I have never been particularly trendy, or guru-worshiping. It goes without saying then that I’ve never been one to follow a fad, except architectural ones. Perhaps this is my inner (eek!) conservatism speaking, but doing something because a bunch of other people are doing it generally trips my bullsh*t-o-meter. I’m also not particularly preachy or prone to the picking of nits.
All the above? I mean In person: the blog is something else entirely! So, here, let me spew forth on the idea that you (you!) need to eat a lot more live foods! Be trendy, and go raw, and go cultured!
Nothing like the funky ferment of freshly decanted kimchi out of the pickle crock first thing in the morning! Five days in the crock, then into the fridge for the CSA folks.
Ahem. For the last twenty years or so, I have been stuck in the loop of research/practice/direct observation of two things: the growing of food and the making of food.
I have always believed in compost. It makes sense that the addition of live microflora and fungi and microbes into your soil will nourish the soil that in turn nourishes the plants that nourish you. And in my studies of peasant cuisine, there is one constant that can be found in societies as geographically and culturally different as the Laplands are from Micronesia, the desert Southwest from the Czech republic, and that is that all peoples nourish themselves with cultured, live foods, daily, and usually with most meals.
American people? Not so much. Our grocery stores guarantee that everything we buy is either dead or has never been living. And the few “live” foods they do sell are suspect (e. coli in salads, sprouts; salmonella in eggs; pesticides on apples) and even the “active culture” yogurt is made from very dead milk that’s been inoculated, after the fact. Our American fear of what we cannot see is so extreme, it’s like we’re more successful at the war on microbes than the war on terror…witness the proliferation of hand sanitizers and antimicrobial everything if you think I exaggerate. Likewise, the “convenience” aspect of all food preparation has generated whole industries to ensure that the bother of, say, cutting up a head of broccoli (that most time-consuming of tasks) need not be done, as you can easily pick up a package of microwave-ready florets. And then the experts wonder why we won’t eat our vegetables, and why we’re so fat.
Why do I natter on so about “live” foods? I guess it doesn’t take a genius to see that what we eat has radically shifted lo these last 75 years, and one of the first things to go has been cultured or microbially-active food. Whole, unadulterated, unprocessed foods went next. Out with the milkman, in with the ultrapasteurized milk carton that can sit on your pantry shelf forever. In with the boxes and cans of food or microwave-ready comestibles, out with the idea that one needs to actually MAKE dinner, or breakfast, or even lunch (as you can now find in your grocer’s freezer section crust-less peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for your kid). And don’t get me started on getting food through your car window, okay?
Sprouting wheat berries for bread
Me? I like life in my food. I have a lifelong aversion to leftovers and old food, so…this seems a contradictory stance. Bear with me though. Our recent food tradition has been such that, if we cook at all, we cook to death just about everything (hey, our milk is even cooked) and eschew that which is uncooked, mainly to worship the god of Convenience. This is a new development, one in which our bodies (it is my belief) have not evolved to completely tolerate. I will admit that I too cook nearly everything: even my bread is well-baked even if its starter was alive. But I do try, in every meal, to feed my family something un-dead.
Un-dead! Zombie food, really? Not really. It’s more like this: breakfast is sourdough toast with homemade raw-milk cheese (camembert, chevre, etc.) topped with fruit jam, or maybe a bowl of cultured oatmeal. Lunch might mean a small bowl of kimchi, a handful of almonds, and a bowl of yogurt with some fruit and local raw honey. After-school snack is a glass of chilled kombucha tea with a few homemade herbed crackers, or some cubes of feta, or a fruit/kefir smoothie. Dinner includes cooked foods (mostly vegetables) paired with a huge salad topped with buttermilk dressing and walnuts, dessert is a couple raw apples. Nothing terribly radical here…except that it’s me and not the food industry doing the making.
Listen. I have seen what the introduction of compost did to the nearly-dead soil on my farm. I can only wonder about the pleasing interaction between fungal hyphae and the root nodules of my own broccoli…what this unseen magic does for the plant. Likewise, one’s own gut flora is a near imponderable to me! Who knows how many unseen things I am host to, those little untold billions that sustain this corpus? I believe it can’t hurt to have them nourished by live foods to help them do their job. I expect to be around for a long time…and can only believe that feeding every little bit of me, well, will help me live long and happily. And: it’s a tasty way to be.
You can, too. Just think about what it is you eat, and why.