Recently, I attended a Weston A Price conference in Dallas, Texas. Many inspirational speakers spoke on a variety of topics linked to optimum health and almost 1,000 people attended from countries around the world, many clinging desperately to the Weston A Price guidelines for optimum nutrition in an effort to recover their health after being on a variety of ‘diets’.
Have you heard of the Weston A Price Foundation(WAPF)? I hadn’t either until I was asked to speak at a regional WAPF conference here in Co Limerick in 2015.
At the time I was spearheading a campaign with several others to protect people’s right to sell and buy raw milk should they choose to do so for any number of health and culinary reasons.
I was invited to speak and so met Sally Fallon Morell MA who is director of the WAPF and heard about Dr Weston A Price, a Cleveland dentist who died in the late 1940s. America was the first to introduce processed food into the market, so the impact of the change in diet on people’s health became evident sooner over there.
Dr Weston A Price observed the dramatic decay in his patients’ teeth. He suspected it was connected to the increased sugar and ultra-processed foods in their diets and began his lifelong research and documentation of his observations.
For over 10 years he travelled widely to study the diets of isolated, primitive and indigenous people, comparing the food and culture of aborigines, the New Zealand Maori, Inuits, several African tribes, Polynesians, Pygmies, Lotschueld in Switzerland and the Native American Indians.
He had planned to help with their teeth problems but found little decay. Even though each group were eating very diverse foods he observed definite similarities between each one. All were eating an ancestral diet, none included ultra-processed, refined and denatured foods.
The 11 principals for the Weston A Price optimum nutrition were based on these observations.
I was intrigued to find an organisation that espouses similar values around nutrition to my own, particularly their advice around fat consumption at a time when the received wisdom was that low fat was detrimental to our health.
Despite the fact it now appears that there was not a jot of scientific evidence to link butter or any good natural fat to cardiovascular disease, rather the opposite.
There were similarities common to each culture. Each ate natural fats, offal, from healthy pasture fed animals and poultry and prized them above other meat, drank gelatine rich bone broths, raw milk, and ate fermented foods.
Here are the Weston A Price 11 Principals of optimum nutrition:
1. The diets of healthy, non-industrialised peoples contain no refined or denatured foods or ingredients, such as refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup; white flour; canned foods; pasteurised, homogenised, skim or low fat milk; refined or hydrogenated vegetable oils; protein powders; synthetic vitamins; or toxic additives and artificial colourings.
2. All traditional cultures consume some sort of animal food, such as fish and shellfish; land and water fowl; land and sea mammals; eggs; milk and milk products; reptiles; and insects. The whole animal is consumed — muscle meat, organs, bones and fat, with the organ meats and fats preferred.
3. The diets of healthy, non-industrialised peoples contain at least four times the minerals and water-soluble vitamins, and TEN times the fat-soluble vitamins found in animal fats (vitamin A, vitamin D and Activator X, now thought to be vitamin K2) as the average American diet.
4. All traditional cultures cooked some of their food but all consumed a portion of their animal foods raw.
5. Primitive and traditional diets have a high content of food enzymes and beneficial bacteria from lactofermented vegetables, fruits, beverages, dairy products, meats and condiments.
6. Seeds, grains and nuts are soaked, sprouted, fermented or naturally leavened to neutralize naturally occurring anti-nutrients such as enzyme inhibitors, tannins and phytic acid.
7. Total fat content of traditional diets varies from 30 percent to 80 percent of calories but only about 4 percent of calories come from polyunsaturated oils naturally occurring in grains, legumes, nuts, fish, animal fats and vegetables. The balance of fat calories is in the form of saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids.
8. Traditional diets contain nearly equal amounts of omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids.
9. All traditional diets contain some salt.
10. All traditional cultures make use of animal bones, usually in the form of gelatin-rich bone broths.
11. Traditional cultures make provisions for the health of future generations by providing special nutrient-rich animal foods for parents-to-be, pregnant women and growing children; by proper spacing of children; and by teaching the principles of right diet to the young.
Source as much chemical free food as you can find and afford. You’ll easily save the extra cost on supplements and added vitamins and minerals.
Finally, the big new thing in the US is — Real Food — everyone I spoke to was desperately trying to source real unadulterated food. We still have wonderful produce but even here in Ireland it takes more and more of a concerted effort to find unadulterated, nourishing, wholesome food but it’s certainly worth it. Recipes are based on the Weston A Price Foundation principals….
A delicious ‘master recipe’ for all very fresh flat fish, eg, brill, turbot, plaice, sole, dabs, flounder and lemon sole. Depending on the size of the fish, it can be a starter or a main course.
