Food History

Our Elasticity and Adaptability Depend on More Than Food

Except: Empty Plate: Food~Sustainability~Mindfulness By Tammera Karr and Kathleen Bell

In an equally real sense, researchers know that elasticity and adaptability during challenging events like pandemics, and life transitions; are a combination of how well-nourished the brain and body are — through mindful choices about nutrition and other behaviors. The conscious decisions to eat healthy foods, get quality sleep, spend time in nature, limit the ingestion of disrupting or harmful media/substances, or to take a moment of pause for gratitude — all constitute nourishment for our bodies, minds, and spirits.

Whole-brain perspective leads to renewed skills

Critical and whole-brain thinking, along with common sense, are often referred to as being not so common. The reality is that our modern education can be sorely lacking when it comes to past generations’ skills. Often, we are out of practice in using skills of common sense. Although we can look at history for clues on how ancient peoples survived and thrived, it doesn’t give us their expertise, nor the luxury to take the time to live as they did.

As we begin a new decade, our world is entirely different than ever before. Even if we might have the skill, time, and environment that supports a romanticized lifestyle of bygone days — we have to ask ourselves. Do we really want to work that hard? Can we give up the many facets of our modern world that define us now?

The incorporation of mindfulness and sustainability into the broader idea of nourishment for modern lives isn’t about turning back the calendar, politics, environmental agendas, or religious beliefs. It is about owning the choices we make and being the best version of ourselves, along with helping the next generation view their empty plate with open eyes of wonder and possibilities.

Bringing calm to chaos

Expanding ones perspective through the combined lenses of mindfulness; tradition, and science, it can allow for the best of all views to guide; and bring a balance between modern and traditional approaches to health, lifestyle, and nourishment.

Mindfulness is not solely limited to the practice of meditation; mindfulness also includes the ability to discern and make choices based on knowledge, facts, and intuition. Mindfulness is that moment of pause to recognize and acknowledge the present moment before moving forward, which may allow us to see both obstacles and the possibilities before us.

It is easy in the modern world to view ancient cultures and people with either idealism or disdain; believing modern society is somehow more advanced and superior to past cultures without pizza delivery, electronics, and central air. However, biases are not limited to only those of the past. There are times we pooh-pooh someone who lives in a metropolitan area for eating industrial fast-food instead of selections labeled organic; or roll the eyes over a modern homesteader making cheese and canning. How we view food, in particular, and the way people eat, is all about perspective.

The same is true about where diet and food fall into one’s thoughts about health. Clients may feel reading labels and buying health food is a waste of time and all a scam. Equally, clients can become so obsessed with the health and cleanness of their food they are practically paralyzed in the market; worse yet, it becomes almost impossible to enjoy a meal with them. This last part is so important because, as a species, we have shared a meal with others since the beginnings of evolution. This need to commune with others while eating plays a role in why restaurants are popular, especially for singles; eating with others allows for sharing ancient memories tucked deep in cellular mitochondria.

First, let’s be honest; the American food culture has been pretty messed up for over eighty years. There are real reasons to be concerned about food and water (we will look at water more later), especially where safety and quality are concerned. Part of the difference between the current generation and one’s great-grandparents began with the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s. By the 19th century with the assembly line’s initiation, canned and frozen foods began taking society from the farm or backyard to the Piggly Wiggly. It wasn’t until the end of World War II and the Agricultural Chemical Revolution that mega-corporations opened Pandora’s box of newly available chemicals for food crops and food manufacturing.

The late 20th century brought first-world countries (as defined by the UN following World War II) to a roundabout in healthcare approaches. The 21st century views on health care are a blended version of allopathic, integrative, traditional, and holistic models. These varied approaches can be at odds with each other, adding to consumer confusion and frustration. However, the silver lining of this moment-in-time is a growing acknowledgment and understanding of the priceless value that food from traditional and cultural sources provides.

Twenty years into the new millennium means four to five generations of individuals simultaneously alive today on the planet; some of whom have been taught to believe the Doctor Knows Best, Science is Good, Traditional Medicine is Quackery, and Better Living Through Chemistry. Additionally, the tech-industry is influencing food trends in ways that resemble bad science fiction. Bland or flavorless meal replacements like Soylent® are being touted as foods to prevent climate change — and better for the environment than eating livestock. Neither of these claims can stand up to fact-checking. The pandemic of 2020 revealed that airplanes, many industries, and fossil-fuel-powered vehicles were far more at odds with global climate conditions than cattle.

Thankfully, the younger generation of Millennials is embracing traditional agriculture, homesteading, gardening, and animal husbandry: along with artisanal and traditional food preparation. The authors cannot know for a certainty that generations following the Millennials will embrace and value sustainable lifestyles in the same manner — but we hope they do.

The pandemic of 2020 also brought about a return to the kitchen. With stay-at-home orders in place for months on end, individuals reacquainted themselves with the once mysterious room and unfamiliar activities of kitchen. The developments of 2020 gives hope that the growing challenges of food insecurity in the United States (due to affordability, availability, mobility, and multi-national food manufacturers controlling the type of foods available in many areas) can be ameliorated. A study released in 2018 on food insecurity in older adults found food insecurity was significantly associated with economic factors. The findings showed higher values for the prevalence of chronic diseases, poor management of chronic diseases, and decreased health-related quality of life in older adults living in communities. The cycle of food insecurity and chronic disease begins when an individual or family cannot afford enough nutritious food. The combination of stress and poor nutrition can make health management increasingly challenging.

Additionally, the time and money needed to cope with these health conditions strain the household budget, leaving little money for essential nutrition and medical care. This causes the cycle to continue, increasing the risk of worsening existing conditions. When food insecurity is present, sustainable health and mindful living are unattainable.

