Monday, December 28, 2009

Nourishing Traditions: A book that gets to the heart of food

There is no arguing that our food system has dramatically changed over the past half century. The American diet has been overhauled with the advent of fast-food, supermarkets, and convenience foods (read: shelf-stable products all found in the interior of your local market or in those vending machines you frequent). These changes have affected public health in unimaginable ways -- not the least of which is the rapid rise of obesity and Type 2 (preventable) diabetes among adults and children of all ages.

This Christmas, I asked my in-laws for a cookbook that could revolutionize the way I think about and interact with food. That book, Nourishing Traditions, is subtitled "The cookbook that challenges politically correct nutrition and the diet dictocrats." And if that doesn't say enough -- it's filled with recipes calling for raw, whole fat dairy, lard and numerous recipes calling for whey (the liquid part of curds and whey -- or that clear, yellowish liquid that settles when you have a tub of yogurt in your fridge).

My friend, Drew, first introduced me to Nourishing Traditions while attempting some courageous weekend kitchen concoctions -- once we lacto-fermented vegetables (shredded carrots) and another time we made our own mayonnaise.

I can't say that these were particularly successful endeavors. Yes, the carrots were made and jarred -- but they were way too salty to eat! And the just didn't taste like what we were used to. What did we expect?! We decided next time we'd skip the olive oil and just use canola...sadly, there was no next time.

I asked for the book, not just to rehash old memories, but continue to understand how our food culture developed and what food can do to nourish and heal our bodies. Right now we live in a food culture that tempts us with sugar and refined, heavily processed foods and grains that make us sick -- they do! These cheap, convenient foods promote overeating and weight gain in an unprecendented way.

As a result, younger generations (including mine) know far too little about the changes that have happened in the way our food system operates and the types and quality of food that our ancestors historically gathered/hunted, prepared, cooked, and consumed.

This is not a diet book. It's a healthful living book. And its a book for the brave and the adventurous. Come on -- who wouldn't be excited to make their own fish stock, pickle cucumbers, or try a recipe for Moroccan-style lamb stew?

What's great about this book is that it utilizes a WIDE variety of foods and ingredients -- just stick to whole foods -- fruits, vegetables, dairy, and whole grains. And be prepared to plan ahead -- you can make your own condiments, drinks, and breads it just takes a little time.

I'm hoping future posts here and at TastyKate integrate some of the insights and recipes that I've tried from Nourishing Traditions and consider how it applies to health promotion at a population level.

What a great way to start off the new year!

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