"When an Elder dies, a library burns to the ground." ~Old African saying
This quote is from from an exciting book I'm reading (Deep Nutrition: Why Our Genes Need Traditional Foods), and it really has made me think about a lot of things, not just food. (Posting here my Thanks to a Reader who suggested this book!) That quote has stirred a lot in my mind relating to the things that just my grandparents and their grandparents knew, and now are lost, never mind what the earlier generations knew. My grandfather tasted the soil. How would I even begin to know what I was tasting, and what it means?
I'll be posting thoughts from time to time that have risen from my second reading of this book, but what comes to mind at this moment is longevity.
I've been hard at work (again) on my family genealogy, and I've begun to notice how many of my ancestors lived for several years past 100, and how very many lived well into their 90's full of vigor. These are people born between 1700 and 1830 who kept a milk cow, a beef and a hog or two plus chickens, raised their own vegetables, and ate a healthy homemade diet.
They cooked with lard, made loads of butter and cheese from unpasteurized milk still full of healthy enzymes, and fermented many garden vegetables (fermenting increases nutritional content) for the lean winter months.
As mechanized food production came into being, the mortality age began to drop, and that was long before fast food and GMO's, which continue to decrease the mortality rate in spite of vaccines. Out of 25,000 people in my family database, I have only seen Diabetes as the cause of death in 2 people before 1850, and only a handful with heart complications (including cerebral hemorrhage). To be sure, there were many women who died in childbirth, and men killed in hunting accidents or while felling trees, but those were not food-related. There were also the occasional widespread outbreaks of cholera, but those too were not food related, merely a lack of immunity.
Many families in the 1700's and early 1800's had a stone grain mill at home unless there was a water gristmill within a day's travel. Those home mills were still in use into the late 1800's. (There's a name for them, but I fail to recall it. It was a homemade version of the machined stone mill above. You fed the grain through the hole in the top, and the flour emerged around the bottom ring. Beats hitting the grain with a rock!)
If you were lucky enough to have a mill within a day's ride, you received a sack of flour in exchange for your grain, less a bit as payment to the miller. You didn't ask if it was really your grain you got back, because all grains grown then were organic and there were no toxins in the air until factories came about. I you didn't properly fertilize your garden with aged manure and what we now call compost, your grain production would be too small to mill anyway.
Water mills have been around for centuries. In England in 1086, there were over 5,000 water mills, and the much later European immigrants to this country brought the knowledge with them (along with how to brew the grains into a beverage). Water mills for grinding grains were eventually replaced by newer mechanized mills that generated heat in the milling process, destroying valuable nutrients. Even though we can purchase "stone-ground" grains today over the internet, I'd be willing to bet most of the processes generates heat.
I have been fortunate, just once, to visit a defunct but still operational neighboring water mill and have the man grind some grain for my mother and me as a favor. There must have been a hundred feet of leather "straps" connecting the water wheel via several gears to the grinding stones.
There is a defunct water mill about 3 miles from my house. There's not much water in the creek anymore, but a good long mill race could compensate, at least seasonally, because there's a good head to the creek waters. The problem is that today no one understands (or cares) about the nutritional difference in stone-ground grains, so it would not be profitable.
In today's society, "health" does not exist because it's not profitable. Yeah, lots of companies offer things to regain health... but do they? Only treating our ills is profitable.
Here's another interesting thought... the Scots several hundred years ago were fierce fighters, stalwart beings, and ate a diet heavy in oats. Today oats are highly recommended, but nutritionally lacking. The difference? The Scots thatched their roofs, and cooked and heated with peat fires. Every year they replaced the old thatch which was full of minerals from the smoke of winter fires, and added it to the garden where they grew oats.