who is ruston anyway?
I am Jack Ruston.
I love cooking. I love thinking about it, planning it, shopping for it, the preparation and cooking itself, and the silence that falls around a table when you really get it right. I have always cooked. As a boy of eight or nine, I’d play ‘survival’ games in the garden, lighting fires with a flint striker and cooking bacon ‘borrowed’ from the fridge. I’m not sure where one would obtain bacon in a wilderness survival situation, but I can tell you that in a ‘back garden’ one, it’s both readily available and delicious.
I continued to cook throughout my early teens, often catering for the whole family when my mother suffered a back injury that confined her to bed for many months. Leaving home after school, I travelled in the U.S. and became exposed to mexican cooking, and developed a love of burgers, and big steaks.
My passion for cooking has only increased as I’ve got older. While, for reasons explained below, I’ve been forced onto a more restrictive path in terms of my diet, that has opened my mind to the understanding that simplicity and quality, executed perfectly, wins the day.
Throughout my adult life I have suffered with some significant digestive issues, seemingly endless food intolerances and a sense that the food I loved was out to get me. The health-care system couldn’t help, alternative therapies and strict exclusion diets seemed beneficial at times, but the benefits didn’t last. Most of them made matters worse. I did everything I was supposed to do, eating a diet of whole-grains, high-fibre, fresh vegetables and fruits, organic chicken and fish, fermented foods like kimchi and kefir, and took probiotics and endless other supplements that were supposed to help me.
This journey led me down a path of deeply researching nutritional science. What I discovered was a vast gap between what the proper science was saying, and what the food industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and the studies that they both pay for were saying. I discovered that the panels that devise our ‘food pyramid‘, the guidelines we’re given on how to eat, are made up of representatives of these industries, and researchers funded by them.
I began to write a book about cooking, and about food, the research for which led me through the various ways in which people eat. Eventually, I stumbled across the carnivore and zero-carb movement. To my mind these people were crazy. They were living on animal products only – meat, eggs, dairy and fish.
I was absolutely convinced by this point that the vast majority of us in the developed world needed to urgently reduce our consumption of processed food, and particularly our consumption of carbohydrates. That much was crystal clear, but to eat no carbohydrate whatsoever? What about fibre? What about vitamins? What about fresh vegetables and fruit?
I thought it might make for entertaining material to try this approach for a couple of weeks, and report my findings. I set out on this task, eating only meat and salt, and drinking only water in a ‘pure’ carnivore approach. At that time I was still having significant gut issues, and eating a very strictly restricted low FODMAP diet – a handful of carefully chosen fresh vegetables and fruits, with grass-fed organic meat, chicken and fish. I was grain, dairy and alcohol free, so the change for me wasn’t quite as much of an adjustment as it might be for some.
But an adjustment it was, because within three days, my gut was almost entirely fixed. It was unrecognisably better. I suddenly became able to function like a normal human being, for the first time in years. I couldn’t believe it.
It was exhilarating to experience this sudden, unexpected relief, but bittersweet in the knowledge that it couldn’t last. I would surely die a horrible, sticky death if I tried to sustain it for more than a few weeks. I had come across a clinic that was using what they termed the ‘Paleolithic Ketogenic Diet’ to treat various disorders and diseases, some extremely serious. The diet was effectively a high-fat, strict carnivore approach. Meat and water, much as I had been eating. I decided to consult them, to get some proper blood work at regular intervals, and to assess my health while continuing the approach, ready to adjust at any time if I felt that it wasn’t wise, or wasn’t working.
At the time of writing I have begun to experiment with re-introducing small amounts of fruit, root vegetables and honey into my diet. After thirty months of eating only meat, I have come to feel that while a nose-to-tail animal-based diet can provide a complete complement of micronutrients, having no carbohydrate whatsoever might not be ideal on a permanent basis: It makes your insulin incredibly low. Insulin modulates the activity of certain hormones, and with the exception of certain arctic populations, it is more evolutionarily consistent to include at least some seasonal plants, mainly fruit in the summer months. So far, these small quantities of low-fibre foods have not caused me any problems. By doing this I hope to gain a little metabolic flexibility, without negatively affecting my gut.
My eating is exceptionally strange by most people’s standards, but my cooking is not. I have cooked ‘normal food’ for decades, as well as years of cooking ketogenic and paleo meals. My own diet may be optimal and necessary for me, but I don’t believe that everyone must eat that way. I do believe that everyone should eat less often, less carbohydrate, and should exclude processed foods. Accordingly, the Boneyard food is generally somewhere in that low-carb whole-food area, and excludes ingredients which we know to be harmful, but it’s not exclusively tied to any particular way of eating. It’s the sort of food that anyone can enjoy, without feeling like they’re being forced into someone else’s niche diet plan. I do sometimes include some more obvious carbohydrates, as not everyone needs to exclude those entirely.
But what do we feed the kids?
I believe strongly that we need to tackle the shocking rise in diabetes and its related complications at an early stage. While most children are far more insulin-sensitive, and carbohydrate-tolerant than adults, probably because they have a large energy requirement, and due to the fact that our relatively short evolutionary adjustment post-agriculture would only be necessary up to reproductive age, they often don’t retain this tolerance as they grow older. Thus we need to raise them with a different idea of what makes a meal than our generation.
That said, they should be allowed to enjoy the odd bit of junk, the birthday cakes, the trips out for ice cream and the occasional mountain of pizza. Unfortunately their world is full of this stuff, it’s marketed aggressively towards them, and they see their friends eating it quite happily every day. If we try to exclude it, they’re going to question the validity of our advice, and shovel it in the second our backs are turned. They’re too young to understand the notion that what they eat now, the habits they form, will affect them in three decades time. So I believe that we need to allow a modicum of flexibility, but with the understanding that these things are a problem, and that we need to give our bodies plenty of opportunity to recover from eating them.
What I find with my own daughter is that she doesn’t feel great when she eats those things, and that helps her to understand that they shouldn’t be part of her day-to-day diet. On the Boneyard Instagram page I have a segment called ‘But What Do We Feed The Kids’, which offers tips on meals we can make for our children to balance out some of the meals we perhaps wish they would not eat. It can be searched at #butwhatdowefeedthekids
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