Please, before you continue, sing the above title like the kids in the Bill Cosby Jello commercials: “J-e-l-l-o!”
Update: A reader reminded me to give some love to Sally Fallon Morell’s traditional foods cookbook, Nourishing Traditions. It’s a whole new world of offal! (Not to be confused with “awful!”)
I’m on an “ancestral wisdom” kick. You may be aware that I’m convinced that the intersection of Paleo and Weston A. Price is where magic happens.
It’s the place in the universe from which magicians get the power to perform their tricks illusions.
It’s the point when the Millenium Falcon jumps to hyperspace (c’mon, don’t be too good for Star Wars).
It’s where the individual Powers of each Planeteer combine to become…Captain Paleo Planet.
I am fascinated by wisdom of the healthy indigenous peoples studied by Dr. Weston A. Price. These people passed down traditions of nourishment that kept them disease-free, healthy and fertile for generations before the “foods of commerce” ever marred their perfect constitutions. It just so happens that most of these traditions are Paleo-approved. However…
I believe that there is a tendency within the “Paleo” community to simply delete typical “neolithic” foods from the diet (bread, processed junk, soybean oil) while still sticking to the foods that lie within our individual paradigms. More meats – still mostly muscle meats; more veggies – maybe a few new ones; and more fats – probably more of what we already liked. We totally delete all modern dairy (with good reason – there’s a huge difference between pasteurized, homogenized, skimmified, bastardized grocery store milk and what actually comes from a cow).
But the traditional cultures studied by Weston A. Price used organ meats, marrow, bone broths, raw dairy, and sometimes even animal blood (not advocating that, don’t worry…but interesting nonetheless) to stay unbelievably hearty and robust. From my self-experimentation, I believe that even a good Paleo-style diet can be deficient in many of the nutrients provided by these foods. How many of us eat liver? Fermented and cultured foods? How many of us are getting sufficient pre-formed Vitamin A or Vitamin K2?
Some nutrients are still missing from even the best, standard Paleo-style diet. In order to be truly healthful and nourishing – and not simply a better-than-nothing ”intervention diet” (Vegan Oprah-ism, Atkins, Point Counting) it’s important for a Paleo-style diet to incorporate the lessons of ancestral wisdom.
Paleo may be one of the best, but it could always be even better.
An example: Bone broths and stocks (used interchangeably here – I’m not sophisticated enough to discern between the two). I have often used Pacific Naturals veggie broth. But mineral-rich, nutrient-dense homemade bone broth is incredibly soothing, immune-system-strengthening, skin-brightening and gut-healing. (THIS is why homemade chicken soup is great when you’re sick!)
Broths are filled with minerals, nutrients and NATURAL gut-healing, skin-strengthening, cellulite-busting gelatin. Remember as a kid hearing that they make Jello from horse hooves? Well, it’s (kind of slightly not really) true. Gelatin IS an animal product, derived from the rich stores within different animal “parts,” especially the feet.
BEWARE: possibly disturbing photo follows. If you don’t REALLY accept where your food comes from, you may not be ready for this photo.
I made a gelatin-rich broth pig’s feet recently. I know it’s gelatin-rich because, when it’s refrigerated, it’s clearly bordering on Jello Jigglers territory:
If you’re wanting to mak a gelatin-rich broth (and you absolutely should – please browse the links I give below for more reasons why) it’s ideal to find a local, pasture-based source of pig, calf or chicken feet. The feet are richest in collagen and gelatin and will make the most gelatin-rich broth.
I took the pig’s feet I got from Birchwood Farm & Dairy, scrubbed them, covered them with cool filtered water, added a dash of vinegar, brought the water to a boil, then simmered for about 3 hours before skimming and cooling. I find that a shorter simmer makes that nice, jiggly broth, but even if your broth doesn’t gel, you’re still getting the “good stuff.” It’s just broken down a little further.
You will often encounter gelatin-rich broths made from chicken feet in Asian markets. Again, there is a reason these foods are so cherished in traditional cuisine.
I also made long-simmered bone broth separately out of some knuckle, marrow, and meaty bones. Long-simmered broths are particularly rich sources of minerals like those listed here. I roasted the bones until browned, placed them in a pot covered with cool filtered water, added apple cider vinegar (just a dash), onion, carrot and celery, and simmered for almost 36 hours. I cooled the broth and removed the layer of fat that rose to the top.
The result was simply lovely and a perfect base for french onion soup. Anything I didn’t use in the first week, I froze. (Not in glass. Do NOT freeze this stuff in glass!)
And because I’m a total Kook ball, I replaced my morning coffee with a cup of hot broth over the last 10 days. And I’m totally convinced. I’ve slept well, my skin is bright, my digestion excellent, and I just feel good about it. Those who incorporate fasting may be interested in the protein-sparing characteristics of sipping broth during the process.
Broth making will become a Sunday ritual around here. I also love the idea of wasting nothing. Any bones, any little pieces of meat or cartilage still left behind after eating the “politically correct” parts, will be put to use in a nourishing broth. That’s part of what I love about this way of life!
I will say that traditional foods do take some getting-used-to. The taste of liver is not pleasant at first (or perhaps that’s just mental?) and even the broth didn’t taste quite like I expected when I first added it to my diet.
A quote from Catherine Czapp from Conserving the Digestive Fire helps me understand the total perversion of my taste buds after years of assaulting them with junk:
Unless you were born into a family in which traditional foodways were the norm, you may not have had the opportunity to learn early in life some of the healthy habits which naturally result in good digestion and vibrant health. This first of all includes having an early-learned sense of taste for authentic foods that can be your guiding star all your life amid the morass of sinister “foodlike” concoctions with which modern commerce floods our markets.
Without that early experience of authentic taste linked pleasurably to family mealtime rituals, one can fall prey to ersatz flavors and textures in contrivances that only bear the remotest resemblance to genuine food, if at all. This means, for example, that the mention of Pringles potato chips will induce salivation in some people, whereas the word “liverwurst” might bring forth a grimace, and “sweetbreads” utter incomprehension. Salivation is, after all, one of the first steps necessary for digestion when we sit down to a meal, and is of course linked to our sense of “this is good to eat.”
It’s so true that our dislike for these traditional foods is conditioned. One of my biggest peeves is the tradition of “baby’s first birthday cake” and the obligatory photo of a child with sugary, processed-flour-filled cake all over face and high chair. Does the kid even know what s/he’s missing? Why not “baby’s first birthday liverwurst?” Why not?
Is it that early start with sweets that makes them so hard to resist later in life?
That said, I’ve heard stories of husbands and friends and children raised on “traditional foods” who love the taste of liver, chicken feet and fish oil; and moms who give their toddlers bottles of homemade broth instead of apple juice. Why not?