What did *my* ancestors eat? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 33 Old 12-01-2007, 09:45 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Feel free to post your own heritage, too!

I've got Irish, English, German/Polish, and French. What are the traditional foods for those cultures? What aren't? Or what other information is needed?

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#2 of 33 Old 12-01-2007, 10:44 PM
 
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I'm in a similar boat - very complicated lineage and to add to it, DH's from halfway around the world.

So what I ended up doing is trying a bunch of food and sticking with what makes me feel best. It turns out, it's basically continental food, low grains. I think that might be easier for you too, instead of trying to figure out exactly what your ancestors ate.

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#3 of 33 Old 12-02-2007, 12:02 AM
 
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Errr, how far back are we talking? By 'traditional' English food do you mean medieval? If so, heavy on the meats and offal, lots of puddings and pies which combine meats, offal, fruit and spices, sweet and savoury together. Irish... well, potatoes. My Irish grandmother said that the 'Irish = potatoes' cliche is no exaggeration--they ate them year-round, either mashed with leek and butter in a pile on the plate, or just plain with big hunks of butter and salt as a whole meal.... LOTS of potatoes! Also rabbit stew.

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#4 of 33 Old 12-02-2007, 12:33 AM
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Seeing as how potatoes came to Europe from the Americas somewhere around 1500 (then some time in between for the potato to make its way to Ireland and then become a staple), there must have been some other staple carb prior to then that was replaced by the potato. Was it oats? Some other grain? Depends on how far back you want to take 'traditional'.

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#5 of 33 Old 12-02-2007, 01:04 AM
 
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I am a mix of cajun french and german. I know my grandparents and great grandparents were into saurkraut - but when I asked for my grandma's recipe it was not a fermented one, so I guess it was 'simplified' over the years.

I found this about the cajun history - but of course that is only going back a couple hundred years, so I'm not sure how 'traditional' that is. Before that I suppose it was just french peasant food. I'd like to know more though!

http://www.uwf.edu/tprewitt/sofood/past.htm

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In both wetland and prairie Cajun homes, kitchens were simple and utilitarian. Kitchen cookware consisted simply of a cast iron kettle suspended over a hearth; a few families had a cast-iron frying pan. Subsistence farming and hunting produced such mainstay foods as corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, beans, pumpkins, okra, and rice. Their diets were supplemented with wild game, domestic livestock (pork and beef), and home grown fruit (figs, oranges, plums, pecans, and grapes). Wheat flour was the only food staple that was not locally grown, and was purchased instead at the markets. Originally, Cajun meals were bland, and nearly all foods were boiled. The development of the roux gave more versatility to boiled dishes. Rice was used to stretch out meals to feed large families. While milk and wheat flour were considered "company foods", sugar and molasses were locally available, and used frequently; molasses topped cornbread at nearly every meal.
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Immigrants, most of French peasant ancestry, settled the "Acadian" region of the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia from 1604 to 1654. By 1713 the total population of Acadians in the Bay of Fundy area was 2,000; by 1755, the population had grown to 15,000. These settlers subsisted on cereal crops such as wheat, barley and oats, and garden vegetables such as field peas, cabbage, and turnips. This diet was supplemented by domestic livestock, wild game, and fishing.

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#6 of 33 Old 12-02-2007, 01:08 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Part of why I want to know is because I have no clue where to even start finding out this sort of information.

The other part is that I'm discovering that ~90% of the world likely has a gluten sensitivity, and that many have casein sensitivities. If the swiss ate rye bread, then they likely wouldn't have gluten sensitivities (right?) And I thought lots of other European cultures ate rye as well. What about dairy?

As I track down my own food sensitivities and balance, I guess I'm just looking for a starting place.

