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My Top 10 Traditional Foods

Five years ago (or thereabouts), during one of my normal trawls through the library’s cookbook section, I came across a book called “Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats.” How could I resist a title like that?

Nourishing Traditions

Nourishing Traditions

I took it home, expecting to find a compilation of vegetarian, lowfat recipes, and instead found not just a cookbook, but a reference manual. I don’t mean reference manual as in The Joy of Cooking; this is a reference manual that debunks every food myth you’ve ever come across, and advocates eating foods prepared in the traditional way.

Synopsis from newtrendspublishing.com:

This well-researched, thought-provoking guide to traditional foods contains a startling message: Animal fats and cholesterol are not villains but vital factors in the diet, necessary for normal growth, proper funciton of the brain and nervous system, protection from disease and optimum energy levels. Sally Fallon dispels the myths of the current low-fat fad in this practical, entertaining guide to a can-do diet that is both nutritious and delicious.

Topics include the health benefits of traditional fats and oils (including butter and coconut oil); dangers of vegetarianism; problems with modern soy foods; health benefits of sauces and gravies; proper preparation of whole grain products; pros and cons of milk consumption; easy-to-prepare enzyme enriched condiments and beverages; and appropriate diets for babies and children.

Sally Fallon clearly makes her case for traditional foods such as raw milk, fermented grains and vegetables, saturated fats (coconut oil in particular), and cultured dairy products that I was an instant convert. More on that later.

This subject is too broad to cover in one post, so today I’ll limit discussion to my Top 10 Traditional Foods. When I say my Top 10, I mean the traditional foods that I have successfully incorporated into our diet without too much griping from the peanut gallery 🙂

  1. Coconut Oil
  2. Kefir
  3. Home-raised eggs
  4. Whole milk yogurt
  5. Whey
  6. Flax oil
  7. Wild Salmon
  8. Sprouted vegetables (including sprouted grain bread)
  9. Kombucha
  10. Fermented vegetables: sauerkraut and kimchi

Each of these deserves it’s own post, really, so let’s start with the first item on the list: coconut oil.

In Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon starts her introduction talking about fats, and devotes 16 pages to the subject; it is the one section of the book that truly requires a complete mindset. If you can wrap your brain around her message, (low-fat=bad, right fat=good) then you’ve become an instant convert. That’s what happened to me!

She methodically explains the history of the subject–faulty research in the 1950’s, agribusiness concerns; then the chemistry of fats, and why we should eat more, not less, is explained. Here’s an excerpt, from page 20:

In summary, our choice of fats and oils is one of extreme importance. Most people especially infants and growing children, benefit from more fat in the diet rather than less. But the fats we ear must be chosen with care. Avoid all processed foods containing newfangled hydrogenated fats and polyunsaturated oils. Instead, use traditional vegetable oils like extra virgin olive oil and small amounts of unrefined flax seed oil. Acquaint yourself with the merits of coconut oil for baking and with animals fats for occasional frying. Eat egg yolks and other animal fats with the proetins to which they are attached. And, finally, use as much good quality butter as you like, with the assurance that it is a wholesome–indeed, an essential–food for you and your whole family.

Organic butter, extra virgin olive oil, and expeller-expressed flax oil in opaque containers are available in health food stores and gourmet markets. Edible coconut oil can be found in Indian and Caribbean markets.

Coconut oil was the easiest to incorporate into our diet. Funnily enough: my husband is not much into health food or exercise (ok, he’s a lazy retired guy). So I decided to use coconut oil in our stir-fry, and not tell him; if I had, he would have protested forever. Instead, I went ahead with it, and sure enough, he poked his head in and asked “What smells so good?” I fed him and the kids coconut oil for months before I told him what I’d done. I hated to be sneaky like that, but hey, it worked, so I’m happy.

So why do I like coconut oil? It smells great, for one thing. If you don’t like that smell, no worries: there are many different grades/refined states from which to choose. I prefer the organic, un-refined coconut oil; I find that it is very aromatic during the cooking process, but the flavor doesn’t overwhelm in the finished dish. It has a high smoke point, so you don’t have to worry about scorching your cookware; it is stable and can be kept for months without becoming rancid; it contains lauric acid, a fatty acid with strong antifungal and antimicrobial properties, and it’s the only naturally saturated fat besides butter available locally, LOL. I’d like to try palm oil but haven’t worked up the courage.

Try cooking with coconut oil. I think you’ll be presently surprised, as I was.

So, next up: Kefir! It’s an amazing, probiotic cultured milk beverage; think yogurt, but different. More to come.

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Our new favorite vegetable

I am married to a serious “meat and potatoes” man. His meal is incomplete if it doesn’t include protein and he will let me know about the error of my ways. I’ve stopped trying to sneak vegetarian meals to him (Why fight a losing battle, right?), and instead focus on finding vegetables that he will eat and creative ways to serve his favorites.

A bunch of broccoli rabe

A bunch of broccoli rabe

Broccoli rabe (aka rapini, broccolini, or raab) is one veg that I’ve been dying to try for quite some time, lover of all things pasta that I am. It’s a relative of broccoli and turnips; it looks like a cross between broccoli and mustard greens. Since hubby will not eat broccoli, I was hesitant to try it, but he does like greens, so I thought it was worth a shot. Our bunch had edible flowers on it, as well, which was great for the kids–they needed no enticement.

Broccoli rabe has a very strong flavor, which tastes as you might expect: like broccoli. Only more pungent. Some people think it has a bitter taste, but I didn’t think so. Pungent? Yes. Bitter? No. It goes well with pasta or beans; I sauteed mine with garlic (a lot of garlic), red pepper flakes, and onion in olive oil before adding in some rotini and chicken stock. And for the meat lover? Sliced italian sausage. The dish came together beautifully; the girls really enjoyed it and cleaned their plates.

One note, however: when searching for recipe ideas, I found that most called for a blanching step prior to sauteeing the rabe. I took a chance and threw the raw rabe right into hot oil. My thought was that the stock would do the job the blanching would, and it would add another depth of flavor as well. Here’s the finished dish:

Broccoli rabe with italian sausage and rotini

Broccoli rabe with italian sausage and rotini

I’m a huge fan of chef Lidia Matticchio Bastianich. If you’re not familiar with her cookbooks or her PBS show, read about her here. Her cooking style is all about quality and simplicity, and it was with this in mind that I purchased not just the rabe but also the most expensive pasta ever…DeCecco. I about peed my pants when I saw the price, but it was worth it. Best. Pasta. Ever. If it’s carried by your local grocery store, try it. It’s worth it.