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A few weeks ago it just so happened that we had a lot of traditional fat goodness happening in the kitchen, and all at once no less. It was right around the same time that we were enjoying all of that liver. We were, most definitely, swimming in the best parts of the animal.

I had a pot of lard rendering on the wood stove from a bag of fat given to us by a neighbor. The boys – 6 & 8 – had cut it all up, pleading to be put in charge of the kitchen shears and the fat bags.

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There was a jar of virgin coconut oil that had some debris in it (as do most things around here) so we were melting that down and straining it through a coffee filter. This is truly the best coconut oil we’ve had and I didn’t want a drop of it to go to waste.

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The Bunkers generously gave us several pots worth of beef bones for stock-making and on those bones was plenty of good yellow-tinged fat and beef, oh the beef. I shredded it from the bones in the bubbling pots and then fried it in its tallow with onions, garlic, and cumin. Over rice it went and Papa and the boys declared it “The best beef we’ve ever eaten.” Truly, it may have been.

We had fatty beef broth for a couple of weeks before I accidentally left the remaining two jars out when the warmup hit and it turned. The chickens, however, went after the gelatinous stock and fatty tallow atop like they’d been without feed for weeks.

I should say that was enough, that the many lard jars lined up near the wood stove and that quart of coconut oil would keep us in good stead for quite sometime . And it would have, and it will continue to. But we had some grass-fed butter on hand as well and so though lard was ready for frying and we’d had our fill of delicious, fatty broth, and the coconut oil was ready for a spoon, we decided to spread this 100% rye sourdough bread with that golden grass-fed goodness.

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The boys, forever declaring their love for potatoes in lard and fatty coconut-oat bars, were enjoying the sights, sounds, and flavors. Elijah said “It’s like a fat factory!” and I thought that had a nice ring to it and would make a great name for a traditional foods cafe.

I can see it now, little man at the gate, guiding guests to their picnic tables in the open breeze, a kettle of lard rendering over the cook stove.

“Welcome to the Fat Factory.”

For more on the Health Benefits of Traditional, Saturated Fats:

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Y’all know I’m a proponent of agrarianism – a way of life that connects us to the land, the soil that feeds us, and the direct Provision of God. So, it is interesting to me that we are finding a correlation between gut health and contact with living soil and animals. Why is this? Well, I have theories, which I’ll spare you from, but I think it’s not a stretch to say it all comes back to microorganisms and the synergy between the human gut, soil, and bacteria.

To take it further, perhaps this is just another piece of the gut-bacteria puzzle. In vegetable fermentation we talk about the naturally occurring bacteria that exist on the surface of vegetables. We utilize that bacteria from the soil almost as a starter culture in the lactic acid fermentation process. People will pay big bucks for probiotics and fermented vegetables but there it is, raw and rampant in healthy soil  all free for the taking.

Is it really possible that the missing link in our health, and that of our gut, is as simple as dirt? (Well, soil, but you get the idea.)

This is what makes me leery of over-cleaning and even sterilizing our children’s bodies and surroundings. It has become the norm to want to kill all of the bacteria. Cleaning products even boast about it and we buy it – the products and the theory behind it – because bacteria make us sick, right? Anti-bacterial gels and soaps, bleach, and other strong disinfectants make us feel like we’re killing the bad guys, but I believe we’re just creating a microbe vacuum that isn’t natural or healthy.

And this is what concerns me about the germ theory. If we believe that germs cause illness and if we do not have a more holistic understanding of immune defenses and the balance of this whole world of microorganisms that we do not fully understand, then what exactly are we trying to eradicate? And what damage are we doing in the process?

I say let them eat dirt. Let them frolic with animals. Don’t wash their hands incessantly. Don’t clean with anything stronger than real soap. Get them out of the house, off the concrete and into the garden and onto the land. And let us adults do the same.

That is the end of my dirty, healthy baby manifesto.

The Heal Your Gut Cookbook

If you’re looking for some background behind how gut healing works and why gut health is related to more physical and mental problems than we think, here are those resources that I’ve found helpful:

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If the GAPS book is the why behind a gut healing protocol, then the Heal Your Gut Cookbook is the how. While I am a proponent of this protocol I also want to state that it is intense. During the GAPS diet there are definite ups and downs, more of the latter than the former when first starting out, I’m afraid. Energy is low, the cook often feels weary, and the “patients” often grow tired of soup and broth.

That is where this book comes in handy. The Heal Your Gut Cookbook walks you through all of the stages of the GAPS diet from Intro to full GAPS. Within each phase you’ll find delicious and beautifully-photographed recipes to lean on. Everything from soups to condiments to meats and vegetables and ferments and treats are included – all GAPS legal.

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Before all of that is an introductory section that helps you stock your pantry, shows you a bit of how all disease begins in the gut, and teaches you how to make staples like homemade yogurt and coconut flour. One section I found particularly interesting was a discussion on bone broth vs. meat stock in which the differences, applications, and benefits of each.

The recipes come from Hilary Boynton, mother to five, and you can tell that these recipes – and this book – came out of the labor of love that was nourishing her family through the GAPS protocol. While many are quite complicated and beyond what I would endeavor to experiment with here on the homestead – homemade coconut flour and marshmallows come to mind – there is inspiration for all of us within these pages.

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And I think that is where this book excels. Not only does it provide you with a stage-by-stage guide along with handy lists similar to those found in GAPS, it gives you creative ideas and solutions that work. When you’re the weary cook or the tired patient, recipes like Creamy Cabbage Casserole with Chicken Thighs, Lacto-Fermented BBQ Sauce, and coconut flour tortillas may be the little bit of help you needed to continue on.

As I contemplate another round of this healing diet for my family, I am grateful to have this book to turn to for such inspiration.