I've checked out from the library the cookbook Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. It was recommended by my midwives and I'm giving it a test drive to determine if I want to buy it or not (don't you hate how so many cookbooks sit on your shelf unused? I'm doing something about that. . .). I'd normally make these notes right in the cookbook by the recipe, but since it's not my book, I'll post them here.

I usually eat oatmeal for breakfast each morning, and I do use old-fashioned rolled oats. I microwave them for five minutes on half power, then add raisins, walnuts, and milk. So I decided to try the "Breakfast Porridge" recipe first since it seemed pretty close to what I was already used to.

The recipe calls for soaking the oats overnight in warm water with a couple tablespoons of kefir added. Part of the big difference this cookbook has with others is the weird (to me) dairy products. The author is big into "bioavailability" of foods, and purports we'd all be healthier if we didn't rely on pasteurized, homogenized milk, but instead had more fermented milks. Kefir is one of those fermented preparations. She's got instructions to make your own, but I haven't yet discovered where to get raw milk around here (it's not at Whole Foods or Foods of All Nations) but I was able to buy it already made at the Whole Foods. I felt wary of putting a dairy product in a food that was to be left unrefrigerated so long since we're taught from a young age to keep dairy refrigerated at all times. But we're taught a lot of things as kids that I've discovered to be misguided at best, so I gave it a try. You can also use buttermilk, whey, or yogurt in place of the kefir, but the kefir is what I had on hand.

So I soaked my oats, then prepared it per the instructions yesterday morning with more water in a saucepan (the author is also pretty strongly against using microwaves for most cooking, although when I asked my midwives about this one they said it was mostly an issue with cooking fresh foods, and if I'm reheating all the bio-available bits were already gone so reheating in a microwave isn't so bad). Next time I'll use a lower heat setting since some of my oats were sticking to the pan, or else I'll melt some butter in the pan first instead of stirring it in as it cooks.

Yes, the author recommends adding butter to the porridge, which I never do with my oatmeal. I usually don't sweeten mine, either, since raisins are pretty sweet already. But if the recipe calls for butter, heck, I'm happy to use it. Once it was cooked, I sweetened it with some honey (I didn't have raw honey, but I'll be sure to get raw next time when I run out of what I've got) and added my raisins and walnuts (the cookbook recommends a certain way to soak and cook nuts also, which I didn't bother with this time).

The porridge had a different texture than my usual oatmeal, a bit creamier (and this is even before I added butter) with more body. I could taste the kefir before I cooked it (I tried a little bite out of curiosity before I cooked it), but I didn't notice the flavor after cooking. All in all, I was highly satisfied with this version of porridge as a breakfast food. It was just as good as my usual oatmeal, if not better, and is apparently much more nutritious. Here's what the cookbook says about soaking grains on p. 452:

All grains contain phytic acid (an organic acid in which phosphorus is bound) in the outer layer or bran. Untreated phytic acid can combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and especially zinc in the intestinal tract and block their absorption. This is why a diet high in unfermented whole grains may lead to serious mineral deficiencies and bone loss. The modern misguided practice of consuming large amounts of unprocessed bran often improves colon transit time at first but may lead to irritable bowel syndrome and in the long term, many other adverse effects. Soaking allows enzymes, lactobacilli and other helpful organisms to break down and neutralize phytic acid. As little as seven hours of soaking in warm acidulated water will neutralize a large portion of phytic acid in grains. The simple practice of soaking cracked or rolled cereal grains overnight will vatly improve their nutritionsal benefits.

Soaking in warm water also neutralizes enzyme inhibitors, present in all seeds, and encourages the production of numerous beneficial enzymes. The action of these enzymes also increases the amounts of many vitamins, especially B vitamins.

Now, how do I know this woman is correct about soaking and everyone else is wrong? Right now, I don't know. But I'm certainly willing to give her ideas a chance, and if I feel healthier eating her way, then I'll know she's right. If I feel worse then I'll know she's wrong. If I feel the same, then I'll just eat whatever way tastes best. Kind of like Goldilocks, I suppose.