In the fall of 2020, the Wall Street Journal reported on the growing food insecurity in Latin American countries. It is easy to compartmentalize our thinking about food into what we see in the local market and be blind to the multitude of areas where food is affected by seemingly unrelated events in global economies. One area involves fossil fuels and transportation, as the Wall Street Journal article titled “Venezuela’s Food Chain is Breaking, and Millions Go Hungry” outlines. When gas, diesel, or canola oil-based fuels are unavailable or production is limited or halted, farmers are unable to fuel tractors or farm equipment to plant and harvest. When transportation of food falters due to fuel shortages, millions of tons of food spoil in depots, fields, and aboard cargo ships. What increasingly becomes available to consumers in countries like Venezuela are “junk” foods and non-edible items. Ana Nunes, a sixty-two-year-old retired municipal worker in western Venezuela, shared in the Journal article her meals consisting of a few corn-flour arepas (pancakes), and continued to say “instead of quality foods, the markets sell garbage like animal hides and rotten cheese.”

When individuals have access to community gardens or live close to food production; accessibility allows people to harvest and store foods while the nutrient content is at its highest. The availability and use of fresh foods provide quality nutrition, not empty calories. Historically, it has always been true that when humans have access to abundant food supplies; advances in culture, intelligence, and adaptability happen. When changes in local area economies involving increased availability of fresh foods occur, the population has a high capacity to produce positive, healthy changes that influence sustainability. This is a key component of humanity’s sustainability that involves the greater or lesser availability of fresh food. When vacant lots are revitalized into community gardens in large cities, people come together; and food insecurity in the elderly and in impoverished areas lessens, with the addition of countless other benefits.

During clinical practice, Tammera has had many clients who were children during the Great Depression of the 1930s and World War II. A recurring comment from these elders pertains to food and hunger; “we knew we were poor, but we never went hungry; there was always a garden and food to eat.”

Something to think about.

To Read More on Sustainability and Mindfulness
Empty Plate - Food, Sustainability, Mindfulness

The Love of Chocolate

Excerpt from Our Journey with Food ©2015, 2018
Revised 2/2021


By Tammera Karr PhD

The cacao tree, aptly named Theobroma cacao, by the famous botanist Carl Linnaeus. The cacao tree only grows within twenty degrees of the equator in the tropics’ damp conditions. Once mature, the tree will produce small, white flowers that can only be pollinated by midges, a fly no larger than a pencil’s tip. When cacao pods are mature, they are harvested by hand using a machete. Each pod is broken open to expose the beans and white pulp and collected into a pile. The beans and pulp remain outside in the heat and high humidity to undergo fermentation.


What is fermentation?

Fermentation is a metabolic process that occurs with microorganisms. Bacteria and yeast thrive in hot, moist climates, and the cacao pulp is an excellent nutrient source. In this case, the bacteria and yeast are needed to produce the precursor compounds necessary for chocolate’s characteristic flavor and aroma. Bacteria do this by eating some of the sugar and acid content, converting it into other molecules. Fermentation typically lasts for about a week. Once fermentation is complete, the farmers will separate the beans from the pulp, used as a nutrient source during fermentation. Next, the beans are left to dry in the sun.


A little history

In Greek, Theobroma translates to food of the gods.  Chocolate connoisseurs know there is more than a gustatory pleasure to be found in this food of the gods. In 1753, Carl von Linnaeus, a Swedish scientist, thought cacao was so important he named the genus and species of tree Theobroma cacao, which means cacao, the food of the gods. This food dates back to prehistoric times and was extensively cultivated in Mexico, Central, and South America for centuries before Europeans’ arrived. 173  The Mayan Indians began cultivating cacao about 600 AD. The indigenous populations ate only the fruit, which contains numerous health benefits. The seed or cacao nib was set aside for a psychedelic brew, called ayahuasca, and for medicines.  According to Aztec myth, the cacao awakened power and wisdom. When the explorer Cortes brought cacao back to Spain in 1528, it was sequestered and enjoyed only by nobility and the wealthy.


The many uses of chocolate

In medieval times, chocolate was viewed as a luxury item and an indulgence. In modern times chocolate is used as gifts for mothers and sweethearts. It is made into cocktails, cold and hot drinks, candies, powders, wines, and lotions. The Spanish are widely responsible for the introduction and development of chocolate foods and beverages.


The making of chocolate foods

The most critical step is roasting. Roasting generates hundreds of the flavor compounds associate with chocolate. The beans are roasted at high temperatures for roughly one hour. There are many chemical reactions responsible for cacoa color, flavor, and aroma. Cacoa naturally has a strong, pungent/bitter taste, which comes from the flavonols. Without roasting, the cacao beans would never obtain the flavor profile we associate with modern chocolate. Cacoa nibs are crushed to form cocoa butter and cocoa liquor. There are several processing steps involved in reducing cacaos bitter taste. Cocoa liquor has a very concentrated, chocolatey flavor with a trace of bitterness and acidity. Other ingredients like sugar, milk solids, vanilla, and emulsifiers are added to the pure cocoa liquor. The addition of these ingredients to the liquor results in a coarse, heterogeneous mixture that still must be further processed. The more chocolate is processed (through fermentation, alkalizing, roasting, etc.), the more flavanols are lost. 174


What science tells us about the health properties of chocolate

Flavonoids are naturally-occurring compounds found in plant-based foods that offer specific health benefits. They are part of the polyphenol group (chemicals found in plants). Flavanols are a type of flavonoid found explicitly in cocoa and chocolate. More than 4,000 flavonoid compounds are found in various foods and beverages, such as cranberries, apples, peanuts, chocolate, onions, tea, and red wine. Most popular commercial chocolates are highly processed, providing little if any health benefits.

Dark chocolate contains a large number of antioxidants (nearly eight times the amount found in strawberries). Flavonoids also help lower blood pressure nitric oxide production; they can also balance certain hormones. The fats in chocolate (1/3 oleic acid, 1/3 stearic acid, and 1/3 palmitic acid) do not impact your cholesterol. Dark chocolate helps restore flexibility to arteries while preventing white blood cells from sticking to blood vessels’ walls. Both arterial stiffness and white blood cell adhesion are known factors that play a significant role in atherosclerosis. Scientists found that increasing the flavanol content of dark chocolate did not change this effect. Research published in the March 2014 issue of The FASEB Journal.

