Eating Like the Ancients

ancient grainsI have been actively exploring the eating habits of my grandparents and parents.  I remember inventively asking my Grandma, before her death, about her eating habits.  What I found out was that they had very little meat, when they did eat meat they feasted, but for the most part their daily diets were various grains, lentils and vegetables.  My mom on the other hand told me about things that she ate that she doesn’t make anymore.

Largely out of the lack of the ingredients not being found in the US because of the lack of importation from the “motherland(s)”.  Its also the lack of time to make food items that are time-effort intensive.  There are also shortcuts, ready made items and what not, that take away from the original taste, feel and connected emotions so my Mom stays away from making those things often.

Instead like I ranted in my posts about the historical development of the obesity epidemic I talked about how the industrial agricultural process has picked and genetically narrowed in on commodity crops.  Fascinatingly I never wondered what happened to the crops that didn’t meet the agro-big-business model.  But I guess it was like heirloom tomatoes and such, they just have been around but nothing to popular and widespread.  WSJ had this article “Eating Like the Ancients: Heirloom Grains Return” by Laura Johannes which explores the fact that there are “ancient grains” are making a comeback.

These grains are the first domesticated grains that humans started to plant and eat a thousands of years ago.  Like Einkorn, which is the oldest of the grains making a comeback now, it first appeared in human diets some 10,000 years ago.  Otzi, the mummy from 5,200 years ago, also known as the Iceman, was most likely munching on a flatbread made out of einkorn.  The reason why it probably didnt make the agro-big-business commodity list was because of the its low yield, but its super nutritious.  Whereas modern grains require that the grain be high yield and not necessarily full of high nutrition.  Which makes the cultivation and sale of einkorn  a very expensive endeavor, a five pound bag is selling for $35 bucks.

But the variety of ancient grains making it to the market now is amazing.  A short list includes sorghum, millet, teff (North African grain), amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa.  Sadly, these big-agro-food-industrial-complex are the ones pushing these new grains as well.  The thing thats important is that we are going back to a diversity of base foods, especially grains.  To that end I found this really cool blog that discusses how to bake with these ancient grains, though its not regularly updated (possibly because there’s not much more to do with ancient grains then whats already been shared?).

Whatever it is, I like this “Eating like the ancients” title.  It encompasses exactly the type of eating I believe we need to go back to.  Its not just what Evan Klienman champions, the slow cook movement, but also the type of dietary style that existed.  Thats not to say we should live in a world free of freezers and fridges, but definitely one that is better connected to the diversity of foods that existed, habits of eating, less processed foods, more slow cooked foods.

One thought on “Eating Like the Ancients

  1. “I concur” No seriously I think you’re right on the money about the interest big Ag has in these ancient grains. If we can increase our food diversity and get farther away from monoculture that has to be a good thing. What’s interesting is that the prevalence of factory meat farming has boosted the popularity of things like Atkins and the Paleo diet: good idea in theory, and fairly effective for weight loss, except that many Paleo-diet experts ignore the ancient grains. Which basically kick wheat’s ass in protein/fiber content. It’s just so sad to me that people can’t see that GMO, monoculture, and factory meat farming have all contributed to our obesity epidemic. It’s all connected man:) I say bring on the Ancient, or at least neglected:) grains!


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