If you’ve been reading here for awhile, you might have noticed that I’m cooking a little differently. I am heading in the direction of traditional food preparation methods, such as you can find in Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon Morell.
What is Nourishing Traditions?
Reading from the book, its premise is:
…that modern food choices and preparation techniques constitute a radical change from the way man has nourished himself for thousands oF years and, from the perspective of history, represent a fad that not only has severely compromised his health and vitality but may well destroy him; and that the culinary traditions of our ancestors, and the food choices and preparation techniques of healthy non-industrialized peoples, should serve as the model for contemporary eating habits, even and especially during this modern technological age.
Nourishing Traditions departs from modern industrialized food methods because it goes beyond just using whole, natural ingredients. It takes those ingredients and prepares them properly, according to the traditions of healthy, un-industrialized peoples across the globe. Examples of the quality ingredients and traditional preparations would be:
- using raw dairy products – to preserve enzymes in the milk that aid in digestion, to protect against pathogens, and to offer fat-soluble vitamins and minerals that act as catalysts to mineral absorbtion and protein utilization
- using cultured dairy products – to prevent spoiling, to increase enzymes, to break down casein, to increase lactase which helps lactose-intolerant individuals to tolerate cultured dairy foods, and to increase vitamin B and vitamin C content
- consuming saturated fats such as raw, virgin coconut oil and butter made from the milk of animals feasting on rapidly growing grass – to offer essential fat-soluble vitamins and minerals which act as catalysts to mineral absorption and protein utilization, to provide the appropriate stiffness and structure to our cell membranes and tissues, to strengthen the immune system and facilitate inter-cellular communication, and more!
- embracing animal foods and animal fats from animals raised in their natural environment – to provide an appropriate balance of omega-3/omega-6 essential fatty acids, and to provide a rich source of nutrients to protect the heart and nervous system
- sprouting, soaking and/or fermenting grains – to assist in digestion and assimilation of nutrition
- soaking of nuts and seeds before consumption – to neutralize those nutrients that are enzyme-inhibitors
- lacto-fermentation of vegetables and fruits – to preserve food while increasing its digestibility, vitamin levels, enzymes, and healthy bacteria
That list is not exhaustive, but I hope a good overview. I find the nutrition benefits very, very compelling.
This Is What Convinced Me
About 6 years ago, I read Nourishing Traditions for the first time. I loved it. I resonated with almost everything I read. I tried out a few recipes.
I tried sourdough bread; it was horrible – the starter got moldy, time after time. I tried soaking our oatmeal in lemon juice the night before cooking; the sour taste made us barely able to tolerate it. I should have tried a little harder, I think.
The rest of the book was filled with cultured dairy foods, which I thought were out for us, since we didn’t really comprehend the difference between raw and pasteurized dairy foods and thought ourselves to be lactose-intolerant or dairy-allergic, no matter what the type of milk. The book also used many eggs, which were out because my son is allergic.
So the book went back to the library.
Fast forward to last year. By this time, we knew of gluten intolerance issues in my daughter and my husband. I heard from friends and read in other books about sprouting gluten grains. The issue kept coming up. I couldn’t ignore it anymore. We had to try it. We were curious whether sprouting would enable those two to be able to eat the grains without any adverse symptoms.
I did some experiments with sprouting emmer wheat (an ancient, ancient variety of wheat), kamut, hard white wheat, and spelt. (See here and here.) My husband and daughter did very well with these foods. They are thriving, and we are using sprouted spelt and other flours for all our baked good (like cookies, biscuits, scones, tortillas and bread).
The following is a paraphrase from Nourishing Traditions explaining what the sprouting does:
The proteins in grains, especially gluten, are very difficult to digest. If the grains (especially gluten grains) are not soaked or sprouted, they put a great strain on the digestive system, which can over time, turn into allergies, celiac disease, mental illness, chronic indigestion and candida overgrowth. The process of sprouting partially breaks down the gluten and other difficult-to-digest proteins into simpler components more readily available for absorption. And the enzymes help with the rest of the job, done by our digestive system. (Nourishing Traditions, page 453)
Additionally, here’s a direct quote from Claude Aubert which is included in the book:
Sprouting accomplishes a veritable pre-digestion of grains. Phytic acid, which blocks the absorption of calcium and magnesium, is largely decomposed. So are certain sugars which cause intestinal gas. Part of the starch is transformed into sugars and numerous enzymes that aid digestion are produced. – Claude Aubert, Dis-Moi Comment Tu Cuisines
Since the sprouting experiment has been so successful, I am convinced that we should follow traditional food methods all the time. We’ve seen that we have no allergies to raw dairy, so now I’m a believer that raw dairy can be consumed by most people, whether in its fresh, raw state or cultured.
We’ve always believed that industrialization has ruined our food. Disease, sickness, and obesity run rampant – and it coincides with industrialization. Two words encapsulate industrialized food (though we can hardly call it food): refined and quick.
What Happens Next
All these years, we’ve been eating healthfully, using whole, natural and organic food ingredients, and working around food allergies. But now I see that even though I’ve been using the best of ingredients, I haven’t been preparing everything properly to maximize nutrition and to reduce stress on the digestive system.
We will be incorporating more and more traditional food preparation techniques. I now soak all grains, nuts and seeds prior to consumption. The usual soaking medium for grains is whey added to filtered water. We don’t have whey yet, but will soon. In the meantime, I either add a glug of raw apple cider vinegar or Kombucha to all my soaking water.
We’re getting dairy goats; we’ve got one already. From them, we plan on drinking raw milk, and making butter (if I can get enough cream to separate), yogurt, buttermilk, and all sorts of cheeses.
I am already experimenting with lacto-fermentation. Last week, I made lacto-fermented pickled turnips. They are fabulous! Instead of cooking food to death through canning and pickling with nutrition devoid white vinegar, you instead add a salt/whey/water solution to cover sliced veggies in the jar. The salt/whey keeps the putrefying bacteria from multiplying while the beneficial lactobacilli grow strong enough to dominate, effectively preserving the food and providing probiotic benefits for your gut. It is amazing! This process takes a few days at room temperature, then the jar is moved to cold storage.
Sourdough bread. I am determined not to repeat my experiments of six years ago! I have purchased starter to try soon. As well, I have yogurt starter, water kefir starter, milk kefir starter, and buttermilk starter to try. (See my Resources page for starter sources).
I have many, many recipes on this site that use the best of ingredients. The task now is to make them over, using raw dairy, cultured dairy, soaking/sprouting, etc. This will take time, but I know can be done with a little thought.
What About You?
The Nourishing Traditions book is a must-read/must-own for any traditional kitchen. I commend it to you, if you don’t own it already. With it, you’ll be able to adjust many recipes to make them slow and traditional. You’ll find just tons of information on all traditional food topics.
Please don’t think that traditional preparations involve much more time. It is not more time they need, but rather, planning. Meals and dishes must be started day(s) in advance. This can happen in minutes, and the beneficial work is done by the food itself.
There is a very helpful brochure, including a simple list of traditional dietary guidelines, at the Weston A. Price Foundation website (founded by Sally Fallon Morell, author of Nourishing Traditions).
For cooking demonstrations, and information on local resources and help, check to see if there is a local chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation in your area.
The Weston A. Price Foundation also runs the campaign, realmilk.com, where you can find local sources for raw milk.
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. Although I am a newbie, I am an excited sponge for great information, so I can try to direct you in the right direction!
This post is part of Fight Back Fridays! hosted by FoodRenegade.
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