This morning I sat down at the kitchen table to make my shopping list. “What do I need? What do I need?” My shopping list has definitely changed over the last two years, much for the stranger. And it just keeps getting weirder.
Am I Weird? No! I am a Modern Forager!
A week ago we visited my mom, dad, and sisters in Northern Indiana. As always, I was “educating” my mom about this and that health-wise and food-wise. She sullenly said, “Well, I don’t want to be a slave to food.” That got me thinking. Am I a slave to food? I feel less a slave to food now than I ever have before in my life. I tell you, before, I was definitely dependent on processed foods, dairy, wheat, and sugar. Now, I can pass up donuts. Yeah. I don’t think I’m a slave to food anymore.
But this morning as I looked at my bizarre grocery list, I wondered if I was overboard. Maybe Mom was right!? (It’s always good to take stock of yourself.) However, you see, each food on my list has a purpose! A nutrient! Then, I thought, “Well, what about other people who haven’t read about these nutrients. Don’t have a medical background. What are they to do? How to manage? Maybe this stuff I’m doing is all stupid.”
Then, I thought, “No! In our history, before food was readily available for purchase, humans DID make a point to forage for foods that were known to be necessary! Women knew how to identify herbs and dig for tubers. Families knew how to brew sauerkraut. The organs were not tossed out, but they were prized. Salt was traded and used as salaries. Kids got cod liver oil from their moms and grandmas in the near past.” In the past, they foraged for foods know to benefit them. I am simply a modern forager!
So What’s on That List?
The list is not too long because we keep a pretty well-stocked freezer and pantry, but here is the list:
Dulse: A seaweed I usually sauté or toss into a soup to provide iodine for my family and me.
Kombucha: A fermented drink with probiotics in it that I’ve started using for a smoothie liquid since my intolerances do better with little to no dairy, nuts, and coconut products.
Organic greens such as kale, chard, spinach, and arugula: Lots of calcium, magnesium, and identified and unidentified health benefits here. Not to mention some fiber.
Oysters: A great source of zinc and throw in some iodine, vitamin A, vitamin D, and B vitamins–and you’ve got quite a “good things come in small packages” going on here.
And the not so strange fruits: oranges, mangoes, strawberries, apples, grapes, and bananas.
Water: Oh, my goodness. Yes. Water. My Dad told me it would be a sad day when he ever paid money for water, but I think he’s got the deepest well in the state of Indiana filtering down through layer after layer of great Indiana limestone. Not bad water. But for me, must be sad times. I still haven’t decided on a water filter, and in the meantime, I’d like to reduce our intake of fluoride, chlorine, and any pharmaceuticals that don’t get filtered out. So we buy reverse osmosis water.
Just though you’d like to see the weird list.
Compare and Contrast Modern versus Historical Foraging
I realized that my grocery list was an example of foraging, not weirdness. Picking through the vastness to find what benefits my family and me! It is NO different than what thousands of people long ago used to do. Times may change. Basic human needs don’t. In my mind I started comparing and contrasting foraging today and foraging of long ago.
|Knowledge of needed nutrients handed down by medical/nutritional fields and scientists. Nutrients are known by name and entity.
||Knowledge of needed nutrients perhaps not “known” by name or entity.
|Knowledge distributed by writing. If it’s not in writing and substantiated by research, it is often held in limbo or disdain. (Old research has often been buried, although it contains some neat leads we should follow.)
||Knowledge distributed by an oral culture taught by the elder generation to the younger. Much respect given to elders and their experiences.
|Nutrient guidelines in flux and ever-changing.
||Nutrients/foods probably stayed pretty consistent within a locale.
|Grocery stores, farmers markets, Amazon, internet, health food stores.
||Digging, planting, hunting, trading, long trips to obtain necessary supplies/foods/herbs.
|Discouraged and mocked by general culture, including and especially medical culture. Modern foraging has to fight cultural norms.
||Necessary for immediate survival and prolonged health. The “medicine men” would have embraced nutrition and herbs as key healers. Foraging for known necessary foods was the norm.
|More convenient but sometimes more expensive.
||Likely physically taxing, although not expensive. However, certain things were traded among people and would have required some material expense.
|Not based as strongly on local, available food.
||Bulk eating would have been based on local available foods, although travel of varying distances would probably have been required as seasons changed, resources diminished, or known necessary foods needed to be traded for.
|For many, foraging results in a realization of how enduring the human body is of assault by sugar and processed flour products, and yet how responsive it is to nurturing with real, whole foods. Modern foragers’ foes are chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, autoimmune disease, and gastrointestinal maladies.
||Food was food and eaten for survival and function; often, trauma and infectious disease were historical foragers’ foes.
This was fun, and I think I could go on and on expanding it. I am going to stop now and go do dishes and laundry and give thanks for a wonderful husband who took the kids out so I could have some peaceful time.
Some people embrace alternative health and nutrition changes, but I didn’t enter the realm really quite voluntarily–or without deeply embedded personal, professional bias. I frequently find that I need to step back and make sure I’m doing all this for the right reasons and that I really have solid evidence behind me–at least as solid evidence as is available. My family, friends, and professional training keep me with my right foot in the cultural norm, and my search for a normal GI tract and a way to not have a head so sensitive to certain foods keeps me with my left foot straining and pulling to bring the right foot along. Every day it’s all about checking and rechecking my work. Liver is good to eat. Is it good to eat? Iodized salt is bad. Is iodized salt bad? Low carb is good. Does it destroy your gut’s bacteria and your body’s metabolism?
I don’t have a nutritional heritage to fall back on much, although I have a few pieces my mom gave me–like butter and sauerkraut. Mostly, though, my mom sold out to boxes. So I will have to use what I can to rebuild a nutritional heritage for health for my family.
I will not sell out to boxes. I will not sell out to sugar. I will not resort to processed flours. I will incorporate unusual foods known for their nutrients. I am a modern forager. Are you? What are some unusual foods you incorporate in your foraging efforts and why?
PS: I am continuing to work on one (if not “the”) of the last butyrate posts, our fourth grade curriculum posts, and I’d like to also post about vitamin K2 and iodine. Maybe something in there will interest you.