The effect that dark chocolate has on our bodies is encouraging not only because it allows us to indulge with less guilt, but also because it could lead the way to therapies that do the same thing as dark chocolate but with better and more consistent results,” said Gerald Weissmann, MD, editor-in-chief of The FASEB Journal. Until the ‘dark chocolate drug’ is developed, however, we’ll have to make do with what nature has given us! 175, 177


Benefits of dark chocolate


Chocolate is a complex food with over 300 compounds and chemicals in each bite. Look for pure dark chocolate or dark chocolate with nuts, orange peel, or other natural flavorings. To enjoy and appreciate chocolate, take the time to taste it.  Most studies used no more than 100 grams, or about 3.5 ounces, of dark chocolate a day. One bar of dark chocolate has around 400 calories.

Enjoy moderate portions of chocolate (e.g., one ounce) a few times per week, and don’t forget to consume other flavonoid-rich foods like apples, red wine, tea, onions, and cranberries. Your best choices are dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate (especially milk chocolate that is loaded with other fats and sugars) and cocoa powder that has not undergone Dutch processing (cocoa treated with an alkali to neutralize its natural acidity).

Caution: According to the National Hazardous Substances Database: In large doses, theobromine may cause nausea and anorexia, and the daily intake of 50-100g cocoa (1.5 g theobromine) has been associated with sweating, trembling, and severe headache. Occasionally, people (mostly the elderly) have needed hospital treatment for a theobromine reaction.

  1. The Science behind Chocolate by Abbey Thiel:
  2. (Based on materials provided by Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.)
  3. The Poisonous Chemistry of Chocolate –
  4. Is Chocolate a Healthy Choice for Valentine’s Day? That Depends on Which Kind, Wall Street Journal,
  5.  chocolate-1518100791

Invasion of the Kitchen Gadgets

By Tammera J Karr PhD


What are your must-have gizmos, gadget, tool, or appliance in your home or RV kitchen?

This question had come before me frequently of late and got me thinking about all the tools we have available today, designed for one form or another of food preparation. It is quite overwhelming when you do a small search on Amazon, Overstock, or Wayfair for Kitchen tools and appliances. As a food historian, I have seen kitchen tools from colonial days to the present, some have lasted over the centuries, and others came and went. The one tool every kitchen has at least one of is a knife. History and archaeology can show us blades of every shape and material dating from man’s earliest forays into tool making.

When reading about pioneers coming west and what individuals started with, then left along the trail; the list is long from furniture to wood cook stoves, books to rugs, copper pots, and pans to bone china. But the knife always seemed to make the list of must-haves. When families packed up their belongings and moved during the dust bowl, the kitchen knife was secured in the load once again. So what about today – does the humble knife still have relevance with food processors, electric carving blades, mincers, blenders, and more?

Ohh, Ya, our fascination with knives is still very real. Each time I open one of my social media pages, an ad for Damascus steel kitchen knives with wood, ceramic, bone, and composite handles of every size and color greets me. I feel like a magpie drawn to shiny – wanting this one and that.

Unlike the pioneers or my grandmother, I have to consider the requirements of another kitchen appliance that rules supreme – the dishwasher. My grandmother never had to weigh the acquisition of her mixing bowls, hand tools, dishes, and knives against Dishwasher Safe.  Ok, many folks don’t have dishwashers, but what about microwave ovens?

The microwave oven made it big in the mid-1980s when the once expensive countertop high-tech oven became affordable to the masses in North America. A whole new approach to cooking took the states by storm. Candy, bacon, rice, and potatoes in minutes, and soon freezers were filled with not the functional aluminum oven TV dinner but the snazzy plastic dish quick meal. I admit that this is one electric appliance short-lived in my kitchen and RV. After three years of not even using the microwave’s timer function in our RV, we removed it and turned the space into convenient storage for those kitchen tools used almost daily.  I enjoy cooking and find it as fast as ready-made meals. The motions involved with preparing a meal are timeless and allow one to slow down and take stock in the day’s events while flavoring the food with intention and care. On the practical side, I’ll admit at home and in the RV counter space to use those nifty knives on will always win out over another electrical gadget.

Did you grow up with Pyrex? Pretty much every wedding from the 1940s to the present has had at least one set of Pyrex mixing bowls if festive or retro colors. Countless batches of popcorn, salads, mashed potatoes, and pasta have been offered up to family members in Pyrex over the decades, and they were the first freezer to oven to tableware of the modern age. There are downsides to grandmothers stoneware and Pyrex. The heavy metal content and exposure from ceramics pre-2015 are serious considerations, especially if children eat from these dishes. But will this champion of the kitchen be replaced with Silicone? Maybe, but there is a lot we don’t know about silicone cookware – remember how Teflon took over the kitchen in the 1970s and 80s? Today we know there are health dangers from cooking and using Teflon, so much so that the US government banned its use. Ok, they may have excluded it more for the threat to the ozone than your health, but we will take this win any way we can get it.

There are still more appliances filling the cupboards; electric frying pans, instant pots, hand benders, ice cream makers, popcorn poppers, and more. When it comes down to it, just how many of these appliances do we really need, or even use more than once a year? If we were loading a wagon to head west today, how many of these would be left behind? There is something to be said for simplicity. When we use the knife, rolling pin (reminiscent of the mortar and pestle), and spoon, we are using tools that have passed the test of time. The physical motions we do of slicing, chopping, ladling, pouring, rolling, and pressing are little changed from that of the pioneers or ancient peoples who first settled our world. When explorers of old went forth, simplicity ruled due to practical needs. Today millions of people in other parts of the world still use rudimentary kitchen tools to prepare their daily meals; these tools may have been passed down through generations or fabricated from available materials. Why they are still in demand comes down to serviceable, dependable, and portable.

Consider the appliance invasion that may have been going on in your kitchen.  Before buying the newest gizmo, pause and ponder how much space it takes up, and if its value is real or just because everyone else has one. Keep those tools that increase the enjoyment of cooking, that connect you to family and friends – the rest pass them by in favor of less stuff to weigh you down.


