Traditional Foods

horseheader11.jpgGood Morning!  I hope you all had a wonderful holiday yesterday.   Did anyone have a cook out?  We did

And as we were BBQing last evening, it reminded me that not always did we have the convenience of food from grocery stores  like we do today.  What did people used to do?  What were their diets?  What did the American Indians eat?  And did it promote good health?

thumbnail11As I’m sure most of you know, in the West, the buffalo was the staff of life.  Tribes revolved around the buffalo.  It was wild, it was natural and it provided a constant source of food.  Everything was used and no part of the buffalo (or any other animal for that matter) was wasted.  Its brain was used to tan clothing, its hide was used for tepees, for mocassins, for shields and many, many other uses.  Its liver was eaten raw and its meat was roasted and eaten and the people feasted when times were good.  Its meat was also dried for winter when it would be harder for hunters to provide meat for their families.


Western tribes also had a varied diet, rich in bone-broth soups, wild turnips, onions and other roots and plants, not to mention many fruits, like strawberries, plums, choke cherries — to name only a few.  Okay, so what was the result of this diet that contained no preservatives, no chemicals, no food additives and were completely natural and wholesome?  According to travelers in the very early 1800’s, the Indians were described as a race of men who might put Adonis to shame.  Tall, strong, with full teeth (even into old age in many cases), they were described as a tribe of perfect physique.  Not only that, if one didn’t die from wars or from accidents, etc., most lived to quite an old age, and with full mental clarity.

indians-115a1This picture is of a woman who was almost 100 years old.  And what about the Eastern tribes, who didn’t have the buffalo?  Indians from South America, Mexico and the SW of the United States — as well as Indians along the Eastern Seaboard, built their cultures on corn.  For the Iroquois, there were the three sisters: corn, beans and squash — they were all planted together, by the way.  The corn stalk would act as a post for the beans, while the squash provided a wonderful ground cover.  These three sisters (along with some fresh meat, also) provided a good and varied diet.  Corn was the staple of life to these Eastern tribes — deer meat was the meat of choice.  But corn reigned supreme.

Please be aware, however, that when Columbus was given a few grains of corn, which he took back to Europe, he didn’t at the same time take the recipes for making corn into the “staple of life.”  American Indians knew that you had to soak the corn or cook it in wood ash (or as we do nowadays, in limewater — lime, the mineral, not the fruit).   Soaking or cooking it in this way changed the amino acid structure of the grain so that it became a full protein.indians-111a1

Again,what were the comments from people at the time, who met with the Indians?  Again, they were a strong and vital people, compared again to Greek statues for their manliness and beauty.  Again, they lived to a vital old age if not killed by accident or in some war.  Foods were used, by the way, not only as nourishment, but as “cures” for many of the illnesses that they suffered.  We also have many similar kind of “cures” today — chicken soup for a stomach ache is one example.  Kelp for lumphs, goiter, etc.

Until the white man came with their many and varied diseases, disease as such was rare.  Their diet provided them with a whoesome, completely nutritious guard against disease.  Somehow, they knew also how to prepare their food to get the most nutrition out of it.  Again, a good example is corn — another example is acorns, which I’ve heard if prepared in the American Indian way, is quite good.

images1Did they have ice cream cones?  No, they didn’t — and maybe that’s what makes our culture so great — ice cream!  But one thing they did know, that we seem to have lost in our modern age, is that whole food processed according to nature in some cases (not man’s chemicals), made for a healthy body — which is at least part of the journey toward happiness, I would think.

Now, if you’re interested, there’s a book called Traditional Foods Are Your Best Medicine — by Ronald F. Schmid, N.D.  In this book he talks about the diets of centenarians — people who live to over 100 years in age — specifically the Vilcabamba, Hunza, and Georgian Russia who have many, many people who have lived to this grand age — and their diets.

