Sally Fallon Morell has written a new book that was released today, June 26: Nourishing Diets: How Paleo, Ancestral and Traditional Peoples Really Ate. I was delighted to receive an advanced copy to review and to prepare for discussions in our Nourished Book Club on Facebook. You are welcome to join use as we read the book as a comunity! Sally will answer our questions about the book once a week as we read through it.
How is this book different from Nourishing Traditions?
Nourishing Traditions is primarily a cookbook that includes introductory and contextual information about traditional diets. While Nourishing Diets includes many recipes that aren’t in Nourishing Traditions, I wouldn’t characterize it as a cookbook. The recipe section is about 40 pages long and includes recipes for grains, soups and stews, nutrient-dense snacks, organ meats, cooking with blood, seafood, vegetables, fermented condiments, and desserts I am excited to try. It comes after almost 200 pages of detailed information on ancestral diets. We learn about the nourishing diets of the Australian Aborigines: The Most Paleo of Them All, Native Americans: Guts and Grease, The Far North: Seal Oil and Whale Blubber, The South Seas: Abundance and Beauty, Africa: The Land of Fermented Foods, Asia: Variety and Monotony, Europe: The Foods We Like to Eat. In addition Sally writes about “True Blue Zones: How Long- Lived People Really Eat”, and “What to Eat? Translating the Wisdom of Our Ancestors into a Healthy Modern Diet”. Nourishing Diets does include highlights of Dr. Weston A. Price’s research, yet it expands far beyond it with a wide variety of references and geographic areas.
For those of us who have a keen interest in how people nourished themselves historically, I highly recommend this book as an incredibly well-researched companion to Nourishing Traditions. Having said that, I want to clarify that having the book Nourishing Traditions is not necessary to read and understand Nourishing Diets. My point is for all of us who already have Nourishing Traditions, this new book is different enough that I think it is a very worthwhile read. I found it to be very well-written and quite fascinating! Even though I have read a fair amount on this subject, I learned a lot more!
In writing my review, I’ve decided to share a paragraph or two from the book that offers you a glimpse of at least one aspect of the traditional diet of each group covered.
Aboriginals ate marsupials such as kangaroo, wallaby, the smaller pademelon, duck- billed platypus and bandicoot. Kangaroo rats, spiny anteaters, possums, koalas, bats, iguanas, lizards, frogs and snakes also provided nourishment. Bird life on the menu included emus, turkeys, swans, ducks, parrots, cockatoos, cassowaries and jabiru. Seafood including fish, shellfish, eels, turtles and shark. Sea mammals such as dugong and whale held an important place in the diets of seacoast tribes.
The traditional role for Aboriginal women was that of gatherer; they bore the responsibility for harvesting almost all plant foods, but also insects and shellfish. To the men went the duties of hunting large game, birds and fish.
The diets of the American Indians varied with the locality and climate but all were based on animal foods of every type and description. They pursued large game like buffalo, deer, wild sheep and goat, antelope, moose, elk, caribou, bear, peccary, llama and alpaca (in the Altiplano of Peru), monkeys and tapirs (in the Amazon rain forest), as well as smaller animals such as beaver, rabbit, squirrel, skunk, muskrat and raccoon. They ate reptiles including snakes, lizards, turtles and alligators; fish and shellfish; wild birds including ducks and geese; and wild dogs (but not wolves and coyotes, which were taboo). Those tribes living in coastal areas also ate sea mammals. They enjoyed insects including locust, crickets, worms, spiders and lice. Although the Native Americans did not domesticate large animals for milk, they did eat “the curdled milk taken from the stomachs of suckling fawns and buffalo calves,” and milk (along with blood) sucked from the slashed udders of lactating animals.
The Far North – Eskimos or Inuit
Two staples of the Eskimo diet have bewildered spokespersons for dietary correctness: seal oil and whale blubber. The basic process of making seal oil (or any marine oil) unifies all of Eskimo culture. Following the kill of seal, oogruk, walrus, narwhal, beluga or bowhead whale, the hunters remove the skin with the blubber from the carcass and separate the meat and organs. The meat and organs are variously dried, fermented, frozen or cooked; some of the dried meat is packed in oil. The blubber is separated from the skin during the drying process, cut into strips, and stored in a poke or barrel to render the oil slowly by autolysis— essentially fermenting the tissues so they release the oil without heat— which happens during the summer or when the poke is kept in a warm dwelling. Seal oil serves for cooking and as a dip or dressing; typically, pieces of fish— either raw or cooked— are dipped in seal oil before consumption, and many foods are preserved in seal oil.
The South Seas
The inclusion of seafood and pork notwithstanding, the South Pacific diet is relatively high in carbohydrates compared to other native diets, these carbs coming chiefly from roots, tubers and fruit— foods allowed on the paleo diet— rather than grains and legumes. In fact, in Fiji, Hawaii and Tahiti, the word “food” refers to starchy foods like taro, yam, sweet potato or breadfruit, while a “meal” is a starchy food plus an accompanying item such as meat, fish or coconut.
Coconut oil presents a dilemma to modern investigators because it is a highly saturated fat; yet South Sea Islanders consuming native diets are remarkably free of chronic disease, including heart disease. In one important study, published in 1981, researchers compared two populations of Polynesians living on atolls near the equator, those of Tokala and those of Pukapuka. Oily coconut and coconut oil provided the chief source of calories for both groups. Tokalauans obtained a much higher percentage of energy from coconut than the Pukapukans, 63 percent compared with 34 percent, so their intake of saturated fat was higher. The serum cholesterol levels were higher in Tokalauans than in Pukapukans, but vascular disease was uncommon in both populations. The researchers concluded, “There is no evidence of the high saturated fat intake having a harmful effect in these populations.”
