I can't believe they ate the whole thing

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D.

June 2011

When a Stone Age hunter brought down a large animal he and his family ate everything but the hooves, horns and skin. The animal's long bones could be saved for the marrow that yielded fat and protein. Our ancestors even ate the plant fragments that might have remained in the creature's stomach, just as Eskimos do today. If that hunter's spouse wandered over to the meat section of your local supermarket she'd wonder why there was nothing in the case but muscle meat. Where were the brains, stomachs, pancreases, tongues and eyeballs? How is a good wife and mother going to keep a healthy home without animal products that provide so much nutrition and variety?

If you were a kid in the mid-twentieth century your mom might have cooked kidneys and liver, but the former left an unforgettable aroma in the kitchen and the latter is a dietary no-no because it's loaded with cholesterol. My grandmother cooked lungs — called lights — but Mom never did. Trying to imitate her own mother, mine did prepare brains — just once. Pancreas and eyeballs never had a chance. And the only reason that bulls' testicles show up on a restaurant menu is sheer novelty and the inevitable jokes that surround them.

Poultry comes with its own unique organ meats. Gizzards — look it up — hearts and even feet were unremarkable ingredients in your grandmother's chicken soup but if you came across one of these at your local restaurant you'd probably never go back there.

Outside of the United States it's not unusual to find all of these items in food stalls and markets, as well as carcasses of animals that most of us don't even want to think about. Frogs and turtles might be alright, but we'd probably pass on the snakes and lizards.

Could the omega-3 fats in beef brains boost our own mental powers? Maybe, but the threat of mad cow disease is a stopper. Liver, a detoxifying organ, was probably healthier for us before the world began to spew forth environmental pollutants.

Could we be missing something? Are our modern tastes taking us away from some animal-based foods that our kind evolved to actually require? Probably, but modern food scientists aren't likely to put time and grant money into foods that are unattractive. There are other more compelling dragons to slay. (Do you think that dragon tastes like chicken?)

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D. is the author of Health Secrets of the Stone Age, Better Life Publishers 2005. Contact him at drphil@stoneagedoc.com.