Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Moving forward by looking back

It started with a grain mill. I remember my mom’s electric grain mill running in the garage when I was growing up. The whole wheat berries went into the square hopper on top and fresh flour came out of a little drawer on the bottom. The flour went into our Saturday morning pancakes, cooked four at a time on an electric skillet with real butter.
Fifteen years later, while perusing Kitchenaid stand mixer attachments for our wedding registry, I saw one of them was a grain mill. I remembered hearing that flour products made with freshly ground whole grains are just as fluffy as their nutritionally stripped white counterparts, so I scoured the internet for reviews and prices on grain mills from here to Germany. Thanks to the Garbanzo Bean episode of Iron Chef America and the detailed analysis of a Michiganian food blogger named Brian Glass, I chose the Komo Fidibus 21. It is a thing of beauty, housed in beechwood with corundum stones and an industrial motor.
Brian Glass also mentioned two books that revolutionized the way I think about food: Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price and Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. These brought me to, a phenomenal resource for traditional nutrition and health.
Here’s the phenomenon: in the 1920s, Dr. Weston Price observed that modern Americans were crumbling physically compared to stone-age peoples around the world. From the Arctic to Africa, Dr. Price analyzed the nutrition and physical condition of isolated groups still living by millenia-old traditions. He documented one example after another of beautiful, physically excellent groups that crumbled (in the same patterns as modern Americans) when they left their native foods for “the displacing foods of modern commerce:” refined flour, sugar, jams, and canned foods. From observing and interacting with a range of diets at home and abroad, Dr. Price concluded that nearly all deviations from physical excellence – even those commonly considered genetic – are caused by nutritional deficiency.
Our bodies require sound building materials to be strong. Much of what modern Americans consider “food” is nutritionally empty; most nutrients in the raw materials are stripped away or destroyed during the manufacturing process. The more processed foods Americans eat (ten thousand new products hit supermarket shelves every year) the less healthy we get. Heart disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes have skyrocketed in the last century and are striking younger and younger. Children are born with narrower bone structures and crowded, crooked teeth; this is the first outward sign that Dr. Price observed among traditional cultures adopting empty foods.
Is our health a fair price to pay for convenience?
Traditional cooking is about preparing nutrient-dense foods in ways that help our bodies absorb the most nutrients possible. It frequently involves long, slow soaking, fermenting, sprouting, roasting and simmering. Unpopular foods like liver and fish, rich with vitamins and minerals, find themselves in the spotlight. Traditional cooking requires a great deal more attention and practice than your average freezer dinner. Fear not: balancing nutrition, taste, and a full-time job is not impossible! On the contrary, the extra nutrition gives one the energy needed to continue the traditional lifestyle.
When I started exploring traditional food preparation, my cooking faced a real crisis. Stephen had to endure many a failed experiment. I felt like I was five years old again, making my first gluey cake from scratch. Almost a year into my journey, I would like to share with you my learning experiences. I’m still wrestling with the principles of human nourishment, but making progress every day. This blog is dedicated to reviving ancient wisdom in a modern kitchen.
Bon Appetito!

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