Food as Medicine
My great grandmother was the clan mother for my Native American tribe and like this chef, I have been studying the food history of our tribe. I’ve long been contemplating the use of food as medicine and how Native Americans approached eating animal protein, particularly with their love and reverence for animals. With a largely plant-based diet, they did eat animal protein. They believed that the soul of animals lived on and they did ceremonies to bless the animal. At the same time, they used every single part of the animal.
Our unfortunate modern practices of eating animal protein over-promote the use of a small portion of each animal — steak, for example — instead of a reverent use of the whole animal. This practice has prompted today’s terrible and abusive factory farming practices.
Vanishing Native Diets
By the time Native Americans were placed on reservations and could no longer eat their native diets, their diets focused on flour, some plants and refined sugar. Diabetes, alcoholism and drug addiction ran rampant. Today, there is more diabetes in Native American populations than any other.
I’m curious about what food as medicine would mean if Western food manufacturing had not taken a wrong turn with over-marketing of choice cuts of meat, wasteful practices and abusive animal farming. These practices are as egregious to all life on Mother Earth as what food manufacturers are doing to people with chemical and sugar-laden processed foods (remember, these non-nutritive foods are being fed to our animals as well as humans). I wonder what we’d be doing differently to honor all life if we looked to our indigenous people and took a more natural approach to modern nutrition.
I’m curious to hear what you think and how these practices have influenced your food choices and how you use food as medicine.
I’m grateful for a growing focus on traditional approaches to nutrition. A growing number of dedicated farmers, chefs and butchers are looking at the food traditions of our ancestors and helping us shift our perspectives. Everything from foraging to reducing waste to ethical farm practices are teaching us another way to look at a food system — a way that can be more balanced.
Discovering the Roots of Native American Nutrition with Sioux Chef Sean Sherman
This piece from The Splendid Table features Sioux Chef, Sean Sherman, who is helping us discover the true roots of Native American nutrition. Every time these dedicated chefs put new foods on the table, they create a future based on the strong traditions of the past. They help us expand our ideas about what it means to nourish ourselves the way our ancestors did when they were closer to the land.
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