6

votes

Great-grandparents diet

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created December 29, 2011 at 3:27 PM

Curious, does anyone know what their great or even their great, great grandparents ate?

I can imagine pretty well what my paleolithic ancesters ate and I attempt to follow a paleo template for health and diet.

Discussing my dietary habits with my grandmother over the Christmas Holiday led to interesting conversation. Her parents were farmers in Romania and ate farm raised chickens, eggs, seasonal vegetables and bone based soup stock. My grandmother lived through the great depression and recalled eating government cheese and boiled potatoes. She recalled making homemade cornbread with lard and milk bottle delivery and she just turned 90 years old. She shared walking to the store and washing clothes by hand.

I believe her diet and activity level have contributed to her longevity. However, she also lived through the commercialization and industrialization of the American food industry-eating wonder bread sandwiches with processed lunch meat and the invention of TV dinners.

I tried to explain Pottinger's cats to her and she completely agrees the standard American diet/lifestyle does not present health and wellbeing.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Medium avatar

(10611)

on December 31, 2011
at 05:12 PM

But they have always eaten a lot of poppyseed cake, which is richer and more delicious than any snack food.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on December 31, 2011
at 05:10 PM

They eat Twinkies now...or their Slovak equivalents...

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19463)

on December 30, 2011
at 06:15 PM

@Glither, they were toys for me. My dad picked up a whole head at a butcher's and the brains were fried and cooked, the tongue boiled. The eyes were given to me as educational toys.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on December 30, 2011
at 05:36 PM

Yeah, we weren't impressed by margarine, thank heavens. @thhq, I never used a codfish head as a sled, but there used to be a picture of me at about age 5 standing by a fresh-caught tuna that was the size of a canoe. They don't catch many that size any more, I think!

C2450eb7fa11b37473599caf93b461ef

(3225)

on December 30, 2011
at 03:31 PM

The flip side of the awesomeness of delivered milk, which both of my parents talk about (mom is 64, and dad is 65), is my dad's recollection of oleo: it was pure white and came with a capsule of yellow coloring that was mixed into it to make it look like butter. EEEW!

5d829f71b536241c2c51fa763917209d

(75)

on December 30, 2011
at 01:34 PM

Omg I'm Romanian too!!!!! Hahah I don't speak it though, unfortunately :/ . My grandmother thinks I should eat what my ancestors ate, but she means like a modern European diet :/ . But she's becomming more open to paleo now since my aunt ( her daughter) is doing it too and its helping her A LOT

Medium avatar

(10611)

on December 30, 2011
at 01:21 PM

Sounds like Slovakia. Had the best fresh smoked sheeps cheese there. But Tesco and Kia are arriving.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on December 30, 2011
at 01:17 PM

Heard you NE kids used to use codfish heads for sleds. Read Kurlansky's book Cod sometime. I grew up eating Dungeness crab, which was often free out of our pot, but never as cheap as a nickel in the store or off the boat.

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on December 30, 2011
at 11:07 AM

lamb fat isn't orange if it's grass-fed, I believe, Dean. Beef fat often is though (looks like the fat in these pictures : http://www.tribeoffive.com/2011/04/hunting-for-good-food-and-roaming-bison.html)

Medium avatar

(3029)

on December 30, 2011
at 09:14 AM

I am in great need of more details about the sheep eyes!!!! Were they served cooked as a dish to the family? Was a whole sheep's head cooked and served? Were they removed and you were plalying with it for fun? The most unusual thing I used to eat when I visited my Oma (grandmother) was chicken feet. I was a very picky eater when I was little, so it's hard to believe I ate that, but then everything tasted better at Oma's. :)

F5f742cc9228eb5804114d0f3be4e587

(7660)

on December 30, 2011
at 05:20 AM

Mmm...7&7s.....

7d01d86c539003eed77cf901bf037412

(1076)

on December 30, 2011
at 03:02 AM

Dunno about orange, but fat in older beef and mutton can be distinctly yellowish. Certainly milk from grass-fed animals is more yellow -- I was repulsed when I first left New Zealand and discovered the white butter and cheese of places where dairy cattle don't eat fresh grass. Anyway, yes, it'll be carotene from grass.

