This past weekend I attended Wise Traditions, the 2010 conference of the Weston A. Price Foundation, along with Melissa McEwen, Allison Bojarski, and a few others. For those who don't know WAPF, it's a foundation based on the work of 1930s dentist Weston Price, who traveled the world documenting the health of indigenous and isolated people eating their traditional diets. The pictures of healthy teeth are striking — with no toothbrushes, toothpaste, braces, or anything resembling modern dental care. Current WAPF followers tend to still eat treated grains and raw dairy (contra paleo), but they use traditional techniques to detoxify (or partially detoxify) grains and nuts, like fermenting, sprouting, and soaking. They are fierce advocates of sustainable farming techniques and uncovering the wisdom in traditional food preparation techniques.
A few casual observations:
- Wow, there were a lot of women!
WAPF really draws a different crowd than paleo. Way more female. Also a touch older, and draws a religious contingent. This gave me the opportunity to come up with some WAPF-specific pick-up lines, such as "So I hear you like lacto-fermented vegetables" (used successfully) and "You should see what I have fermenting back in my hotel room" (not used…yet).
- WAPF has a love affair with butter
I've started to cook with butter and add it to some meals, but WAPF folks *really love their butter*. And not just any butter, but butter from grass-fed cows. Butter is a pretty good neolithic food, as neolithic foods go. Much much better than all those processed vegetable oils.
- Raw milk doesn't taste weird
I was raised on skim milk. And I've had almost zero milk for about 4 years. But I drank the raw milk at every meal this weekend. Didn't taste weird to me at all. It was rich, but not overwhelmingly so, and it didn't taste weird to me at all, as I think most people imagine it does.
- WAPF is doing great political activism
The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund is doing great work defending small farms and raw dairies from prosecution and persecution by the FDA and USDA. It's the factory farm system that creates filthy living conditions that promote bacterial infections (including feeding corn to cows, which changes the pH balance in their stomach, promoting the growth of e coli). And most food borne illnesses are tied back to big industrial suppliers. But small farms selling locally are being burdened with regulation designed for the big guys.
- No beet kvass before 9am in the morning
I'm sure I would have enjoyed it had my initial experience been later in the day. Many people seemed to love it: "Beet kvass — it's always 9am somewhere."
- Grains were out in force
The food was delicious, but too grain-heavy for my preferences. Even sprouted, fermented, and all that. And too many natural sweeteners for my tastes, like raw honey and maple syrup.
- The Sunday brunch was magnificent
Lox from Vital Choice, pastured pork sausage, grass-fed lamb sausage, a number of amazing raw milk cheeses, pastured eggs, grass-fed butter, bacon, liverwurst, and more.
- Joel Salatin is a total bad-ass
Salatin is the owner of Polyface Farm, and was one of the stars of Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. He gave the keynote on Saturday night. Superb. If you ever get the chance to hear Salatin speak, take it. I'll do a post specifically on Salatin. But he is fighting the good fight for local farmers practicing sustainable permacultures.
- Chris Masterjohn gave a terrific presentation on heart disease and cholesterol
The metaphor for atherosclerosis of a pipe filling up with crud is biologically inaccurate and misleading. Intake of dietary cholesterol is not the problem.To grossly over-simplify, atherosclerosis is actually an adaptive response by the body to try to mitigate oxidative damage. Here is his site on cholesterol and health.
- Stephan Guyenet of Whole Health Source gave a great talk on the traditional diets of Pacific Islanders
Stephan, true to form, was deliberate and scientific in his presentation of the evidence and his conclusions. For example, not all hunter-gatherer diets were low carb. Polynesia, Melanesia, and that whole area are great places to study health and diet because all the islands (and mountains on each island) create geographic boundaries that make it easier to study similar genetic populations eating different diets.
Okay, that's it for now. I'll have some serious and collected thoughts soon. It's well past my bedtime.