Traditional Food Practices

By Prev Info - January 08, 2023

Traditional Food Practices

One of the big movements in nutrition is the so called Paleo Diet. I say “so called” because we really don’t know what our Paleo ancestors ate, and even if we did, the plant and animal food sources they had really don’t exist today.

What I do like about the Paleo Diet movement, though, is that they are asking a lot of good questions and are forcing many of us to question what we are eating.

However, I will have to agree with Dr. Catherine Shanahan, co-author of Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food, that we don’t need to look 10,000 years back to know what to eat. Growing up in my family, we had fragments of the four pillars of Traditional Food that Dr. Shanahan mentions in her book. My father brought these fragments from his parents and their family farm, and they brought them from their homeland of Sweden. Dr. Shanahan refers to Traditional Food as cuisine – referring, of course, to French cuisine. French cuisine (or French cooking) has well preserved the Traditional Food practices of traditional France. Indeed, there is a movement in the Scandinavian countries to move back to their traditional ways of eating.

But, what exactly is Traditional Food? Well the shortest answer is: Traditional Food is pre-industrial food. The Industrial Revolution took place between 1760 and 1820-1840. During this time the countryside began to empty out and the cities began to bulge. The percent of labor on the farm went from approximately 90% to less than 70% during this time (Growing a Nation). Those that could not (or would not) find industrial jobs in the cities of Europe, emigrated to the USA. By the late 1800’s farm labor had dropped to 43% and today, less than 2%.

This great shift from a farming culture to a non-farming culture has had great benefits, but as many experts testify, this resulted in the greatest health challenge we have ever faced as a nation – the epidemic of non-communicable diseases. These include diabetes, vascular disease, heart failure, among many others, including most prominently, obesity. New words have been added to the dictionary, like diabesity the convergence of diabetes and obesity.

 Another new word is metabolic syndrome – which throws vascular and heart disease into the mix. Then there is an endless list of autoimmune diseases, and the growing prevalence of disorders associated with the autistic spectrum. Many prominent health care providers and nutritional experts testify that all of these are related to our industrialized diet.

So, again, what is Traditional Food? Generally speaking, Traditional Foods have been processed only enough to make their nutrients more bioavailable and are, for the most part, still reasonably resemble the plants and animals they are derived from. Of course, it is a bit more complicated than that. But in future posts we will greatly expand on this.

My wife and I  have spent the better part of a year intensely studying this topic and will be sharing what we have learned and continue to learn about Traditional Foods, Traditional Food Preparation and other Traditional Practices related to food and eating.





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