Molly Chester (left) and her mother on their farm. Photo credit: Courtesy Fair Winds Publishing
Molly Chester used to be Beck’s personal chef. She also used to be a vegetarian. She is no longer either of those things. What she is is a biodynamic farmer who eats dairy and meat, among other items, of course, and the author of a new cookbook called Back to Butter: A Traditional Foods Cookbook.
“I was a vegetarian from the ages of 9 to 27,” she says, “so I have compassion for the mentality that gets you to that, which really is about not liking what you’re seeing around you with factory farming or just not liking meat.” But Chester’s health declined in her twenties until, diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome and exhausted of every master cleanse on the market, she discovered the Traditional Foods movement. It stresses the importance of nutrient-dense foods such as grass-fed meats, full-fat (raw) dairy, pastured eggs, and healthy fats, a philosophy that’s taken from certain ancient (pre-medicine) cultures. “I feel way better at 35 than 28.”
Okay, okay, we’ve all heard diet proselytizers. But try this one on for size: Chester’s mother and business partner, Sandy Schrecengost, reversed tooth decay by eating butter. “My mom had a literal chip in her tooth and after a couple years of eating this way, it grew back,” says Chester. “It’s nuts! And you hear that stuff all the time; eating this way really strengthens your bones.” Full-fat butter sourced from a grass-fed animal carries a significant amount of vitamin A, D, and K2. “Without these fat-soluble vitamins, the body cannot assimilate the minerals and water-soluble vitamins also in our food,” writes Chester in the intro to the book. “Yet these fat-soluble vitamins are found in the very foods that we are often told not to eat: organ meats, butter, cream, egg yolks, fish eggs, animal fats, shellfish, and fish liver oils.”
So full-fat butter, full-fat dairy, animal fats and meat are necessary building blocks of good health, according to Chester and her Traditional Foods compatriots, as long as they’re taken in moderation and come from the right farms. One of those would, of course, be Chester’s own 160-acre Apricot Lane Farms in scenic Southern California, but otherwise, the only way to know you’re getting the right products it to know your farmer. “There’s a difference between people who are using antibiotics in a crisis situation, like when an animal is sick, and those who are abusing it,” says Chester. “You want to find the farmer who is making conscious choices.” Ideally, your farmer avoids the use of hormones and antibiotics, and gets the animals out to pasture to feed on grass. “If they’re doing that, the product has so much more nutritional value that the extra cost is worth it.”
For more about Traditional Foods, here is the essential reading list: Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Dr. Weston A. Price, Nourishing Traditions by by Sally Fallon, and, of course, Back to Butter.