Yesterday’s food, today’s table
‘Modern Stone Age Family’ travels the world to find a healthy balance in a modern life
— “It’s about balance. It’s about connections. It’s about learning to live and eat like humans again,” say the Schindlers, Bill and Christina.
The Church Hill residents and educators took their journey and shared with their family, and through social media and the web, to anyone who wanted to be able to share the experience of living life abroad for a year with them. Covering four continents and 13 countries, the Schindlers — along with their three children — embarked on their trip in August 2017 and returned to Maryland just before school began this past fall.
The two are self-described opposites. Christina formerly oversaw instructional technology at Queen Anne’s County Public Schools and now works for Caroline County, and Bill is an archaeologist-chef and expert in primitive technology at Washington College in Chestertown.
They say, “She can build a website, but he can knap a stone tool.”
Blending those opposite ends of the technology spectrum make for amusing conversations over fermented, home-cooked meals, the couple says, but there is no denying they are both aligned to finding a healthy balance in this modern world.
Dubbed “The Modern Stone Age Family” by a news article in the London Times, the name quickly took hold.
Although their travels and interest gained notoriety, when Christina first began depicting the family’s adventures on Instagram she
said, “We are far from perfect. If anything, ‘The Modern Stone Age Family’ is a way to show how much we need to learn. By visiting different countries and learning from different cultures, we can develop a deeper understanding of what it means to be human and truly how to live again — not just be alive. This journey is about finding out how our family operates, how we can improve to be our best selves possible and how we can support one another along this journey.”
Their year abroad, living just outside Dublin city center in Airfield Estate, a 38acre farm, came at a time that was fitting for both of their careers.
Bill was on a sabbatical from Washington College to conduct research and to write, while Christina was able to take a leave of absence. That didn’t mean they were granted a year’s vacation, Christina said. They would continue to travel and work across Europe and Asia, and visited Thailand, Germany, Italy, Sicily, Slovakia, Greece, Crete and, in Africa, Kenya and South Africa, to name a few of the 17 countries they visited.
The children‚ Brianna, Billy and Alyssa — in high school, middle school and elementary school, respectively — were enrolled in school while the family used Ireland for their European home base as an opportunity, Schindler said, that allowed them to become involved in the community, forging relationships with parents, other students and colleagues.
No stranger to bringing his concept of living and eating like our earliest ancestors, three years ago Bill co-starred in National Geographic’s television series, “The Great Human Race.” The year in Ireland was in many ways an extension of the National Geographic experience and was a powerful research collaboration bridging two academic institutions — Washington College in Chestertown and University College Dublin in Ireland — with Odaios Foods, a cutting edge food-service provider in Ireland to form an innovative Food Evolutions project.
The project fuses anthropological knowledge, food and farming sciences, culinary arts and experimental archaeological evidence to encourage leadership, innovation and change in modern food habits and culinary practices, and to educate the public to take control of their food and eat like humans again.
The Food Evolutions project helped to lay much of the foundation on which Bill’s newest project, the Eastern Shore Food Lab at Washington College, is built.
Learning to cook from scratch is an important part of their family dynamic, Christina said. Whether making homemade pasta, cooking fresh venison or baking a birthday cake, all three kids are hands-on with their food and diet, and take an avid interest in their father’s work.
Spending a year together brought the family closer and allowed the couple to have quality time with each other and create new relationships with their children. Away from the constant flurry of their American lifestyle and friendships, Christina said, it allowed them to have more time with each child, to get to know them as individuals and deepen those relationships.
All the children have become excellent cooks, she
Bill Schindler drinks cow’s blood in Kenya where drawing blood from a live animal is considered a sustainable and nutrient-dense resource. “When you peel back the layers and take an informed, contextual look at the consumption patterns of people all over the world,” Schindler said, “what would initially seem odd takes on new meaning.”
Christina Schindler and daughter Brianna observe how insects are prepared and served in Thailand.
A family photo taken in Belderrig, County Mayo, Ireland.
A meal rich in tradition provided by the villagers in Thailand included roasted crickets to snack on; fruit such as mangoes, rose apples and bananas; grilled snakehead fish; rice; spices; and vegetables — all ingredients (excluding bananas) provided from the ant farmers’ property. Each component of every food was consumed ripe, delicious, made by hand, steeped in tradition and nutrient dense.