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#7 of 33 Old 12-02-2007, 03:31 AM
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I think a major factor in many people having sensitivities to gluten and casein is that modern life and modern diets are generally hostile to gut flora, which leads to a weakening of the integrity of the gut wall, i.e. "leaky gut". This allows undigested proteins to pass into the bloodstream, where they stimulate an immune response (because they're not supposed to be there undigested, they're supposed to be thoroughly broken down first, by proper digestion), resulting in sensitization and intolerance. I don't think you can necessarily say, for example, that someone of Swiss descent won't have a sensitivity to gluten from rye or casein from milk, just because those were the staple foods of their ancestors for many generations. They very well may have sensitivities to those things if their life, diet and environment haven't adequately nurtured appropriate gut flora, regardless of their genetic heritage. It seems to me that gluten and casein are being cast in the role of scapegoat lately, when in actuality the fault lies with other factors that created the gut malfunction to begin with (antibiotics, lack of probiotic foods and enzymes, use of antacids, over-consumption of nutritionally-vacant foods, etc.). It's not the fault of gluten or casein, per se, but rather of those many other factors that result in an improperly-functioning digestive system. I think in some cases, it's possible to heal a leaky gut, allowing those foods formerly not tolerated to be eaten safely.

Your own food sensitivities may have little connection to your heritage. I mean, to use the same example, you could be Swiss and sensitive to gluten or casein, if your digestion has become compromised at some point and triggered an inappropriate immune response. Unless you're living in the same area as your ancestors, have always eaten the same foods, and have an optimally healthy digestive system, I think deciding what to eat based on your heritage is academic, because so many other factors can influence how your body reacts to certain foods, factors that have little to do with your ancestry. That's not to say knowing your heritage and eating your personally traditional foods doesn't have value (I, for one, find it somehow spiritually fulfilling to know I'm eating and enjoying something my great-greats would have eaten), but I think it can distract from other factors that have a more direct impact on the healthfulness of a certain food for one's self.

Some things do appear to be heritable, like lactase persistence (the continuation into adulthood of the production of the enzyme that aids in digestion of lactose), but that's a separate issue from gut malfunction or allergic-type food sensitivities.

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#8 of 33 Old 12-02-2007, 11:05 AM
 
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One of the most fascinating things I ever read was John Thorne's essay in Pot on the Fire on Ireland. He says that before "colonization" by the British, the Irish were almost exclusively pastoralists and lived almost exclusively on milk products--very few staple carbs, period. In his discussion, the British wanted to use the land for agriculture and basically turned the Irish from free-roaming herders into enslaved agriculturalists--and then the potato came along and developed this trend still further. He's probably romanticizing the pre-British past, but this is one of the best accounts I've read of "native" European foodways.

As for how far back to go, I think that you at least want to go back before the Industrial Revolution (which means--curses--black tea is not part of my genetic heritage). I think you also have to be careful about which recipes you're looking at. A lot of our information on medieval cookery seems to come from cookbooks for the rich and don't necessarily reflect the daily diet of the majority of people in a given region.

I would love to think that because of the wee bit of Irish, the great helpings of Scots, and the touch of Swiss I could live primarily on dairy. Like AJP, though, I think that one's heritage isn't a fully reliable index of what to eat anymore. Too bad.

Of course, some go back to the pre-agricultural (pre-grains and dairy) era, and I think there's a lot to be said for that. However, you can have my milk when you pry it from my cold, dead, fingers. I just can't go that far.
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#9 of 33 Old 12-02-2007, 11:21 AM
 
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Originally Posted by phroggies View Post
One of the most fascinating things I ever read was John Thorne's essay in Pot on the Fire on Ireland. He says that before "colonization" by the British, the Irish were almost exclusively pastoralists and lived almost exclusively on milk products--very few staple carbs, period. In his discussion, the British wanted to use the land for agriculture and basically turned the Irish from free-roaming herders into enslaved agriculturalists--and then the potato came along and developed this trend still further. He's probably romanticizing the pre-British past, but this is one of the best accounts I've read of "native" European foodways.

As for how far back to go, I think that you at least want to go back before the Industrial Revolution (which means--curses--black tea is not part of my genetic heritage). I think you also have to be careful about which recipes you're looking at. A lot of our information on medieval cookery seems to come from cookbooks for the rich and don't necessarily reflect the daily diet of the majority of people in a given region.

