The other day I was thinking about traditional cuisine, healthy people, longevity and old foods. I asked myself, “Who do you know that has lived a long life and is thriving?” One of the first people that came to my mind was my grandma. She’s 98, lives by herself in Arkansas, and still is full of good spirit and decent health. She has had relatively few major health problems along the way and even drove until a few years ago. While she isn’t doing cartwheels anymore I think she is a great example of someone who has lived a great life and looks great for her age.
So I did what so many people do to older, healthy people that they admire… ask her what she ate. Although I am slightly interested in what she eats now I was more concerned with what she ate growing up, the foods shaped her into the woman who came to be healthy and have great longevity, what foods did she eat then that we don’t eat now and what her general thoughts on food were throughout her life. And what I found was pretty interesting so I thought I would share it…
What My Grandma Ate
Although she didn’t remember too much in the way of specifics, she did have pretty solid memories of concepts. She grew up in Missouri, with a little southern influence, and her family had a garden and access to groceries. Most of what we talked about can be summed up in a few quotes…
“It just seemed like we just had simple food.”
“We grew our own vegetables. Not all these fancy ones like broccoli. But carrots and onions and green beans.”
“We didn’t have much, but there was always plenty of food and I just remember it being so good.”
I probed her a little to jog her memory, “Did you use butter?”
“Oh, yes. That was all we used. Except Crisco when we made pies.”
“No. That came later when I was older. I never liked it, seemed fake.”
“How about meat?”
“Of course. Beef. And ham I remember.”
“Chicken or eggs?”
“Oh, yes. Eggs. Not sure about chicken but I’m sure we did.”
“How about sweets and candies?”
“Ooh I love sweets, especially now. We made pies from time to time but didn’t really have all the other things like they do now. Ooh, but you know how much I like truffles now.”
“Yes you do Grandma, yes you do…”
So it went on a little bit, here and there. The end result shouldn’t shock you. My grandma grew up eating simple whole foods, much of which they grew or got fresh, and they never felt like they were missing out. The biggest thing that stuck with me was her saying (and really emphasizing) that she didn’t know how her parents got the food back then to always taste so fresh and just so plain good.
Many would consider her to have been blessed: whole, fresh, real food. Not a lot of processed food, a well balanced diet, fresh plants and animals and a bit of, but not too much, sweet stuff. Whether her health is a result of a “real food diet” in her youth we will never know but I have the suspicion it certainly helped her set a nice foundation. Her diet since then has been evolving with mainstream advice and she has made some compromises along the way although she has remained partial to things like butter and cream most of her life because she said it just always tasted much better.
So that’s what my grandma ate.
Thanks for reading, have a great old fashioned, real food day!