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Review: Fundamentals I from Traditional Cooking School by GNOWFGLINS

For the last few years, my kitchen has been rather boring—there has been good healthy food, especially when the garden is producing, but very little excitement.  That is changing now that I’m studying Fundamentals I:  The Basics of Traditional Cooking.

The course ebook is appropriately subtitled Make your kitchen healthy one task at a time, and that is what I’ve been doing.  One task at a time can make an enormous difference, it turns out, because the tasks add up.  For example, at one point there were two jars of water kefir on my counter, nearing the end of their brewing time.  On the far end of the counter I put the milk kefir I just started, and beside it a little bowl of pecans, soaking in water.  On the stove a large bowl of oatmeal muffin mix was soaking in milky-yoghurt, waiting to be baked the next morning for breakfast.

I’m very pleased with that memory, because it was a major accomplishment as well as a major improvement in health value, even though everything took less than half an hour to prepare.  Even better, all these projects represent traditional ways of healthy food preparation whose health benefits are only now being understood.

Over the past three decades, I had dabbled in traditional foods—yoghurt, milk kefir, sauerkraut, sprouts, bread baking, and even cheese making, but only one at a time and usually with a sense of uncertainty and worry about my methods (except for the bread and yoghurt which I learned from my mother).  My husband and friends shook their heads good-naturedly and the kids enjoyed almost all of the foods I made, but when illness struck a decade ago I quit almost all of these practices, except the occasional batch of yoghurt and sauerkraut.

Recently I have become determined to make traditional foods a routine part of my life since they seemed to offer the health that I am searching for.  So I started Fundamentals I from the Traditional Cooking School by GNOWFGLINS to bring health back to our family, especially me, and to give my children healthy skills and tastes.  Wardee Harmon, who turned her family’s health around with these techniques, is so full of enthusiasm and knowledge in this course that she helps me to keep on going even though I do not have much energy.

What’s covered in Fundamentals I?  It’s an amazing array:

  • Soaking whole grains, nuts, and seeds
  • Soaked whole grain muffins and pancakes
  • Soaked whole grain biscuits and pasta
  • Soaking and cooking dry beans
  • Sprouting beans
  • Cooking chicken and making chicken stock
  • Skillet dishes—a dinner formula
  • Water kefir
  • Dairy kefir
  • Soft, spreadable cheese
  • Sourdough bread
  • Sprouting whole grains and sprouted flour baking
  • Natural pickled foods

Wardee’s self-paced, online course does an excellent job of explaining each of these processes.  She gives video lessons for those of us who really need to watch something to feel confident about doing it ourselves.  All the little things that can’t be written down are obvious in the videos, so there is no guesswork.  The course also includes audio lessons (which I ignored) and a detailed, organized companion ebook (totalling 178 pages!) full of data, tips, explanations, background information, answers to common questions, and links to related articles on the enormous website.  It is all very user friendly.  For example, Wardee included detailed lists of supplies, with explanations and discussions of alternatives, for the entire course as well as a schedule checklist so you can plan when you want to tackle each project.

How has Fundamentals I changed my life?  Well, our counter is a busier place, and our fridge is filled with ‘new’ foods, many of them in mason jars.  Right now, cheese curds are slowly draining on my counter; there are two bottles of yummy milk kefir, as well as whey from the cheese and left-over pancakes made from soaked flour, in the fridge; I’m making sauerkraut in a jar this afternoon; and I plan to soak some beans today as well.  Each day I look forward to my enormous cup of milk kefir and I’m thrilled to be able to turn ordinary milk into such a delicious, healthy treat with so little effort.  Our kitchen is exciting again and, at no extra ingredient cost, it is also much healthier.

More importantly, after incorporating some of these new foods into my life, how do I feel?  It is difficult to be certain, at this stage, how much traditional cooking is benefitting my health, especially since I started it in the spring when we were finally able to obtain truly fresh produce again.  However, I am no longer getting worse and it seems I’m getting slightly better.   On top of that, my tummy usually feels good these days and that is a big deal.

Unfortunately, much of the healthy eating world is based on the theory of evolution which has its flaws, to put it mildly.  I am so thankful that Wardee bases her convictions on the Bible.  As just one example, many health conscious people these days say that grains are bad to eat because we all evolved from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle and have not yet adapted to eating grains.  Wardee rightly points out that at creation God gave mankind every plant that bears seed as food; we’ve just forgotten how to prepare them for optimum nutrition, something traditional cultures do as a matter of course.

Here is some more information about Fundamentals I from the Traditional Cooking School.

