Everyone has an idea of what “healthy” food is. Vegans, vegetarians, Paleo dieters, Atkins-for-lifers. You. Me. For most of us, this food worldview takes shape unconsciously as we go about our lives absorbing the not-so subtle messages of food marketers.
Most of us grew up thinking fat was evil. Food manufacturers paraded a host of low-fat options in front of consumers. Margarine was supposed to be “healthier” than butter; skim milk was supposed to be better than whole milk. People picked up low-fat versions of their favorite junk foods and felt wise and healthy. Saturated fats were the devil incarnate. Avoid red meat! Chicken is king! Cholesterol is bad; avoid eggs. But as a nation, we still grew more obese and sickly.
When the Atkins diet became the rage, breadmakers went out of business all across the country. Low-carb became our new mantra. Even if we didn’t jump on board the Atkins bandwagon, we still probably hold some residual low-carb prejudices.
The average person’s food worldview is a wild and often contradictory mix of popular nutritional mumbo-jumbo. We walk through the supermarket and are inundated with marketing messages left and right — all of which make some sort of health claims. We pick up on these hints, add them to our conflicted understanding of what is and is not good for us, and wait for the next nutritional expert to tell us how to eat.
But what we eat shouldn’t be determined by diet dictocrats. It should be determined by history, culture, and traditional cuisines.
We have lived for thousands of years on this planet. Every native community has a highly developed food culture — what food to eat when, how it should be prepared and eaten, what it should be eaten with, and what foods are taboo and should be avoided.
It’s my belief that this collective wisdom not only represents how our bodies have adapted to getting the most nutritional content out of our food through centuries of scarcity and abundance, but that these traditional diets can be studied — ought to be studied — so that we can know how to eat. So that we can know how to live.
Traditional diets have been proven to prevent and even sometimes reverse the course of the diseases unique to Western civilization — diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and cancer.
So what can we learn from the traditional food cultures of the world? That’s what these pages are meant to teach you. The articles below are a good place to start: