Cookbooks have many surprises in them…little spills and bits of food from their last use, hidden notes about recipe adjustments, and splendid sidebars to read while you wait for your milk to cool down when making yogurt. One such cookbook of mine has really great sidebars next to all of the recipes. Upon my most recent sauerkraut experiment I came across a couple quotes from Cluade Aubert in Dis-Moi Comment Tue Cuisines. I do not speak french but Sally Fallon translated the excerpt from Cluade’s book in her cookbook Nourishing Traditions. I found the following tidbits to be timeless…
“One striking observation of ethnic cuisines is that rarely are meals eaten without at least one fermented food, often a drink. In France, if one took away bread, cheese, ham, sausage, wine and beer, all produced through fermentation, our meals would be much impoverished. In colder countries sauerkraut, cucumbers, cornichons (always fermented in the old days), other vegetables and many types of fish preserved by fermentation are always served. In Japan, it’s not a meal without miso, soy sauce and pickles, all fermented products. In india, they drink soured milk every day, practically at every meal, In Indonesia they eat tempeh, in Korea kimchi ( a kink of sauerkraut) and in Africa porridge of fermented millet or cereal beers, In Moslem countries these fermented drinks are forbidden but they eat bread, dished made with fermented pulses and milk products. Without being indispensable, a small amount of some raw fermented food (preferably lacto-fermented) helps with digestion. This is especially true when the meal is a bit heavy. It isn’t by chance, nor merely for the pleasure of taste, that we eat cornichons with charcuterie.”
With that said the importance of the breaking down of food was clearly observed by ancient cultures and is still applicable today. I look at ancient food practices in the same way that I look at houses; If you have a good foundation but the walls are bad or the widows leak fix the structure but leave the foundation. This is the way to eat build on the foundation of our ancestors and utilize the modern convinces that make the process less time-consuming. We do not have to build underground storage areas for out food stuffs anymore because we have refrigeration but the practice of eating fermented foods is clearly meant to stay. The fun little bugs provide a great foundation for out digestive tract. Reading on from Nourishing traditions;
“The digestive process has two distinct features: one is the breaking down of ingested foods; the other is the building up of nutrients needed by the body. If the breaking down is incomplete, the building up cannot proceed correctly. In reality we nourish ourselves not by what we eat but by what we are capable of breaking down and transforming into nutrients the body can use. Of great importance in this process is the role played by the aromatic substance that are formed during lacto-fermentation….What is astonishing is that lactic acid contributes to both processes-that of decomposition and that of reconstruction. On the one hand it supplies digestive juices in the form of organic acids that help break down the foods we eat, and on the other it activates the metabolic processes whereby these foods are transformed into new living substances…..
There is often the tendency to look for exterior infectious agents as the cause of illness. We forget that the intestine that is functioning poorly leads to serious consequences fo the whole body. THis is why, since most ancient times, lactic acid was used to clean the intestine. Different types of lacto-fermented juices were used as preferred remedies against typhus and other illnesses of this type. The most recent research has confirmed this beneficial action of lactic-acid-producing bacteria…
The mucus membranes of the intestinal tract are protected by bacteria which create an acid environment in which the pathogenic bacteria cannot multiply. The whole digestive tract harbors a complex bacteriological flora that varies from one part to the next. The lacti-acid producing bacteria are characterized by the fact that they survive the transition from the stomach to the small intestine and they are still active when they reach the large intestine. Lactic-acid-production bacteria can prevent the growth of coliform bacteria and agents of cholera from establishing themselves in the intestine. Even certain carcinogenic substances are inhibited and inactivated….
In effect, the state of our intestinal flora contributes not only to the absorption of nutrients and the functioning of the intestine but also to our ability to resist infections!”
One of my favorite phrases…80% of your immune system lies in your gut.