Some 12,000 years ago, on the banks of a small river in the western Galilee region of northern Israel, the Natufian people were burying one of their elders. She was a shaman--a medicine woman--and they buried along with her the wing tip of a golden eagle, the pelvis of a leopard, the front leg of a boar, the horns of a male gazelle and a severed human foot.

And while the true meanings of these burial accoutrements were unclear to the archaeologists who found her in 2008, the meaning the 70 charred tortoise shells and the gnawed and marrow-stripped bones of three aurochs-- giant extinct cattle--was obvious. They were evidence of a great feast. As well, they were proof of the fact that food isn't simply fuel for our species--food is used for comfort, food is used for celebration and, in all likelihood, food has been used that way since we took our first figurative steps in the savannahs.

Yet, for many modern-day dieters, the use of food for comfort or celebration is expressly forbidden. Those who worry about weight may deny themselves of their lives' most comforting or celebratory indulgences for fear of their--almost by necessity--larger numbers of calories (green leafy vegetables don't tend to be much of a comfort) and their "bet-you-can't-eat-just-one" allure. Those who worry about health may deny themselves entire food groups--food groups that they may in fact enjoy a great deal but avoid out of fear of a potential health risk or as a result of following a theoretical but as yet unproven eating philosophy.

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