food? Lately, I've been researching the homesteading trend, and applying what I can on our limited budget and space, and that leads into many other avenues. Each fascinating path of homesteading has its own learning curve, and that means gobs and gobs of information to digest. In particular, recently I have fixated on the whole reason for farming.... FOOD! Dear reader, surely, you have heard someone say...
[Duh, duh, duh!] I know. This seemingly simple question opens up a HUGE can of those proverbial worms, and boy are they squirmy! Dear reader let me tell ya that I have nearly gone crazy, loopy, bonkers, and yes, coo-coo for cocoa puffs, just trying to sort out all the information, misinformation, and disinformation out there littering the Inter/web concerning this very important topic! It's enough to give me ...well....information constipation!
I wonder if the cure for this situation is eating dirt. No? Because ya know, after reading all those quotes and factoids from doctors and nutritional 'experts' on such and such study, after study, all of which pretty much make you feel like everything from birth to death is BAD for you, it makes me want to go outside and scooping up a big ol' heaping hand full of the brown earthy stuff and..... No, eating dirt can't be the answer. The only cure for information constipation, I think, seems to be a healthy does of level headed common sense. Well, that and the stuff I learned in seventh grade science class regarding the digestive system. I might touch on that in other articles. I know...you can hardly wait, right?
At any rate, there was a time when those who came before us didn't sit around and discuss whether or not grains, meats, dairy, or fats were healthy , or unhealthy for them to eat. Most of our ancestors didn't know squat about vitamins, minerals, saturated fats, or fatty acids. To our forefathers, grains, wild game, domesticated meat, dairy, and fat were considered to be "the good stuff." But that isn't the case now, is it?
If you ask me, I think there are far too many experts who are throwing their two cents into the deep pool of dietary requirements, and muddying it considerably in the process. It makes me wonder what our ancestors would think of all this hog wash.
Experts, and bloggers have drawn lines in the shifting sands of our nutritional health by using their expert opinions with their own factoids and reasons for embracing it, or holding it at arms length. Which leaves most of us in a pile of confusion, or with a bad case of information constipation. After reading some stuff on this current fad, it seems odd to me that the Paleo diet people seem to think that big game animals don't have ANY FAT on them. While it is certainly true that wild animals are leaner than domesticated animals, yet, as I understand it, bear fat is something most hunters prize and crave. According to Alaskan subsistence homesteaders, moose fat is the bomb for baking. Has this changed in a few thousand years? I doubt it. Recently, I learned from another Alaskan homesteader that the ocular fatty globs found in the skulls of caribou are to them, like candy to a baby. My husband lived in Alaska as a boy, and these days you can't turn on the boobtube without at least seeing 10 shows having to do with our 49th state. Anyway, wouldn't it then stand to reason that ancient people would have rejoiced in the consumption of saturated fat, and certainly wouldn't have minded if they were able to get their stubby hands on more of it? I think so.
Then there is the insistence that gluten grains were not on the paleo people's menu, but seeds were. Huh? I thought grains were in fact SEEDS. Ever hear of SEED corn?
Wheat is indeed a type of grass that often propagates itself with, get this, SEEDS! This is nothing but a prime example of modern categorization techniques gone amuck to bring about confusion. And sorry folks, but according to the experts, besides gluten laden grains (a.k.a. seeds) and fat, apparently the neanderthals didn't fancy dairy, legumes, or bacon either. Wha??? They didn't have bacon?! Trust me dear reader, if they had the cranial savvy to invented bacon, then it would have been at the top of their menu! Isn't that right all of you undercover bacon eating vegans? And so, I think all of these new fad buzz word diets are just ridiculous. But without buzz words and 'experts' telling us what we should and shouldn't put in our mouths, then where would we be? Sane? Full? Healthy? Yeah, I think so.
Anyway, the premise of this diet is that unlike today's convenience driven, highly processed, mad-science tainted foods we consume, our ancestors ate what ever they could get their hairy knuckle dragging hands on. That is to say, in the areas where they lived. Admittedly, I have yet to hear of anyone having found a record of highly perishable food stuffs being traded thousands of miles away form their source before the advent of refrigeration. However, shipping seeds and plants over great distances is another matter. So now, I wonder ... how did our cold climate ancestors get all the nutrients they needed if they didn't have access to the benefits of warm climate produce, like oranges? Didn't we learn in school about the sailors that got scurvy from the lack of vitamin c in their meager diets? And come to think of it, how did our warm climate ancestors ever get their fat soluble vitamins and omegas without the northern peoples staple, cod liver oil?
