My Real Food Challenge
by Guest blogger, Jenny McGruther, Nourished Kitchen blog
There’s something revolutionary about real food, something subversive about traditional foods. There shouldn’t be.
Real food, traditional food, is nothing extraordinary. There should be no cultural shock to enjoying fruits and vegetables, grains and beans, milk and meat grown, raised and prepared through the time-honored practices and traditions that nourished human health for millennia. But there is.
Raising animals with true, holistic care and respect to their natural diets and proclivities has been lost to confinement operations. Nurturing and cherishing the soil to optimize the production of heirloom fruits and vegetables has been lost to massive farming operations and mono-cropping. Farm fresh milk, drunk greedily the morning the cow or goat was milked, has been lost to the denaturing effects of ultra-high temperature pasteurization and homogenization. After all it’s to protect our health, isn’t it?
Moreover, we’ve not only lost the art of farming, but also of preparing food with care, attention and appreciation. Where we would have learned time-honored traditions of preparing nourishing foods as we tugged at our grandmother’s aprons, we’ve been taught instead to microwave our suppers and that freshly baked “from scratch” pastries and breads come from a box.
As a result, not only has our health as a nation suffered, but so has our culture. We’ve lost our heritage.
As the traditional foods movement has grown, many of us our muddling our ways through our journeys into real food – rediscovering the lost arts, but it’s a tricky road with no grandmother to hold your hand and show you how to mash the sauerkraut just so, or how to soak flour in buttermilk to make the lightest biscuits.
In early February, I challenged my readers at Nourished Kitchen to clean up their cupboards and reinvigorate their passion for real and traditional foods; moreover, my goal was to introduce the practices and fundamental aspects of traditional foods to an audience who so desperately wanted to learn what modern agriculture and food processing forgot.
So we made it happen – over 950 of us. I made the claim that real health comes from real food and that real food never comes from a box as I brazenly suggested that participants rid their pantries of processed foods: white flour, white sugar, refined vegetable oils and – gasp! – even agave nectar. I asked participants to make meals of vegetables and grass-fed meats and properly prepared whole grain. Every day there was a new assignment, new learning and a new goal.
We learned to sprout, sour and soak our way through phytic acid with the best of them. We lovingly tended to and babied our sourdough starters – celebrated when they rose high and wept when they failed. We made cheese – some the easy way with fresh yogurt and others were more adventurous. We ate our carrots and peas with butter, real butter, and we ate our fresh greens with plenty of olive oil. We relished our meat, eggs , fish, broth and even liver. And we washed it all down with sour, sweet and effervescent draughts of home-brewed kombucha.
Most importantly, we learned to give back to our communities: our farmers markets had more volunteers; our food banks found fresh, real foods, at their steps. A non-profit or two may have even found new members and donations to support their good work protecting farmers rights and supporting nutrition advocacy and education.
Eventually, what we were doing – over 900 of us on the challenge – caught the ear of a CNN reporter who covered the 28-day Real Food Challenge and Nourished Kitchen on CNN Health. And that is how liver and lard landed on the homepage of CNN.com.
It shocked many of CNN’s readers. After all, how could lard be good for you?!? How could someone, in this day and age, seriously advocate eating meat!?! My goodness, you’ll have to pry the Cheetohs from my cold, dead hands.
A nutritionist, who may well have benefited from taking the challenge herself, even touted the benefits of processed foods like low-fat milk and canned green beans, while those tried-and-true challenge participants scoffed.
Sure, the challenge wasn’t without its … well … challenges as addressed by the article on CNN. For many families, especially those previously unfamiliar with traditional foods and the Weston A Price Foundation, the challenge was struggle. Some families had never prepared a meal without the aid of a package or a box before embarking on the challenge. Others found the expense of real food a shock – though it can be easily mitigate through proper kitchen management. Yet everyone, no matter where they succeeded or where they struggled, learned.
Now that the challenge has ended, it still effects its goal. Participants found their passion for all-natural, real foods and many of them are still choosing to continue on the path of traditional foods. Moreover, others have emailed me to let me know their migraine headaches disappeared, that their ever constant gastrointestinal distress has ended and still others have expressed that after months or years without a menstrual cycle, their cycles have returned.
Real food truly brings health, not only for our bodies but for our culture and for our nation’s foodsheds.
Jennifer McGruther, a mother and farmers market manager in Crested Butte, Colorado, blogs about real food and the value of growing your foodshed at Nourished Kitchen where she features many nourishing recipes, publishes monthly recipe cards and feature articles on the real and traditional foods movement. If you’re interested you can also sign up for the next round of the 28-day Real Food Challenge or get involved at Nourished Kitchen.
This post is part of Real Food Wednesday, see more real food recipes and tips on Kelly the Kitchen Kop.