About Ancestral Cuisine Education
The Six Principles
A critical category represented by long-demonized, irresistibly delicious foods like bacon, butter and egg yolks. Characterized as ‘sacred’ foods and favored by our wise ancestors precisely because they are rich in vital saturated fat, these foods serve as carriers of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K2, essential for mineral deposition in our precious bones and teeth. Yes, we’re talking animal foods like liver, lard and lobster, crustacean butter, cod-liver oil and chicken fat. This category of foods is abundant in the cholesterol necessary for proper brain development and nervous system function, optimal immunity, balanced hormones and successful reproduction. Dr. Weston A. Price’s seminal research into the diets of healthy indigenous populations around the globe demonstrated a ten-fold greater concentration of the nutrients found in these sacred foods among those thriving on their traditional diets compared to those consuming what he referred to as “the displacing foods of modern commerce”. The industry-conceived, government-sanctioned, media-driven fat-demonization of the last several decades has resulted in deranged metabolism and immunity, infertility and perhaps most insidiously, degradation of our precious mental health. A simple and immediate return to the ‘fat of the land’ diet our ancestors embraced might well spell the recovery of health and well being our culture so desperately seeks.
Regardless of our own bias against it, raw animal food has played an integral role in the cuisine of peoples around the globe throughout history. Cultural favorites like ceviche and steak tartare, raw milk cheeses and sushi are prized by and preserved in the traditions of those who consume them because they offer a plethora of nutrients otherwise denatured by heat during the cooking process; nutrients especially necessary for the development of robust immunity like the B-complex and Vitamin C. When young people grew up consuming raw dairy products produced by pasture-raised animals, autoimmune diseases like allergies and asthma were virtually non-existent. Those born after the industrial food revolution may never have encountered a truly raw animal product, and even if they had, the food-borne pathogen-phobia of recent years is an adequate deterrent for most parents when it comes to avoiding this category of foods on behalf of their young ones. Nonetheless, when traditional methods of grass-farming and open water fishing are employed, raw animal food provides a safe and exceptionally nourishing contribution to an ancestral diet.
A once revered, more recently maligned and currently hipster-approved category of seriously nutrient-dense foods, re-popularized by way of the ‘nose to tail’ movement of the last decade or so. Organ meats and offal featured on ‘farm to table’ menus around the country in offerings like bone marrow and sweet breads, pate and beef tongue prove anywhere from ten to one-hundred times richer in nutrients than the corresponding muscle meat, which translates to a viable avenue for pursuit of the popular trend known as ‘calorie-restriction’ without the resultant nutrient deficiencies often associated with dieting. A re-acquaintance with the so called ‘nasty-bits’ not only confers dense nutrition to the consumer, but can also assuage the guilt associated with consuming food so high up the food chain by assuring the absolute minimal amount of waste. With so many of us recovering from nutrient deficiencies imposed by decades consuming the Standard American Diet or one of the various fad diets popularized by the media, the inclusion of organs and offal might very well offer the most expedient recovery of one’s health and vitality available.
Seeds gotta make a living too, and Mother Nature has devised an ingenious method of seed preservation in the form of mineral chelators and enzyme inhibitors. These ‘antinutrient’ chemicals ultimately even the score by serving as effective deterrents to predation and premature germination. Whether by some action of instinctual impulse, or simply as a result of long-term and careful observation, our wise ancestors developed methods of anti-nutrient neutralization like soaking, sprouting, sour-leavening and fermentation to override the digestive havoc wrecked by these chemicals. As these ancient methods of seed preparation have given way to industrial food processing, diseases of the digestive tract have skyrocketed in our population. It may come as some surprise that a return to Grandma’s sourdough biscuit and buttermilk pancake recipes may serve as an even more practical long-term solution than the ‘gluten-free’ movement often embraced by those suffering with compromised digestion. This irony can be explained by the fact that gluten is a difficult to digest complex protein our ancestors ‘predigested’ by means of these ingenious preparation methods before they called upon their own digestive apparatus to finish the job, which ultimately allowed them the liberty of an indulgence our own population is now obliged to forgo.
It wasn’t all that long ago that meat was sold, prepared and consumed on the bone. Economy, nutrition and flavor all factored equally in our great-grandmother’s preference for cuts of meat like beef shank, pork picnic roast and leg of lamb. Once divested of muscle meat and fatty goodness, the bones themselves were set to simmer in a pot on the back of the stove for hours or even days until every last drop of goodness was extracted and conveyed to young and old, healthy and ailing, farmer and epicurean alike, in the form of nourishing and delicious meat stocks and bone broths rich in gut-restoring gelatin and bone-strengthening minerals. Faced with the current epidemic of ‘leaky-gut syndrome’ science is once again returning to the wisdom of our great-grandmothers by promoting daily consumption of foods prepared and served the old-fashioned way via meat stock and bone broth-based soups, stews, sauces and gravies. Savvy entrepreneurs are cashing in by offering ‘pick-me-up’ to-go mugs of ‘bone-tea’ in place of the once ubiquitous latte, and chefs around the country are swapping the standard industry bullion cubes for long-simmered bone broths to reinforce their dishes with not only deep nutrition, but also the concentrated flavor chefs of old prized before the advent of chemical ‘flavor-enhancers’ like neurotoxic MSG.
It is an easily observed fact of nature that in the absence of refrigeration or industrial processing, most food will spoil sooner rather than later. Therefore it is a happy coincidence that the ancient technique of lacto-fermentation not only serves to preserve the harvest from one season to the next, but also provides the perfect environment for proliferation of the micro organisms science has recently identified as the gatekeepers of our human immunity. With little more than a Mason jar and a spoonful of salt, foods like kimchee, yogurt, miso and gravlax can be held in a state of suspended animation while simultaneously proliferating and conveying the very organisms responsible for inoculating our own microbiome with ‘probiotics’. The beauty of ingesting these organisms in the context of real food rather than a manufactured supplement, is that fermented and cultured foods are delivered to the digestive tract complete with the ‘prebiotics’ the micro-organisms require as nourishment and fuel for the metabolic alchemy they so cleverly achieve. This explanation of course conveys nothing of the delicious results conferred upon those adventuresome souls enterprising enough to engage in this elegant dance of man and his micro-biome.