Thanksgiving gets a great deal of attention every year. For many, it is a time for families to see each other over a large traditional meal. Thanksgiving is the American feast. I like the idea of being thankful for the good things in my life. I happen to love the tradition, and to love eating the old favorites, prepared from real food. Yet I must confess something. I also love to cook the Thanksgiving feast.
Yes, it is a lot of work. Especially when you add the trimmings, such as homemade stuffing and real gravy, made with fresh broth and the magnificent turkey drippings. But to see the joy it brings to those who eat it-that is truly fulfilling. And chances are that your work will be very much appreciated.
And I want to confess something else. It is not that complicated. If you get real ingredients, even average cooking skills will result in a wonderful meal. I make a turkey, a stuffing, roast some vegetables in the pan with the turkey, roast some sweet potatoes on the side, make some simple boiled vegetables, and a wonderful gravy from the drippings. None of these items are difficult to prepare. It is just that there are a lot of them, and some are time consuming. The solution is planning and organization.
I plan the cooking of each dish, organize the ingredients, start early in the morning, and it always goes well. And the smell of the roasting turkey, lovingly basted with butter, is just magnificent.
Often, you can also get family members and friends to help with some of the tasks, and it can become a fun project, with a result that everyone will enjoy.
It has become common for supermarkets to offer people a full Thanksgiving meal, which just needs to be reheated, for a large amount of money. I am certain that no reheated meal from a store can possibly compete with a home cooked meal of real food. Food prepared for people you love or like, with love, has a special quality all its own.
After the feast, turkey leftovers are considered a problem by many people. Not me. Here is a link to a recipe for the turkey broth I make after every Thanksgiving, which uses those leftovers to create a wonderful traditional broth:
Happy Thanksgiving! May you and yours eat well!
This post is part of Real Food Wednesday blog carnival.
I have written so many times of the benefits of avoiding factory foods, and eating only real food. These benefits are real, and they have greatly improved my health and enabled me not to need medical care for over a decade. But I have come to realize something. Even though it is a lot of work and effort to just eat real food, it is not enough.
Our bodies need sleep to get the full benefits of the nutrients in the food. Our bodies use this time to rest and rejuvenate. And our bodies need enough sleep, something very few of us get these days.
It is somewhat hypocritical for me to advocate the benefits of getting enough sleep, because I usually do not get enough. To be honest, it is common for me to sleep for only four hours. But last night, for some reason, I did get enough sleep. I slept for over eight hours. And the benefits were so profound that I did some research. Now I have a new goal to go along with my good diet—getting enough sleep.
The Benefits of Sleep
There is a good reason for everything in nature. We sleep for a number of important purposes.
From a food perspective, sleep is absolutely vital to get the full benefit of real food. The natural functions of our bodies use the time we are asleep to repair and rejuvenate our bodies. This does not work well unless our bodies have all the nutrients we need to do this. A crucial reason to eat only real food, so we can get those nutrients. But we also need enough sleep so our natural functions can concentrate the energy of the body on repair and rejuvenation. If we are awake and engaging in work or other activities, our natural functions have far less energy available to them to do their work.
I thought I was healthy, but one night of getting enough sleep made me feel even better. Much better. And much more alert and productive.
I now realize that if I am going to enjoy the full benefits of the real food that I put so much effort into obtaining and cooking, I will also need to get enough sleep.
How Much Sleep?
Before the advent of electricity, most people would sleep during most or all of the hours of darkness, and wake early in the morning, often with the sun. Humans are made to be active during the day, and to sleep at night. Other animals sleep during most of the day and are active at night. This natural sleep pattern was followed for most of human history, though there were exceptions. While Dr. Weston A. Price did not write much about the sleep patterns of the healthy peoples he studied, the information we have on them indicates that they slept during the night and were active during the day. Most of them did not have electricity or artificial lighting. But now, technology and lighting have enabled humans to be active, alert, and productive at night, which is not ideal for us.
Albert Einstein, one of the brightest and most productive humans to ever live, slept ten hours a night, every night. He literally changed the world with research and analysis.
