Donna Hechler Porter
Nutrition & Our Ancestors
"Get dressed, we're going to Mama Lee's."
It's funny what days will imprint themselves into your memory. That one stuck, but for no really good or exciting reason. My sister and I had been playing outside in the backyard when my Dad announced we were leaving to go to Chester to visit the great-grandparents. The trip wasn't an unusual one, we had gone many times before. The only thing in my memory which stuck was that I remember it being a bit later than our usual time to leave, but I didn't question the decision to go.
The other thing I remember from my childhood is sitting at the table of my great-grandparents and eating the food. My own struggles with thryoid disease and my son's struggle with a wheat allergy have sent me on a quest for causes and healing that led me to the kitchen cabinet. After researching, reading, and reflecting I have decided that the food we consume today, and have for the past thirty years, is definitely not the food our parents and grandparents ate. It has been changed in a variety of ways which is, in my opinion and the opinion of many experts, responsible for the escalation of heart disease, thryoid disease, allergies, strokes, arthritis, autoimmune disorders, and a host of other lesser diseases which keep individuals from operating at their best.
The other thing I remember from my childhood is sitting at the table of my great-grandparents and eating the food. My own struggles with thyroid disease and my son's struggle with a wheat allergy have sent me on a quest for causes and healing that led me to the kitchen cabinet. After researching, reading, and reflecting I have decided that the food we consume today, and have for the past thirty years, is definitely now you know why.) This oil, however, contained the vital nutrients in the flour: protein, folic acid, B vitamins, carotenes and other antioxidants including omega-3 fatty acids.
After 1880, it became more popular to mill flour with porcelain, iron, or steel rollers. This removed the wheat germ and thus all the vitamins and minerals in the flour except for a little protein. Basically, the flour became nutritionally bankrupt, although it was a pretty white color, had an almost unlimited shelf life, and tasted really good when combined with sugar to form fluffy cakes, doughnuts, and other pastries. Needless to say, people at the time thought it was absolutely wonderful! Soon rice, corn, and other wheat flours suffered the same fate. Wherever this flour was introduced people began getting sick. Over the years the government has required companies to add nutrients to the flour, such as B vitamins and folic acid, but the fact remains that white flour is sorely lacking in valuable nutrients and when we consume it, we are not only not getting anything that will maintain our bodies or help them to grow but could be causing us harm.
Mama Lee had a "safe" which was a cabinet in the kitchen always filled with baked goods. She had a swing out flour bin which took up the whole cabinet next to her kitchen sink. (I would have loved to swing it in and out, but of course, that was not allowed!) Whether they used the stone ground flour or not I can't say. Her table, however, was heaped with grass-fed beef (corn fed beef was unheard of in those days - maybe I'll write about that some day), fresh vegetables from their own garden - purple hull peas, black eye peas, lady cream peas, mustard greens, okra, and on and on. Her eggs were from chickens that had been allowed to run in their yard so they were rich in omega-3 as well as other valuable nutrients. Her back porch had a wall ten feet high and almost as wide with canned goods (not the tin kind, the bottled kind) of all varieties that she had put back after harvest. (She had a curtain over it and I use to love flipping it back and staring at all the food. We didn't have that at my house.)
Anna Lee Whitehead McQueen (left) and cousin
in front of John S. Whitehead home in Polk County, Texas
the day the historical marker was placed about 1965.
I know my great-grandparents worked hard to keep those chickens, put back that food, plant, grow and harvest their food. And yet, now that we are a wheat free household, and soon to be a grass-fed beef household, not to mention buying better quality fruits and vegetables, I oftentimes think I'm working just as hard as they were. My work is done in the car driving to various farmer's markets and several different stores to obtain the ingredients I need to provide good quality nutrition for my family that will not only keep us healthy but nourish our bodies and keep us well.
Anna Lee Whitehead McQueen lived to be 94 years old. Her sister-in-law, Sally McQueen, lived to be 104. Many of my ancestors just two to three generations back lived long lives into their nineties. The modern medical establishment has been telling us for years that people are living longer because of the quality of our nutrition. Why then, have diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and auto-immune disorders skyrocketed in the last forty years?
We can't be the healthiest nation on earth and be the sickest at the same time. We have to be one or the other. Could the food we eat today be the problem - especially for our tomorrows?