Longform

Neander-Guy

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Until then, Audette and his wife of 10 years, Renee Solinger, do their hunting and gathering at the Plano Whole Foods Market. Audette converted his wife to the hunter-gatherer diet shortly after they met--appropriately--at the Greenville Avenue Whole Foods Market cafe. She was eating low-fat yogurt and he, of course, lectured her on nutrition.

Most women love shopping, Audette says, because of their biological imperative to do so. "Shopping is gathering," he says. "Neanderthal men hunted and the women gathered. There is a biological reason why you have so many men hunters in this country and why women love to shop--regardless of what feminists tell you."

Solinger, a tall slender woman in her '30s, is a self-employed CPA who is busy during the early spring tax season, but can slack off during slower months. She says this arrangement perfectly suits the hunting and gathering lifestyle.

Solinger says the hunter-gatherer diet simplifies shopping. "I go shopping every day and I buy meat and vegetables," she says. "I always pay cash and go through the express lane. It's so quick."

It's easy to cook, Audette adds. "We just broil the meat long enough to singe the salmonella off the outside, chop a few vegetables and we're ready to eat."

The furniture in the airy, sunny house he shares with Renee and their son, two-month-old Grayson Haak, "Gray-hawk" for short, has been "gathered" from garage sales, he explains proudly. Along one wall, an extensive entertainment center playing music by a local bluegrass band cost Audette about $75--secondhand. He and Renee rarely buy anything new, he says, a byproduct of becoming hunter-gatherers.

Audette has given up his job as a computer salesman to devote time to promoting his book and to writing a second edition, which will be out in July and will incorporate suggestions from readers, such as what to buy at the grocery store if you have no choices but processed foods.

Audette says all the elements of his life seemed to fall into place when he became a hunter-gatherer. "Other things that had nothing to do with nutrition seemed to come around--that's a hard thing to explain to people--I attribute a lot of what people call luck to being a hunter-gatherer."

His almost religious belief in the benefits of his diet has made Audette a one-man diet militia. He says the Food and Drug Administration's venerable food pyramid, taught to every schoolchild, is nothing more than propaganda cobbled together by food lobbyist groups. "Most of what passes for nutrition in this country is more politics than nutrition."

On a warm weekday afternoon, Arrow, Ray Audette's juvenile red-tailed hawk, with feathers just beginning to turn the color of rust, cocks his head and eyes a white mouse wiggling wildly as Audette plucks him by his pink tail from a swarm of 100 other jittery white mice inhabiting a large wire cage on Audette's patio.

Arrow grabs the mouse with his beak and clutches it in a talon. In an instant, Arrow slits the throat with his beak and a slender red necklace oozes from the white fur. The mouse continues to wiggle. It's an unappealing sight, but Audette watches it without flinching. Tiny vertebrae crack. The head is gone, leaving a bloody stump behind. Then, with a few efficient rips of flesh, Arrow devours the rest of the body.

Humans, like hawks, are predators, like it or not, says Audette: everything about man is designed for consuming meat.

Understandably, Neander-Thin has caused a stir among some vegetarians who haunt some of the same natural food hangouts Audette does. The author's book signing at Cosmic Cup, Oak Lawn's popular vegetarian enclave, triggered a debate that stopped "just short of fisticuffs," says an amused Dipak Pollana, Cosmic Cup's owner.

Pollana says Audette has been known to walk up to people at Cosmic Cup and warn them about the sins of eating rice. "He tries to convert people like he's on a mission," says Pollana. "He's just as bad as a preacher."

Still, Pollana, a vegetarian who eats fish, appreciates Audette's zeal and likes to have the meat-eater around. But Pollana thinks cutting out grains and potatoes and beefing up on meat is misguided. "I think his theories are ridiculous."

Though Audette's book is welcome at the Plano and Greenville Whole Foods stores, it's been banned at the Richardson store. "It's too extreme," says Suzanne Zetola, book buyer at Richardson Whole Foods Market. In March, she told Audette to retrieve copies of Neander-Thin after the store had carried the book on consignment for a week. Zetola, a vegetarian, says Audette's taste for meat doesn't offend her, but "To say that nobody should eat any grains is pretty weird."

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Rebecca Sherman