Hunter-Gatherer Diet South America

Join me on this Hunter-gatherer diet South America. Lets find out if this is a new trend, or a viable option, for a more sustainable lifestyle.

By Samantha McLeod

My Experience living the Hunter-Gatherer Diet South America.

I decided to try the Hunter-Gatherer Diet South America and ended up learning more than I ever imagined.

I was in Guyana, South America doing a stint of volunteer work. We were stationed close to Linden, a town surrounded by untamed forests. We were building a house in a place called Silver Hills.

In our North American society we are often hopping on a bandwagon to boycott something or the other. Sometimes when we believe in one cause we are expected to annihilate the other side, but that is not the way life is. Or is it?

On this trip to Guyana, SA , I lived a mostly hunter-gatherer diet for a three days.

Guyana, South America

There were priceless moments. Nothing beats the taste of sun-ripe mangoes from an ancient tree. Believe me the juice is sweeter than honey.

Or, the aromas of boiling cassavas and taro roots wafting out of a blackened pot simmering over a coal fire.

Boiling root vegetables

The things I know now.

I learned how to make roasted eggplants stuffed with garlic then roasted on the smoky grill. The soft flesh must be scraped from the skin, then smashed with roasted tomatoes, bird peppers (a local hot as hell chile) and shallots.

I adore the taste of fresh-caught trout that is gutted and cleaned right at the creek’s edge, then pan-fried with wild herbs.

Sleeping in a hammock in the middle of a rainforest can be terrifying…and so much fun.

I learned to not cook gourmet meals for my guides. They consider French and Italian food as suspect. The concept of pouring good wine into a pan and simmering it down to nothing is ridiculous in their eyes.

It is impossible to explain the aliveness you feel in a rainforest.

There is sense of peace and renewed hope in greeting the cool dawn.

There is patience and utter contentment while waiting for the coffee to do the slow boil on the kindling fire. Taking deep breaths laden with the scents of warm sand, cool rainforest air, dew-heavy flowers, and boiling coffee is heavenly.

I wonder if I felt more alive in the mornings because I had lived through the night? Sleeping in a hammock slung between two trees, in the depths of a jungle is an adventure.

Guyana, South America

My most favourite time was spent swimming in amber creeks, with sparkling white sandy bottoms. The creeks in Guyana are cool, almost cold, a welcome relieve from the 37 degrees days. These innocent looking “streams” can drop to bottomless depths in various places quite suddenly. Glorious. Scary and exciting.

Guyana, South America

 

One day on the hunt for food.

For the record, the hunter-gatherer diet South America was not a planned adventure. Oh no, this was just me, on a whim, asking to tag along with the father and son team that were “going hunting just up the trail” the next morning.

They assured me it was, “Na far at all, is jus round de corner.”

Guyana, South America

The next morning I was prodded awake earlier than usual; it was still in the blue black morning.

The two guides and I gathered wood for the fire, and fetched water from the rain barrel to make our morning coffee.

Instant coffee crystals imported from England with Canadian skimmed milk powder and dark brown sugar from a local plantation. This was all boiled up in an old pot over a wood fire.

guide

They packed their rucksacks and we set off on a  5-miles walk to the “next-door” neighbours place. We planned on bartering smoked fish for root vegetables. We used our cutlasses to chop our way, noisily, through the thick vegetation. The reason we had to be noisy was to  scare away snakes, and to warn predators of our presence.

We foraged for wild greens and wild herbs along the way. Then we stopped at a creek to (1) quench our thirst, (2) catch fish, and (3) go for a quick swim. 

guide 2

 

Lunch Time

We found a clearing and they rigged up a ring of creek stones to for the cooking. We gathered wood, started the fire, and cooked the root vegetables in a pot the father pulled out of his rucksack. meanwhile we waited for the fish to “bite”.

They cleaned the fish and threw the trimmings back into the water where strange creatures with vicious teeth rushed to the surface to devour the discards.

During the lunch meal they planned the rest of the day’s activities, which is as basic as it gets – hunt for dinner to take back to the volunteer camp.

We trekked along the creek’s edge looking for animal tracks in the sand. They then set a few traps for an animal, any animal will do I was told.

