Yes, apparently even babies can show signs of the dreaded diseases of civilization. Ugh, very scary.
Here are some WAPF events coming up. WAPFers are paleo allies in the war for real food and delicious fat. I might not be crazy for grains or dairy, but they have some useful things to say. In NYC the paleo tribe seems to be mostly singles, but WAPFers tend to be those with children or thinking about them. That's great- we need more healthy children out there.
Here are some WAPF and Traditional Nutrition Events coming up:
The first NYC paleo skillshare was a BLAST! Over twenty people gathered at the Sanocki bro's awesome apartment at Union Square to discuss, learn, and most importantly- EAT!
We learned about how to make a basic and tasty bone stock. Why bother with bones? Bones stocks are a great source of calcium, which can be hard to get on the paleo diet, as well as other vital nutrients. They are also simple to make and easy to digest, which is perfect if you are recovering from illnesses like leaky gut. For the foodies out there, bone stock is an essential part of every great chef's kitchen, providing the savory "umani" flavor in everything from silky mashed root vegetables to delicious soups.
Why Broth is Beautiful by the Weston A. Price Foundation is a great article that further elucidates the healing properties of a good broth
Bones by Jennifer McLagen is an excellent cookbook that instructs on how to make basic broths and provides great recipes to use broth and other meaty bones. My basic broth recipe is from this cookbook...but
I modified it because I like to do Asian recipes. Most of my modifications are inspired by the Momofuku cookbook by David Chang which is a great cookbook that showcases how a fine restaurant like Momofuku utilizes bones, as well as lard.
Basic Bone Stock
The Bones: I use all the bones that come through my kitchen. Chicken bones are many people's favorites and whenever I roast a chicken I save the skeleton to make a delicious chicken soup. Veal bones are probably the second most prized, being extremely savory and flavorful. But all bones are useful. The stock we made in class had bison and pork bones. Don't worry about leftover flesh or other things hanging on the bones- this enhances flavor! In fact, Momofuku, which has plenty of money for ingredients, uses whole chickens to make their ramen broth. Roasting the bones enhances their flavor through the maillard reaction, which is in simple terms responsible the delicious savory flavor in seared and roasted foods. Roasting is optional, but delicious.
Acid: Draw out the minerals in the bones more effectively by adding your favorite acidic ingredient. Lemon juice is a versatile favorite, vinegars are also delicious, and when I am making a Mexican or Asian-inspired soup I often use lime juice.
Vegetables: Vegetables add flavor and nutrition to a stock. Stock is the perfect use for the trimmings of vegetables that have flavor, but that aren't delicious on their own. The tops of leeks, herb stems, carrot tops, celeriac stems, and other kitchen "waste" are perfect ingredients in stocks, but don't be afraid to buy vegetables specifically to make stock with. Vegetables to avoid in stocks include members of the cruciferous family, like cabbage and broccoli, which have many bitter compounds. I would in general avoid anything that's very bitter like beet stems. Members of the allium family- onions, leeks, shallots, garlic, and scallions, are particularly prized in stock. Carrots and celery/celeriac tops add a delicious fresh flavor.
Flavor enhancers: Bits of smoked meat (Momofuku uses bacon), mushrooms, bay leaves and peppercorns are my favorites.
Iodine hack: Iodine is a nutrient essential for thyroid health. Most people get it in processed salty foods that have it as an additive to the salt, but on the paleo diet you won't be eating much of that. The additive form is also inferior to the natural form found in marine foods. To add iodine to your stock and enhance digestibility, pick up a seaweed called kombu and add a stick or two to your stock.
First, we cut up the leeks, scallions, shallots, and garlic, making them into a "bed" on the roasting pan. On this bed we placed some pork bones from Aberdeen Hill Farms, which I purchased at the Park Slope Co-op, and some bison bones bought at Union Square Farmers Market. We roasted this at 435 F for an hour, then placed it in a large stock pot with our dried mushrooms, kombu I bought from The New Amsterdam Market, pepper, some parsley stems, and fresh squeezed lemon juice. We covered this with water and brought it to a boil. After that, we turned it down and let it simmer.