19acef0aed67ef8dc1118d8e74edb349

(2954)

on December 30, 2011
at 02:48 AM

When I was young and came to USA, I would be doing homework in the afternoon and my American relatives would tell me "why don't you eat something, you've been studying for a while. Here, have a Snicker's/potato chips/muffin and a soda" ... Oh gee, thanks, but I think I can wait another half hour until dinner. Duh. :P

1f8384be58052b6b96f476e475abdc74

(2231)

on December 30, 2011
at 01:12 AM

oh. alcohol started early, in the coffee lol

50e94d7b6b01e6cb87889c6541adc90c

(813)

on December 29, 2011
at 11:40 PM

Germany, Lower Saxony, Wesermarsch.

4e184df9c1ed38f61febc5d6cf031921

(5005)

on December 29, 2011
at 09:25 PM

where is this? It sounds so sad tom have been ruined so recently.

2870a69b9c0c0a19a919e54cb3a62137

(1520)

on December 29, 2011
at 08:30 PM

I've never seen orange fat, even in grass fed lamb. Perhaps it's carotene accumulation in older animals. Or something.

50e94d7b6b01e6cb87889c6541adc90c

(813)

on December 29, 2011
at 05:46 PM

I forgot to mention the installation of an atomic power plant and the nearly complete comedown of the fishing in that area. All in all it took two generations to ruin everything.

164ed7cd8d84c926bc66f366619bf853

(495)

on December 29, 2011
at 05:14 PM

jealous of the nickel crab.

E2b72f1912f777917d8ee6b7fba43c26

(2384)

on December 29, 2011
at 04:25 PM

Is grassfed fat always supposed to be orange? My lard is always simply white. Or maybe it's a question of beta-carotenes in the pasture?

164ed7cd8d84c926bc66f366619bf853

(495)

on December 29, 2011
at 04:25 PM

LOL @ sheeps eyes. Yep, I thought the lens was too cool!

164ed7cd8d84c926bc66f366619bf853

(495)

on December 29, 2011
at 04:23 PM

I was just talking w/a friend about this concept - how we aren't eating the same foods as our GParents did - be it chemically, commercially/industrially... but to eat _like_ they did. Good Question!

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on December 29, 2011
at 03:32 PM

One thing amazed me : my mother said she recognized the orange fat on my steaks. I guess grass-fed meat was completely normal 50 years ago...

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13 Answers

8
96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on December 29, 2011
at 04:34 PM

As one of the "ancestral crones" I have vivid childhood memories of milk bottles on the front step and walking down the street (in New England) to buy a good-sized cooked crab for a nickel--YES, a nickel.

I was fortunate to spend time with my dad's family--a bunch of little old ladies--and my maternal grandmother. They all ate the same way I remember eating at our house as a child. Breakfast on weekends (I never ate one during the week) might be cereal, but was more likely to be bacon, eggs and toast. We were a family that ate fruit freely but desserts only occasionally and snacks almost never. My version of a snack was green apples off a tree or raspberries/blueberries off the bush.

On weekends, the big meal was beef or ham with vegetables. Sometimes that meant a New England boiled dinner which I still make today although mine has extra bones added. We buttered those veggies heavily. Soda was a payday treat rather than a meal-time staple so I usually drank water or Kool-Aid as I didn't like milk. We had white bread around but didn't really eat much of it.

As I look back, we weren't eating SAD but we weren't eating PHD either. Somewhere in the middle. The most positive health factor IMO wasn't diet but activity. Most people were in constant motion then and TV/radio were only for after dinner in the evening. Most jobs involved more moving around before computers and all home chores were more manual. Kids played in packs running around the neighborhood or roamed widely on undeveloped land (I was in the latter situation and my brother and I routinely roamed a 1-to-2 mile circle around our place.

164ed7cd8d84c926bc66f366619bf853

(495)

on December 29, 2011
at 05:14 PM

jealous of the nickel crab.

C2450eb7fa11b37473599caf93b461ef

(3225)

on December 30, 2011
at 03:31 PM

The flip side of the awesomeness of delivered milk, which both of my parents talk about (mom is 64, and dad is 65), is my dad's recollection of oleo: it was pure white and came with a capsule of yellow coloring that was mixed into it to make it look like butter. EEEW!

