Chef and educator Marion Sansing is pictured teaching a group in the Mississippi Modern Homestead Center kitchen in Starkville. Sansing will conduct an intensive retreat with workshops and gourmet meals Sept. 26-28. Registration for “Nourish: Reclaiming Real Food” closes Sept. 8. Photo by: Courtesy photo
September 3, 2014 10:22:56 AM
Common sense isn't so common any more, specifically when it comes to our relationship with nutrition. As a whole, we are a nation hooked on processed foods and drive-throughs. And we pay a price for that. Even those trying to live by a healthier code are often stymied. One day something is good for you, a year later it's bad. Bombarded by the latest health crazes or what "Dr. Oz said today," what's a rational person to do?
"With all the media available now, people are thoroughly confused; even professionals are confused," said Marion Sansing of Starkville. The German-born chef and educator wants to cut through the clutter and get back to the traditional kitchen for real nourishment.
Through a weekend retreat titled "Nourish: Reclaiming Real Food" Sept. 26-28 at the Mississippi Modern Homestead Center in Starkville, Sansing's goal is to give participants more confidence in their decisions and available choices. This is the first installment of the center's planned eight-part "Reclaiming Real Living Series."
"Nourish" includes five intensive workshops, six gourmet meals and time for relaxation and making new friends, said Alison Buehler who founded the Homestead with her husband, Mike.
"Marion has gained quite a following in North Mississippi with her work for Southern Cultured, a group dedicated to teaching people the value of whole, real and local food and how to prepare it," Buehler said.
Better choices, better life
"Every time you go to the store or to the kitchen, you have a lot of choices," said Sansing, who is married to Columbus native Henry Sansing, chief of forestry for the Southeast Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "We want to give participants the confidence and knowledge to make informed decisions for their own health. A lot of it goes back to the traditional skills of our grandparents and forefathers."
Sansing's passion for healthier foods stems from her roots in Germany.
"To me, the way I cook and eat is more normal, more European," she explained. "We eat much less processed food (there) and we cook much more from scratch. There is so much food history in Europe than there is in this young country."
Sansing described a typical German market, where shoppers, for example, will find a booth with huge barrels filled with different aged sauerkraut (finely chopped cabbage fermented in brine).
"One may be three weeks old, one six weeks old and another older. You can take that home and have a live culture. You can't get it here; all sauerkraut here is in a can or jar, no probiotics whatsoever."
After moving to America (which began with sky diving vacations to Florida, but that's another story), Sansing missed some things, like that sauerkraut.
"I missed our bread and many of our foods I couldn't get here," she said. So she began to study the science of food. "I taught myself how to make real sour dough bread and make my own cheese and how to ferment things ... it was born out of homesickness food-wise."
What you'll learn
While one weekend can't cover everything, Sansing and Buehler have selected a comprehensive set of skills to focus on that will provide a solid start in reclaiming real food.
Topics interwoven throughout the hands-on retreat will include preservation methods, whole foods, fermentation and culturing and composting, for a start.
Participants will learn more about cookware: nonstick or not, microwave or not, induction ovens? Heavy metal can leach into foods. Overheated nonstick produces fumes that can kill a pet bird in the house, Sansing said.
"We'll also talk about how to recognize what is good quality food," she continued. Broccoli is good for us, right? But if it was picked three weeks ago in California, was grown in poor soil and sits around in the grocery store, so much for nutrients. "I teach how to recognize quality and where to get that," said Sansing. "If you buy something fresh locally from a grower you know, that will be high quality."
Healthy fats will come up for discussion. "People are thoroughly confused about that," the workshop leader remarked. "Some of the good fats are hard to come by in the store. We're going to talk about how to render your own lard, make your own butter, make your own fats."
There will be a segment on condiments -- making mayonnaise, mustard, salad dressings and salsas. Salad dressing manufacturers concerned with costs may use the least expensive ingredients, Sansing noted. "But for yourself it's not about the bottom line: your bottom line is your health, and it should be."
There is plenty of time built into the weekend for relaxation, Buehler noted -- time to roam the Homestead grounds, feed the animals, walk in the gardens or on a nature trail, or just sit in front of the fire or on the porch.
"Our participants let us know time after time how much they value the friendships made at Homestad retreats," said Buehler. "They look forward to coming back each year and making new memories with friends they meet right here."
Registration closes Sept. 8
"Nourish" can take up to 20 participants. Cost is $270 for Homestead members for the weekend, including housing and six gourmet meals. The price is $290 for non-members. Cost is $245 for commuters who want to take all five intensive workshops (must be a Homestead member). See a full schedule of events at msmodernhomestead.com. Register online at the site or call 662-694-0124.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.