Reader Question: How to Eat Healthy in Modern-Day Mexico?

by Ann Marie Michaels on February 22, 2010

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Last month, I posted on this blog the story of Paula, a woman I met on an airplane who had grown up eating traditional food (raw dairy, cod liver oil, and organ meats) in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Shortly after posting that, I got this interesting email in my inbox:

Hello Ann Marie,

My name is Hilaire. I am from Oregon and I just recently moved to Guadalajara Mexico. I am married and we have four beautiful daughters (ages 1-7 yrs.) Last night I was desperately searching online for someone in my area who knew where to find good healthy raw milk.

I suppose I was hoping to find an expatriate who had read the research of Weston A. Price and knows all about nourishing traditional foods. A local chapter please?! That is when I stumbled upon your blog entry about Paula from Guadalajara. I was disappointed when I found it was not you that was from Guadalajara, but I was happy to hear someone from here still knows how to eat well.

Although I speak Spanish fine, I am after all a “gringa” that knows little about the ways of life down here. I have found that there are people who eat traditional foods like you mentioned Paula eating, but many of them also drink milk out of a box in which the second ingredient is vegetable oil. They might make refried beans that used to contain lard, but they’ve been misled into using the “healthier” vegetable oil instead.

I am in a very urban setting. Sure they have every animal part imaginable ready for purchase at the mercado, but my American mind can’t wrap around the lack of refrigeration and the lower standards of cleanliness. I find myself walking down the aisles of Wal-Mart wondering if I am better off there or taking my chances in the crowded open air markets (think more India than France).

I know that that is how things used to be, but when it comes down to actually buying stuff for my family, the fear sets in. I come from the beautiful and fertile Willamette Valley where things are pretty and clean and I could trace most foods back to their source nearby.

This is a huge city where honey could be fresh raw honey or a mixture of corn syrup and other things (I was told by locals not to buy honey unless I knew the source). Raw milk is legal here, but it is sold by people riding on bikes or motorcycles with containers strapped on the back. Where did it come from, is it safe, how do I know?

OK, so what is my point? I guess this is a desperate plea out into the land of cyberspace for any advice, help, or even better, connections, on how to feed my family traditional nourishing food in Mexico (especially when it comes to animal products).

Anything helps.

Thanks,

Hilaire

Thank you so much for writing, Hilaire. I wanted to post this on my blog because I thought maybe you would get some good responses from my readers in the comments. Also because I want this to be searchable on the internet so other people in your shoes can find it.

Response from Sally Fallon Morell of the Weston A. Price Foundation

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I wasn’t sure how to answer your questions so I emailed Sally Fallon Morell, author of Nourishing Traditions and the President of The Weston A. Price Foundation.

Here’s what Sally wrote:

Dear Hilaire, I can understand your concern about cleanliness, but it this case, the raw milk is your best bet because it has it’s own build in safety mechanisms. I am sure that if you hang out at the market you can find someone with a goat who can bring you goat milk they have milked no later than the day before. Of course, get lard there and bones to make into broth. All these things will give you immunity if you happen to have problems with the other food.

Hope this helps, Sally Fallon Morell

Response from Mare at Just Making Noise

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I also sent an email out to Mare Beard, author of the Just Making Noise blog. I was especially interested to hear what Mare had to say, since she was raised in the United States and recently moved to Costa Rica with her family. (The photo above is a picture of Mare eating her first bite of liver pate when she had lunch with me at Anisette in Santa Monica last month.)

Mare’s answer is a bit longer, and I hope it helps Hilaire — and anyone else out there with these same questions and facing similar challenges. I sent her Sally’s answer so she responds to that as well.

I totally understand your fear… new country, new place, new language and… new food. It took me a few months to get used to the changes from food to cleanliness (or sometimes lack of it), but I had to remember that our standard of cleanliness is a little over the top and not exactly healthy.

I totally agree with Sally’s respond on locating raw milk. We’ve been drinking & kefiring raw goat’s and cow’s milk since we moved here over a year ago… no sickness or problems. Not all the raw milk we drank was organic, but it is grass-fed and we ALWAYS ask lots of questions about their animals. Especially about the antiboitics… thankfully every farmer we talked to do not sell the milk if a cow has been given antibiotics. They also said they only use it for emergency because it’s expensive. Like you, we see farmers driving around in their trucks selling fresh milk from that morning. Goat’s milk is favorable here and I was blessed to be able to find a farmer who had enough goat’s milk to sell to us. My encouragement to you is to keep asking, keep looking and you WILL find clean sources of milk directly from a farmer. It takes time and perseverance… it was hard, but so worth it. You will be surprise with how much you can find in a foreign country that you can’t find so freely in the states. I especially love how cheap clean raw milk is here!!

With meat… we buy our meat from a butcher that several locals recommended and we’ve loved it. They have fresh beef delivered 3 times a week and I’ve seen the carcass hanging… that’s my favorite time to buy meat because I know it is fresh. Again, like with the milk… keep asking around and you will find locals who care about cleanliness and freshness. I know the place I buy my beef doesn’t look “clean” for the typical American, but it is very clean for a typical Costa Rican. Maybe you could even find the source of meat from whomever you buy milk from. All the beef is pretty much grass-fed. I do know that the beef we buy is 95%-98% grass-fed because our guy is very picky and likes to bring the best to his customers. There are some beef that have been fed chicken manure, but he doesn’t sell that (thankfully!!). Again, ask questions.

I also agree with Sally with buying the bones to make bone broths… so good and so plentiful! I love how pretty much every part of the animal is available and is consider NORMAL to use! If I tell our buchter I want to make broths or soups… he would bring out all the bones and parts that are commonly used for that purpose. The oxtail is a favorite and I would often have to request it so they would save it for me.

I don’t fully agree with Sally on buying lard. Our butcher sells fresh lard and I would totally use it if I couldn’t find butter, coconut oil or palm oil. I do use olive oil, but I try to stay away from cooking it as it is not a stable fat for cooking. Maybe I don’t know enough about lard, but the pig’s diet is terrible here in Costa Rica. They are mostly fed veggie oil waste along with corn, chicken poop & food from trash. From my understanding of how the pig’s body works… they don’t have the ability to detox, so toxics (and antiboitics) can build up in their fat and body. Lard is pig fat and I’m not comfortable using it because of what I know and have researched on pigs. If I can find a farmer that raises his pigs free-ranged and naturally, then maybe I would use it. I try to make our own butter as much as possible, but I do buy regular butter from the store because I know it is better then vegtable oil and margerine. I also use a lot of coconut oil which I bring from the states, but thankfully have found a source here in Costa Rica. I do know that palm oil is popular here, but haven’t really looked for it. Maybe you can find a source there?

I do not buy fruits, veggies or meat at the supermarket… mostly because they all taste like cleaning products that the stores uses and I know that my veggies, fruits and meats are fresher from the farmer’s market whether they are organic or not. As always I ask questions about how they grow their produces and enjoy knowing that pretty much everything they sell is directly from their farms. There are several organic farmer’s markets around Costa Rica… have you been able to locate any outside of your area? I’m sure there are some.

Overall, I stay away from all the processed foods and stay close to wholesome foods even if they aren’t organic. We know God will bless our efforts to eat healthy and we choose to be grateful for what we can find.

If you have any more questions… please let me know! I hope I was of some help!

Photo credit: Wonderlane on Flickr
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