Tips for taking the course: 

  • Look at the supply list and immediately order what you will need, especially if you do not live in the US. As a Canadian, it has taken me several months to obtain the required cultures and I’m still waiting for a sourdough starter.
  • Print out the ebook chapters as you use them and put them in a binder with sticky tabs to mark the ‘how to’ sections.
  • When you prepare a recipe, write notes about exactly what you did and how you did it. I found myself tweaking certain things—like making the recipes gluten free by using our favorite flour mix and adding guar gum, or adjusting the water kefir recipe to help the grains to grow.
  • Read the FAQs at the end of each ebook chapter—they are so helpful!
  • Also, do join the Facebook group if you do Facebook. I am not a regular there, but it is a helpful and active community.
  • Use the suggested schedule form on page 12 of the ebook to plan your learning and keep track of what you have done.
  • Take Wardee’s advice: see this process of learning to improve your family’s health by traditional cooking as a part time job, and just make it happen.  It’s easy to be intimidated by all the newness and ‘forget’—we all know how that goes—but with just a bit of determination you can make quick, simple, inexpensive tweaks to your family’s diet that will make a real difference.
  • Your goal is to get into a rhythm of preparing these foods. It doesn’t take much time.  If you are like me, it just takes regular reminders.
  • Each technique is easy to learn, but making them all part of your life takes a bit of persistence. Be patient with yourself as you work on this.
  • Reread “13 Tips for Maintaining and Establishing New Routines” (p 27) regularly as you work to develop these new habits.
  • Do not serve your family kefir until it is cold. Warm kefir, especially warm water kefir, is not a pleasant experience.
  • It is worth trying each of the techniques for a while, but not all of them may suit you and your family. For example, we currently eat almost no sugar, so the water kefir increased my sugar consumption enormously, and I decided to give up on it. On the other hand, if your family regularly drinks pop or juice, water kefir would be a healthy and tasty improvement.   (On that note, if you are local and would like some free water kefir grains, please contact me.)
  • As a strictly gluten-free household, we have not been able to try all of the lessons but our gluten-free flour mix did work well in the soaked baked goods with the addition of a bit of guar gum.
  • We found it easy to adapt the recipes to our low-sugar lifestyle by just reducing or eliminating sugar in the recipes. In fact, the soaked oatmeal muffin recipe (with our gluten-free, low sugar adaptation) has become a staple at our house.
  • My kids occasionally shake their heads at all the kitchen adventures, but in the meantime they are observing the techniques and seeing that it is both possible and worthwhile to prepare healthy foods traditionally. If, eventually, they want to take a high school credit in traditional cooking, the quiz at the end of the course will be helpful in assigning marks.

Potential Problems

  • Obtaining supplies.  Depending on where you live, obtaining supplies may be a major bottleneck as it was for me, so the first thing you want to do when you start this course is look at ‘Getting Started’ to source supplies.  Those who live in the US should be have no problems, though.
  • Trying to do things too quickly.  If you want to add all these skills to your life, it will take time, because you are not only adding skills but also developing new habits.  I was planning to rush through this course in a month, and that was absolutely not possible.  Wardee wisely includes a schedule that is much slower, allowing time for one major learning project a week, and this is a sensible pace for lasting adoption of the techniques.  As she points out, it’s a good idea to treat this course as a job and commit to working on it regularly, even though life may be busy and will always have unexpected surprises.
  • Feeling that you have to try everything (I wanted to but couldn’t) and permanently adopt everything (I decided not to).  Some things will work for you now, others will be possible later, and some may never suit you.  At least, with this course, you can make informed decisions. And, if you want to try something at a later date, do make a note in your calendar so you won’t forget.

So, the bottom line—is this course worthwhile for you?  If you are looking for a more natural way of eating/healing, one that is much less expensive than taking supplements and much safer than many medical options, one that seems to have health benefits that are only now being understood,  then absolutely, yes.  This course will make a difference.  And in the long run it will save both time (you’ll have more energy and less doctor visits) and money (less supplements and medications).

In fact, Fundamentals I basically takes many of the whole foods you eat already and uses traditional methods to make them healthier.  Although Wardee eloquently recommends organic, locally grown foods (and also suggests which ones are crucial to get organically and which ones are less important), I currently can only manage non-organic ingredients.  However, their food value can be hugely improved by traditional cooking methods.  So, no matter whether organic is an option for you or not, by fermenting, culturing, soaking, and sprouting, you can quickly improve the health value of the whole foods you already eat.  All it takes is a bit of knowhow.


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Disclosure:  I have received a free membership to Traditional Cooking School in order to review several of the courses.

This article may be linked to Inspire Me Monday, Raising Homemakers, Friendship Friday, Make My Saturday Sweet.

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