Ellen DeGeneres, an avid vegan celebrity, raised a kerfuffle the other week by mentioning on her show that she eats her neighbor’s chicken’s eggs. The same day I was alerted to the Ellen egg news I was shopping at Whole Foods and noticed a new magazine on the racks titled PALEO, and nearby a loaf of something called “Paleo Bread” that had a pretty quirky list of ingredients. Both of these restrictive diets, veganism and the paleolithic diet, have benefits but if you intersect the two – well I think only lettuce, some fruit and nuts would make the list. Fascinating that these two dietary regimes are in vogue at the same time.
I thought it might be a good time to remind our Cookus Viewers that we WELCOME ALL to our site. I know that we would be much more wildly popular if we would just set up camp in one extreme diet or the other. But the truth is we embrace ALL fresh-from-nature whole foods and aim to supply a variety of recipes that fit those simple parameters.
A wise person once told me that “acceptance” of people who hold an entirely different point of view is fairly advanced. First we must begin with tolerance. Of course this doesn’t just apply to diet and food. Whatever your food beliefs, loves, or restrictions, we hope that you’ll tolerate our open-minded approach to eating. One that values Ellen’s pasture-raised egg as much as a raspberry from the garden, one that sees a good belly laugh as health-giving as organic kale.
What if all the nutri-brains were right about what YOU SHOULD BE EATING (and not eating)? What would end up in your pantry?
In the past year we have had several distinguished food and nutrition experts come to Bastyr and speak. One was T. Colin Campbell who wrote The China Study. The findings? “People who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease … People who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest and tended to avoid chronic disease. These results could not be ignored,” said Dr. Campbell. Advocates of a vegan or vegetarian diet such as the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine or Skinny Bitches gained more back-up for their already strong arguments.
Others preach lowering animal food consumption but are concerned from an agricultural, political or ecological point of view. Mark Bittman is one and spelled out why in his Ted Talk. Michael Pollan (who also made an appearance at Bastyr) succinctly speaks of eating real food, not too much, mostly plants. Softer and gentler than Mr. Campbell but the leaning is clear.
But whoosh there is a whole other wave of nutri-folks talking about our need for high-quality fat and protein. Don’t shy away from a big steak and blue cheese, just make sure the steer is locally raised and grass-fed. Both Nina Planck and Sally Fallon have enlightened readers of the misunderstanding around fat and cholesterol. Sally spoke last weekend at Bastyr, Nina came in 2008. I know many of our readers are devotees of Ms. Fallon and her traditional food philosophies which are derived from Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Dr. Weston Price. Organ meats, raw milk, fermented foods and plenty of coconut oil and butter are thumbs up in this world and they have the research to back up what they preach. The newer (older?) Paleo Diet is somewhat related, warning against grain-eating and advocating consumption of ample animal food. The Paleo experts boast oodles of research to support its recommendations.
Uh oh. Now what? What do we eat if both camps are right. I mentioned this eaters dilemma to one of my students and said that I guessed that lettuce was the only safe choice. She had attended Sally’s lecture and reported that Ms. Fallon’s closing comment was that salads would be the genocide of America because of all that awful salad dressing. Touche.
What’s left? What can we conscientiously eat for dinner? And that’s where Cookus Interruptus walks in with a smile. We like everybody. We’ve parked our ship in the “no preach” zone. We’ve pulled the best threads of common sense from all of the philosophies and woven them into a loose pattern. We welcome you if you are vegan – we offer plenty of vegan, even more vegetarian recipes. Grains and beans rock. Gluten-free? – come on in. About 75% of our recipes are wheat-free. Traditional-diet lovers – we love you too. Though we tend to keep our animal protein in small portions (family budget you know), we embrace grass-fed, pastured, humanely-raised and forgo participating in CAFO food. Fermentation nation? Bring it. Sauerkraut and yogurt are awesome. All tribes, all camps, all philosophies – we’ve got food for you. Real food that tastes good. We’re world cup. The best of each nation ready for your knife, fork, spoon, chopstick or paw.
Many naturopaths, as well as allopathic doctors, nutritionists and trainers are recommending that people stop eating grains. The Paleo-Diet has become quite popular as a result. Proponents cite that our hunter-gatherer ancestors consumed anywhere from 35-65% of their diet from animal food. People on the planet eating this type of diet were living 10,000-20,000 years ago and constantly physically active. No driving to Walmart to pick up a steak. That pound of beef represented hundreds, maybe thousands of calories worth of labor.
Another aspect of human life 10,000- 20,000 years ago was that people were not living in communities and working together to have enough food to sustain themselves. Growing and harvesting grains marked the rise of civilization; the transition from “every man for himself” to forming camps or towns where each person contributed a share of the work.
Perhaps because eating grains symbolized human cooperativeness, consuming this food became a part of almost all religious rituals. Challah the traditional Jewish bread eaten on Shabbat and Jewish holidays, Matzah for Passover, the Eucahrist representing the body of Christ in Catholic and other Christian religions, The Royal Ploughing Ceremony practiced in Thailand marking the beginning of the rice planting season – these rituals center around eating grain. Corn as staple and symbol played a major role in all aspects of Maya life. It made an appearance in everything from religion to mythology. Annaprasanam or choroonu, the first rice giving ceremony of a child is an important religious ceremony that is mandatory for all the children born in Hindu families.
Had our ancestors just lost their minds by revering grains? Were they suffering from grain-caused illnesses and didn’t realize it? Were the grains just so much better thousands of years ago that they were more nutritious, fresher and less problem-causing as some argue?
Blaming grains for all our current ills, everything from irritable bowel syndrome to diabetes to obesity, is short-sighted and trendy. Not only does admonishing grains negate the impact of the beginning of civilized living, this advice throws the baby out with the bathwater. Certainly white flour bagels, breads, cookies, cakes and massed-produced dry cereals made in a factory have nothing to contribute toward human vitality, but why dump these into the same league with freshly-cooked whole grains? They’re not the same. They’re not. The former relies on additives and sugar for flavor. Heavily processed baked goods are dead flour while a bowl just-simmered basmati brown rice is aromatic, tasty, lively, nutritious and whole.
Maybe these concepts aren’t as sexy as “Lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks!” but they rock my common sense boat. How about you?