I would love to think that because of the wee bit of Irish, the great helpings of Scots, and the touch of Swiss I could live primarily on dairy. Like AJP, though, I think that one's heritage isn't a fully reliable index of what to eat anymore. Too bad.

Of course, some go back to the pre-agricultural (pre-grains and dairy) era, and I think there's a lot to be said for that. However, you can have my milk when you pry it from my cold, dead, fingers. I just can't go that far.

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#10 of 33 Old 12-02-2007, 12:22 PM - Thread Starter
 
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AJP, after lying awake and thinking (about all sorts of things) all night in bed, I've pretty much come to similar conclusions as you - that some of these ancient cultures are eating foods they have a propensity to become sensitive to, they just don't abuse their bodies enough to actually become sensitive.

As for gluten sensitivity, I remember reading that a baby with a genetic predisposition to celiac is less likely to become celiac if they're still nursing (and, I assume mom is eating gluten) with they're introduced to gluten. That, combined with the fact that celiac can hit at any point - usually with an event that is somewhat stressful on the body like pregnancy, puberty, getting the flu... those all sound like events that use up a lot of digestive resources - glutamine and vit A come to mind immediately. If the body's not properly supported, then the balance tips towards leaky gut and the gluten sensitivity shows it's face. I wonder if the reverse is true. Once the body is sensitized to gluten, by removing all traces of it long enough to heal, *and* healing the leaky gut/preventing it in the future (i.e. eating a TF diet), could you put yourself back at square one where you can eat gluten again without a problem? Or is the sensitivity for life?

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#11 of 33 Old 12-02-2007, 12:54 PM
 
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Errr, how far back are we talking? By 'traditional' English food do you mean medieval? If so, heavy on the meats and offal, lots of puddings and pies which combine meats, offal, fruit and spices, sweet and savoury together. Irish... well, potatoes. My Irish grandmother said that the 'Irish = potatoes' cliche is no exaggeration--they ate them year-round, either mashed with leek and butter in a pile on the plate, or just plain with big hunks of butter and salt as a whole meal.... LOTS of potatoes! Also rabbit stew.
I'm German and Swedish. What did they eat? :

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#12 of 33 Old 12-02-2007, 12:59 PM
 
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fascinating.
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#13 of 33 Old 12-02-2007, 01:02 PM
 
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there's a baker who comes to the local farmer's market who's a sourdough fanatic. he sells sourdough bread made from his own starters and he swears that they break down the gluten enough that even celiacs can eat it.

i'm not celiac, and i'm not eating grains, so i don't know if it's true, but that's his take on the subject.
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#14 of 33 Old 12-02-2007, 01:03 PM
 
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Once the body is sensitized to gluten, by removing all traces of it long enough to heal, *and* healing the leaky gut/preventing it in the future (i.e. eating a TF diet), could you put yourself back at square one where you can eat gluten again without a problem? Or is the sensitivity for life?
I honestly believe that I have healed my celiac disease through TF. I know "they" say it's not possible and that it's a life-long sensitivity, but that hasn't been the case in my experience.

Now I don't eat modern gluten-containing foods or quick rise breads, but I do eat plenty of sour-leavened breads and noodles and have tried a few sprouted gluten-containing grains as well. I suffer no reaction, and I even had my AGA levels checked and no detectable levels. Sure it's been said that AGA is a poor marker of celiac disease, but no detectable AGA and absolutely no reactions coupled with progressively improving general health leads me to believe that my condition is healed.

As for ancestry and our choices in foods, I try to eat close to what my ancestors would have eaten but it's difficult and often impractical. My ancestry is Dutch, German, English and Irish. DH's ancestry is Dutch, French, Scottish. It's pretty doubtful our ancestors ever had access to coconut oil, palm kernel oil or even olive oil if you go back far enough. Yet, I know I don't have access to quite as much high quality saturated fat as they did so I do still incorporate tropical oils on occasion, and I'm not giving up my yummy EVOO.