In many areas of Africa, even today, milk and milk products provide a large portion of calories. Africa shares the practice of herding—cattle, sheep, goats, camels, water buffalo, horses, donkeys, yak and reindeer—with Europe and large areas of Asia; in all these locations, dependence on lactating herds confers an advantage in terms of health and food security. In Africa, according to Price, “It was most interesting to observe that in every instance these cattle people dominated the surrounding tribes. They were characterized by superb physical development, great bravery and a mental acumen that made it possible for them to dominate because of their superior intelligence.”
Another passage in this section: “What binds the long history and diverse people of the Sudan is the consumption of fermented foods—over eighty fermented foods nourish the inhabitants of this fascinating African microcosm. In fact, almost all foods in the traditional tribal diets are eaten in fermented form. In addition to meat, blood, grains and milk, fermented ingredients include organ meats, intestines, fat, bones, hooves, hides, bile juice, cow urine, sh, frogs, caterpillars, locusts and honey. Fermented plant foods include grapes and dates (for wine), all cereal grains, tubers, legume press cakes and wild leaves.”
Soy foods are widely used in China as an adjunct to—not a replacement for—animal foods. The Chinese have perfected numerous ways of fermenting soy in order to neutralize phytic acid (which blocks absorption of minerals like zinc and calcium), enzyme inhibitors (which disrupt digestion), hemagglutinin (a clot-promoting substance that causes red blood cells to clump together), and goitrogens (which inhibit thyroid function). Soy contains high levels of phytoestrogens, which can cause endocrine disruption if eaten in more than small amounts—and these estrogenlike compounds remain even a er a long period of fermentation. For this reason, soy provides only a limited number of calories in Asian cuisines. Soy consumption in China in the 1930s was estimated at about 10 grams per day (two teaspoons) or 1.5 percent of total calories, compared to 65 percent of calories from pork (meat and fat). Soy consumption is likely higher today due to the incursion of Western processed foods, most of which contain soy in the form of soy oil or soy protein.
Italians are masters at preparing every kind of meat—from sweetbreads to knuckle- bones. Lean meat gets a cream sauce or stuffing of ham and ricotta cheese. Fish and shell fish of every variety appear in seafood platters, fish soups and fish stews. The diet dictocrats, flush with the success of their food pyramid, seem to have missed the ecstatic experience of calamari, dipped in batter, deep-fried and served heaped on platters—a healthy snack as long as traditional fats, not partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, are used in frying. In Naples, where [Ansel] Keys had heard that heart disease was rare, snacks of fresh seafood are as popular as pizzas and small containers of oysters can be eaten on the run. Italians love their vegetables for sure, and that’s because they know how to make them taste good. They know that salads taste better with a good dressing of aged vinegar and olive oil; and cooked vegetables blossom when anointed with butter, lard or cream. Italians don’t generally start the day with eggs but they make up for it later on. Eggs are used in rich sauces and custards, like zabaglione. Soups are often served with a poached egg.
If you’d like some more sneak peaks of the book, please see a preview of Nourishing Diets Chapter 8 True Blue Zones and Nourishing Diets Chapter 9 “What to Eat”. I found it interesting to read that “all traditional cultures in the temperate regions of the world consumed grains—even the “Stone Age” Australian Aborigines. And archeological research has found evidence of grain consumption in Paleolithic campfires. Starch grains found on grinding stones dating back thirty thousand years have shown up in Paleolithic sites in Italy, Russia and the Czech Republic.”
I wanted to include a recipe at the end of this review, and just like it is often customary at the end of a special occasion meal, I am finishing with dessert:
1 cup arrowroot powder, plus more for dusting
1½ cups chestnut flour [can be made by grinding chestnuts into flour]
½ cup maple sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla powder
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, sliced, at room temperature
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease a baking sheet with a little butter and dust it with arrowroot powder. In a food processor, combine the chestnut our, arrowroot powder, maple sugar, salt and vanilla powder. Pulse until well combined. Add the butter slices and process until well blended.
Shape the dough into 1-inch balls and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Flatten each cookie with a fork. Bake for about 25 minutes until lightly browned. Let cool on the pan on a wire rack before removing from the pan.
I learned in an article published by NPR that chestnuts were “Once a staple of American life, towering chestnut canopies filled American forests. Durable “cradle to coffin” chestnut timber built our communities, and our cuisine (particularly that of the Cherokee Indians, who revered this “bread tree”) relied on the starchy nutmeat. But by the mid-20th century, a fungal blight from Asia obliterated 4 billion of the indigenous East Coast trees. The American chestnut practically disappeared overnight.”
The publisher, the Hachette Book Group, has offered the Nourishing Our Children community 5 paper books to give away! To enter, please answer the following question in at least 5 sentences and include “Nourishing Diets” in your comment at the very end of this blog post:
Why would you like a copy of Nourishing Diets?
One book per household will be sent to a United States postal address. Please only enter once in order to be randomly chosen. The last day to enter is July 2, 2018 at 6:00 pm Pacific. See the official rules for this giveaway.
Kelly Zakariasen, Stacy Dexter, Suzanne Stapler, Heather Self, and Molly’s qualifying comments were randomly chosen! Congratulations! You’ll be notified via an email which will request your address.