Welcome to the Question and Answer series at GNOWFGLINS! Many questions come through the comments or the contact form; some of them can be better answered by reaching out to all of you for your input. So, please jump in with your thoughts, suggestions, and best advice to help a reader out.
Here’s a question I received recently from Amy @ Homestead Revival. This lovely gal was inquiring about the eCourse in particular, but I think this is applicable to everyone, whether or not enrolled. This question became the basis for an audio file answer within the eCourse (shared below).
“Wardee, I’m considering the ecourse, but I wanted to ask you about the philosophy behind Nourishing Traditions. I’ve read some of the introduction and I am not sure I agree with some of their conclusions. I’m having a hard time with the fact that … grains need to be soaked. I understand they feel that the phytic acid needs to be removed, but I don’t see any evidence in scripture that they practiced these methods. I do recall Jesus and the disciples picking grain and eating it right out of the field… “
Here’s what I wrote back:
“While the Scriptures don’t come out and say that grains were soaked, keep in mind that bread was a staple of the diet in those days – and it was naturally leavened and given much time to rise. This is fermentation or souring, which is a method akin to soaking.
And even though Jesus and His disciples did glean from the fields on occasion, I *believe* they would have been eating primarily natural-yeast risen breads and slow cooked porridges and stews in people’s homes. (Also note that in older translations of the Bible, the grain they gleaned was named as corn.)
The Bible diet also included raw honey, raw milk, raw cheese, yogurt and naturally pickled foods (like olives). The people consumed many rich probiotics and healthy fats to increase gut health and balance out the phytic acid. A healthy gut and immune system can overcome deficits in the diet. (Quote from Sally Fallon Morell.)
Our culture lacks this balance. So while soaking (or sprouting or fermenting) is important, in my opinion, it should be part of a balanced, old-fashioned diet.
Here’s a rather long, but excellent, quote from an article at the Weston A. Price Foundation called “Be Kind to Your Grains.”
“Most of these anti-nutrients are part of the seed’s system of preservation—they prevent sprouting until the conditions are right. Plants need moisture, warmth, time and slight acidity in order to sprout. Proper preparation of grains is a kind and gentle process that imitates the process that occurs in nature. It involves soaking for a period in warm, acidulated water in the preparation of porridge, or long, slow sour dough fermentation in the making of bread. Such processes neutralize phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. Vitamin content increases, particularly B vitamins. Tannins, complex sugars, gluten and other difficult-to-digest substances are partially broken down into simpler components that are more readily available for absorption.
Animals that nourish themselves primarily on grain and other plant matter have as many as four stomachs. Their intestines are longer, as is the entire digestion transit time. Man, on the other hand, has but one stomach and a much shorter intestine compared to herbivorous animals. These features of his anatomy allow him to pass animal products before they putrefy in the gut but make him less well adapted to a diet high in grains—unless, of course, he prepares them properly. When grains are properly prepared through soaking, sprouting or sour leavening, the friendly bacteria of the microscopic world do some of our digesting for us in a container, just as these same lactobacilli do their work in the first and second stomachs of the herbivores.
So the well-meaning advice of many nutritionists, to consume whole grains as our ancestors did and not refined flours and polished rice, can be misleading and harmful in its consequences; for while our ancestors ate whole grains, they did not consume them as presented in our modern cookbooks in the form of quick-rise breads, granolas, bran preparations and other hastily prepared casseroles and concoctions. Our ancestors, and virtually all pre-industrialized peoples, soaked or fermented their grains before making them into porridge, breads, cakes and casseroles. A quick review of grain recipes from around the world will prove our point: In India, rice and lentils are fermented for at least two days before they are prepared as idli and dosas; in Africa the natives soak coarsely ground corn overnight before adding it to soups and stews and they ferment corn or millet for several days to produce a sour porridge called ogi; a similar dish made from oats was traditional among the Welsh; in some Oriental and Latin American countries rice receives a long fermentation before it is prepared; Ethiopians make their distinctive injera bread by fermenting a grain called teff for several days; Mexican corn cakes, called pozol, are fermented for several days and for as long as two weeks in banana leaves; before the introduction of commercial brewers yeast, Europeans made slow-rise breads from fermented starters; in America the pioneers were famous for their sourdough breads, pancakes and biscuits; and throughout Europe grains were soaked overnight, and for as long as several days, in water or soured milk before they were cooked and served as porridge or gruel. (Many of our senior citizens may remember that in earlier times the instructions on the oatmeal box called for an overnight soaking.)”
Here is one of the audio files from the eCourse, “A Historical Grain Perspective.” You’ll hear me re-read the above quote from the WAPF, another quote from Sally Fallon Morell, share some of the same information from my printed answer, and also talk about the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Please forgive me if I botched up any of those traditional food names from above! (It is 7 minutes and 14 seconds long.)
When it comes down to it, these things are pretty simple, and pretty common sense. I don’t think we need a really deep answer here. We just need to pay attention to old traditions – demonstrated round the world through cooking that is much slower and more thoughtful than the cooking we see today.
What do you think? Can you shed any light on the historical use of grains in the Bible or in any other old culture? Got a question for the Q & A series? Use the contact form to let me know.
I’m sharing this post in Real Food Wednesday, hosted by Kelly the Kitchen Kop.