So, this is the hunter-gatherer diet South America, I am thinking.

tracking animals

Back to the campsite, our chores waited. Fetch water, water plants. Fetch water, fill the kitchen barrels. Gather more wood for the night fires. Clean up the campsite.

hunter-gatherer diet South America

Backtracked to check the traps. This time we paddled a boat up a creek. By this time I am completely lost as to how many creeks there are, and how they may be connected, if at all.

Guyana, South America

 

Dinner at last

The trap’s offering was an Agouti (a rodent-like animal). We had to fast-paddle back  to the campsite to prepare the dinner before the dark of night arrived.

hunters wild meat

Dinner was agouti stew, with fuzzy squash , a zucchini-like gourd we had traded the smoked fish for. The stew was fragrant with onions and wild herbs.

They served this with steaming bowls of white rice, and cups of milky lemongrass tea.

wild meat and squash stew

After dinner was done and the site put to rights, we walked single file in the inky night to have the evening bath at the edge of the water. We did not enter the creek, but instead dipped and poured water onto ourselves. Alligators and such love the nightlife, did you know that?

South American night

The hunter-gatherer diet South America conclusion.

Their carbon footprint is minimal. The only luxury they allow themselves are the imported milk and instant coffee. The sugar and rice are grown in Guyana. Most of their life is dedicated to finding food. Every single meal took hours of planning and hunting and prepping.

Hunter-Gatherer Diet South America

Days later as I headed to the city in the back of a pick-up truck I was a few pounds lighter and a few lovely shades darker. More importantly, because of my far-reaching experience, I had a clear sighted understanding of the radical differences between their lifestyle, and mine back home in Canada.

The Guides

My guides choose to be who they are, to live the lifestyle of hunter-gatherers. They choose to be free. The only alternative available to them in this third world country (now ranked a Developing country, 2017), is to be underpaid servants. They choose not to toil away in the backyards of the wealthy, but instead to subsist on what they can hunt and gather. They barter, do odd jobs, and sell whatever they can find or make, in roder to stay alive.

Job opportunities, as we know it,  are almost non-existent for them. There is no such assistance as welfare, low income housing, or unemployment insurance. Heck, there are no jobs much less job training.

I discovered a newfound respect and love for  being a Canadian.

As a Canadian we choose to be free too, to embrace life in safety, to think logically before making a decision, before imparting an opinion. We choose to love what we have, our rules and regulations, our opportunities, our blessings.

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Here at home we can go to the farmers market to get seasonal fruits and vegetables, fresh meats and eggs and cheeses.

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Growing our own herbs and lettuces on the balcony during the summer is always an option.

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We can also eat bananas in the winter, or get lemons whenever we want. We are supporting other farmers and cultures so they can in turn trade with us for what they cannot grow.

Is it possible to find a balance?

If we all made small changes by sourcing out seasonal and local fruits and vegetables (most fruits and some vegetables can be frozen, fermented and/or canned for the off season). Cabbages and squashes are available late into the year. Most root vegetables are produced long into the fall and keep well for many months

Let us absolutely avoid fish that were caught here, sent to offshore processing plants, and then shipped back to us. Try to buy fresh fish, farm-raised or seasonal, shellfish and seafood from our local fishermen or from our local fish and seafood farms. Make a concerted effort to read every label, or ask the butcher about the origins of the beef, chicken, pork and lamb.

I buy Greek feta, Italian cheeses and Polish kasha for the sheer indulgence of it, but I will always drink BC  ethically produced milk, yogurts and butter.

I only use Greek olive oil mainly because it is a guaranteed one-homestead product, it’s usually thicker, greener and healthier.

We live in a global village

We all need each other or chaos will reign. Some countries will produce too much, and some countries will produce too little.

Living within our seasons and the seasons of other cultures, will most assuredly reduce greenhouse emissions.

Why not eat supply-driven foods (local and imports) instead of demanding out of season produce.

Drop mass-produced prepared foods from your diet.

Live by the “waste not, want not” philosophy.

Find that sweet balance that is not destructive but constructive.

Which lifestyle would you choose if it came down to the two?

Hunter-Gatherer South America?

Living in Canada?

Let us know in the comments section below!

 

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Samantha McLeod

Vancouver based food and travel writer.

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