To read more on the modernization of the kitchen by Tammera Karr 

Our Journey With Food Cookery BookAvailable on

Popcorn, the home movie fun food

Published June 20th, 2020 in Eat for Health, HN4U Blog, Traditional Cookery

by Tammera J. Karr, PhD, BCHN, CNW, CGP

Before the advent of fast snack foods and giant box candies, we had a simple and dare I say, even beneficial snack food – popcorn. This week I read a report on Pepsi-Co launching two new fast service websites for home delivery of their Frito and Pepsi family of products directly to consumers.

This has me confused because everywhere I have been during the COVID-19 closures, the one group of foods the most accessible are junk foods. It is harder to find popcorn, then candy, pop, chips, and cookies. These calory dense snack foods are very much a product of the current modern age. Before the 1970s, snack foods were a treat used on occasion. Today these everpresent junk foods are being used as daily meal replacements for thousands of children in low-income households. Popcorn, by comparison, is a paragon of health virtue.

A Little History

Biblical accounts of “corn” stored in the pyramids of Egypt are a reference to other grains such as barley. The word “corn” was commonly used to refer to various grains in Europe, such as wheat, barley, and rye. In Scotland and Ireland, the term “corn” referred to oats. Maize was the ordinary American corn.

It is believed that the first use of wild and early cultivated corn was popping. Archeologists have found traces of popcorn in 1,000year-old Peruvian tombs. The oldest ears of popcorn ever found were discovered in the Bat Cave of west-central New Mexico in 1948 and 1950.

Popcorn was very popular from the 1890s until the Great Depression. Street vendors used to follow crowds around, pushing steam or gas-powered poppers through fairs, parks, and expositions. According to the Popcorn Board website, “Charles Cretors, founder of C. Cretors and Company in Chicago, introduced the world’s first mobile popcorn machine at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.

Scientific American reported: ‘This machine … was designed with the idea of moving it about to any location where the operator would be likely to do a good business. The apparatus, which is light and

durable, and weighing but 400 or 500 pounds, can be drawn readily by a boy or by a small pony to any picnic ground, fair, political rally, etc. and to many other places where a good business could be done for a day or two.

Popcorn at 5 or 10 cents a bag was one of the few luxuries down-and-out families could afford. During the Great Depression, the popcorn business thrived while other companies failed. A slump did happen during the early 1950s, with the arrival of TV. Attendance at movie theaters dropped and, with it, popcorn consumption. A new relationship between TV and popcorn was formed.

Many of us have fond memories of making Jiffy Pop™. Just this last week, while camping at my husbands’ remote job site, I went looking for JiffyPop. When I found it, it was interesting to read the ingredients list – it was a surprisingly simple list and free of many of the typical industrial additives that are detrimental to our health—developed in 1958 in LaPorte, Indiana.  JiffyPop™ made it big when, in the 1970s, the stage magician Harry Blackstone, Jr. promoted the product jingle.

According to the non-GMO shopping guide,  there is no GMO popcorn, so while hundreds of cone products are GMO and gene-edited, old fashioned popcorn is still the same as when you were a kid.

Our family likes to sit in the yard on a summer night, hang a sheet on the shop wall, and use the projector to screen movies while we enjoy our organic buttered popcorn. Just like the ol’ fashioned drive-in, but better. make as it is to eat.”

Here is to real food that we can have fun with.

A Wider View adds Clarity

Published November 21st, 2019 in Alternative Perspective, Health Freedom

by Tammera J. Karr, PhD  

Like so many who are in the health care and academic modalities, reading – like every word on the page, kind of reading – morphs into expert skimming. A personal challenge this year has been to return to actual reading with a book, not a tablet, phone, or computer screen. The value of exercising our brain and eyes is essential in maintaining cognitive health.  At one time I could devour five to ten books a month. To be honest, they were all bubble gum books that entertained versus educated.  I used to think how boring non-fiction books were, now my view is, shall we say more mature. Today after years of reading research, clinical data, and health and food-related books and on electronic screens, it is almost impossible for me to read a work of fiction. I also had lost my power to stay focused both mentally and my eyes physically on an actual book. This concerned me, as vision changes can be related to cognitive decline, and I decided it was time for a change.

I found myself drawn to anthropology, wanting to learn for myself if the volumus information being spouted on the internet, social media and at conferences about Paleo diets had any foundation in fact. This path also meant I would be questioning deeply held beliefs of highly respected or publicized professionals.

My Journey began with reading Luther Cressmans’ book “The Sandle and the Cave,” Oregon State University Press 1981. Cressmens’ pivotal work on Native Peoples of the Pacific Northwest and in particular, the tribs of Oregon changed academics whole approach to the science of anthropology in the 1930s – 1980s. For those of you who do not know Oregon History, the great basin area east of the cascades is home to peoples who date back almost 10,000 years, confirmed with DNA testing. Cressmens’ work and those who followed him have turned science on its ear over the populating of the Americas. For me, reading, Cressman’s work supported my thought on what was an actual paleo diet versus the glamorized version on social media. My mind wanted to learn more about what food anthropologists had to say on traditional diets.

This lead me to food anthropology blogs, newsletters and yes, even social media groups. Here I learned that modern science now is able to find minute traces of plant cells and DNA in the pores of ancient pottery shards. High tech scans are able to trace and identify for the first time what past civilizations and people ate. Before now it was all theory, and as Cressman stated just because a food is present in an area today does not mean ancient populations utilized it. In order for us to eat like the pioneers, we are going to have to get over many of our preconceived perceptions of food. To eat like actual paleo individuals, we have to throw out the book on everything we have ever known, and place ourselves in entirely different environments and in the position of eating or die. None of us want this to be the norm; we like our gourmet coffee and tea, global foods, and even a bag of highly procced industrial chips.

My husband shared with a work colleague with a science on the ground job that I was reading The Sandle and the Cave. “Oh he said if she is reading that, then she needs to read, “No Bone Unturned by Jeff Benedict, it is about the Kennewick man and how the truth was being literally buried by the government.” So I did, every page in one day. I like many in Oregon remember when it was announced in the 1990s that the oldest dating human remains had been found along the banks of the Columbia River, and they were caucasian not resembling known native peoples. Then we heard the remains were found to be native and returned to the Umatilla tribe for repatriation. I seemed to have missed the rest of the story that followed.