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#15 of 33 Old 12-02-2007, 01:11 PM
 
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Originally Posted by AJP View Post
Seeing as how potatoes came to Europe from the Americas somewhere around 1500 (then some time in between for the potato to make its way to Ireland and then become a staple), there must have been some other staple carb prior to then that was replaced by the potato. Was it oats? Some other grain? Depends on how far back you want to take 'traditional'.
Turnips.
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#16 of 33 Old 12-02-2007, 01:19 PM
 
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Here is a link some of you might find useful

http://www.cliffordawright.com/caw/food/topics/
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#17 of 33 Old 12-02-2007, 01:29 PM
 
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I can speak to the diet of our irish ancestors. My grand parents and great grantparents lived off the land so to speak. Primary foods were what they could grow, both on the land and animals. Every part of a pig was carefully preserved in salt. Grains were grown and ground into flower, and made int to breads. Oatmeal was made to feed both animals and people. Butter was made in volume, Blood pudding was made in volumes (very high in iron - made from blood of the pig) Potatoes were huge. Turnips were huge.. Foul ( Chickens, turkey, geese etc) all home grown so to speak. They caught fish if they happen to live by the coastal areas. They ate "seagrass" . This is now known as a vegatable of the sea. They ate huge amounts of salty bacon with cabbage ( this american intrepretation of this is Corned beef and cabbage - A Totally different meal). This was preserved through the year in wooden barrels filled with salt. My grandparents ate Fried bacon, Irish sausage, eggs every day until they died in their 90's. ( As did most who did not get TB or consumption!!)

From what i know - potatoes did come form south america sometime in the 1500's . they thrived in the land in IReland and quickly became a staple.

I think whats killing us is the lack of natural organic foods, greens, veggies, and also we are missing exercise. I am not talking about an hour at the gym - I am talking about consistantly using your body to do physical work. Spending a day in the field - or a month in the field with a shovel planting, or cultivating etc was tough work. However this is what or ancestors did on a daily basis. Both male and female. They were able to burn off any calories they were lucky to get. I know this is not practical in our current society. nowadays - most diseases are not prevented as they should be - but they can maybe cure them. However, Long ago - they got sick also - and died. Is it really that bad to eat a steak -or is the bad think eating a steak that would feed 4, and then not feel like exercising ?

anyway - sorry for rambling on there

thanks
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#18 of 33 Old 12-02-2007, 01:51 PM
 
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All of my ancestors were living in small Jewish communities in Eastern Europe- until my grandparents' generation (and great-grandparents on one side) who lived in NYC.

I would guess that they ate lots of poultry, red meat, beans, barely, root veggies and winter squashes, and probably rye bread. Probably raw dairy as well, as plenty of traditional recipes feature sour cream.

However, I personally can't handle the grains, beans, or dairy right now- probably from my gut being messed up on conventional American processed foods such as white flour and pasturized milk. So it doesn't much matter that my ancestors probably ate rye bread daily and put beans and barley into their stews- I need to eat far larger portions of nuts and animal foods than they likely ate, in order to promote optimal health for myself right now.

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#19 of 33 Old 12-02-2007, 02:42 PM
 
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Thanks for bringing this up, I was actually thinking about all of this just the other day.

Mine is a little more difficult- mainly norwegian, native american(arapaho tribe), french, italian, irish, and german.

It's just too much of a mix for me to really pin point a diet.

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#20 of 33 Old 12-02-2007, 09:55 PM
 
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I'm German and Swedish. What did they eat?
Heh; I have no idea, sorry. Well, beer, if you're German. A good way to find out might be to think of some famous German or Swedish people, and find some books about them which mention what they ate. For example, I think 'German', I think Martin Luther. So I google 'Martin Luther diet', and I get... 10,000 results chronicling 'Martin Luther's Diet of Worms', which isn't what it sounds like. You know what? This is a stupid way to find out. Let's try again.

http://www.foodtimeline.org/

There we go. It isn't perfect, but it's an addictively fascinating site. Who'd have known that cheesecake was invented in the first century AD? Or that lemon meringue pie hails from 1691? 'It's not pigging out, it's a history project'... ah, the power of knowledge!

