A well-known Nelson healer has completed Returning to an Ancestral Diet, a cookbook that brings a common sense approach to healthy eating and nutrition.
Michael Smith is co-founder of Nelson’s Academy of Classical Oriental Sciences. For the past 17 years, he’s been combining Traditional Chinese Medicine, functional medicine and nutritional medicine focusing on autoimmune disease.
Early in January, his greatly anticipated collection of recipes and nutritional information was finally available.
The project has been on the go for 10 years but Smith’s interest in healthy eating began almost 20 years ago when he almost died of Chrohn’s, a type of inflammatory bowel disease. The 165 lb athlete lost over 50 lbs and became unwell after he was recommended a vegetarian diet, which wasn’t the way he was meant to eat.
“I am part native and I grew up in the bush, a hunting lodge so we ate meat and berries,” he said. “With my ancestry and how my digestive system was trained by the way I ate as a kid, that just about took me out. That’s not to say eating vegetarian is wrong… people should just eat according to their ancestry.”
Upon leaving the hospital, Smith returned to eating how he did as a child and within months, he was fine.
“Eighty-five per cent of people actually get better eating like their ancestors,” he said.
Returning to an Ancestral Diet is a hefty 3-lb. volume including 500 recipes from around the world. Smith also shares his personal story, his take on traditional versus modern day eating and a little nutritional science 101.
Many of the recipes are personal favourites of Smith who says he became a “gourmet slob” as he started working on his book.
“I used to be a really serious, just eat healthy kind of guy,” he said. “But I’ve realized that gourmet food is actually some of the healthiest food in the world. When you look at the proportions of plants to proteins to fat and the way they cook with rich sauces and broths, it’s the healthiest way to cook your food.”
Also a fan of international cuisine, Returning to an Ancestral Diet includes recipes covering many different ancestries.
Ultimately, grandmothers the world over have inspired Smith to bring home cooking back to a society captivated by convenience.
“Our grandmas already had food figured out and we decided to reinvent the wheel without any real information,” he said.
Modern eating seems to have abandoned 5,000-year-old traditions of healing and ancestral wisdom. Grandmothers of old, spending their days in the kitchen stewing, for example, have been replaced by processed foods.
“Up until three generations ago, everyone had a grandmother in the kitchen cooking all the time, wasting nothing,” he said.
Smith suggests having a grandmother day where food prep is the priority making weeknight meals accessible — even quick. Or check out some of the recipes he’s included that take very little effort at all.
Aside from the appearance of no time to cook, why do folks today have such a challenge knowing what to eat?
“Well everyone has an opinion,” said Smith. “The tendency is to have a gimmick, or to polarize opinions, to get people to buy your book or follow your diet. I was guilty of that when I was younger… And we’re looking for short-term results. So, if someone says being a raw food-ist is going to make you super healthy or save you from cancer or give you the six-pack abs you always wanted, a lot of us will buy into that.”
Health comes from the inside out, said Smith, rather than the heavily marketed solutions that tackle symptoms rather than the root of the problem.
“All the different things that make health possible partner up in layers and in a way, they sit on top of each other,” he said.
Tackle stress first, then move to repairing the protective lining of the guts and then take care of the lymphatic system, and so on… It’s not an easy fix. But one worth pursuing.
“It doesn’t work to still have our coffee and alcohol while we take out Milk Thistle,” he said.
A quick peruse of the pages will show recipes from smoothies, including the spicy matcha, pineapple and berry smoothie to the savory lamb tagine. Smith shows how to make six different stocks as well as the traditional bone broth.
Kim chi, braised chard with cilantro, classic Greek and Caesar salad are delicious veggie dishes and mains like spicy salmon and eggplant or Thai marinated tofu can find side dishes like braised black and white bean cauliflower.
From stir-fries and curries to sauces, gravies and dips to snacks and desserts to Russian borscht and classic hot and sour soup, this project has been labour of love for Smith.
“I love food. I love cooking for people — watching people eat something that I know is going to do absolutely amazing things in terms of their health and to have them savouring and asking ‘what’s in this.’”
The original 250 self-published copies sold out quickly and more are arriving next week. The book is available for $40 through the author, at Still Eagle and the Academy of Classical Oriental Sciences. Smith can be reached at 250-777-1248 or found on Facebook by searching his name.
After teaching Chinese medicine for five years, Smith left to pursue neurosomatic therapy where bodywork and energy work and acupuncture are used to treat symptoms of past trauma. Smith practices medicine at A Balance Path and has also been teaching wilderness survival skills for 27 years.