What I didn’t know was the nations leading forensic anthropologists and archeologists from the Smithsonian and Universities spent over five years embroiled in a lawsuit against the Corp of Engineers and the Department of Justice pertaining to due process and as the attorney phrased it “the right to knowledge.” This is a real David and Goliath story; scientists placed their credibility, careers, and livelihoods on the line and they won, not because the government capitulated but because the scientific evidence was rock solid and a massive cover-up was exposed that wanted to gage and discredit scientists who pushed for “transparency and freedom of knowledge”.

This is a mystery story worth reading, and it brought back to my mind a conversation I had with a Lawyer about our right to dietary information and freedom of choice on food. I still rankle over her telling me the constitution does not guarantee our right to health freedom, and the difference one word made in the writing of the constitution – “inherent” to “inalienable.” I wonder how much information has been buried and scientists discredited because they posed an unpopular scientific finding or theory, counter to the agenda of a government agency, academic institution or a multinational corporation?

We may never know the answer to that question. As long as we have the freedom to seek out knowledge, to write and read books printed on paper or uncensored on the internet, we have the opportunity to grow, learn and be a positive influence on our corner of the world.

To food for the brain as well as the body.



© 2019 Holistic Nutrition for the Whole you

History as Old as Bees

By Tammera J. Karr, PhD

It is difficult to appreciate in today’s world the value of honey and bees. Honey is a by-product of flower nectar and the upper aerodigestive tract of the honey bee, which is concentrated through a dehydration process inside the beehive. Honey has a very complex chemical composition that varies depending on the botanical source. Honey is as old as history is itself. One of the earliest evidence of honey harvesting is on a rock painting dating back 8000 years that shows a honey seeker robbing a wild bee colony, in Valencia, Spain.[1], [2]

Humans have eaten honey, bathed in it, healed wounds and traded with honey since history was recorded. Archaeologists discovered honeycomb in Egypt buried with the pharaohs, the honey was preserved and still eatable. In Niuserre’s sun temple bee-keepers are depicted blowing smoke into hives as they are removing the honey-combs.  After extracting the honey from the comb, it was strained and poured into earthen jars. Images in Old Eygypt tombs show cylindrical hives dating from the 7th century B.C.[3]

The old testament refers to the land of Israel as the “land flowing of milk and honey.” The book of Sirach refers to the honey bee – “The bee is small among flying creatures, but what it produces is the best of sweet things.” [4] Honey is mentioned in the scrolls of the Orient, the Talmud, and Koran. [5]  The Romans used honey for treating wounds after battles.[6], [7] Hannibal, fed his army honey and vinegar as they crossed the Alps on elephants. In medieval Europe, bees were highly prized for their honey and wax. Honey was used as food, and to make mead—possibly the world’s oldest fermented beverage.  The history of mead dates back 20,000 to 40,000 years and originates on the African continent. In Africa during the dry season, wild bees would nest in tree hollows, and during the wet season, the hollows would fill with water. Water, honey, osmotolerant yeast, time and voila—mead is born.

By the 10th  century, the Kings and Queens of England, as well as the Vikings consumed fermented honey wine (Mead). [8], [9]  In medieval times, honey was used as medicine to treat burns, cough, indigestion and other ailments.  The lady of the manor would combine spices and herbs with mead to improve digestion. Candles made from beeswax burned brighter, longer and cleaner than other wax candles. Bees were often kept at monasteries and manor houses, where they were tended with the highest respect and considered part of the family or community. It was considered rude, to quarrel in front of bees. [10] Honey was often available only to royalty, and with time the tradition of mead was only sustained in the monasteries of Europe.

Most of man’s history has writings and art documenting our love and uses of honey. Which is not surprising, honey is a source of natural sugar, easy on the stomach and if stored correctly it will last almost indefinite. Honey can be easily adapted to use in the kitchen, the internet hosts over 148 million search results for recipes and blogs on honey. [11]  Modern research has now traced the story of honey more. Honey and Beeswax leave unique chemical signatures – these signatures have been found on thousands of pottery shards dating back through Neolithic time. The researchers found traces of beeswax on more than 6,400 pottery pieces used by Neolithic farmers. The oldest evidence found dates to 7,000 B.C. in Anatolia or Asia Minor. One Stone Age site in southeastern Turkey called Çayönü Tepesi yielded exceptionally well-preserved beeswax residue.[12]

The tradition of “Telling the Bees’” dates back to the Ancient Celts; it was believed if you didn’t keep the bees in the know about long journeys, passing of a member of the household or birth of a child, the bees would pack up and leave or die. There were even special prayers to say when seeing a bee flying over a field in the middle ages to present in Great Britain. The Orthodox Church has recognized the importance of bees for centuries and has prayers for both bees and beehives.[13]

O God, the Creator of all, who blesses seed and makes it to increase and makes it profitable for our use:  Through the intercession of the Forerunner and Baptist John, mercifully hearing our prayers, be pleased to bless and sanctify the bees by Your own deep compassion, that they may abundantly bear fruit for the beauty and adornment of Your temple and Your holy altars, and they may be useful for us, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to Whom be honor and glory unto ages of ages. 


Celtic mythology held that bees were the link between our world and the spirit world. So if you had any message for a deceased family member or friend, all you had to do was tell the bees, and they would pass it along. Telling the bees was widely observed in England and Europe. Eventually, the tradition made it’s a way across the Atlantic to North America. The typical way to “tell the bees” was for the head of the household, or “goodwife of the house” to go out to the hives, knock gently to get the attention of the bees, and then softly murmur in a doleful tune the solemn news.

Our Dependence on Pollinators

I was deeply saddened to see Bumble Bees placed on the endangered species list recently. [14] Our dependence on bees and the many other pollinators for food is no less in modern times than in the past.  Bees help humans survive, 70 of the top 100 crop species that feed 90% of the human population rely on bees for pollination. Without bees, these plants would cease to exist, and with them, animals that depend on those plants become jeopardized also. The loss of bees and fellow pollinators will have a cascading effect that will ripple catastrophically up the food chain. Losing a beehive is much more than losing a supply of honey, it is a bell tolling a final warning for us all.

