As I went on reading "Nourishing Traditions", I became more convinced than before of the importance of consuming organically grown grains and vegetables and free-range, pasture fed animal foods. However, I must admit that many times, I put aside the book in frustration, thinking, "How on earth is the average person supposed to afford/obtain this?" Don't get me wrong. There are more than enough people who consume junk they could cut back on and buy healthful, wholesome organic foods instead. There is also no denying that the organically grown fruit (and occasionally vegetables/herbs) from our garden are far superior in taste to store-bought foods.
But there are also many, many people in Israel who have no technical possibility to have a garden, who live on a tiny budget, who have many children and strive to put food on the table every month and every day – just to keep their bellies full. For these people, the diet is largely based on beans and grains, and yes, lots of white flour and refined oils – the cheapest they can get. They can barely afford animal products, let alone organic ones.
For us, switching to organic meat would probably mean we (or to be exact, my husband) will never have meat – which is, by the way, one reason why I didn't feel remotely tempted to eat meat after reading the book (unusual, I know). However, I did find it very logical that I experienced an enormous craving for animal foods and especially fish during my first pregnancy, despite the fact that prior to that I haven't touched fish for twelve
Until not long ago, there was a local organic goat farm here (recently the man who owned it had to sell the goats and close the business because of health problems). Fresh, organic milk could be obtained there straight from the goats. Did we buy milk from there? Only once. It cost four times more than regular store-bought milk, and that just wasn't affordable for us. And don't get me started about the cheeses. Even store-bought cheese is expensive by our measures.
Yes, you could argue that in the long run, it pays off to obtain the best foods you can have, and you're probably right. But when people aren't making ends meet right now, and are struggling to put food on their table right now, their priority is to feed their families with what they can (of course assuming that you won't find soft drinks, snacks, boxed sugar-coated cereals and such like in their shopping cart, but just basic products which sadly, aren't exactly high-quality today in regular supermarkets).
It doesn't mean, however, that if you don't have access to organic vegetables, fresh goat milk and pasture-raised beef and chickens, there is nothing you can do. We can all make our diets more varied, as our means allow, cook more from scratch, cut out as much refined sugar as possible, and learn traditional techniques of food preparation which enhance the nutritional value of food (such as fermentation, soaking and sprouting).
If currently your diet contains a lot of soda pop and Doritos, it can hardly be expected that you make an instant transition to homemade sour-leavened bread and fermented drinks such as kefir or kvass. But if you simply omit the junky pre-packaged stuff from your diet and switch to drinking plain water and vegetable juices, you have already made a huge step forward, even if you continue shopping in a regular supermarket chain.
An important point to consider while we look at primitive or traditional diets in order to think which customs could be incorporated in our lifestyle, is that the differences are in a lot more than just a menu. In the past, people were not exposed to the caloric abundance we have today. Quite simply, not only the foods were different but people often had less to eat than we have today. They also exercised more and weren't exposed to pollution, the toxins surrounding the modern agricultural methods, and excessive use of modern medicine. That is why we shouldn't think that simply switching to a more traditional diet will solve all our problems.
One thing I believe doesn't belong in Nourishing Traditions is the occasional tidbits thrown here and there about "optimal" child spacing and how in various primitive groups it was unacceptable to have children spaced less than three years apart. I do realize that pregnancy and nursing have everything to do with nutrition, and that without proper nourishment, the toll on the woman's body is great. I just don't think it's to the point to plant a few isolated paragraphs here and there about primitive practices of child spacing (such as men not cohabiting with their wives for years), and leave us to wonder what we're supposed to make of that (not to mention, omitting the fact that in said primitive groups, monogamy was often unheard of, which meant abstinence for women but certainly not for men).
This was the second part of my review of Nourishing Traditions. To read the first part, click here. The third and final part of the review coming soon!