Stock should simmer for a long time. If you don't feel comfortable leaving a pot on your stove simmering for 12 hours, a crockpot is a wise investment. I put the stock into the crockpot and set it to high.
After your stock has been simmering for some time, skim off any "scum" on the surface, strain out the bones and vegetable remnants, and put it in your fridge, in a jar ideally. After it cools you should have excess fat floating on the top. Discard this or use it as an ingredient. I would taste it first, as some stock fat isn't so tasty.
Finished touch: Salt makes a big difference in terms of flavor. If you are using the stock soon, salt it to taste. If you want to freeze it for future use DON'T SALT- you should reduce it by boiling it down. Then you can put it in icecube trays and use it later.
So now you have some delicious stock! Serve it as a broth soup or puree in your favorite roasted vegetables. I like to stick a pumpkin in my crockpot on low overnight until it's soft and just scoop out the flesh and mix with the broth and my favorite flavorings. I also use stock to make restaurant-quality brown sauces, gravies (sub out flour and use coconut flour which you can purchase at many health food stores like the Park Slope Co-op or online) and mashed root vegetables.
Chicken hearts are cheap, healthy, and can be tasty, but when most people buy a whole chicken they throw the heart out along with the rest of the giblets. That's a shame because of the giblets, hearts are perhaps the easiest to make tasty. If you didn't grow up eating offal foods like liver, you might have a tough time with their earthy mineral flavor. I personally don't really like that flavor, but it can be muted with acidic and spicy ingredients.
I was originally looking for calves heart, but not wanting to make a trip to every butcher in the city, I settled for the first heart I saw at Union Square, which was chicken hearts. They came attached to the livers, but they were easily detached. The sinews and clots might look gross, but they are easily removed. Just as much of that as you can to reveal the muscle.
Chicken hearts can be found in Japanese cuisine. In class I mentioned the temple of chicken offal, Yakitori Totto, which is in Midtown. They serve organic chicken hearts on a skewer! Mmm! Great and open late. I heard that this is one of Anthony Bourdain's favorite late night eats.
I marinated the chicken hearts using the method Fergus Henderson uses in The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating for calves heart. The night before the class I sliced the hearts into bite sized pieces and put them in a jar with a "health splash of balsamic vinegar," some coarse sea salt, ground black pepper, and some hot pepper. They were simple to cook, I just grilled them in a bit of lard. A perfect appetizer for adventurous guests.
I guess since I mentioned lard, I might as well recap our short talk about it. Our host Matt showed us his homemade lard. He got fatback from a local farmer and rendered it over low heat. The biggest mistake with rendering lard is boiling it, which can ruin it. I personally like to render lard from pork belly, since I LOVE pork belly anyway. I just put it in the crock pot on low overnight and the fat renders out. The pork belly is seasoned and crisped and the bonus is this wonderful cooking fat. Momofuku uses a similar method to obtain belly and cooking fat.
We talked about how great lard is-high in saturated fat that holds up well to heat. Coconut oil is another good choice, which is easier to find. I also obtained some excellent lard from my membership in The Piggery CSA.
Yum! Those bones might look boring, but that white stuff is delicious nutritious FAT. In fact, there is a theory that this fat is what fueled the large brain development in our early meat eating ape ancestors. Scavenged muscle meat is kind of gross, but if they cracked a bone, delicious and perfectly good fat would be the reward.
Marrow bones were popular in Victorian times, often given as a healing food for invalids. Their popularity waned and you could get them free in many places, but in the past decade there has been increased interest in the gourmet world. That was spurred by chefs like Fergus Henderson, who wrote the aforementioned The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating. His book celebrates quality local carefully raised meat by not wasting any of it. On this side of the pond, his disciple Anthony Bourdain has also done his part to glorify "the nasty bits." The foreward to the American version of this cookbook is written by him.
I'm very grateful for these chefs, but also kind of annoyed at how expensive marrow bones have gotten. They are still very cheap, but you can't get them for free any more. They are easy to find at butchers like The Meat Hook, Dicksons Farmstand Meats, the farmer's market, and sometimes Whole Foods. If the store you shop in doesn't know what marrow bones are, you need to find a new place to shop because anyone versed in meat should at least know them. The bones used in class were bison bones from the Union Square Farmers Market. Henderson uses veal bones, which are great, but the bones of any large ruminant are all good.
