Historical Events

Stefansson describes what he learned living with the Eskimo and eating all meat diets for 5+ years, and then discusses his experiment in New York City where he ate only meat for a year. The second half of the book talks about pemmican.

Not by Bread Alone

Vilhjalmur Stefansson

The Fat of the Land is a 1956 update of Not By Bread Alone, and I will review both here, as they appear to be identical, with the addition of commentary at the front of The Fat of the Land by Frederick J. Stare, Paul Dudley White, and the author, Vilhjalmur Stefansson.

Mr. Stefansson seems to have been quite a character, and led an interesting life of anthropology and arctic exploration. Many controversies surround the man and his actions, which led me to take his words with a grain of salt at the beginning. But his captivating writing style and generosity of spirit soon won me over. I don't know how accurate his interpretation of anthropology would have been considered during his lifetime, and how well it has stood the test of time - I think one should read many sources to formulate an opinion. But I found the various subjects covered in the book quite interesting. I especially enjoyed the chapter titled: "And Visit Your Dentist Twice a Year."

This book tells the story of the 1928 experiment conducted by the Russell Sage Institute of Pathology at Bellevue Hospital in New York and affiliated with the Medical College of Cornell University, in which Karsten Andersen and Mr. Stefansson ate essentially nothing but meat for one year, and how very well they fared on this diet - provided they had substantial amounts of fat as well as lean.

Two chapters of the book discuss scurvy, and give examples of people who became ill (and some who died) with it, in spite of having citrus fruit juice; whereas many traditional groups of people that rarely ate fruits or vegetables never encountered the disease. The author proposes that the necessity in preventing scurvy lay in obtaining fresh foods, whether meat or plant-based. (I am currently reading Weston Price's Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, and he states that American Indians in northern Canada explained to him that eating small parts of adrenal glands of animals prevented the disease. And it looks like vitamin C was originally isolated from adrenal glands by Albert Szent-Györgyi.)

The last five chapters of the book tell everything one would probably ever wish to know about pemmican - originally a "travel food" made from dried lean bison meat combined with rendered fat; occasionally with berries added. Mr. Stefansson sings the praises of this compact and energy-dense food not only to his readers, but tells of his efforts to sway the United States military establishment to include it in rations for soldiers. After reading these chapters, I would like to try pemmican - also biltong, a southern African dried meat which the author mentions.

I first learned of this book in William Campbell Douglass's lively work, The Milk of Human Kindness . . . is Not Pasteurized, and had wished to read it for some time. Mr. Stefansson is also mentioned by Broda Barnes in his classic, Hypothyroidism - Unsuspected Illness; and the arctic explorer and meat-eater opens the first paragraphs in Nina Teicholz's wonderful new book: The Big Fat Surprise.

 

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