Apparently you can get vitamin C from a lot of other sources than just oranges! If you want to look into why the Inuit people never got scurvy, even though they never had citrus, that'll blow your mind. As for the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, did you know that they all come from many other sources, not just from cod livers? My point is that in every nation and tribe, they seem to be able to eat a diet that works for them, and provides them with all the necessary nutrients they need to survive and thrive. This leads to the question as to what these kinds of fads do to local economies that depend on their local food resources.
With all the hype about being "environmentally responsible", the economic plundering of other cultures' local food stuffs, just to satisfy Americans ignorant vanity, is hardly what I would call "responsible." For example: chia seeds. This widely touted "super food" is a staple of many Central and South American cultures. Well, not anymore, thanks to those who are out to make a fast buck on the latest health craze. Now the local people who have relied on this staple for thousands of years either have to go without, or they have to pay premium prices. And because the demand is greater than the supply, guess what? Quality control is becoming a big problem. Now instead of getting premium chia seeds, many health nuts are complaining that they are getting a lot of sticks and other natural debris in their expensive bags of life giving seeds. Poor babies.
To meet American demand, others are now raising these seeds outside of its indigenous areas. So does this effect their nutritional content? What about the issue of chia becoming an invasive, or noxious weed in some places where they are introduced? Dear reader, do I need to say that the love of money drives these kinds of fads, and nothing more? Another thing I've also noticed is that when western methods of processing food are adopted, that is when a people's dietary troubles usually begin. Anyone remember beriberi being a problem in Asian nations before western milled white rice hit their markets? It can't be stressed enough, the love of money is truly the root of all evil.
Trying To Eat Like It's 1869, In 2014
- Grow my own heirloom fruits and veggies. Why heirloom varieties rather than modern varieties? (Hybridization was in practice before 1951, when GMO's hit the market.) Well, thanks to the white lab coat innovators at Monsanto, and other mega seed conglomerates, modern seeds have been genetically spliced not only with similar varieties for desirable traits such as high yield, disease resistance, and low water requirements, but they are also endowed with pesticides to make the grains and veggies resistant to pests. And if I wanted to save seeds to grow the next generation's produce from these modern seeds, they won't grow true to the variety I purchased. This method ensures sales for the seed companies, and my reliance on them for my food. ASSESSMENT: This option is doable for me, but on a small scale since I have a khaki-green thumb, and my husband's gardening super powers only seem to apply to flowers, and not necessarily veggies. We'll see.
- Buy organically grown heirloom veggies and fruit. If I don't want to go through all the trouble of growing my own heirloom veggies, and then saving next years seeds; I can rely on others to do it for me. This is not the cheapest way to go. Not wanting to miss out on their piece of the organic veggie pie, our government has found a way to certify that you are getting what you pay for. Which can be good. But because of the high cost of licencing, and the rigors of 100% organic compliance needed to get the coveted label, unscrupulous people who want to have "organic"status without paying the price and doing the work to achieve the "USDA certified 100% organic" label, have found creative ways around these impeding road blocks. They simply use buzz words like "all-natural", "farm fresh", or "made with organic ingredients". All of these types of labeling techniques imply "organic" goodness, but may not deliver the goods. This is really a dishonest practice only if the producer is using GMO's and trying to pass them off as non-GMO. You won't know for sure unless you ask the grower directly or do some investigative homework. ASSESSMENT: This option is doable, since I would be growing some of our own veggies, and this would help off set some of the costs.
- Raise my own animals. Choosing what animals to raise is very important, yet that is not the only thing to consider. Why? Because, for animal husbandry to pay off, you have to know:
- what medical expenses to keep the animal(s) healthy until slaughter will be
- the amount and kinds of food required to bring the animal(s) to the desired level of weight for slaughter.
- who is going to butcher the animal(s) when the time comes? How much will it
cost to pay someone else to do it?
- how much and what kind of storage you need for the butchered meat, and an ongoing plan for replenishment of stocks.
All of these are important things to consider, if you want to raise your own animals
for food. ASSESSMENT: Doable to a very limited scale. I have no desire to butcher
my own animals, and I could only raise chickens and rabbits for food on my land. I don't have enough room or money to raise larger animals.
4. Buy grass fed animal products. [$Cha-ching!$] This option is way out of my
reach! I simply can't afford $10/lb. for grass fed beef. Neither can I justify paying
upwards of $4/lb. for grass fed, or free range chicken. ASSESSMENT: Even if I used every scrap of the bones and skin, this route would quickly bankrupt my family. I
suppose I could splurge every once and a while, but they very idea of paying those
prices would dampen any potential joy in knowing it's healthy. If my men had to
between watching their favorite ESPN type shows on satellite t.v. ($80/month) or
eating grass fed beef, guess which one they would pick. Even then, that extra $80
wouldn't even come close to covering the $700 - $800/month meat bill that would
be required for us to be Paleo carnivores.