Medium avatar

(10611)

on December 30, 2011
at 01:17 PM

Heard you NE kids used to use codfish heads for sleds. Read Kurlansky's book Cod sometime. I grew up eating Dungeness crab, which was often free out of our pot, but never as cheap as a nickel in the store or off the boat.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on December 30, 2011
at 05:36 PM

Yeah, we weren't impressed by margarine, thank heavens. @thhq, I never used a codfish head as a sled, but there used to be a picture of me at about age 5 standing by a fresh-caught tuna that was the size of a canoe. They don't catch many that size any more, I think!

5
50e94d7b6b01e6cb87889c6541adc90c

on December 29, 2011
at 03:53 PM

My great grandfather became 96 years old. He had some cows and a plantation mainly with apple trees and some pear trees, all the old species. He had bees and made his own honey. The always was a goat around and of course they had a huge garden. My father helped with bringing a water line to the little farm house in the late 60ies. The area once was famous for cattle breeding, which they even exported to the United States. My great grandmother didn't become that old. I think she gave birth to ten or eleven children.

Nowadays the area has huge bulk tanks at the harbor for the import of grains from the US and also a refinery for producing transfats.

50e94d7b6b01e6cb87889c6541adc90c

(813)

on December 29, 2011
at 05:46 PM

I forgot to mention the installation of an atomic power plant and the nearly complete comedown of the fishing in that area. All in all it took two generations to ruin everything.

4e184df9c1ed38f61febc5d6cf031921

(5005)

on December 29, 2011
at 09:25 PM

where is this? It sounds so sad tom have been ruined so recently.

50e94d7b6b01e6cb87889c6541adc90c

(813)

on December 29, 2011
at 11:40 PM

Germany, Lower Saxony, Wesermarsch.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on December 30, 2011
at 01:21 PM

Sounds like Slovakia. Had the best fresh smoked sheeps cheese there. But Tesco and Kia are arriving.

3
8c64b1560bc8cb67f8276b70de8537c7

on December 29, 2011
at 05:05 PM

I researched my family history over ten years ago and interviewed my two surviving grandparents. My ancestors came from Germany and settled in rural Iowa as farmers. I have some of their recipes, too. I gather they mostly ate "real" foods, by raising and butchering their own cows, pigs, and chickens. They made their own wine and beer. They made sauerkraut. They canned vegetables and meat. They ate organ meats, lard, and eggs. They drank fresh milk. But they also made pies, cakes, and other sweets, and probably consumed quite a lot of sugar and flour. This eating pattern probably started to change in the 40's as they started to incorporate more manufactured food into their diets. It was a gradual thing. But eventually, they shipped their livestock to market and bought processed meats at the grocery store. Some of them took up smoking. They all drank alcohol regularly. As part of my family history research, I got their death certificates for the causes of death. Nearly every great-grandparent and great-great-grandparent lived into their 80's and died of things like pneumonia or a broken hip from a fall. Only one died of cancer. My guess is their cardiovascular health was the underlying cause of their deaths, but only at an advanced age and with no statins, bypass procedures, and other modern interventions available. My parents, by contrast, died very early of cardiovascular disease (stroke and congestive heart failure), and my grandparents lived well into their 80's, but only with medications and heart surgeries. I attribute that drop-off in health to the modern diet.

3
96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19463)

on December 29, 2011
at 04:02 PM

Nice coincidence. I was born in Romania too, and we lived with my grandparents. They had seen both world wars. While we lived in the city, we did have a couple of chickens they kept for eggs. Sadly, I didn't ask about their parent's diets or anything like that.

Mostly, I remember eating meat and potatoes kind of food. Though there were things like bread, noodles, and rice, there were also lot of organ meats such as liver, tripe, tongue, and even brain. I remember playing with sheep's eyes when I was a kid, taking them apart and playing with the lens.

They fried the brains the same way as you might see fried chicken today, that is breaded. Turned out very mushy and I didn't like them. I did live liver, but hated tripe.

We also had a few fruit trees in the yard, I remember apricots and maybe cherries. We had vegetables there too and strawberries. Unlike here, there were no regulations against growing your own food in your back yard.

