“Human beings do not eat nutrients, they eat food.”
-Mary Catherine Bateson
1. Bone Broth
The hardest part about living in a little cabin with no real kitchen is the inability to make and store bone broth. I have a camp stove and was thinking about making some bone broth any way until I read in very fine print that in the stove gives off carbon monoxide, so the 24-72 hour simmering time, although it would make some fine, fine broth, would find no one to ingest it. However, when I do have a kitchen, this is made anywhere from once a month to once every six months in massive batches. I then ladle it into jars and freeze it. Broth (or more accurately stock but without the alluring alliteration) is profoundly nutritious. It helps with the digestion of other foods in the meal, is a rich source of collagen and minerals, and is digested with the ease that a chainsaw cuts through strawberry jam.
I have a 5 gallon stock pot that I use to make my bone broth. It’s bright red and when not being used as a stock pot, I can use it as a bathtub. Here is my broth recipe:
Bones (I generally group like bones with like. For example, a great seafood broth can be made with shrimp “shells”, fish heads and skeletons and other scraps of carapace. Beef bones can be mixed with other ruminant skeletal matter. Chicken bones and the heftier turkey ones can also be put together. If you feel a little wild, mix the bird and the beefy ones. The seafood stock can take a lot less time and tastes far better if you leave surf far away from turf.)
Any veggie scraps you find. Carrot peelings, onion skins, etc.
Vinegar. I’m partial to the apple cider variety.
Ball or Mason jars.
Plop everything in the stock pot. You’ll want at least a 1/4 cup of vinegar but I put in a lot more than that because I love the tang. The vinegar actually works to break down the bone and leech all the minerals from it into the stock. The water should cover the bones well. You may want to add more as the process goes along.
Bring it to a rolling boil, then turn down the heat and let it simmer for a day or two. The seafood doesn’t really have to go longer than 8 hours but I’m not opposed to 24. You will want to check on this every few hours, adding water if you need. You will have quite a bit of scummy foam at first. You can spoon that off the top.
After the whole thing has reached desired cooking time, turn off the heat and let it cool. Get your jars ready. Put the stock (without the bones and veggies) into the jars. Don’t fill all the way to the top because the jars will crack in the freezer if they’re too full. (I’ve heard.)
That’s it. You’ll have a base for soups, sauces, or just a quick meal at all times. In the winter, I like to take a couple spoonfuls of broth, add some hot water and some seaweed. Done.
2. Fermented Foods
I have never met a kimchi I didn’t devour. Nor a sauerkraut, either. Or a chutney or a kombucha. The entire range of fermented foods are mind boggling…and delicious. They are an excellent source of healthy bacteria and also super easy to digest because the process of fermenting does most of the work for us.
This book is a must have for anyone who is ready to try their hand at the magic that is fermentation.
3. Raw Meat
Really, I’m serious. I love the stuff. Just about every culture has their version. Everything from sashimi to carpaccio to kibbeh to tartare. If you are worried about the bacterial scariness of it all, freeze the meat for a good two weeks. This is generally enough to kill everything off that might make you sick. Whatever your heritage, do a little research and find out what is the raw meat dish of your culture. This is such a great way to get to know a little more about the traditional ways that your great-grandma nourished her family. (Please, please, please don’t eat raw pork, okey dokey?)
4. Roots and Rhizomes
Carrots, onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, radishes, ginger, turmeric, sunchokes, yams, beets….oh baby! I love, love, love root vegetables and rhizomes. The brighter and deeper the color, the more they excite me. They are pungent, sweet, and often have a little bit of a bite. Because these plants store their own nutrition in their roots, these are great ways to add some color and flavor to your chow.
Is butter a whole food group? Technically, no. But, it should be. Really good organic, cultured butter from grass fed cows is something approaching perfection. Although I’m intolerant to lactose, the process of culturing the butter allows most of the lactose to be fermented out (yeah, fermentation!). Sweet creamery butter, although delicious, just doesn’t pass muster for me, but if you can eat it, good on you! Since I don’t eat grains, I am always finding creative ways to get butter into my maw. When it’s cooler out, that’s a lot easier because I can just cut a hunk off just like other people eat cheese.
Butter helps with the absorption of the fat soluble vitamins that are critical for vital health. It is a phenomenally tasty source of vitamin A. It is also a good source of D, E, and K. The fat from butter is also far healthier than from the seed oils that clog most pantry shelves.
Here’s the bonus category. Herbs are my first love. Everything from the wild ones that most people think are weeds (like nettle and clover) to the finest basils, tarragons, dills, and rosemaries. Their deep, glistening greens are our first medicines. The addition of herbs to all food helps with digestion and a myriad different functions. Don’t be shy with them.
Eat in freedom and for nourishment.