His most famous recipe is probably the parsley and bone marrow salad, which we made. This salad basically uses the delicious silky fat as a dressing. It uses flat leaf parley as a salad leaf, which is perfect because it is milder than its curly leaved cousin, but still wonderfully fresh and bright tasting.
Marrow bones are SO easy to cook. In fact, I've even cooked them in a toaster oven. But Vlad pointed out that you don't even need to cook them. We passed around a bone and some brave people in our class ate the marrow raw and enjoyed it. I like the taste of cooked marrow though. I put the bones in at 425. The point is to melt the fat so it can go on the salad.
In the meantime, I picked the leaves from the stems of a bunch of parsley (the stems went in the stock), thinly sliced a shallot (Henderson calls for two, but I prefer just one), squeezed on some lemon juice, and added some capers. Henderson, like me, doesn't seem to care for fussy recipes. Basic ingredients are all you need and you can adjust things to taste. Henderson does warn you to be careful about not putting in too many capers....but don't forget them! I had never had capers until last year and despite their ugly measly appearance, they do add an important zing to many dishes.
After the fat in the bones was melted (be sure to cook them on something that can collect this), I took them out and using a spoon and a knife, put the delicious globs of fat and the drippings from the pan on the parsley mixture. I added some salt and pepper to taste. People really seemed to enjoy this recipe! It combines fatty indulgence with vegetal freshness.
You can learn more about the nutritional properties of marrow bones here.
What is paleo?
This class was a good reminder that approaches to paleo can be diverse and it's important to think about your food. Sarah made a delicious split pea soup, but many questioned whether legumes were OK. Legumes can be very high in antinutrients(these can interfere with nutrient absorption and irritate your gut) and Loren Cordain warns against them. But most of us aren't 100% paleo. What is in your off percentage? Whole foods like peas are certainly much better than candy bars. I'm 100% real food and 100% into using evolution to guide my choices, but sometimes I crave some legumes. The best way to prepare them is by soaking and fermentation. Nourishing Traditions is the bible for that, providing instructions handed down through the ages that minimize harmful substances in legumes and maximize their nutrition (Sally Fallon, the author, will be speaking in NYC next week!). One thing I enjoy occasionally are dosas and idlis. Stephen from Whole Health Source has a great post about these. I make them over two days, one day to soak the legume, fenugreek seeds, and rice (you can use any variety, I have used split peas, red rice, black rice...), the next to ferment. My crockpot instructions warned me not to leave food in the pot on "warm" as that can encourage bacterial growth. YES! I love bacterial growth. In India, where dosas and idlis were invented, they don't need this as the climate is warm, but here you do. I grind the soaked mixture in a food professor with water to make a thin batter and put it in the crock pot on warm. If you are successful, you should get a sour smell some hours later. Sour = good. If it smells bad, just cut your losses and throw it away. Once it is sour enough, I either steam to make idlis or fry in coconut oil to make dosa pancakes. Paleo? No way, so I don't eat them that often. Real food? Yes.
Potatoes also came up? Are potatoes paleo? Paleo blogger Don says yes, others say NO way. They do have lots of carbs and nightshades have some anti-nutrients that may be harmful (though scientific studies on this are sparse). I say that it's best to avoid tubers and nightshades at first. Carbs can feed bad bacteria, so if you have stomach problems, stick with low net carb until your stomach feels better. I added in potatoes and peppers about a year after going paleo and never had any ill effects. I am happy to enjoy spicy Thai food and mashed potatoes again, but I recognize that some people feel better without these foods and other people gain weight on them.
If you have questions about paleo ingredients, I strongly suggest visiting Paleohacks.com.
I meet them all the time- people who tell me that they would never try the paleo diet because their diet makes them feel awesome. Maybe they don't realize that a face covered with acne and a spare tire around their waist aren't exactly markers of feeling awesome.