I was skinny as a kid, until we came to America, where I discovered soda, and had school lunches consisting of things like baloney in white bread sandwiches. I never felt satiated by those sandwiches and when they offered seconds, I wanted more. Never had that problem with the food at home. You can guess the outcome, I went from skinny kid to chubby kid in just four short years.

164ed7cd8d84c926bc66f366619bf853

(495)

on December 29, 2011
at 04:25 PM

LOL @ sheeps eyes. Yep, I thought the lens was too cool!

19acef0aed67ef8dc1118d8e74edb349

(2954)

on December 30, 2011
at 02:48 AM

When I was young and came to USA, I would be doing homework in the afternoon and my American relatives would tell me "why don't you eat something, you've been studying for a while. Here, have a Snicker's/potato chips/muffin and a soda" ... Oh gee, thanks, but I think I can wait another half hour until dinner. Duh. :P

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19463)

on December 30, 2011
at 06:15 PM

@Glither, they were toys for me. My dad picked up a whole head at a butcher's and the brains were fried and cooked, the tongue boiled. The eyes were given to me as educational toys.

Medium avatar

(3029)

on December 30, 2011
at 09:14 AM

I am in great need of more details about the sheep eyes!!!! Were they served cooked as a dish to the family? Was a whole sheep's head cooked and served? Were they removed and you were plalying with it for fun? The most unusual thing I used to eat when I visited my Oma (grandmother) was chicken feet. I was a very picky eater when I was little, so it's hard to believe I ate that, but then everything tasted better at Oma's. :)

2
1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on December 29, 2011
at 08:08 PM

I really don't know about my great-grandparents, but my grandparents' diet on Cape Cod revolved around seafood, full fat dairy and hard liquor. Bone and prostate cancer took my grandpa back in '08, but my granny is still going strong.

Those 7&7's she drinks on a regular basis probably have something to do with it.

F5f742cc9228eb5804114d0f3be4e587

(7660)

on December 30, 2011
at 05:20 AM

Mmm...7&7s.....

1
Medium avatar

(10611)

on December 30, 2011
at 12:59 PM

I never had living great-grandparents. My kids had one, their kids have 6 out of a possible 8. These living great grandparents are all in their mid 80's, in variable health. They've all eaten the standard American diet for their entire lives.

From this I would infer that the current diet is healthier than the ancestral one. If there is a difference it's probably more from better medical care and higher activity. The best thing paleo-wise is that they all eat meat, and no doubt more than their ancestors.

1
19acef0aed67ef8dc1118d8e74edb349

(2954)

on December 30, 2011
at 02:38 AM

Mom's side of the family:

Breakfast could be raw milk, fried eggs, smoked sausage made with liver and lean pork meat, hard cheeses or butter eaten with homemade bread.
As for meals: animal fats, meat, LOTS of fish, eggs, offal, even in soups! Lots of green leafy vegetables, cabbage, and starchy veggies. Fruits and nuts would be whatever grew in the backyard. Oranges, apples, chestnuts.

Sweets, puddings, cakes, etc, were reserved for holidays.

My mom said children were forced to take a spoonful of cod liver oil in school. My mom's side of the family was all healthy except my grandmother who had heart problems since she was a young child. She had to be careful not to overwork herself (the children did had to do all the cooking and house cleaning, even!) but she still lived into her 50s and bared 5 healthy children.

My dad's side of the family was terrible, they were better off financially, so they could afford lots of extras like bread and imported foods. They are all faaaaat and are in shitty health.

Good thing my the cook (my mom) was the one who grew up eating healthy food, uh?! :-D

1
1f8384be58052b6b96f476e475abdc74

(2231)

on December 30, 2011
at 01:56 AM

only difference i noticed was lard always kept on hand in a coffee cup, meat was more prized and special occassion, lotsa homemade bread etc, more game meat, meals were one pot type dishes. candy was a treat. oh, females didnt eat wit the family but after

dense pastry/butter/sugar things water came from a well

brain cancer, ovarian cancer, heart disease and heart attack took their lives.

