasonally, or whatever method works for you. Especially: cut out grains, sugar and vegetable oils. Consider supplementing with omega-3 fats.
  2. Allow yourself to go hungry every day, at least a little (first meal of the day is a good time — don’t eat until you’re truly hungry). Every once in a while, go hungry for a whole day.
  3. Get plenty of sunlight; and, probably supplement vitamin D.
  4. Run very fast sometimes, play hard when you can, and push and lift heavy things around when you have the urge. Do it briefly and intensely; not too often and not too long. Once to twice per week for 20-30 minutes each is plenty. But always push yourself for that brief time.
  5. Get lots of sleep.

Now, the above is really nothing like Paleoman lived since his existence was, by definition, genuine. We’re just crudely modeling, so perhaps a little less romanticization is in order; and especially, dogma. Seriously, I read some comments on various blogs and forums, and it makes me think how utterly ridiculous it would be for the Inuit to try and tell the Kitavans how to eat & live, and vice versa — assuming they would even if they could, of course, which is doubtful.

The thing is, the news that Neanderthals (and presumably, Cro-Magnon) ate some grain should surprise no one and if they find themselves disappointed, then they perhaps ought to hold that out as a sign that they’re going about this for all the wrong reasons. How you look and feel is the right reason.

Grains are starvation food and likely have been for a long time. Now, when they can demonstrate that Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons turned up their noses at a fresh kill in favor of a crude tortilla cooked on a dirty rock, then we can surely be disappointed. So I don’t think we have anything to worry about.

Update: And here’s yet another data point from Mark Sisson on dairy.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. David Csonka on December 27, 2010 at 21:01

    Is anybody else impressed that we can find fossils in the plaque off of some long dead neanderthal’s teeth? That’s pretty freaking amazing. There’s probably already an island off the coast of Costa Rica full of neanderthals running around behind electrified fences.

  2. Monica on December 27, 2010 at 21:21

    Good to know I’m cleared to eat PopTarts now, Richard. Thanks! 😉

  3. Aaron Curl on December 28, 2010 at 04:38

    Island off of Costa Rica….lol. Actually it’s not funny because of the reality of the shit they can do with DNA. But anthropologists and all the related fields are amazing groups of highly dedicated people. They are the TRUTH seekers while other medical research teams are supposed to seek the truth, yet spend their careers denying the truth because they want to be famous. I mean an anthropologist can’t make up fake fossilized remains, even though some religions say they do. The TRUTH is the truth… two ways about it.

  4. damaged justice on December 28, 2010 at 05:33

    Grains are demonstrably unhealthy, I will only eat them if starvation is the only alternative, and I could not possibly care less whether or not cavemen ate them.

    Sometimes I think paleo detractors are more into reenactment than any Vibram-wearing douchebag hipster.

    • Beatle on December 28, 2010 at 10:05

      I was just glancing over the Neanderthal article…. regarding the boiling of grains? What would they have used for pots to boil their grains in. Wouldn’t it of have been simpler to find these tools than to look at remnants of food in their teeth to prove they were grain eaters?

      I’m probably missing something.

      • David Csonka on December 28, 2010 at 10:20

        Probably the skulls of their enemies. Isn’t that what everybody cooks their chili in?

      • Travis on December 28, 2010 at 16:21

        That would certainly liven up any chili cook off! :-))

      • Travis on December 28, 2010 at 16:20

        Neanderphalon, the choice of cookware for your cave.

        All joking aside, good question. They were crafty survivors and it would be interesting to know exactly how they boiled things. I would imagine they knew how to carve simple bowls. If you get rocks hot in a fire, you can dump them in the water one at a time to get it boiling. Also, using some sticks, you can hang an animal skin over a fire in the shape of a bowl to boil food, make soup, etc. I would imagine the distance would have to be just right though to keep from burning the skin.

    • Aaron Curl on December 29, 2010 at 04:32

      @damaged justice Damn…….throws Vibrams away………yah your right.

  5. Sean on December 28, 2010 at 06:21

    Great post title.

    Haaaawt Paawkets!

    • Beatle on December 28, 2010 at 10:07

      When ever I read “hot pockets”, i do so in a Jim Gaffigan” voice from his stand up routine.

  6. lalo on December 28, 2010 at 11:30

    Im pure muscle with little to no fat, so ill keep eating my peanuts every single day. roasted in vegetable oil. with salt. oh with a big glass of ultrapasteurized milk and my grain feed steaks. ( i do fast every day for 23 hrs, work out, eat my fish, and sleep and feel great)

  7. Derrick on December 29, 2010 at 16:37

    If you haven’t tried it yet, give fried eggs over sauerkraut a shot. Delicious when the folks run all over the kraut.

  8. Matthew on December 30, 2010 at 14:10

    Let’s not forget that the Neanderthals were a completely different species that we outcompeted and eradicated.

    Poor little guys…

    • Dana on February 26, 2011 at 23:48

      I don’t buy that they were a different species. Slight variation on ours, maybe. Remember that we’re supposed to share 99 percent of our DNA with chimps, and Neanderthals are closer to us than that.

      I also think we interbred with them. I’ve certainly heard things about modern humans possessing Neanderthal DNA.

      It’s not a contest. If you fit into a niche, great. If you don’t, you don’t. If you think of everything as one big competition, sooner or later you’re going to beat everybody and then realize there’s no biosphere acting as your life-support machine anymore.

      “Survival of the fittest” does not mean “the biggest bully wins.” It means “whoever best fits into this niche gets to stay there.” It’s worth realizing that Paleo folks were/are animist (the Paleolithic age has not ended for everyone on the planet, thank Cave Bear), and while I realize we are not about exact re-enactment here, I can’t see how viewing all other living things as family would be detrimental to our existence.

  9. Alex on January 21, 2011 at 06:51

    What grains are we eating today? We want “virgin-natural-made” grains, but have to pay extra. Strange for me: yesterday my parents used to pay little to get them and we didn’t like it. So, what’s going on with us? Back to Neanderthals or forward to Modernism (that comes with modified-food).

    I like when you mentioned: “We must feel hungry”. To me, this is something mostly happening in third world nations; poor creatures.

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