I thought of that when reading this NYT article about Alicia Silverstone where she eats a meal presumably loaded with inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids
She settled on nachos and onion rings to start, and mulled beer selections with two girlfriends who had seen her show that night. This was no dive bar that the trio had chosen for a post-performance meal; it was Candle 79, a cozy Upper East Side restaurant that specializes in organic and vegan cuisine. The nachos came slathered in refried pinto beans, tofu sour cream and chili-grilled seitan, a wheat-based meat substitute.
If you are at a vegan restaurant, be sure to avoid fried things. Unless Candle 79 is bucking the trend, they are using canola, safflower, and soy oils, which are rich in omega-6, which to boot is also sensitive to eat. Alicia's fried food was probably loaded with rancid inflammatory fats. I was sad when I realized my favorite veggie-friendly restaurant, Souen, uses such oils to fry in. I LOVED their fried oysters, but I can't order them again.
But she claims she feels awesome
The karma of turning vegan is amazing. And then to get this sudden weight loss, and my skin is glowing and my nails are strong and my eyes are white — it was wonderful.
But if you google Alicia Silverstone and acne, you can find pictures of her without makeup showing off her not-exactly glowing skin. It's not a surprise: gluten and rancid omega-6s are a nasty combination. It's not veganism that's the real problem here though, it's the idea that veganism is THE PERFECT diet and as long as you don't touch those nasty animal products you are AOK. The truth is that acne is usually caused by things like gluten, sugar, and omega-6 oils. It's hard to avoid these as a vegan...or anyone who eats one, but worth it for everyone!
Last year I had some issues with acne. I realized it was because of my "cheat meal" at the Swedish pub, which was a burger with mayo. The burger bun and the oil in the mayo=bad news for my skin. I have delicate skin and what I eat really does show up, for some lucky people it doesn't, but maybe they aren't so lucky because they don't get that visual indicator. Either way, so many women I know accept acne as normal! If you are 25 and still have acne, that's the sign of a problem.
I was reading this excellent interview with an ex-vegan this morning and she also talks about her "veganism as perfect diet" blinders:
Did you feel better or worse as a vegan?
I felt better for the first four months and then progressively worse for the next seven years.
But did you tell people you felt better?
While I was vegan I worked as a manager in a health food store. I always told myself and others that I felt much better as a vegan (deep down I knew I didn’t). I think I was actually trying to convince myself that I felt better. “I’m thinner, so I MUST feel better.”
If you do the paleo diet you have to be conscious of blinders too. If you are having a problem, admit it and look for solutions. It's very much possible to have a diet that causes problems, but is technically paleo.
Non- ruminants are much more subject to passing on the ratio they get in their diets. So the unhealthiest beef has a 6:3 ratio as good or better than pastured free range bug-eating chicken, and fowl fat from industrial operations is like eating vegetable oil.
That's something good to remember. I had a roommate who was a poultry scientist and I learned lots about chicken feed from him. It's nearly impossible to raise modern breeds of chicken...or any chicken for market weights without using lots and lots of grains, seeds, and legumes. Same goes for hogs. I've updated paleo foods in light of this.
While feedlot beef might have gorged on grains at the end of their lives, they spent much of their lives relying on grass. If I am at a restaurant and the choice is between chicken of dubious origin and beef of dubious origin, I pick beef. Lamb is an even better choice.
When I'm dining with friends who could give a damn about local or paleo food, I try to steer them towards Middle Eastern or Indian restaurants that might use Halal meat. There isn't much terribly special about it, except they are likely to serve lamb and the is likely to be from New Zealand (major producer of halal meats) and thus grass fed. Don Wiss pointed this out at in the forums at Eating Paleo in NYC.
The sense of human alienation from nature, so prevalent in contemporary American culture, is in some ways the shadow-side of the Edenic wilderness myth. In light of the obvious damage we have done to the nonhuman environment, it is tempting to adopt a hands-off attitude and entertain the fantasy of nature's returning to a pristine state. The idea of "letting nature be nature" arises, however, from secondhand knowledge and nature-romanticism; it does no work in practice. Ultimately, we are all implicated, for better and for worse, in the fate of the natural world of which humanity is, in fact, very much a part. As native and traditional cultures help to show, hunter-awareness provides a crucial way of coming to terms with the extent to which each individual life is founded upon the deaths of vibrantly alive others.
