“100 Million Years of Food” by Stephen Le

yearsfoodStephen Le’s parents immigrated to Canada from Vietnam in the 60’s. He was born and grew up in Ottawa and lives here now where he is professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Ottawa.

He visited Vietnam for the first time when he was twenty-five and by that time had developed an interest in diets. When his mother died of breast cancer at the age of sixty-six, Stephen was finishing his doctoral studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. He decided to focus on researching ancestral diets and lifestyles and learning about the risk factors behind breast cancer and other diseases commonly associated with Western civilization. He spent two years researching food and food-related illnesses around the world.

This book gives fascinating examples of what our ancestors ate. Apart from Vietnam,  Le traveled to India, China, Kenya, Australia, as well as Canada and the United States. The diets range all the way from insects, (made bearable by fish sauce), to wild animals (in California) such as deer, antelope, mountain sheep and black bear.

One chapter, The Temptation of Meat, recognizes that cooks around the world realize that great food depends on the glories of fatty meat or some other kind of fat. He points out the dangers this brings in obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Another chapter looks at The Paradox of Fish. Le sums up what he has learned with three tips for the way we should try to live, based on how our ancestors managed, i.e.: Keep moving;  Eat less meat and dairy when younger; Avoid sugar and deep-fried foods; Eat traditionally.

Reviewed by Anne McDougall