It was a bit of a surprise to some that we made the restaurant menu grain free (alongside gluten, dairy and refined sugar free), but to many it turned out to be a godsend. It could have proven controversial as we had also adopted a plant based eating foundation (to which you can add ethically sourced animal products), so when you remove grains and pulses, where do plant based eaters get there grounding and more carb based foods from. But it was an important point for us and something we strongly believed in and a challenge we were willing to meet. Thankfully, it’s proven worthwhile, according to a lot of our guests at least.
The reason we took grain free route came down to the simple reason that grains can be very difficult to digest and quite often left us feeling a bit bloated and uncomfortable. So we thought if something makes us feel a bit uncomfortable then maybe it makes other people feel uncomfortable too. The founding premise of the restaurant was to provide food that made you feel good, and especially food that left your gut feeling at ease which ensured good digestion.
Grains are the staple of many people’s diets and many people do seem to thrive on them. However our varying digestive systems mean that grains can be harder on the more sensitive of us, as they are essentially dormant seeds which don’t necessarily want to be digested. They’d rather germinate and grow, and have therefore evolved with to have various protective measures which help them on their journey. When plants don’t want to be eaten they often contain toxic or irritating substances which put animals or humans off eating them. Grains and pulses do not contain deadly toxins but they do contain substances called phytates and lectins which lead to irritation and inflammation of the gut lining, which can then cause chronic inflammation over time.
Grain consumption by humans apparently only dates back some 10,000 years and can be traced to the start of the agricultural revolution. This was a time when humans started to properly farm the land and actively grow crops for consumption. So in the grand scheme of things, grains have only been in our diet for a small slice of history. This really just gives us an insight into how evolved our digestive systems are at dealing with them, in comparison to other foods that would have been part of the hunter gatherer diet that would have pre-dated this i.e. foraged plants, fruits, fish and animals.
The grains we eat now are also different to the grains that our ancestors would have eaten both in terms of form and preparation. In the last 50-60 years humans have managed to cross breed different strains of grain to produce strains that are more productive in terms of yield, and therefore more profitable in terms of supply and demand. This has created strains that are new to human physiology, and wheat especially has been hybridised to yield bigger crops which apparently has led to an increase in gluten content. Our ancestors would have eaten the more ancient forms of wheat known as einkorn and spelt but these are not the norm now as they are not as commercially profitable.
The grains would have also been prepared in a more complex manner which meant they went through a soaking and fermentation process, prior to cooking, which helped to break them down before being broken down more during cooking, ultimately releasing their nutrients and making them easier to digest. It seems as if our ancestors were fully aware of the non digestibility of grains and developed processes to make them properly fit for consumption.
These ancient fermentation practices are however being reintroduced to the modern kitchen and can be found in the form of the now ever so popular sourdough. Thankfully fermentation is becoming popular again as the importance of gut health is being recognised medically and throughout the media.
However many people are focusing on fermenting just bread and vegetables such as sauerkraut and pickles, yet there is not much attention on the importance of general grain fermentation. It is perhaps never more relevant and important to focus on, as so many people are now choosing to eat vegan which is very grain and pulse heavy. This could put a huge strain on the digestive system and lead to inflammation and irritation if a person already has a sensitive gut and is unaware of the importance of the grain preparation method.
Modernity however often means convenience, so we have as a collective stopped using these preparation techniques which has undoubtedly led to digestion woes for many of us. So rather than implementing the precooking ‘soaking and fermentation’ methods in the restaurant, we have just removed them from the menu and opted to find digestible and sustainable alternatives instead, as a sensitive digestive system could still struggle with properly prepared grains, and would need time to heal and recover before introducing them anyway.
This really just gives a general overview as to some of the reasons we don’t include grains and pulses on our menu, however the subject matter gets much more complex and interesting to discuss and is something we will cover in further detail in upcoming blog posts.