It’s a rather plain looking cookbook. No photos, plain line drawings and some vaguely cryptic colour sketches on the cover depicting various ethnicities and food production. The subtitle on the book Nourishing Traditions, however, does attract attention: The Cookbook That Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. And it attracted my attention.
This book was first quietly published in 1999 but has continued to find a place on bookstore shelves since then. It’s part cookbook, and part dietary information and advice that as the subtitle says, sometimes challenges many preconceived notions about how we now cook and eat our food. But the challenges are all about concepts that are kind of coming back in vogue now, concepts like eating more butter, whole raw milk, organ meats, bone broth and cod liver oil.
The main author is Sally Fallon, the president of the Weston A. Price Foundation. Sally traveled to Victoria last week from San Francisco to give some lectures at Pacific Rim College and was able to spend a few minutes with me before she got started. Weston A. Price was an American dentist, born 1870, died 1948, but is known less for his ability to filling cavities and more for his theories on the relationship between nutrition, dental health, and physical health. He formed his theories by studying so-called traditional peoples around the world.
His theories conclude that aspects of a modern Western Diet (particularly flour, sugar, and modern processed vegetable fats) cause nutritional deficiencies that are a cause of many dental issues and health problems. The dental issues he observed include the proper development of the facial structure (to avoid overcrowding of the teeth) in addition to dental caries. This work received mixed reviews, and continues to be cited today by proponents of many different theories, including controversial dentistry and nutritional theories. (from Wikipedia)
While he looked at different ethnicities of people in different countries, they may have been healthy but they wouldn’t have eaten all the same foods. So he started to look at some of the underlying principles of their diets to see if there were some commonalities. Based on that research Sally says he came up with three different diets, one was no refined or denatured foods, no modern foods, two, all the cultures he studied ate animal foods, there were no vegan cultures, and they placed a large emphasis on those foods, but the third diet, and most important in her mind, involves the principle of nutrient density. No matter where they were living, they were eating foods with far more nutrients than we get in our diets today. And that’s partly because of what they chose to eat and how they prepared the foods for themselves. For example, Sally says, they ate the organ meats and fats first, because they had much more food value. The prime ribs and steaks? She says they threw them out.
Eat the liver and throw away the steak is definitely a different take on what many nutritionists might recommend today. And other researchers who have looked into Price’s research say either he was misguided, or his recommendations have been misinterpreted over the years. The Nourishing Traditions cookbook is also big on advocating the consumption of raw milk, which has caused the Weston A Price Foundation to come under some fire from the US Food and Drug Administration, and of course here in Canada the debate about the benefits and the risks of consuming unpasteurized milk rages on. However, none of the controversy the Foundation raises daunts Sally Fallon in the least and she has just published another cookbook called Nourishing Broths, which will probably prove to be less controversial as who doesn’t love a good bowl of soup! But we’re not talking pure vegetable soup here, the broths are made from things like chicken and beef bones.
And so, in the interests of science and health, I made two soups for Jo-Ann Roberts to try today made from a broth recipe in the Nourishing Traditions cookbook. So I made the broth, and then my wife Ramona, who is a much better soupmaker than I am, did her magic and changed some of the broth into a chicken and coconut soup, and more of the broth in to the pork and shrimp wonton soup.