So what do you think?  Have I tickled your interest in perhaps learning more about the food you eat?  It’s not such a bad idea to do in this day and age of Genetically Modified Foods — where the bio-chemists are now able to insert genes from other species into plants and even insert pesticides into every cell of a plant.  Come on in and let’s talk.

51obnqdgasl_sl500_aa240_1Don’t forget to order or pick up your copy of BLACK EAGLE today!

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KAREN KAY aka GEN BAILEY is the multi-published author of American Indian Historical Romances. She has written for such prestigious publishers as AVON/HarperCollins, Berkley/Penguin/Putnam and Samhain Publishing. KAREN KAY’S great grandmother was Choctaw Indian and Kay is honored to be able to write about the American Indian Culture.
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26 thoughts on “Traditional Foods”

  1. Hi Mary!

    Oops, sorry about that. Don’t mean to make you feel guilty.

    You know it was when I learned that the big manufacturerers are allowed to insert 500,000 different chemicals into their foods/frozen/canned — some to even make you more hungry — and 5,000 different chemicals into organic processed food — it was then that I decided that I’d take the time to make my own processed food — I even make my own mustard and such — sauces — BBQ sauce and such.

    More trouble — but it’s what I do instead of watch TV, I guess.

  2. Oh, I wanted to say, too, that these big manufacturerers can put those chemicals in the food without labeling it or telling you they are in there.


  3. Hi Kay. terrific post as always. I learn so much from you. And a peek at Adam can’t be beat.

    Yes, I do sometimes wonder about the non-natural stuff we eat, as grateful as I am for preservatives. My hubby (17 months remission TODAY) survived a harrowing bout of cancer last year that was determined to be completely related to the chemicals he was exposed to during 34 years of firefighting, so I know chemicals are a double-edged sword.

    The book definitely sounds like something I need, not just for reference, but for myself!

    Thanks again! oxoxoxoxox

  4. Hi Tracy!

    Thanks so much for your post. It’s a topic I’m really interested in a lot — indeed, when you start researching it, it’s kinda like going down the rabbit hole. : )

  5. Hi Tanya!

    Chemicals and firefighting. My FIL died of a similar thing — exposure to toxic chemicals in his workplace — at Exxon. Almost all of his family have a history of very long life, but his was cut short due to this sort of exposure.

    I think I posted on this once before — I love our modern age — but it does carry a penalty, I think — I’d trade some of our conveniences for a little more human contact, I think. 🙂

  6. I do think we’re killing ourselves with our environment – everything is polluted – food, air, water. My mom just turned 87 and grew up on a small farm. They had chicken/meat once a week and fresh grown foods for the most part. Even now she buys very few processed foods. Plus she lead a very active life. I think the Indians had most things right and we’d be a lot better off if we had learned their ways.

  7. Great post, Kay. When I think of all the years my family ate over-processed foods without knowing they weren’t good, I want to cringe. Slowly doing better these days, though still far from where I should be. Amazing what a difference good nutrition can make.

  8. Your posts are always so informative, Kay. This one makes me want to start growing more of my own food. As consumers, we know so little about what is in the processed foods we eat. And it’s really annoying to go into a market during harvest season and find them selling veggies from halfway around the world instead of local produce. I try to buy at the farmer’s market when I can. Thanks again!

  9. I’ve been telling my kids for years that I would never have made it in the olden days. I’m not much of a meat eater so it would have been tough. I would miss my junk food and I would really miss ice for my drinks.

  10. Karen,
    Good post and so true. Aside from the chemical pollution of the processed foods we eat, sugar is probably the biggest culprit in a modern diet. Most native peoples had little sugar or sugar like substances in their diets. Maple syrup or honey were sometimes available, but were a rare treat. The amount we ingest each day is responsible in part for the obesity problem, tooth decay, and the increase of diabetes. Add to that the fact that native peoples were constantly active and you had physically fit people.
    There is a lot to be said about getting back to basics.

