Fen blow - Try getting your teeth into this old diet

PUBLISHED: 11:29 03 February 2006 | UPDATED: 21:40 28 May 2010

The worst thing about going to the dentist is that he waits to tell you something really interesting until your mouth is full of cotton wool, ironmongery and what feels like an industrial-sized vacuum pump. When I was stretched out last week, my own denti

The worst thing about going to the dentist is that he waits to tell you something really interesting until your mouth is full of cotton wool, ironmongery and what feels like an industrial-sized vacuum pump.When I was stretched out last week, my own dentist told me that many young children in this district now have so much tooth decay that the damage is rotting their adult teeth, growing out of sight in the gums.What made this even more depressing was a history book I stumbled across the next day. Recently-discovered skeletons have revealed that, 1,000 years ago, Fen folk had near perfect teeth - even in old age.The reason was simple. They didn't have chocolate or sugar. Instead they relied on much healthier honey. What's more, the little meat they got was low cholesterol as their few cattle were free-range skinny beasts. The harmful saturated fat in today's meat is the result of intensive farming.They also managed without potatoes, rice, tea and coffee. All these had yet to be imported. Neither had they seen spinach, broccoli, cauliflowers, runner beans or Brussels sprouts. Instead they made do with onions, leeks, celery, radish, carrots, garlic and cabbage. Five portions a day, no doubt. Plus health-giving herbs.Then there was fish. Perch, tench, bream and even the royal sturgeon were to be found in our slow-moving Fen rivers. And, of course, eels. Doddington sent tens of thousands of them to the bishop.Wildfowl was another source of meat, together with "the Fenman's Treasure" - the goose. Although this bird was a source of eggs and meat, our ancestors were pretty cruel to it. Their feathers were plucked five times a year and sold for bedding. It left the birds sore and bleeding. I've heard whispers the process persisted until recently.Despite the goose fat, our ancestors had good teeth and fairly healthy bodies - apart, that is, from arthritis and worms. The thing was, medieval Fenman had no understanding of germs. If food fell off your wooden plate, you picked it up, made the sign of the cross over it - and ate it.Even so, we could learn a thing or two from the past about healthy eating. We might also try their special biodegradable toilet paper - damp moss.

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