Review: 'Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats'

Jed Stuber  ·  Oct 30, 2017

“The premise of this book is that modern food choices and preparation techniques constitute a radical change from the way man has nourished himself for thousands of years and, from the perspective of history, represent a fad that not only has severely compromised his health and vitality but may well destroy him; and the food choices and preparation techniques of healthy non-industrialized peoples should serve as the model for contemporary eating habits, even and especially during this modern technological age.”

Nutrition researchers Sally Fallon Morell and Mary Enig collaborated to produce Nourishing Traditions, a truly unique cookbook that has gone through reprintings too numerous to count and become a classic. There are now companion volumes focused on baby care, broths, fats, and teaching children to cook.

Nourishing Traditions is based on the pioneering work of Dr. Weston A. Price, who traveled the world studying remote people groups whose diets consisted of only natural and whole foods. Amazingly, in these cultures, almost all the people enjoyed superb health. Price reported that they were free of chronic disease and dental decay; they were strong, sturdy, and attractive; and they produced healthy children with ease, generation after generation.

Calling Nourishing Traditions a cookbook is like calling the Sistine Chapel “a room with a painting in it.” The book is a comprehensive resource that begins with 78 pages of introductory material explaining how modern processing and cooking methods have taken the nutrients out of our diets, and made food taste worse!

Many books and articles about nutrition vaguely assert “research shows” when making claims. Nourishing Traditions provides 188 references to nutrition research and medical studies that back up its claims. Fallon and Enig authoritatively demonstrate their claim that “studies too numerous to count have confirmed Dr. Price’s observations that the so-called ‘civilized diet,’ particularly the Western diet of refined carbohydrates and devitalized fats and oils,” is so malnourishing that it deserves most of the blame for the current epidemics of chronic degenerative diseases—from heart problems to diabetes to arthritis to autoimmune disorders.

The cookbook section is also impressive and well organized into sections including Mastering the Basics, Great Beginnings, The Main Course, A Catalog of Vegetables, Luncheon & Supper Foods, Grains & Legumes, Snacks & Finger Foods, Desserts, Beverages, and Tonics & Superfoods. The recipes range from simple to complex, but all have clear ingredient and preparation instructions. Alongside many recipes is important nutritional information, such as which foods help with particular health problems, how the nutrients are processed by the body, and which cultures have used each of these nourishing traditions. 

The book also explains how industrial “preservation” methods actually deaden and denature foods, and that the nourishing tradition societies almost universally used a process called lacto-fermentation to make nutrients in whole foods more available and supply the intestinal tract with health promoting enzymes and bacteria. The recipes explain how lacto-fermentation can easily be used with all the food groups including grains, milk products, vegetables, fruits, and meats.

Nourishing Traditions convincingly demonstrates that mankind has unfortunately used modern technological advances to strip out many of the nutrients in food, all in the name of progress. It warns us that we would do well to take a lesson from our ancestors and to be wiser in the way we produce, process, and prepare our foods. Nourishing Traditions is a masterpiece, well-written and organized, right down to the concluding pages, which contain indexes that help readers locate information quickly. It is a resource that every home that values health and nutrition should have, and a great gift idea for this Christmas season.