Sally Fallon's book, Nourishing Traditions is about developing food cultures that allow generations to thrive with the foods they had available in their respective environments. It challenges us to think about the foods and food preparation of our ancestors and how we may once again thrive as they had.
Weston A. Price’s revolutionary discoveries took him around the world and to a large variety of different ethnic groups who were still eating the foods and preparing the foods the way their ancestors had been. They were untouched by modern, processed and foreign foods. Groups who were eating such authentic diets, handed down for generations, demonstrated uncompromised health and happiness. Once inauthentic foods were introduced, health started to fail, more so with every succeeding generation removed from its original foods.
The similarities of all of the groups were that they firstly took great care to eat enough valuable fats, mostly from animals. Such fats were often raw in form of butter, yogurt, cheeses and meats and fish. The fats were so valuable because they came from pastured and wild animals and fish, which were able to provide valuable nutrients, specifically K2, which Price called “Activator X”. Althought seasonal fasts were part of most cultures, Dr. Price found no successful vegan culture anywhere.
A second commonality was that a percentage of the foods, specifically dairy, were raw, therefore not denatured. None of the food was pasteurized. Raw spring butter was considered a sacred food in Swiss mountain cultures. It is filled with nutrients, dark yellow in appearance, and was often given to young women before conception.
A third commonality was that all cultures had sprouted/lacto-fermented foods. It was not only an available method of conservation; it made foods, especially grains, more digestible, nutritious and delicious. People fermented everything from meats to grains, legumes, fish, vegetables and sauces/condiments. Probiotic cultured strengthened digestion and the immune system.
Lastly, every culture experienced periods of cleansing, usually at the end of winter/beginning of spring, where diets were less fat/protein rich and focused on spring greens.
The book might appear to have contradictions, such as the use of gluten and dairy, but Sally Fallon helps us understand how today’s inferior grain/dairy production and grain/dairy preparation have altered the way our bodies react to them. Therapeutic diets, however, often avoid these common allergens today, sometimes reintroducing such foods later on.
I have always been interested in how we find our own ethnic food connections, beyond what our grandmothers cooked. I was fortunate to learn cooking from my Hungarian grandmother, but she used much more white flour and sugar than her ancestors had. I believe, if we crave certain foods as a child, there may be a DNA connection. I craved fish as a child and loved bone marrow. My mother rarely cooked fish, but my father sometimes opened a can of herring or shrimp and I would not miss that treat. My parents were always surprised when I loved these foods that were not part of my ancestry. However, when moving to Japan in my late 20s, I felt I was finally connected to the foods I loved most: raw fish, fermented vegetables and seaweed. I subsequently was the healthiest I had ever been! It’s sort of perplexing since I am mostly German with a sprinkling of Hungarian. A DNA test revealed that my mother’s ancestors were Scandinavian. So, that solves my cravings for fish…but my success with the Japanese diet is still somewhat of a puzzle. I now attribute its high iodine content to my healing response as I was suffering from thyroid imbalanced. A traditional Japanese diet offers 600% more iodine than western diets!