traditional foods

A taste of Peru: the tension between old and new

A taste of Peru: the tension between old and new

Supermarkets selling sodas and processed foods are blocks away from the open-air markets with “mamitas” selling the produce from their gardens by the roadside. Monsanto and Bayer have reached the Sacred Valley and are persuading farmers to replace their natural varied corn crops with their one variety of corn (from genetically-modified seeds). Mining is generating incomes for small towns, but simultaneously polluting their drinking and irrigation water. Villagers are fighting back, but their voices aren’t always heard. As you can see, there are multiple threats to the health of the people and the land of Peru. 

Learning from the traditional Maasai

In the 1930s, researcher and dentist Dr. Weston A. Price traveled around the world to find the healthiest people with the best teeth. He had seen images of such people in “National Geographic” magazine but he wondered if they actually existed. So he took a voyage, determined to find out for himself. Everywhere he went, Dr. Price noticed that those who ate their traditional diets (cheese and milk in Switzerland, seal oil in Alaska, and so on) were healthy, fertile and vibrant. And, yes, they resembled those traditional people groups featured in “National Geographic!” They had beautiful straight teeth, with very little incidence of decay. But he also found that those who had access to so-called “modern” western foods (including refined flours and sugars) suffered tooth decay and health issues. There was a clear pattern that tied wellness to diet. When Dr. Price came to Kenya, he noted that it was no exception. He met tribal people who were extremely healthy and who had broad faces with straight teeth with little evidence of cavities or infections. But among those whose diets had changed, he saw compromised health and teeth that were cavity-filled.

Dickson in Oiti

When I traveled to Kenya last year (and just last month), I wondered myself what I would find. I’m not a dentist or a researcher, but I had the next best thing going for me. I connected with Maasai community leader Dickson Ole Gisa and got to speak with him first-hand. I wondered what changes he had noted over the years and if Dr. Price's findings were playing out in his community. Indeed, Dickson had witnessed some of the very things Dr. Price recorded so many years ago. I take it back. He had not only witnessed the dietary changes and the corresponding health repercussions for his people, he had actually lived through them!

Dickson lives in Oiti, a Maasai village in Kenya, near the border of Tanzania. It is rather remote and yet he admits “The diet is changing tremendously.” When he first heard of the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) and its Wise Traditions principles based on Dr. Price’s findings, it made perfect sense to him. He immediately contacted WAPF, saying, “Please send someone over. We are all getting sick. I have diabetes. My wife has asthma….” So this is how I came to connect with him, as an envoy of WAPF, as a friend, and as the Wise Traditions podcast host. In this capacity, I am now able to share with you one conversation with Dickson from my visit this past month. You will certainly be fascinated by Dickson’s stories, as I was.

In “A Maasai story,” you will learn:

  • what Dickson ate as a child (including the game his father hunted to feed his family)
  • the Maasai traditional diet
  • the allure of “foreign foods” like soda, juice, oils
  • how the changing diet is impacting the Maasai’s health
  • how pregnant women are “selective” in terms of the food they eat
  • traditions related to childbirth
  • about a special book written by the first Maasai scholar which records all of the cultural traditions of the people
  • how “civilization” and “education” are shaping Maasai dietary choices
  • the very changes Dickson's own family have made to return to traditional foods
  • how Dickson is spreading the news of Wise Traditions
  • the community’s response to WAPF principles and ideas

I have learned from Dickson, among other things, that one person can make a difference in their community. It starts in our own backyards. I want to continue to take steps to "practically apply" (as Dickson says) what I believe---in terms of food, faith, and life. If I do this, or rather, if we do this, we will certainly impact our villages, communities, and the whole world for the better! Don't you agree?

P.S. If you enjoy this episode, please share it with others. And if you want to support Dickson’s outreach and efforts to help his people regain their health through a return to nourishing traditional foods, go to westonaprice.org and click on “Get involved.” Then click on the “donate” button and give the amount of your choice to the “overseas outreach” initiative.

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Hilda Labrada Gore is a health coach and the host of the Wise Traditions podcast (found on iTunes, Stitcher and at westonaprice.org). She is also the DC chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation.

"People are getting sick because they are ignoring their God-given traditional ways..."

These were the words of an 86 year-old Maasai woman I met this summer. When I went on my Weston A. Price-funded trip to Kenya this past August, my objective was to teach the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) principles everywhere I went. But before I even landed in Nairobi, my Maasai friend, Dickson told me by phone,"You teach...and you learn." And so it came to be. Meyanik and I bonded so that she even gave me the necklace I am wearing here.

One of the people I learned from was Meyanik Ene Ringaq, the 86 year-old above. On a Sunday morning, she dropped by the home of our Maasai host, Dickson. Dickson served as our interpreter as we conversed. I've highlighted key bits of the conversation. Here are Meyanik's unvarnished thoughts:

  • on what she ate as a child

When we were young, we just fed on the milk from the cow.

  • on pneumonia

Right now, if it rains, every woman just gets to put on her children, heavy clothes, rain clothes, and sweater to try to prevent pneumonia. They say if they are exposed to the cold, they will get pneumonia, but before there was no pneumonia. There was nothing like pneumonia. If it rained the kids would just go outside and play with the rain water and not get sick. And if they have rain on them, they just get the milk from the cow, when it is warm, they just take it and they don’t get sick.

  • on pregnancy and infants

Expectant mothers, pregnant women, they didn’t go to the hospital. When they delivered, the first thing they were given is the blood, because they figured the blood they lost during delivery can be replaced from the blood from the cow.

So the child, small baby, is raised by milk and the cream. That is the only food; that and breastfeeding.

  • a personal story: her daughter's pregnancy and labor

I have a daughter who is married and just had a baby about a month ago. I went there to stay with [them] before she delivered. But when my daughter and her husband went to the hospital for a check up, they were told that she needed to deliver in the hospital because her hemoglobin was low, so there was danger if she delivered at home. But when they came home, I advised my daughter that there is no need to go to the hospital, that she should deliver at home. There are traditional medicines (herbs and roots) that are used for pregnant women. So I just went to the forest and gave her herbs and bark from the tree, and every time I gave the herbs boiled and mixed with blood...to my pregnant daughter. When the delivery time had come, she just delivered at home. There was no problem.

It’s better to stay with the traditional ways, than just getting all the shots, all the medicine because it’s just like we are taking poison in our bodies.

  • on the differences between the old and new generation

When we were children, when we were youth, we just used simple traditional diets, we wouldn’t have to go to shop and buy things. Compare C. (Dickson's youngest child, a 7 year-old) with the children from before. She’s a bit fat and having a big body. But the older child, the traditional, who used to eat traditional food, they are more stronger than these children. Because they got the fat from the milk.

People are getting sick because they are ignoring their God-given traditional ways which are very, very, very important.

  • on why traditional diets are losing ground

The culture of traditional diets is changing because of education. Before, we did not have any thoughts from the outside. But now...there is a lot of interaction.

If we get people...to help us direct our community back to the old traditional ways, like having seminars for them, we can help them talk and try to get our children back to the old ways. So at least, so that they can have education, but education doesn’t change their cultural or their traditional diets. Let the education change their mind, like knowledge, but not change their diets, their traditional diets, which I believe is like an everlasting life for the community.

I’m very grateful that you have this idea of coming to tell people to go back to their old ways, their original culture, because that is where we come from.

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