  11. Hi Jeanne!

    You know, interestingly, when I was doing research for LAKOTA PRINCESS, I discovered that one of the main reasons why Europeans drank wine over water was because the water was so polluted. That wasn’t the case here in America. I also learned that the air was always so dark not because of an overly overcast sky, but because of the coal mining, etc. Then I also learned that it was always done in England — even during the middle ages — to pollute the food with non-food items. Wow…

    Isn’t interesting that this English culture in which we live (I say English because our legal system is tied to England through the BAR — the “B” stands for British, by the way) has now managed to pollute Americas waters, food and air.

    Yeah, give me the old days — maybe that’s why I write historicals. 🙂

  12. Elizabeth,

    I, too, grew up with overly processed foods — the only thing is that I learned (sort of) a little early on to make my foods as much from home as possible — Adele Davis was my guide back in those days. 🙂

  13. Oh, Jennie,

    I second you on that. We are trying our best to grow our own food — but neither my husband nor I are farmers and I must admit that if we had to live from our garden alone…

    Like you, it bothers me that we import so much of our food, while our local farmers struggle. And don’t let me get started on China and “organic” foods…not…

  14. Hi Linda!

    So nice to see you here. But you know not all of those societies were meat eaters that lived to be over a 100. However, only those societies who were meat eaters kept their teeth into old age. The ones that were mainly vegetarian lost their teeth in old age. That book is so good.

  15. Hi Patricia!

    I’m with you on the sugar, although I must admit that I use maple sugar in my breads or cakes — so they rise well — but other than that — I keep almost exclusively to stevia.

    You are so right on the sugar. If it weren’t processed, it would be better. The other side of sugar — history of it — is that on those ships and crates that carried sugar, were littered with the blood of slaves.

    Sugar does not have a good history. It has been used to enslave. As a very wise man once said, America got even for being “discovered” and raped. She gave the world an abundance of refined carbohydrates. That’s not an exact quote — but it comes from L. Ron Hubbard.

  16. Hi Kay, I took good nutrition to heart a few years ago when I became aware of how my body reacts to sugar. I was trying to lose those extra pesky pounds and getting nowhere. When I read about blood sugar, everything changed and I lost 30 lbs in 9 months and feel great.

    I like diet coke, but water is so much healthier. I have to wonder, too, about all the nutrients that are processed out of our foods. A piece of fruit ripened by nature is a lot better than what my grocery store sells. And don’t get me started on tomatoes! A friend gave me some home grown ones. THOSE are tomatoes!

    Enjoyed the post tremendously. Hate to admit this, but I’m off to put a frozen pizza in the oven (we’re in the throes of moving). At least it’s a veggie pizza with whole wheat crust : )

  17. Hi Vicki!

    I understand with the blood sugar. I read somewhere that diabetes, heart trouble and cancer are sort of one ball of wax. That they all stem from the basic root — and sugar does play a large part in that.

    Sugar just really doesn’t have a very good history. We got sugar over the backs of slavery and literally, there was blood on the packs of sugar that was packed on those ships.

    Sugar — not a great history.

  18. Kay, I love to read your information about Native Americans. We have begun watching a show on the RFD channel that is called Hidden Heritage. It is hosted by the Leader of the group Brule and has been very interesting.

  19. HI Connie!

    Thank you so much for the compliment — the Brule, as you probably know by know are a part of the Lakota (or Sioux). I don’t have TV and so don’t watch it — but the Hidden Heritage sounds fascinating. My godson is half Ogalla and half Brule from the Rosebud rez.

    Have a super day, Connie, and thanks for your post.

  20. Karen wow you have a lot of information for us and it is wonderful. We have been wathcing labels closely but like you said companies don’t put on there what might really big in the product and that is what scares me. I cook most of the time with unprocesed foods but sometimes it is hard to get the food all done. With work and other responsablities it is hard. I did teach my kids homemade is better then processed. We grow a garden and can the vegetables I wished we could have fresh tomatos and all the veg’s all year round. I go to the farmers market if there is something I haven’t planted and get from them first. Love the post will look for the book.

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