The modern world’s reliance on man-made chemicals for agriculture has been proven to be devastating to bees and other beneficial bugs.  We no longer value the bee as we once did,  sitting and chatting with them about members of the family. The act of telling the bees emphasizes this deep connection humans share with the insect and their importance.

Fake Honey in your Tea

Fake honey on market shelves in Australia in 2018 became news. Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) testing at a leading international scientific lab that specializes in honey fraud detection found almost half the honey samples selected from supermarket shelves in Australia and New Zealand were “adulterated,” meaning it had been mixed with something other than nectar from bees. Phil McCabe, the president of the International Federation of Beekeepers’ Association (Apimondia), believes the NMR test is the most accurate available and thinks consumers are not getting what they paid for. [15]

In the USA the news of adulterated honey started circulating in 2011. This prompted the FDA to post a statement in 2015: “A growing demand for honey, dwindling production due, in large part, to the collapse of domestic bee colonies, and rising prices have given rise to a practice industry experts call “honey laundering.” What’s labeled as pure honey, in fact, may be a honey blend or honey syrup — honey adulterated with cane sugar or corn syrup — or product that contains antibiotic residue”, the Food and Drug Administration said.[16]

What about the medicinal properties of Honey?

First, a reminder – do not give Raw Honey to children under 12 months – Honey can contain spores of a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum, which can germinate in a baby’s immature digestive system and cause infant botulism, a rare but potentially fatal illness.

So a spoonfull of Honey really does help – and Don’t forget to Thank bees when you see them in your yard or garden for all they do for us.

The Adorable Custom of ‘Telling The Bees’ by Kaushik:

[1] Beekeeping and History (Heathmont Honey)

[2] Estimates of age place the rock painting depicted above at approximately 15,000 years old. Discovered in the early 1900’s in Valencia , Spain in the Cave of the Spider (Cueve de la Arana) situated on the river Cazunta, the painting speaks of man’s long fascination with honey. Before our ancestors could write, they recorded this honey hunting event in bold red paint.

[3] Beekeeping in Ancient Egypt, February 23, 2008 by beelore:

[4] Sirach 11:3


[6] Traditional and Modern Uses of Natural Honey in Human Diseases: A Review:

[7] Avoiding Death Like the Plague: Wound Care inthe Roman Army by Gwendolyn E. Dougherty:

[8] Our Ancient Ancestors Probably Loved Honey Too By Marissa Fessenden November 11, 2015:

[9] Beer and mead in the Viking period:


[11] National Honey Board:


[13] First Prayer for Bees:

[14] First U.S. Bumblebee Officially Listed as Endangered:


[16] Bee Culture, March 2015:

[17] Everything you need to know about honey By Joseph Nordqvist: 14 February 2018,:

[18] Honey Benefits and medicinial Uses:

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Editorial – The Ant and Grasshopper

Published February 1st, 2019 in Alternative Perspective, Editorial, HN4U Blog

The Aesop Fable of the Ant and Grasshopper has been on my mind a lot the last few weeks as the Federal Furlough of over 800,000 individuals like my husband goes on. I reflected on this story:

“In a field one summer’s day, a Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart’s content. An Ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest.  “Why not come and chat with me,” said the Grasshopper, “instead of toiling and moiling in that way?”

“I am helping to lay up food for the winter,” said the Ant, “and recommend you to do the same.”

“Why bother about winter?” said the Grasshopper; “We have got plenty of food at present.” But the Ant went on its way and continued its toil.

When the winter came, the Grasshopper had no food and found itself dying of hunger – while it saw the ants distributing every day corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer.

Then the Grasshopper knew: It is best to prepare for days of need”.


First, let me say I am not one of the modern “Preppers,” If you must pace a label on me – the closest most days would be that of a “Traditionalist” who sees the value of wise counsel and wisdom from the past. This Aesop’s fable while short holds true wisdom, especially for members of the modern American world.

When I reflect on the young federal employees I know with babies and blossoming lives; I see the two veterans who served their country in the Marines, I see the Postal worker or crew foreman decorated for his or her service to our country. Granted many of the federal employees are not veterans, they may be single parents, or people just like you with responsibilities and dependents.

The fable of the ant and grasshopper and the lesson it shares, I can only hope has been taken to heart by not just those on furlough but also by you the readers of this column. We need more than money in the bank to get us through the storms and winters of life, and those who plan for the short payday, seasonal lay off or rock slide benefit from lower incidence of stress-induced illnesses.

Hypertension, type 2 diabetes, migraines, anxiety, insomnia, and cancer are all chronic illnesses that increase with stress. Food insecurity for the elderly and low-income members of our communities compounds stress and anxiety. Now I like many of you think stress gets a bad rap in today’s world to often the word “stress” is used as an excuse. Stress is a fact of life and necessary – the difference is how we cope and teach our youth to prepare for its inevitability. My Grandmother, Aunt, and Mother-in-Law all, by example, shared the importance of having a full pantry, and store of paper products – No one wants to be without toilet paper, trust me!

Taking advantage of local produce when it is in season is an excellent place to start. Canning fruit was one of the first things I learned. Glass jars are reusable, safe and easy to use for food storage. It was years before my parents were able to afford a freezer; canning allowed venison, fish, vegetables, and fruit to be available year around.  Home canned foods fill the gaps for when fresh produce is unavailable, poor quality or as to frequently the case today – recalled for contamination.

Dehydrating of fruit and nuts, at first was done with screen racks over the floor furnace vent or in the sun in the yard. Today we can purchase efficient food dryer/dehydrators for home use that can be used to make far more than apple slices. Dried foods are lightweight and easy to transport. Additionally, even if you live in a tiny house, apartment, dorm room or RV, a food dryer can be found to fit the space you have.

A small 7 cu. Ft freezer may be all you have room for, but it provides storage for extra meat, vegetables or fruit available from local farms, ranches or seasonal grocery sales.