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#21 of 33 Old 12-03-2007, 02:07 AM
 
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Well I'm English, Scottish, Blackfoot Indian and Dutch just to name a few. So given that mixed heritage I could eat lots of meat, dairy, oats, nuts, seeds, berries, fish etc etc hehe.

I feel best eating a wide variety of food, which is what the region I live in offers. We can grow apples and bananas within 100 miles from eachother, that's how richly varied the climates of Southern California are.

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#22 of 33 Old 12-03-2007, 03:34 AM
 
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I'm mostly Norwegian with some Irish and Polish thrown in there (and a bit of something else, but we don't know ... my great-grandmother's family was here in the states for many years, so probably some other European ancestry thrown in there). But, like Ruthla mentioned about her ancestors, even though mine ate a lot of rye bread, I cannot. I wish my grandma on my dad's side (the Norwegian side) was still alive as I'd pick her brain more about the foods of her family. My dad told me some when I would ask him, especially about their dairy cows, their pigs, and their root cellar. But, he was only 8 when they moved to the states, so the rest of his life was tainted by standard American food.

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#23 of 33 Old 12-04-2007, 11:26 PM
 
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I've been working on something like this for us here to figure out what's good for our family to eat. I figure, if the ancestors ate it and lived long enough to reproduce, it should be fine for us.

My mother's family is Eastern European, looks like they were originally Russian peasants who seem to have subsisted on cabbage.

My father's family is Creole, originally from Sub-Saharan Africa by way of Haiti with a bit of Choctaw and French thrown in. I need to do some DNA testing to figure out where in Africa they were taken from before I can figure out what they would have eaten at that point.

That should give me a good assortment of foods, though.

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#24 of 33 Old 02-12-2008, 03:50 AM
 
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Originally Posted by phroggies View Post
One of the most fascinating things I ever read was John Thorne's essay in Pot on the Fire on Ireland. He says that before "colonization" by the British, the Irish were almost exclusively pastoralists and lived almost exclusively on milk products--very few staple carbs, period. In his discussion, the British wanted to use the land for agriculture and basically turned the Irish from free-roaming herders into enslaved agriculturalists--and then the potato came along and developed this trend still further. He's probably romanticizing the pre-British past, but this is one of the best accounts I've read of "native" European foodways.

As for how far back to go, I think that you at least want to go back before the Industrial Revolution (which means--curses--black tea is not part of my genetic heritage). I think you also have to be careful about which recipes you're looking at. A lot of our information on medieval cookery seems to come from cookbooks for the rich and don't necessarily reflect the daily diet of the majority of people in a given region.

I would love to think that because of the wee bit of Irish, the great helpings of Scots, and the touch of Swiss I could live primarily on dairy. Like AJP, though, I think that one's heritage isn't a fully reliable index of what to eat anymore. Too bad.

Of course, some go back to the pre-agricultural (pre-grains and dairy) era, and I think there's a lot to be said for that. However, you can have my milk when you pry it from my cold, dead, fingers. I just can't go that far.
This is very interesting. I am at least 9/10 Irish (Northern), and the rest English, Scottish, Cherokee, Algonkian, Dutch, and Norman. Quite a mutt. But both sides of my family (paternal 100% "off-the-boat") have dairy allergies/intolerances. So I'm wondering if the type of dairy really matters-cow, goat, sheep. Some in my family are ok with goat, but everyone is good with sheep dairy...

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#25 of 33 Old 02-12-2008, 05:00 AM
 
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mainly inuit, cherokee, and scotch irish for myself. lots of animal products and produce and very little fruit, i'm thinking, aside from berries...