Consider the following excerpt from an obituary of a suicide, published not long ago in a radical environmental journal "Tony was a passionate man who felt the earth's distress acutely. In a letter he left to some of his friends he explained his reason for departing. He stated his life had never been better personally. He didn't want people to be sad for him. He checked out as a response to the overwhelming toll we humans are extracting from the planet. His strategy was to lighten the load....
It's hard to imagine more graphic, in some ways chilling, depictions of the alienation of humans from the rest of nature....some revolutionary activists see the eradication of humanity from the "earth-organism" as the only cure to the global environmental crisis....the popular fiction is of a "balance of nature" in which the non-human world, left to its own wisdom and devices, reverts to equilibrium and harmony. It is a fiction that more than once has masqueraded as science in the shaping of wildlife management.
From Mary Zeiss Strange's Woman The Hunter, which does an awesome job of laying bare the true anti-humanistic nature of ecoveganism. Humans ARE nature and many animals we hunt have evolved with us as predators. It is very sad how some parts of the environmental movement see the need to denigrate us as a species and deny that we are worth much.
Recently a vegan blog I read for the recipes did a post equating women's rights movement with the animal right's movement. It brought to mind this quote by Peter Staudenmaier:
The central analogy to the civil rights movement and the women’s movement is trivializing and ahistorical. Both of those social movements were initiated and driven by members of the dispossessed and excluded groups themselves, not by benevolent men or white people acting on their behalf. Both movements were built precisely around the idea of reclaiming and reasserting a shared humanity in the face of a society that had deprived it and denied it. No civil rights activist or feminist ever argued, “We’re sentient beings too!” They argued, “We’re fully human too!” Animal liberation doctrine, far from extending this humanist impulse, directly undermines it.
Guess I'm a little late to the party, but Mark's Daily Apple blogger Mark Sisson is on a push to get his book The Primal Blueprint to the top of Amazon's health & fitness list. I definitely recommend buying the book now if you haven't. It's a great intro book and I bought one as a gift today. As a bonus Mark is offering some cool freebies.
I also just finished Heart and Blood by Richard K. Nelson and will be writing a post on it as soon as I have time.
I added it along with other excellent books to my reading list here.
Also, you should check out Modern Paleo's new mailing lists. They look very promising!
They crop up with alarming frequency on anything to do with paleo- the angry comment that says "paleolithic humans mostly ate plants which WOMEN gathered. Women's gathering, not meat, providing most of the food."
Unfortunately these comments are a result of the sexist and outdated folk anthropology meme that paleolithic men went out hunting while paleolithic women stayed at the camp with baby putting leaves peacefully in a basket all day.
Yeah, nice "just so" story, but not really true.
Right now I'm reading Woman The Hunter by anthropologist Mary Zeiss Strange:
(Anthropologist) Tabet notes several studies which show that "the stress in the literature on women as gatherers of vegetable food has ... been grossly overdone, and the importance of small protein sources [such] as eggs, birds, lizards, burrowing animals and grubs has been greatly underestimated. [For example]... women in the Eastern Western Desert of Australia saw themselves as going out primarily for meat."
Women might not have commonly gone out with bows and arrows on long hunts, but they recognized the unique value of animal foods and took them whenever they could. You don't need to shoot anything to procure these sources of food. It's likely that like in the surviving hunter gatherer tribes, women were sophisticated trappers.
No matter what your political opinion is of food stamps, if you stand on the side of real food, this article about buying "gourmet" food on food stamps and the comments are a bit incendiary.
Apparently people are having the audacity to buy food that tastes good and is appropriate for humans, like wild fish and rabbit. Egads, don't they know poor people should be eating beans?
At nearly every food justice conference I go to I hear that. I'll go from one seminar on raising heritage poultry for fancy restaurants to another seminar on how we can save all the poor people from obesity by teaching them to cook dried beans bought in bulk. At the same conference where we talk in the livestock feed seminar about feeding cattle diets appropriate for their species, no one every questions whether beans are good food for humans. And while we talk about heirloom lettuce and fatty Ossabow pigs, we forget to acknowledge that desire for good tasting things is universal among humans.