Just like the ant of Aesops fable the effort we spend on storing food for the winter, yields security and peace of mind during those times of high stress and uncertainty. While money may come and go in our lives, I know the pantry is full, and we can make it to summer.

To Traditional Food and Wisdom of Old


Lets Hear it for Real Fat!

by Tammera J. Karr, PhD

Fats are hydrophobic. In other words, fats repel water. Even oil-based emulsions like mayonnaise rely on a third party to hold each tiny droplet of oil in suspension—egg yolk, mustard, or certain starches are common choices. Despite what some folks tell you, food fried at higher temperatures actually absorb more oil than those fried at cooler temperatures.  Natural oils and fats are traditional cooking mediums.  Today’s best options are cold pressed, extra virgin oils, and organic humanely raised animal fats.  The more filtered an oil, the lower the mineral and polyphenol content. Always buy oils that are solvent-free.

Fats conduct heat and can do so at higher temperatures than water. When you baste a roast in fatty pan drippings, that coating functions as a temperature buffer, allowing your food to heat evenly and preventing the exterior from drying out before the interior is fully cooked. Under normal conditions, water cannot be heated past its boiling point of 212° F at sea level, whereas fats can reach temperatures of 400-500° F.

Fats lubricate food preventing sticking to cookware surfaces.

Fats add or enhance flavor and enhance textural nuances of foods. This is vital for “mouth feel.” Many of the flavor compounds that make herbs and aromatics such compelling seasonings are what we call fat-soluble, meaning they will actually spread and coat your tongue better when they are immersed in lipids. Using fat in anything from marinades to braises helps coax out, layer, and evenly distribute flavors.

Monounsaturated oils, specifically olive oil increase the nutrients available through digestion. The tradition of tomatoes and olive oil is well supported by research; the antioxidant content of the tomatoes increases when combined with olive oil.

Traditionally, oils are extracted from nuts and seeds through mechanical crushing and pressing. If bottled immediately, the oil is a cold-pressed “raw” or “virgin” oil, which tends to retain its natural flavor and color. Virgin in the case of olive oil also signifies only the perfect fruits were used. Unrefined oils have higher levels of minerals, enzymes, and other compounds highly sensitive to heat and tend to be susceptible to rancidity; these are the oils best-suited to drizzling, dressings, and lower temperature cooking.

To produce oil with a high smoke point, manufacturers use industrial-level refinement; bleaching, filtering, and high-temperature heating to extract and eliminate extraneous compounds. This produces a neutral-flavored oil with a long shelf life and a higher smoke point.

Clarified butter and ghee follow the same basic concept: a process designed to extract more heat-sensitive components; milk solids—from fat to raise its smoke point.    When heated past its smoke point, fat starts to break down, releasing free radicals.


Health Benefits of Traditional Fats

Fats speak to the integral health of our whole body. Without healthy fats, we would not exist. [1]


Olive Oil is not only one of the oldest oils still in use for cooking, but it also has some impressive science to support its use for health. The unrefined olive oil contains minerals, vitamins and compounds that serve as anti-inflammatories. This is especially important when it comes to brain health. [2], [3], [4]  The antioxidants in olive oil are essential for aiding the digestive system in absorbing nutrients found in vegetables. Especially those high in carotenoids; winter squash, carrots, tomatoes, lycopene: tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, kale and xanthine; dark greens, cruciferous vegetables, chard.

For a maximum flavor reach for extra virgin olive oil, you may want several types on hand providing a delicate fruity or strong peppery flavor.  For times when you don’t want a lot a pronounced flavor, you can use “Classic” olive oil or “Pure.”

How you plan to use each type of olive oil matters because the flavor is affected by cooking. Olive oils, especially extra-virgin, have a varying range of smoke points, this depends on the type of olive, where it was grown, and how it was produced.

The International Olive Council (IOC) in Madrid, Spain, sets the grades and standards for world olive oil trade, which members of the North American Olive Oil Association agree to follow. [5]

To Traditional Foods made with Care and Intention, Flavored with Love.


Our Journey With Food Cookery BookExcerpt from Our Journey with Food Cookery Book


[2] Extra-virgin olive oil preserves memory, protects brain against Alzheimer’s;  June 21, 2017,  Temple University Health System:

[3] Extra‐virgin olive oil ameliorates cognition and neuropathology of the 3xTg mice: role of autophagy;

[4] Mediterranean-type diet and brain structural change from 73 to 76 years in a Scottish cohort;

[5] Grades of Olive Oil;


Traditional Culinary Herbs for Health

By Tammera J. Karr, PhD


The role of herbs and spices in traditional cookery is more than flavor; herbs played a vital role in nutrition and health for past generations. The daily use of herbs in cookery supplied minerals, vitamins, and volatile compounds effective at killing pathogens and parasites. They provided expectorant, glucose-regulating, diuretic, and anti-inflammatory properties. It is essential to understand the healing properties of herbs and their inclusion in cookery to fully grasp the concept of “food as medicine.”

For centuries, the food placed before mankind was his nourishment and sole source of medicine. A good wife during medieval times was the mistress of the household and known for keeping order. Housewife later became the accepted term and further denoted a married woman in charge of the household. Additionally, the lady of the house was judged on how well-provisioned the pantry, how well the kitchen garden tended, which included herbs for food preservation and medicine, and on how flavorful the foods were coming from the kitchen. All of these were considered before beauty. The skill the good wife possessed reflected on her family and the prosperity of her husband and his charges, making the place of good wife an elevated and essential role.

Now, this all sounds ridiculous to us in the modern age, but remember these were different times, and these skills meant life or death during famine or war. A skilled good wife would be called on to care for the injured or ill. If her skill was lacking, she could find herself in chains or on the fire for being a witch. This is historically the earliest beginnings of holistic nutrition for those of European descent. The Persians and Asians had extensive use of culinary herbs predating the European good wife by more than a century. ,  ,

When did individuals begin adding flavor to their food? Food anthropologists really cannot give us a definite answer on this, because plant remains rarely last, which is why researchers seldom speculate on how they were used thousands of years ago.

