Traditional Foods off Lyndale leads extreme natural foods movement

Old Macdonald had a warehouse, e i e i o?

Winter raises Berkshire hogs near New Ulm and sells their meat at Traditional Foods under the Lucky Pig label. "Pork is not supposed to be white," Winter says, as he pulls a blush-pink heritage ham out of a freezer and explains how his hogs forage for grass, bugs, roots, acorns, and weeds when possible and, much like the hogs used for Europe's prized Parma hams, are fed cheese whey, to give their meat a richer, fattier flavor.

In the winter months, Traditional Foods sells a minimal amount of produce, though soon the site will be used as a CSA (community-supported agriculture) drop point for members to pick up weekly crop shares. The majority of the warehouse's current offerings are pantry goods similar to those in a typical co-op: flours made from heritage wheat or spelt; bulk tubs of lard and tallow; a powdered, caffeine-free coffee substitute' and goat-milk laundry soap. But there are several ready-to-eat products, too, including honey, stocks, and homemade soups.

Winter says they're planning to build a commercial kitchen and offer more prepared foods. Right now, the future kitchen site is being used by one of their vendors to brew a fermented tea called kombucha, and a faint vinegar smell emanates from several large jars containing colorful liquids. Winter is a big proponent of the health benefits of fermented foods and says he makes his own kombucha and drinks it like water. "It's the healthiest thing I do for my body," he says, attributing the beverage's ability to scavenge free radicals to helping break down gallstones, improve joint flexibility, and ward off dementia, among other benefits. "I can't remember the last time I had a cold," he says.

If you know what cultured vegetables are, Traditional Foods is your kind of place
Alma Guzman
If you know what cultured vegetables are, Traditional Foods is your kind of place

Details

TRADITIONAL FOODS WAREHOUSE
302 W. 61st St., Minneapolis
612.861.0097, Web site

In the dry goods section, the kombucha is sold in returnable glass bottles displayed on a wine rack, and Winter pours me a sample in a champagne flute. "It's your flu shot," he says as we toast glasses. The drink has a slight fizz and a sour tang that makes the tongue tingle in a way that makes it a good placebo, if nothing else. As I sip the sour, sparkling beverage, I try to forget that Winter had just showed me the kombucha's culture, or "mother," a yeast-bacteria colony that looks like an enormous, slimy, gray elephant booger.

Traditional Foods has acquired several hundred members since it opened this past fall, most of whom are strong local-food advocates, including several chefs known for their seasonal cooking. Many are mothers concerned with feeding their children healthful foods, or people with diet-associated health problems, such as irritable bowl syndrome, Crohn's disease, lactose or gluten intolerance, heart problems, or allergies. "Half the people come in here because they're sick," Winter says.

One of the main health foods the warehouse customers swear by is raw, unpasteurized milk. "Once you start drinking it, you'll never go back," one shopper told me. (Because state laws require that raw milk may only be purchased directly from a farmer, Traditional Foods connects buyers with farmers so they can place a standing order.) Though humans have been drinking raw milk since sheep and goats were domesticated centuries ago, its propensity to contain harmful, disease-causing pathogens has caused many public-health figures to consider pasteurization essential. But heat-treating the milk, raw enthusiasts say, destroys beneficial bacteria, proteins, and enzymes along with the bad pathogens, and they claim that raw milk has the ability to help cure everything from cancer to autism.

Later, back at home, I poured myself a tall, cold glass of raw milk. I'd like to say that as soon as I polished it off my knee stopped aching and my skin took on a radiant glow. That didn't happen, but the milk tasted delicious—straight from the farm, fresh, creamy, and pure. 

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