So, what fundamentally is wholefood? What makes food healthy? Is it the latest superfood (the must have goji berries or cacao), the latest dietary paradigm (currently raw or paleo) or is it more than that?These are the questions (and so many more) that I ask of the students in the Whole and Natural Foods Chef Training Program, and that I base my entire work around. My answers to these questions reflect the understandings I now have of food over my 20 + years in the "healthy" food industry and many influences over 58 odd years of living. First of these influences was growing up in an inner suburban life in the late 50's and early 60's - fruit was eaten in season and was limited to what grew locally, nuts were from the almond tree in the backyard, as were figs (we survived without imported Brazil nuts). Stocks, Soups, Stews, Meat, eggs and simple seasonal vegetables were on the menu as was wheat. Chicken was rare. Everything was cooked from scratch, as there was no other option, fish and seafood were plentiful from the ocean and river. We ate a lot of cooked foods, with salads the year around. We had white sugar and white flour cakes and desserts. We grew up happy and healthy as did the previous generation. We played and adventured outside, we had BBQ in summer and picnics in winter, we ate as a family and often extended family. My mum is an exceptional cook. My second influence was Macrobiotics, as most people of my age that have been in this industry as long as I have started here - there was no other place to start. From Macrobiotics I have been gifted my love of traditionally brewed soy sauces, rice wines such as mirin, sea vegetables and an understanding of balancing the energetic properties of food (and the universe). Later Ayurveda entered my life - this is the ancient 5000 year old wisdoms of a whole and healthy life from the Sanskrit and much of Chinese Medicine, Five Phase/Element Theory (and ultimately Macrobiotics) is taken from this. Finally, the work of Weston A Price, the American dentist who documented happy, healthy cultures thriving on a wide range of foods. There have been many other dalliances, but it is these that have influenced me most and formed my views on food that I now hold, and see working. And, what I see is this - that humans thrive eating a wide range of foods (and I don't mean daily) generally that the environment in which they live provides. Certainly Weston A Price documented happy, healthy cultures thriving on blood, offal and milk, whilst others thrived on the rye grains and spring butter, whilst others on fish and seafood. Many thrived without 3 fruit and 5 veg a day. They thrived without following a raw food or paleo diet and they ate what they had available. They didn't call it a traditional diet - they called it food; they didn't freak out eating grain in the places that it grew - but rather understood and respected it (whole and appropriately prepared) and gave thanks for it. That we are all individuals, and what might work for one may not suit another - a basic principle of Ayurveda - which is the paradigm I see working more consistently than just about anything else. So, to the answers:
Wholefood is that which is closest to it's natural state with as little that is edible removed and as little that is inedible (additives etc) added to it. It is an understanding that the whole is always far, far greater than simply the sum of nutrient parts.
That it is good enough to eat: that is, synthetic pesticides, fungicides, herbicides are not compatible with any part of a human system, but are designed to interrupt and kill living systems. You are a living system.
That it should be real: that is the human body is evolved to eat a real strawberry, not a strawberry flavour made from chemicals. The body is a real thing and it does not compute with fake things.
That it should match you - not your naturopath, dr or someone else: This is a fundamental Ayurvedic premise. Some will be fine with cold, raw food in winter others will suffer. Some do best with cooked vegetables, some with grain, some with no grain.
That it should be delicious. Deliciousness, in ways i do not understand but absolutely know exist, allows food to be taken in and properly digested, absorbed and utilised by the body. Deliciousness is a nutrient in it's own right. Deliciousness also includes not being so stressed out (from a too busy life), that you are unable to experience deliciousness in other walks of life.
That the food you choose should be prepared appropriately to ensure compatibility with the human body: that is low fat milk, pasteurised milk, refined oils, fractionalised foods are not understood by the body. Some foods (such as beans or grains) require special preparation methods to ensure they are understood (digestible).
That the human body requires fuel - the nutrients found in the food nature provides. On the whole you might get away with a little white flour and white sugar (also in it's other guises - pasta, etc) - if you have enough of the other good stuff. But, better to have less refined (more whole) flours and sweeteners.
That sweetness is not a dirty word: that is, a bit of wholesome sweetness, cake or dessert in a whole and balanced diet is not going to kill you. Eating a lot of shallow, nutrient deficient, refined, additive laden food will.
This is how you create your wholefood kitchen. To build a good foundation we have started in WNCTP with ghee and chicken (or animal bone) stock, but a vegetarian stock is still a powerful thing. Ghee is considered to be the most 'satvic' food by Ayurveda - the holiest in the sense that it "delivers enlightenment to the soul". We can understand this knowledge now in it's more scientific speak, as it is the fat that ensures all the vitamins and minerals are delivered and able to be utilised by the cell. Ghee will make anything taste better and add huge nourishment. In that butterfat lies the valuable fat soluble vitamins A, D and the X factor (now thought to be vitamin K2) - Weston A Price referred to these vitamins as activators because without them, minerals (no matter how many may be in those leafy green vegetables from the 5 vegetables serves a day) cannot be used by the body. I could write a whole lot here about your bones, teeth, nervous system, reproductive health, but it's simple really - you need minerals for just about everything your body does - they are a part of the complex, miraculous thing that is your body. If you have not made ghee, please give it a try - you will love it.
A bit dark I know, but Jeanie and I after the first week
Ghee is pure butterfat, with all the milk protein removed. Many people that find they cannot tolerate milk solids, are fine with ghee - this is a far more nourishing option than a margarine (which is not a food and has no place in your cupboard or fridge - even if it sounds lovely and has pictures of sunflower and other seeds all over it). All butter has a percentage of water and milk solids - when making ghee, you are evaporating off the water, and removing the milk solids, leaving pure butterfat.
There are many ways to make it, and I've been lucky enough this week for Rupinder to show me how she does hers - she does not skim the milk solids off as she goes, but leaves them to dry out on top until the end. Ghee will keep very well at room temperature - it is a saturated (thus stable to light, heat and oxygen) fat.
250 gm butter - I prefer unsalted
Stage 1: Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat - you will clearly see what I describe as a 'river' of white flowing through the yellow fat. This is the water and milk solids. Stage 2: Once melted, increase the heat to a gentle simmer. As the water evaporates, it will gurgle and spit a bit, and the top will be covered with a white foam. Take care not to have the heat too high. After some time you will notice that the water has evaporated off - it now looks more like yellow fat, with bits in it - these are the milk solids and they are also in the foam that gathers at the top of the butterfat. The time it takes for the water to evaporate off will be different - generally, commercial butters have a lot more water in them than organic ones. I skim the foam off the top as I go, but Rupinder showed me to just move it gently so you see how it's going underneath the foam and leave it on top. As the water evaporates, the foam will look more dry. Stage 3: Once I see the foam on top reducing and I have removed most of it (or it's becoming more dry as in Rupinders method), check to see if any milk solids in the pot remain - some will have dropped to the bottom of the pan and be lightly browned. Remove from the top of stove and leave to cool. Skim off any remaining foam (if you haven't already) and pour through muslin into a clean jar. TAKE CARE TO DO THIS OVER A SLOW, GENTLE HEAT - IT SHOULD SMELL OF CARAMEL (which is really simply butter, sugar and cream) AND NOT TOO NUTTY.