1
0d2dec01a5ed9363a9915e111ae13f7e

on December 29, 2011
at 10:28 PM

My maternal grandparents were raised pre-WW2 in Germany and were both from dirt poor families. My Grandma became the "servant" of a Baroness and grew up living on "bread crusts and gruel", she developed rickets and never could walk well without a cane. Grandpa's life was on a farm, but with 5 sons, there was no land to share, so as the youngest, he was "encouraged" to find his own way. Certainly not all sunshine and rainbows.

Once they got to the US in the heat of WW2, they ended up potato farmers in Idaho, lived in isolation (as recent German immigrants, the locals held them at a distance) and ate the foods they grew and the animals they raised. Certainly a better nutritional life once they got to a point they could have their own farm. They lived into their late 80s, with no major medical interventions/medications, independent with a 2 or 3 week compressed failure that ended in death. I think maybe just staying away from doctors helped with that independence.

An urban existence or industrial job in that era would have likely brought about a poor environment for my Mother, so I should be glad for that!

0
9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1

on December 31, 2011
at 06:40 AM

My grandfather lived into his 80's, even while smoking and drinking and working in coal mines and steel mills for most of his life. His diet, I suspect, was a combination of subsistence farming, chickens and pigs raised in the yard, and store-bought food cooked via "peasant cuisine" -- bone broths, stews, etc. The recipes I got from my mother include pig's feet, roast pork, salads, etc. Flour and sugar were expensive and only had infrequently. I remember attending family gatherings where they roasted a whole pig in the back yard.

My mother became overweight and unhealthy as she got older, with cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and eventually lung cancer, and died in her 60's. I suspect part of the problem was processed foods and the 50's housewife diet -- breads, cakes, pies, sandwiches, canned vegetables, Crisco, etc. From her perspective, these foods were the foods of affluence, for people who didn't have to raise chickens in their yards or grow vegetables or boil their laundry. But she was inadvertently excluding vital nutrients and eating lots of gluten and bad oils. It is perhaps ironic that I seek to eat the diet of her parents.

My grandfather on that side came to the US from a small village in Slovakia, and suffice it to say that they didn't eat Twinkies.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on December 31, 2011
at 05:10 PM

They eat Twinkies now...or their Slovak equivalents...

Medium avatar

(10611)

on December 31, 2011
at 05:12 PM

But they have always eaten a lot of poppyseed cake, which is richer and more delicious than any snack food.

0
724ba4f39f7bbea7f74b45c0a79615f2

on December 30, 2011
at 03:22 PM

I'm pretty sure I'm too ethnically diverse to think that what my great-grandparents ate is necessarily good for me or to know which genes I picked up from who, etc.

But the one great-grandmother that I do know a lot about lived to be over 100 and chain-smoked her way there while eating poverty-level Asian food (lots of rice, very little animal anything), and her descendants tend to all be the same way, plus an extra bucket load of cheap vegetable oil, refined carbs, and tons of booze. I can't think of anyone on that side who didn't live to be well into their 90's.

Compare this to, say, the European branch who grew up eating lots and lots of butter, eggs and meat (though they're probably just as boozy as the Asians). They're skinnier, but they don't tend to live as long (though they are also saner, so, if I had to pick, I think I'd take skinny/sane/short-lived over fat/insane/centenarian).

Of course, I think looking at these things is super important, but I always look at my own family with a grain of salt and think of myself as a fresh start, rather than trying to do the math backwards to find my optimal, nutrition-wise.

0
Medium avatar

on December 30, 2011
at 02:48 AM

My great grandparents ate certain things, and today they are dead. Need I say more?

0
1f8384be58052b6b96f476e475abdc74

(2231)

on December 30, 2011
at 01:10 AM

only difference i noticed was lard always kept on hand in a coffee cup, meat was more prized and special occassion, lotsa homemade bread etc, more game meat, meals were one pot type dishes. candy was a treat. oh, females didnt eat wit the family but after

dense pastry/butter/sugar things water came from a well

brain cancer, ovarian cancer, heart disease and heart attack took their lives.

1f8384be58052b6b96f476e475abdc74

(2231)

on December 30, 2011
at 01:12 AM

oh. alcohol started early, in the coffee lol

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