In the last couple of years, my food philosophy has changed dramatically. I’ve always been healthy and active and concerned about eating healthy, but never before have I questioned conventional food philosophies like I do now. Growing up, I was fortunate enough to eat fresh fruit and vegetables from my family’s orchards and gardens, and we had easy access to beef and pork that we raised ourselves. We’ve had laying hens for years and I’ve learned to taste the difference between farm-fresh and store-bought omeletts.
Like any athletic, active kid, I could eat anything and feel invincible — I won’t tell you how often I used to eat fried chicken strips dipped in nacho cheese sauce before a volleyball game — but it wasn’t until I was confronted with making my own food choices in college that I started to research nutrition and ethics and to really think about where my food was coming from. Usually, it was the campus dining hall, which was fine but not ideal. As I began to live on my own, I experimented with weird vegan/vegetarian food substitutes, with kind of strange diets, and to feel uncertain about all of it.
After reading Sally Fallon and Mary Enig’s Nourishing Traditions cookbook, which is more like a story fully of scientific research and encouraging, traditional food wisdom tidbits, my food philosophy changed and finally, I felt settled. This was not a diet, full of restrictions or fake-food substitutions, but a way of life that centered around wholesome, nourishing, real foods. It was in line with the way my grandparents and great-grandparents used to, and still do, in most cases, eat. This Nourishing Traditions philosophy eschewed processed foods and industrial products for solid, scientifically based health reasons, not just the usual biased and weakly based ethical reasons that so often get thrown around in discussions on food. It certainly does not offer a quick fix solution to weight or health problems, and it is a philosophy that requires work and dedication. But the health results are real, just like the food, and anything that focuses on grass-fed butter, raw milk, and grass-fed heavy cream is okay to me.
Supplementing my Nourishing Traditions tome is almost anything by Michael Pollan, but always taken with a grain of salt, and Eat Fat, Lose Fat by Dr. Mary Enig, the original champion of good fats. Real Food by Nina Planck covers basically the same material as Nourishing Traditions text, but acts as an easy-to-read refresher on the philosophy. Mollie Katzen’s original Moosewood Cookbook is a cookbook I turn to for my favorite hummus and banana bread recipes, and although I don’t have my own copy I covet this book for it’s inventive vegetarian recipes. The Nourishing Traditions philosophy sings the praises of grass-fed meats, including pork, bacon, and burgers, properly prepared vegetables are the crux of the meal plans. A recently acquired copy of Gourmet’s French Basics cookbook provides plenty of great knowledge on traditional French recipes like beef consommé that also fall in line with NT philosophy.
Now, learning about food and nutrition from a cultural, historic and scientific perspective has become one of my favorite hobbies. I’ve learned to look at food as an opportunity for nourishment and enjoyment, and I think I’m a better person for it. But not in a moral sense — I’m always striving to separate the quality of my food from the purity of my soul, because this is NOT about entitlement. I eat the way I do for me, not for anyone else’s benefit or appreciation. What about you? How would you describe your food philosophy?
From top left: Food Rules by Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, Real Food by Nina Planck, The New Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen, The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon and Dr. Mary Enig, Gourmet’s French Basics Cooking, Eat Fat, Lose Fat by Dr. Mary Enig.