Sophia Loren, the actress, is in her mid-seventies. She is still amazingly beautiful, active, and attractive, with great skin and muscle tone. She goes to bed every night at eight p.m. and wakes up at five a.m., getting nine hours of sleep every night. While diet and exercise are also a vital part of how she stays so healthy, she considers this long sleep to be very important.
I believe that eight to ten hours of sleep are ideal for us, but most of us get so much less.
My Own Sleep Issue
Since I have adopted my real food diet, I have no trouble falling asleep. I can also decide the time I want to wake up, and I will wake at that time. In fact, I stopped setting an alarm clock, because I would always wake up just before the alarm rang.
The problem is that the day is much too short for me. I have many interests, and have often worked into the wee hours of the morning, engrossed in what I was learning or writing. One of my greatest joys is learning, and the more I learn, the more I want to learn. And there are the necessities of life, such as cooking, eating, socializing, and spending time with my family. I deliberately chose to sleep less so I would have more time to do the many things that need doing, and that I want to do.
Last night, I did not set a time to wake up. I was tired. I slept for eight hours. And felt so much better.
Now, I have decided to get those eight to ten hours of sleep, somehow. Now that I understand its importance, I will find a way to do it.
As I continue to write and research my upcoming book on traditional cooking, I kept running into the same fact. The use of homemade broth was universal across traditional Europe. This kind of broth, made from the bones, sinews, and meat scraps of pastured animals, and simmered slowly for a long time, at least twelve hours, is a nutritional powerhouse of minerals and other nutrients.
Yet I found something else. While this broth was often heated and sipped by itself, it was common to add other ingredients to make it into a soup. The variety of these soups was almost endless, yet certain ingredients were used over and over. These ingredients were used from Spain to Russia, and everywhere in between. These ingredients were always shredded or cut very small, in the traditional soups.
Since I believe that our ancestors combined ingredients for nutritional reasons, I decided to make a soup out of homemade broth and these widely used ingredients. I did so last night, to fend off the cold of an approaching winter, and to strengthen a body that was fighting something off. I was lucky, and feel that I found something so beneficial that it goes beyond broth in its benefits. The type of soup that European peasants made for themselves, to extract every bit of nutrition from the food they were able to get.
I have many traditional cookbooks. I have collected these books for over thirty years, and I have so many I am embarrassed to give the actual number. I began searching these books for soup recipes using these ingredients. I came across so many recipes that I could not decide, and they were all blending together in my head and thought. So I decided to go with the flow, and follow the thought I was having. A recipe began to form in my mind.
Cabbage. Finely shredded cabbage was used in these kind of soups almost everywhere in Europe. I had learned that cabbage, both as sauerkraut and fresh cabbage, was heavily used in winter, and in much of the rest of the year. Fresh cabbage will keep a long time in a traditional root cellar, in cool or cold weather.
Carrots. Finely chopped carrots were another common ingredient. Carrots were also a universal ingredient of these types of soups.
Onion. The onion, valued since the days of ancient Egypt, was another universal ingredient. Except that the finely chopped onions were usually sautéed in some kind of animal fat as the first step in making the soup.
Fat. These soups almost always had some kind of fat that was used to sauté the onion, either bacon, or chicken fat, or butter, or salt pork, or ham fat, or olive oil, or others, depending on what was available.
Potato. The use of the potato in these soups was also almost universal. Potatoes were not introduced to Europe until the seventeenth century, at which point they replaced the previously ubiquitous turnip.
Salt and Pepper. Used by almost everyone to season the soup. Everyone had salt, and pepper was also common, though often not available for the poorer families.
I noticed that everyone cut these vegetables very small, shredding them or even cutting them into pieces the size of threads. I decided to settle for finely chopped vegetables.
I sautéed the onion in a medium sized saucepan with three tablespoons of butter. I then added a quart of homemade beef broth, cabbage, carrot, and a small potato, all finely chopped. I brought the mixture to a simmer, covered the pot, and simmered it for twenty minutes. The aroma of this soup, when I opened the lid, was fantastic.
The soup was placed in large bowls. It was very hot, temperature wise, and we sipped it slowly. We added salt and pepper to taste. It was wonderful, nourishing, filling, warming. It was very filling. In fact, I felt that I was filling my body with easily absorbed nutrients, and I began to feel very good. By the time I had finished a bowl of soup, I felt very satisfied, totally warm, and healthy. The last traces of whatever illness I was fighting off disappeared. I woke this morning feeling completely fine, and immediately got to work on this post.
