Long before “farm to table,” “artisanal” and other buzzwords started flying around the foodie world, Oldways was preaching the gospel of the “old ways” of cultural heritage cooking.
A nonprofit organization headquartered in Boston, Oldways was founded in 1990 by K. Dun Gifford to address health issues such as increasing rates of obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other diseases of excess, and to preserve global culinary traditions. Now run by Sara Baer-Sinnott, the group created a large-scale healthy food movement and styles its army of scientists, chefs, historians, food producers, journalists and health-care professionals as a “culinary think tank.” In case you think that sounds so very “highbrow,” take a look at this: Walmart recently awarded $100,000 to Oldways to fund a program encouraging dietary changes in the African-American community. The African Heritage Diet program will provide nutrition education to 4,000 participants.
Traditional diets of all kinds fall under Oldways’ purview, and the group has created “pyramids” for each. First up was the poor or peasant diet of the southern Mediterranean, emphasizing fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, fish, olive oil and healthy grains. With the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid under its belt, Oldways used it as a model to develop Asian, Latin American, and African Heritage Food Pyramids. For vegetarians everywhere, there is a Vegetarian Pyramid.
No matter which diet, Oldways promotes daily exercise, sharing meals with others, and fostering a deep appreciation for the pleasures of the table and eating healthy and delicious foods.
—By Steve Petusevsky