1 large, fresh, flat fish or a couple of smaller ones
Winter Herb Butter
I like to leave the head on, but if you’d rather not, turn the fish on its side and remove the head. Wash the fish and clean the slit by the throat very thoroughly. With a sharp knife, cut through the dark skin right round the fish, just where the ‘fringe’ meets the flesh. Be careful to cut neatly and to cross the side cuts at the tail or it will be difficult to remove the skin later on.
Sprinkle the fish with salt and freshly-ground pepper and lay in 1cm (½inch) of water in a shallow baking tin. Roast in a moderately hot oven for 20-30 minutes according to the size of the fish. The water should have just evaporated as the fish is cooked. Check to see whether the fish is cooked by lifting the flesh from the bone at the head; it should lift off the bone easily and be quite white with no trace of pink.
Meanwhile, melt the butter and stir in the freshly-chopped herbs. Just before serving catch the skin down near the tail and pull it off gently (the skin will tear badly if not properly cut). Lift the fish fillets onto hot plates and spoon the herb butter over them. Serve immediately.
Cut the kidneys in half, remove the “plumbing” and cut each one into four pieces.
Heat a little extra virgin olive oil in a small frying pan, add the kidneys and cook for a minute or two, tossing them occasionally. Add a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce and a generous pinch of pepper, and some English mustard. Season with salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Add the cream and bubble for another minute or two, shaking the pan occasionally until the sauce is slightly reduced. Taste and add more black pepper if you like.
Serve on toast or char-grilled sourdough bread with some sprigs of watercress. For a more substantial supper dish, serve with plain boiled rice and a crisp green salad. Garnish with a sprinkling of chopped parsley.
Makes 4 toasts
Pour 1½ tablespoons of the olive oil into a large sauté pan and set it over high heat.
When it’s hot, turn the heat down to medium and add the shallots and garlic. Cook until they’re golden brown, about a minute. Add the Madeira and port to the pan and give it a good shake, then scrape the mixture into a small bowl and set aside.
Rinse the pan and wipe it out well with kitchen paper, then set it over high heat and add one tablespoon of the olive oil. When the oil just begins to smoke, pat the livers dry and add them to the pan. Cook until the undersides are golden brown, 1½ minutes or so.
Carefully turn them over and sprinkle on about 1 teaspoon salt, then give the pan a little shake. Cook the livers just until they feel bouncy, like little balloons, about 30 seconds more. You want them slightly pink inside, not rare. Turn off the heat and add the shallot mixture, liquid and all, to the pan.
Makes 1 litre/900g (2lbs) approximately
At its most basic sauerkraut is chopped or shredded cabbage that is salted and fermented in its own juice.
It has existed in one form or another as ancestral food for thousands of years and sailors have carried it on ships to ward off scurvy because of its high Vitamin C content.
The basic recipe for sauerkraut is 2 tsp of pure flaky sea salt to 450g (1lb) of cabbage. Any other vegetables in season can be added once they are finely sliced or chopped.
Avoid potatoes as they can become toxic when fermented. Weigh the vegetables after slicing and calculate the amount of salt needed. Below is a recipe we enjoy.
Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Pack into a large jar or crock. Pack a little at a time and press down hard using your fists, this packs the kraut tight and helps force water out of the vegetables.
Cover the kraut with a plate or some other lid that fits snugly inside the jar or crock. Place a clean weight on top (a jug or container filled with water works well). This weight is to force water out of the vegetables and keep them submerged under the brine.
Cover the top with muslin or a light cloth to keep out flies and dust. Press down on the weight ever few hours to help extract more liquid from the vegetables.
The liquid should rise above the vegetables. If the liquid doesn’t rise above the plate level by next day, add some salt water (a basic brine is 2 teaspoons of salt mixed in 600ml/1 pint) to bring the level above the plate.
Place in a cool area and allow to ferment for 4-5 days. At this stage the kraut is ready to eat.
As you eat the kraut make sure the remainder is well covered in brine by pushing the vegetables under the brine and sealing well. It will keep for months, the flavour develops and matures over time.
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Here we have traditional black pudding but be sure to source one made with fresh pork blood rather than imported dried. I’m also partial to Bourdin Noir, the delicious French blood pudding. On The Pigs Back in the English Market in Cork city sells a delicious version.
We’re loving the explosion of Cider artisan producers around the country. Check out Highbank Drivers Cider for a deliciously quaffable non-alcoholic drink to accompany your meals.