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#26 of 33 Old 02-12-2008, 10:47 AM
 
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i am mostly irish with a tiny bit 'o' cherokee,- dh is 1/2 irish, 1/2 german with a pinch of french.

i find this thread and the links in it fascinating. i really think heritage can be important, of course you have to listen to your body. but for our family, the #1 factor is eating local and in season. we live in missouri, so that means cold storage part of the year, canning, etc. this year it will also mean sun drying. we eat just about anything we can grow here. if it is a whole food, it's good.

we also partake of non-perishable items from afar, because we feel they are 'dietary supplements' more than food. we dont have the means to fish these freshwaters, we buy canned sardines (maybe not much longer- i called and they are supposed ot be getting back to me about BPA in the can lining.) they are from portugal because we cant find pure, clean sardines any closer. (bela) and i buy kombu in bulk to add to bone broths and soups. these arent local by any means. it is hard to grow everything, too, but we keep trying!

i think one thing all cultures had in common is they ate local, whole food.

Hi, I'm Tabitha. I'm a homeschooling mother of four: ds (11) dd (9) ds (7) ds (5) And I'm expecting a fifth in 2014! Find me at http://www.omelay.blogspot.com
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#27 of 33 Old 02-12-2008, 06:56 PM
 
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my dad's parents were from jewish communities in what is now the Chezch republic and Germany. My grandmother and her sister were amazing cooks and made traditional eastern european jewish food such as - beet borcht, knedleki (its like this yummy dumpling stuff) fried with lots of eggs and butter, gifilte fish, smoked fish such as lox, pickled herring was a favorite, beef toungue, cow brains, kidney meat fried with onions, chicken in any way possible but alweays with a rich, creamy gravy. my grandfather ate 2 softboiled eggs every morning for breakfast his entire adult life.
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#28 of 33 Old 02-12-2008, 07:43 PM
 
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Ha ha ha!! Let's see.....

I am German, Irish, English, French, Romanian, Scottish, Hungarian, Native American and maybe Welsh - a total mutt!! My relatives first came to the US in the 1600's - so basically I'm full blooded modern American (modern as opposed to native).

I eat whatever feels good to my body and lately have been finding that fewer carbs and fewer beans than I ate on my formerly veg diet are much better for me. I seem to do well with a lot of eggs and dairy. I guess mostly my heritage would be from Great Britain and likely those in Eastern Europe ate somewhat similiarly as well.
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#29 of 33 Old 02-12-2008, 07:55 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tabitha View Post
but for our family, the #1 factor is eating local and in season. we live in missouri, so that means cold storage part of the year, canning, etc. this year it will also mean sun drying. we eat just about anything we can grow here. if it is a whole food, it's good.

we also partake of non-perishable items from afar, because we feel they are 'dietary supplements' more than food. we dont have the means to fish these freshwaters, we buy canned sardines (maybe not much longer- i called and they are supposed ot be getting back to me about BPA in the can lining.) they are from portugal because we cant find pure, clean sardines any closer. (bela) and i buy kombu in bulk to add to bone broths and soups. these arent local by any means. it is hard to grow everything, too, but we keep trying!

i think one thing all cultures had in common is they ate local, whole food.
: My heritage is British/Welsh with a wee bit of Acadian French. Fortunately where I live has a pretty similar climate, so our staple foods are dairy, eggs, beef, pork, vegetables (we're all about kale at the moment, not much else growing) and fruit in season (apples, apples, more apples, some battered-looking pears and oddly enough, kiwis at the moment). I'm not eating starch at the moment, but DD and DH get potatoes regularly, plus a few grains here and there. I do cook rice fairly frequently; DH is half Chinese. I don't eat it though. Occasionally I will use Chinese condiments in a meal (fermented soy and bean based).

I would really like to go raw paleo for a while, I think - but I suspect the rest of the family would revolt and start eating at McDonald's, so good old Brit-style food with occasional stir-fries is a happy medium.

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#30 of 33 Old 02-12-2008, 09:08 PM
 
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I'm an Irish girl Here is some great info all about the traditional Irish diet.

http://www.ravensgard.org/prdunham/irishfood.html



quote: "Irish cuisine began its history, as a cuisine based on meat and dairy products supplemented with seafood in coastal regions and vegetables as a side issue but not as a major component of the diet."
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