Foods Our Ancestors Ate
Ever thought about the foods our pioneer ancestors ate, and ancient people before them? Foods from 100+ years ago. Or long before that. Foods that have been on our earth for centuries. Compare that to the “food” we put into our bodies for decades before we woke up to the idea of eating real food.
Meals in the past were most often prepared from locally produced raw ingredients and seasonal food items.
- wild game
- fruits and vegetables grown at home and prepared simply
- grain crops to make bread
- cornmeal, used for a wide variety of foods
- unprocessed sugar, used sparingly as a rare treat, usually saved for company
- raw milk
- fresh eggs from their own chickens
- freshly harvested maple syrup
Today’s food can come from far away, be out of season and have a ridiculously long shelf life, thanks to some of these chemicals, preservatives and “fake food” products.
These additives can be horrible for our health, causing or contributing to many dis-eases, such as:
- celiac disease
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- heart disease
Industrialization led to processed and nationally distributed foods dominating the typical U.S. diet, starting in the late 19th century. Check out this history of how we went from the plain and simple eating style of our ancestors to today’s highly processed and preserved “food” favorites.
By contrast, our ancestors preserved foods naturally, using salt, fermentation or sun drying, as well as other methods.
Our Ancestor’s Foods
Before the Civil War (1861-1865), some of the major U.S. food traditions were:
- New England — plain cooking, including boiled and baked meats, boiled vegetables, baked breads and pies, seafood
- the South — lots of seasonings, fried foods, cooking beans and veggies a long time with a piece of meat
- the Middle Atlantic — a plain and simple diet, influenced by the Quakers, that emphasized boiled items such as puddings and dumplings
- the Pioneer diet on the frontier — potatoes, corn, various greens, griddle cakes and wild game
I like the idea of combining some of the best features of these early American diets with the healthy cooking methods and ingredients we have at our fingertips today.
Mediterranean, Paleo, Pioneer
Want to go back even further in history for a meal plan?
Many of the foods mentioned in the Bible are simple, healthy foods also included in The Mediterranean Diet: olive oil, wine, fruits and nuts, vegetables and legumes, whole grains, fish, herbs.
“For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land — a land with brooks, streams and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing.” – Deuteronomy 8:7-9
The focus on eating game meat, fish, vegetables, wild fruits, eggs and nuts dates way back before the U.S. pioneers and even biblical times. Those were the foods also eaten by cavemen during the paleolithic era … a diet high in animal fat and proteins and low in carbohydrates, which is now commonly known as The Paleo Diet.
I prefer to keep some of the pioneer’s staples of grains and cornmeal in my recipes, a little more like The Mediterranean Diet. Let’s call it The Modern Pioneer Diet!!
What are some of your favorite “ancient” foods?