Our ancestors knew how to combine foods, how to get the nutrients into their bodies in beneficial combinations. Traditional cooking is not only delicious, but nourishing.
We then expect to take the drug, and get well. In many cases, we do not get well. The symptoms are relieved, and we get some immediate relief, but the underlying cause of the illness is not touched.
Many people who try to use food first for healing treat it like taking a drug. For example, people with a sore throat will take a honey vinegar drink, expecting it to act like a drug and provide immediate relief. Sometime it will, sometimes it will not. Sometimes the underlying condition will disappear. And sometimes it will not.
This is because the food we eat does not act like drugs. No food acts directly to cure an illness. Instead, the food provides various substances to our bodies. It is the natural functions of our bodies that use these substances to actually heal us.
So, if eating a particular real food does not help, it is likely that something else the body needs is missing.
Eating a diversified, wide ranging diet of real foods is our best chance of giving our bodies what they need to stay healthy. And, if we avoid chemicals that deceive our senses, like the flavor chemicals put in processed foods, our bodies may actually tell us what foods we need.
How Real Food Helps Us Heal
If you try to use food to help your body heal, eventually you will realize that some foods that help you one time, will not help the next. But some other foods may. This is because the content and chemistry of our bodies is constantly changing, and our natural functions have many different ways of resisting disease and healing us, only some of which are understood. From my own experience, and the reported experience of others that I know, and from the rare studies in this area, I believe that our bodies know how to heal most conditions. But they must have the right ingredients to perform these healings, which could also be viewed as “repair jobs.”
Some of these ingredients are produced by our bodies. But other ingredients can only be obtained from food. Our bodies also need the right substances from food to make the ingredients our bodies produce. The key is to eat the foods that our bodies need for our natural functions to work well.
So How Do We Know What Foods to Eat?
Our ancestral food traditions give us a lot of information. These traditions emphasize a huge variety of real foods, prepared and combined in many different ways.
But the best guide we have is the craving for a particular food. Our bodies know what foods we need to eat, and make us hungry for them. Our ancestors could trust these cravings. But most modern people cannot.
Factory food and chemicals deceive our natural sense of what is needed.
We cannot trust these cravings, if we eat processed food, or food with chemicals. That is because these foods have chemicals added to them that fool our bodies into believing that the food contains something it does not. Flavor enhancers do this, and chemicals that make people crave a certain factory food do this. Large amounts of refined sugar do this, as do chemical additives. It is like trying to see a path when you have been given hallucinogenic drugs.
The only way to get our cravings back on track is to eat only real food, with no added chemicals. Once we do this, our bodies can recover their natural abilities to know what to eat.
Some years ago, the skin on my fingertips was drying, peeling, and splitting. I ate a good diet, and I tried various natural remedies, but nothing helped. I did avoid all processed foods and foods with added chemicals .One day, I visited a wonderful organic farm, where the soil had never been sprayed with chemicals. Some apricots were for sale at that farm, and I felt an intense craving for them. I should mention that I never liked apricots. But I went with the feeling, and bought a large amount of these apricots. Once we got home, I began eating them in large quantities. They were delicious, and I loved eating them. They were gone in a few days, and so was my skin problem. It never returned.
Now, that was not just the apricots, but many of the other real foods I was eating at the time, combining to give the natural functions of my body the ingredients they needed to repair my body. But the apricots did provide the missing ingredient, whatever it was.
Now, I am not saying to stop using modern medicine. It can be very helpful, even lifesaving, especially in cases of trauma.
But I am saying that I have found that supporting the natural functions of my body with real food, avoiding all factory food, and listening to what my body wants has been very effective in keeping me healthy, and in healing conditions that the doctors could not help me with.
Disclaimer: Information found on the Tender Grassfed Meat site, including this article, is meant for educational and informational purposes only. Any statements or claims about the possible health benefits conferred by any foods or anything else have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. None of the content on the Tender Grassfed Meat site should be relied upon for any purpose, and nothing here is a substitute for a medical diagnosis or medical treatment.