Either way, the reason that wild fish and decent meat are out of reach from poor people is due to artificial distortions in our economy and how we live.
This weekend I went to Jackson Lander's locavore hunting seminar. He puts delicious nutritious wild meat on his family's table for just the cost of a gun and ammo. Just like my dirt poor ancestors did in Arkansas and Lousiana. They ate rabbit, turtle, venison, crawfish... the kind of food you get at gourmet restaurants these days. Back then poor people weren't obese and my ancestors lived into their 80s despite the tough conditions they endured.
I can tell you that campaigns to get beloved "veggies" and vegetable gardens into low income schools have their merits, but they will probably do little to alter the overall dietary makeup. Lettuce has vitamins and minerals, but little in the way of calories. Beans? With bacon they are pretty good, but most do gooders are advocating a vegetarian diet that would probably send most people with tastebuds back to KFC.
Teaching low income people to butchers, hunt (deer in particular are overpopulated in most areas), fish, and raise animals for food would go a long way in altering their diets as while as providing them valuable and in-demand skills for jobs.
But we already knew that...."teach a man to fish..."
If you live in NYC, you should definitely check out this week's Paleo Kitchen Skillshare. It's an event where we will be sharing crazy paleo kitchen skillz for optimizing your diet and making delicious food.
I've also been getting lots of comments asking how I cook certain things. I thought I'd also share some basic techniques for those of you not able to make this week's skillshare:
- Save your "pickle juice": If you buy good quality lacto-fermented pickles/sauerkraut, make sure to save the juice leftover. You can use it instead of whey in pickle recipes like this one for ginger carrots.
- Fat rendering cooking method: I cook pork belly this way since it is fatty enough to be delicious even if you have rendered some fat out. That rendered fat can be used later in other recipes like those in the Momofuku cookbook or in confit. The way I do this is by putting the pork belly or fatback in the crock pot overnight on low. To eat the delicious belly, simply brown it after cooking and season it with salt and pepper.
- Cooking in wine: most people seem to know this, but I didn't. I never cared for wine, so I always ignored it in recipes. Woe is me...restaurants use wine for a good reason! Last night I braised a lamb shank in red wine in the crock pot on low overnight. It was AMAZING. Cooking in wine also protects delicate fats since the wine contains antioxidants.
Last weekend the fridge at work was left ajar, which was overall a complete disaster. But I did notice that a jug of apple cider was bulging. Aha! A sign of fermentation. I poured it into a glass. It was fizzy and smelled kind of alcoholic. I took a swig. It was fairly tasty, though later I realized I didn't need the alcohol at 11 AM.
A few years ago I would have been aghast at eating "spoiled" food like that, but since becoming intimate with fermentation, I am much more daring. The fridge is a recent invention and our ancestors might not have had the luxury to turn up their noses at food that's a little...um...off? But "off" sort of implies the food is bad, when actually in many cases it's good.
The status of fermentation in the paleo diet is controversial. Many paleo books do not mention it and Cordain's Paleo Diet newsletter recently knocked kombucha for containing acetic acid and yeast (they also said it causes metabolic acidosis...of which there is one case in the medical literature and the person in question also had other serious problems).
That's nonsense. Our our bodies are full of yeast and acetic-acid producing bacteria and our natural environment would have also been rich in these. Think about the life of a hunter-gatherer. From birth to death they are surrounded by dirt. Of course this is bad when you have a wound that gets infected, but this immersion in dirty nature probably means their bodies are more biodiverse than ours.
Contrast that with my birth, which was a C-section done in a clean environment. Science shows that C-sections alter gut bacteria, which is bad news, because largely the species established when you are young are the ones that stay with you for the rest of your life. There is plenty of science supporting the Hygiene Hypothesis, which posits that children growing up in clean environments have higher incidences of allergies, asthma, and other diseases of civilization. There is emerging evidence that gut bacteria plays a role in metabolic syndrome as well.
There is no question in my mind that our modern gut biodiversity caused by our divorce from dirt is a bad thing.