That being said, in 6,000-year-old pottery from Denmark and Germany, a team of researchers found phytoliths, small bits of silica that form in the tissues of some plants, most notably garlic mustard seeds, which carry robust and peppery flavor but little nutritional value.

Because they were found alongside residues of meat and fish, the seed remnants represent the earliest known direct evidence of spicing in European cuisine. According to researcher Hayley Saul of the University of York, “It certainly contributes important information about the prehistoric roots of this practice, which eventually culminated in globally significant processes and events.”

The flavors associated with Europe, Mediterranian, and Asian traditional foods is primarily due to the influence of the Arabian Agriculture Revolution. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Muslims stepped into the vacuum. Their ships and caravans carried their cuisine rich in spices and fruits across three continents. The Muslims brought melons, pomegranates, grapes, raisins, peaches, almonds, pistachios, cherries, pears, and apricots to the Persian Empire.

In Europe, they introduced spinach, melons, eggplant, and artichokes. The Muslims planted orchards of stone fruits; peaches, cherries, and apricots. In Spain the introduction of sugar, saffron, rice, and the bitter orange; the foundation of British marmalade. All this happened before 700 A.D. By the 10th century, the influence on the world’s flavor of food was apparent.

The earliest Muslim recipes date from Baghdad in 1226. They were recorded by al-Baghdadi, who “loved eating above all pleasures.” Many of the recipes are for tagines – meat and fruit stews simmered for hours over a low flame until the meat is falling-apart-melt-in-your-mouth-tender. The inclusion of spices in almond stuffed meatballs called mishmishiya consisted of cumin, coriander, cinnamon, ginger, and black pepper. Saffron added color, and ground almonds were added to thicken. Stews were also perfumed with waters distilled from rose and orange blossoms.

Le Viandier: Cooking with spices was considered a new style of cookery and written down by Frenchman Gillaume Tirel ca. 1312-1395. This became the first European cookery book. Le Viadier reflects the  influence of the Middle East and on the cooking of the Middle Ages of Europe, especially the use of spices such as cinnamon, ginger, cumin, coriander, and cardamon. All of these spices can be found in the traditional Christmas drink known as wassail.

The fall of the Christian Eastern Roman Empire to the Turks in 1453 sent the European world and its now addicted sweet tooth and love of spices into a tailspin. All roads east were closed and the need for food explorers brought us Cristoforo Colombo (Christopher Columbus), and a whole “new world” of flavors joined the old.

Here is to Flavorful Traditional Foods that build the Body and Spirit


Our Journey With Food Cookery BookYou can read more on the Pantry in the Our Journey with Food Cookery Book

Spring with a splash of Easter color

by Tammera J. Karr, PhD

The familiar dyed Easter egg, which annually rolls along lawns and frustrates little children armed with colored wicker baskets, is a carryover from the pagan holiday which preceded the Christian holy day.  Easter has a close association with food. The word comes from the Anglo-Saxon goddess of light and spring, Eostre, and special dishes were prepared in her honor so that the year would be endowed with fertility.

The egg figures into both Christian and Jewish springtime holidays. Egg-shaped confections are unique to Easter, and – until just over a century ago – found primarily in France.

People in central European have a long tradition of elaborately decorated eggs. Polish, Slavic, Russian and Ukrainian create intricate designs on the fragile eggs. Yugoslavian eggs bear the initials “XV” for “Christ is Risen,” a traditional Easter greeting. The Russians, during the reign of the tsars, celebrated Easter much more elaborately than Christmas, with Easter bread and special foods and decorated eggs given as gifts.

In Baltic Russia, the Easter cake kulich, made from a yeast dough of enormous proportions and lavishly decorated with crystallized citrus peel is a traditional food served during Easter. In traditional Baltic households, it is placed on a table decorated with painted eggs and the children of the family gather to share the eggs and bread.

The Pennsylvania Dutch imported the Easter Hare, who delivered colored eggs to good children. By the early nineteenth century; entire Pennsylvania Dutch villages would turn out with gaily decorated Easter eggs to play games, including egg-eating contests.

In Europe, there are traditions, not limited to Christian denominations, of eating the season’s new lamb, just coming onto the market. The roast lamb served on Easter Sunday began with the first Passover of the Jewish people.

Here are more healthy spring foods for you to enjoy.

Artichokes are a good source of protein, vitamin C, folate, potassium, and magnesium, and are a rich source of fiber. They also contain a compound called cynarin, extracts of which have been found to protect and regenerate the liver and regulate cholesterol levels.

Asparagus, a 100-gram portion of asparagus, contains three-quarters of the folate and a quarter of the vitamin C required each day. It is also a useful source of beta-carotene, vitamin E and potassium.

Broccoli is an excellent source of beta-carotene and vitamin C, and contains calcium, potassium, and folate – vital nutrients for immune health and strong bones. Broccoli is also rich in indole-3-carbinol (I3C). In preliminary research, I3C has been reported to affect oestrogen metabolism that protects against breast and other female cancers.

Cabbage is high in vitamin C and anti-cancer compounds; dithiolthiones, glucosinolates, indoles, isothiocyanates, coumarins and phenols, which work by enhancing the body’s ability to detoxify chemicals and by increasing antioxidant activity. Raw cabbage juice is documented for peptic ulcers. This is associated with a substance called S-methylmethionine, which promotes healing and relieves pain.

Leeks are surprisingly nutritious, providing a good source of many nutrients, including vitamins C and B6, folate, manganese, and iron.

Peas being legumes,  are higher in calories than most vegetables due to high carbohydrate content, they also contain protein and fiber are an excellent source of folate and vitamins A and C.

Radishes can be red, black or white. They are an excellent source of vitamin C and are noted to have a positive effect on the symptoms of colds and coughs.

Watercresses is a “superfood”,  brimming beta-carotene, vitamins B and C, calcium, and iron. Watercress is an excellent source of phytochemicals and is the richest source of phenethyl isothiocyanate, which provides the unique peppery flavor. In a number of studies, watercress has been shown to have potent anti-cancer properties.

Spring is a great time to try early greens available through the farmers markets,  as well as a traditional spring lamb.


To your good health and Happy Spring.

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