How To Prepare
Healthful, Tasty Food
“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”
― Julia Child
From THE WILD VEGAN COOKBOOK
How do you make food thatís good for you and tastes good? Begin with the finest ingredients whenever possible: fresh wild foods, homegrown organic garden produce, or fresh ingredients from a certified organic farm. When you prepare food, focus on bringing out the ingredientsí outstanding qualitiesóflavor, texture, and appearance. Cook food until itís just done. Use ingredients that complement each other.
The worldís great cuisines were all developed by home cooks using local ingredients and seasonings. They provide excellent guidelines to follow. Choose proportions, cooking methods, and seasonings appropriate to your ingredients and respectful (but not slavishly imitative) of the cuisines youíre emulating. This intimidated me when I was a beginner, but after a while, it becomes second nature. Like removing the training wheels of a bicycle as you gain confidence, the recipes that follow will guide you toward putting together high-quality, healthy wild (and no-so-wild) ingredients with sound culinary and nutritional principles.
Wholeness is a mainstay of all natural foods cooking. A diet of whole foods best approximates the quantities and proportions of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, trace minerals, enzymes, and fiber we ate as we evolved and adapted to the foods our environment offered. Although different individuals of different sex, age, states of health, and genetic inheritance have different nutritional needs, a whole foods diet provides an excellent starting point for achieving better health.
Ingredients should be as close as possible to their living states. You can use them raw, chop or grind them, and heat them within reason, but avoid refined ingredients After industrial processing, the original ingredients are often unrecognizable, and their flavors and nutrients are sacrificed for the causes of shelf life and profit.
Grain ground into flour, for example, retains most of itís original properties, although flour's increased surface area unduly speeds digestion and absorption over that of cooked whole grain. But refining grain into white flour removes all the fiber your digestive system needs to operate properly. It removes the valuable germ layer (which is fed to hogs!), along with all the B-vitamins, vitamin E, and trace minerals, leaving only starch and protein. "Enriching" white flour only restores a legally-mandated minimum of these nutrients. Degrading sugar cane into white sugar yields similar results. Should you feel enriched if you find a few of your precious valuables in a pile of rubble after a tornado has flattened your home?
Why are carbohydrates refined? Because the healthful oils removed with the germ eventually become rancid, and refined flour, with its longer shelf life, is more profitable. Refined foods are usually white, nutritionally meaningless but culturally and commercially desirable because of a psychological association with sunlight and the day, while dark foods connote darkness and night.
The overprocessing of other foods is just as bad. Subjecting vegetables to solvents or high temperatures to extract oil, then filtering them, for example, saves industry money and leads to a clear, beautiful-looking but unhealthful, insipid product that easily goes rancid. The preservatives added to prevent this are often carcinogenic.
Artificial flavors and colors are commercially convenient because theyíre cheaper than their natural counterparts. Artificial colors are made by heating coal in the absence of oxygen to produce coal tar, which is then further treated. These carcinogenic chemicals are suitable for dying clothing, but not for eating. One artificial color, Yellow Dye Number 14, becomes toxic when exposed to sunlight, so farmers put it on manure heaps to kill flies. Do you want this in your body?
Evolution has endowed us with molecules to transport the breakdown products of natural foods into our cells, to be reassembled as needed according to our genetic codes. We havenít developed the mechanisms to handle coal tar and other laboratory chemicals, which we havenít been eating for millions of years. These substances enrich the food business at our expense.
Margarine, another example of a lab-created food, comes from vegetable oil which chemists solidify by bubbling hydrogen through it. Natural vegetable oilsí molecules (with the exceptions of mono-unsaturated olive and canola oils) are polyunsaturated: All the places that could be filled with hydrogen are empty. Thatís why theyíre unsaturated. Saturated fats such as animal fat, coconut oil, and avocado oil hold as much hydrogen as possible. The body has evolved mechanisms to handle these natural fats, within limits.
But margarineís partially-saturated fat is new. No natural fat has only some of the places where hydrogen can bond filled. Furthermore, margarine is configured into the mirror image of normal fats. We have no effective way of handling these alien molecules. So they give rise to free radicals. These highly-active electrically-charged molecular vampires steal electrons from other molecules, destroying their normal functions, and turning them into free radicals themselves. Resulting DNA damage leads to mistakes when cells divide. Enough of these inheritable errors accumulating over generations of damaged cells can lead to cancer cells. And free radicals killing cells in artery walls lead to lesions that get filled with cholesterol, contributing to cardiovascular disease.
On the other hand, northern nuts such as black walnuts, butternuts, acorns, and hickory nuts provide the high-quality essential fatty acids the body canít synthesize. Other natural foods make you healthy in other ways, and new major discoveries involving health benefits of components of natural foods burst into the media almost every year.