Having a history of stomach problems, managing my gut bacteria is important to me. I do it two ways: not eating foods that seem to encourage the proliferation of misery-causing bacteria and then balancing my bacteria with probiotic foods. "Cleansing" is a bad idea because it gets rid of both bad and good bacteria and irritates the gut...and an irritated gut can't be a good habitat.
A few times since starting the paleo diet I've gone off the band wagon. My IBS soon returns with a vengeance. I can tell the wrong bacteria are having a feast at my expense. My strategy for getting it under control borrows a lot from the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, which treats colitis by reducing such fermentation. Last time this problem happened, after a week of staying up late to plan a food event and then eating lots of carby sugary food at the event, I calmed things down by eating zero carb for a week. I particularly enjoyed a tonic of egg yolks cooked in bone broth.
Soon my stomach was feeling much better, but I don't think zero carb completely solves the situation. I think fermented foods are the missing link, providing valuable bacteria and truly digestible nutrients.
While the scientific studies show that it's very hard and perhaps impossible to add new species to your gut, probiotics can still have an effect, though it will go away if you discontinue them. Furthermore, fermented foods often are simply easier for your body to digest and contain many beneficial bioavilable nutrients.
That brings me to Wild Fermentation, which was really a groundbreaking book for me. It taught me to embrace and take advantage of wild crazy bacteria.
This book is of the post-vegan canon. Sandor was a vegan, but a serious health problem propelled him to become omnivorous. In his case, it was AIDS.
But Wild Fermentation contains a wide variety of ferments suitable for all diets. The exception is meat ferments, which he does himself, but does not include instructions for in his book. He refers readers to The Indigenous Fermented Food of the Sudan, which apparently tells of how the Sudanese ferment meat nose to tail. Unfortunately that book seems to be unaffordable.
That's OK with me actually...I'm not sure meat fermentation is something I want to dabble in right now. The main ferment I consume is lacto-fermented vegetables. It's quite funny because just a few years ago I wouldn't have eaten pickles or sauerkraut if you paid me. I think my tastebuds were to put it lightly, shallow from years of consuming industrial food lacking in complexity. I admittedly had to force myself to eat my first batches of pickled vegetables, but at this point I LOVE them. They are tangy and delicious. The best part is that I now crave sour foods rather than sweet foods.
Pickled ginger carrots vs. Snickers? I'll take the former. The variety of flavors, the spicy and sour ginger with the tart carrots, is just superior.
An important thing I learned from this book was the distinction between vinegar preservation and lacto-fermentation. You can make pickles by just putting some cucumbers in vinegar, but they will not have the same health-giving or flavor properties as vegetables that have been fermented.
Sandor particularly praises sauerkraut: he talks about a study that shows that it is much richer in cancer-fighting compounds than plain old cabbage. I personally find that the best sauerkraut is made in a heavy crock with a water seal that allows the cabbage to breath, but doesn't allow mold to get in. Luckily, I have access to one, but if I didn't I would make kimchi, which is just as tasty and more resistant to mold. However, Sandor says not to worry too much about mold, as it seems to be a surface phenomonon that doesn't affect the overall welfare of the cabbage buried beneath the brine.
One of the joys I experienced when I first ate Korean food was all the delicious pickled vegetables they bring you. I realized after my first Korean meal that you really can pickle almost any robust vegetable. Vegetable fermentation has become trendy in NYC and the local farmer's markets are full of pickled beets, radishes, onions, carrots, peppers, and silky wonderful mushrooms. The most surprising pickle I had recently was pickled beet stems, which is a revelation since I usually throw those away. The pickling process had muted the bitterness, but preserved the crunchiness and added a rhubarb-like tartness.
Some of the other ferments Sandor addresses are less relevant to the paleo diet, but great if you eat grains to get the full nutrition out of them. Kefir is relevant to everybody since you can make it from ruminant milk, nut milk, and anything that has fermentable sugars like coconut water.
Overall, my digestion feels better when I consume fermented foods and I have noticed that my seasonal allergies are much better. But of course, the main reason to eat them is that they are delicious and nourishing.