McCarrison-style Chapati

Sir Robert Mack-Daddy McCarrison held the diet of the Hunzas and Sikhs of the Himalayan region as being superb.  Compared to neighboring white rice eaters, near-vegetarians in other impoverished locales, and those on a typical Western diet, the health of the Hunzas and Sikhs was unquestionably superior.  Although they were agriculturalists, they were larger, stronger, and more physically robust.  McCarrison even fed eight different mouse groups eight different diets representative of each Indian region, and the mice met the same physical proportions as the people of each respective region.  The Sikh-diet mice were huge and much more physically robust and healthy.

That’s right Paleo nerds, they were huge, ass-whoopin’ agriculturalists that ate predominantly whole, unfermented wheat in the form of fresh-ground glutinous wheat chapati, and they were amongst the healthiest humans ever documented in modern times – up there with Eskimos, Maori, Masai, and other non-grain mostly animal eaters.  Their diet was well-rounded with full-fat goat milk, cheese, and ghee and apricots, vegetables, and apricot seed oil (which is, are you getting this Ray Peat, 26% omega 6 polyunsaturated fat).

That’s right.  The Sikhs and Hunzas were touted as being cancer free, heart disease free, tooth decay free, having perfect digestion, being muscular and lean, and having the greatest longevity on earth…

… On a high-carb diet (did you hear that Eades, Washington, Lutz, Taubes, Moore, and Naughton?) revolving primarily around glutinous wheat (are you getting this Sally Fallon, unfermented and cooked for only 60 seconds), “killer” omega 6 with very little omega 3 (get that Sears and Mercola?), full-fat dairy products (paying attention Fuhrman, Barnard, Graham, Robbins, and McDougal?), and fibrous fruits and vegetables (hello Monastyrsky).

The diet was; however, profoundly nutritious and devoid of refined starch and/or sugar, additives, solvent-extracted oils, trans fats and even protein powder.  The conclusion, by McCarrison, who was notably more intelligent and whose scientific methods had far more integrity than any of the above-listed names, was that a diet rich in the full spectrum of micro and macro nutrients, devoid of refined foodstuffs, and fresh and minimally processed was the ultimate diet.  He was even able to feed this to monkeys, pigeons, and rodents with perfect health (Is this where D’Adamo tells us that each of these species has the same blood type?).

To make fresh-ground, highly-nutritious, and cheap enough to be called “cheapatis,” follow these simple directions.  It takes no more than 8 minutes to make from start to finish with practice (+1 minute for each additional chappati), is made from nonperishable whole grain, and costs about 20 cents.

1)      Fill a Braun “grain” grinder (beta endorphin slaves call it a “coffee grinder”) with whole wheat berries.  (click on photos to enlarge)

2)      Grind for 45 seconds into a nice flour.

3)      Pour into a steel, glass, or ceramic bowl.

4)      Add a pinch of salt and enough water to make a soft dough.

5)      Knead for 5 minutes while a large frying pan heats up on the stovetop to high.

6)      Roll into a ball, press, and then roll out with a rolling pin to tortilla thickness.  If your dough is too dry, it will get crumbly.  If it is too wet, it will stick, but you can prevent that by sprinkling a little white flour (gasp!) on your rolling surface.

7)      Cook, ungreased, for 30 seconds on each side – 60 seconds or longer for a more cracker-like consistency.

Smear with some soft butter while they’re still hot and serve with some other tasty vittles.  You could use these for a million different things though.  Dip ‘em in hummus, melt cheese over them, use them like tortillas for quesadillas or something, or smear with a little honey and cinnamon for a dessert-like concoction.

Here’s a highly-skilled chapati-maker making some white-flour based chapati, but the idea is the same.  Puff it up at the end too if you’re up for it.  Don’t know if it’ll work that well with coarse whole wheat flour though.

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44 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I was just going to post a request for this recipe.

    Cheapatis. Lolz. Nice blog!

    Great first recipe.

    • Thanks Jenny. Welcome to the chapati pati (party). 20 cents was actually an overestimate of the price of home-ground cheapati

  2. Matt,

    Congrats on your new blog! I will be using that youtube in my latest post but since you lay out a step by step guide for making chappatis I will probably link here as well.

    I agree with you about grains in both this post and your podcast. The idea that they (or other starchy carbs) are the king of all evil is nuts. I do think for many people who are sensitive to grains like wheat that it is caused by the genetic modification that has gone on in the latter half of the 20th century. There is far more gluten for example in today’s varieties than ever appeared in any ancient strain, and this all happened after Price and McCarrison.

    Anyway, looking forward to your new blog. 🙂

    • Thanks Mikey. I’ve concluded that there is often a malfunction in the adenosine cycle and the enzyme function related to it. This was elaborated upon by Bryan Jepson in a book about Autism that seemed to relate gluten and casein problems with a particular physiological problem – not something wrong with the gluten itself. This seemed to be a better explanation, and certainly less nebulous, than the late 20th century wheat varietal argument.

      • Yep, you just might be right, although I wonder about folks who experience relief by adopting a more ancient form of the grain. I haven’t done much specific research on the autism issue, but it is on my list of things to do.

      • The autism thing is quite interesting. It is really the ultimate culmination of the mind/body/metabolism/digestion breakdown, and I think many of the great mysteries of human health will be solved along the journey to solving the riddle of autism.

  3. Something seems to be wrong with the subscribe to comments function. It keeps taking me to the admin wordpress panel.

  4. Congrats on your new blog. I think unprocessed food is best too. I don’t eat only that, but really like it best, so it’s easy.

  5. i am so glad you created this blog! i know you probably get hundreds of fan mail every week, but you could have just told me to buy your 180kitchen. 😉 i need more confidence in the kitchen and this book is fantastic! do you by any chance teach cooking classes? i would pay good money for those! seriously do some cooking videos for the blog and write lots–i’m eating it up.

    looking forward to more…
    amanda (drinking a glass of cream before i head off to bed)

    • Well, you know, not hundreds. I do teach an occasional cooking class locally, but it has been for Thai food mostly, as my Thai food is to, ahem, Thai for. Thanks for the kudos on 180 Kitchen blog and ebook. I’m quite proud of the work I did in there actually. I will get on the video thing within the next few months. Part of this blog is to get some good hands-on training with cooking instruction. I have aspirations of producing a 180 cooking DVD or something along those lines among many other fun projects (Adventures in Diet reality show?). Anyway, thanks again. I’ll keep it comin.’

      • OMGZ, Dude you have to post some Thai recipes! I’ve been trying to learn to the cooking style. After a couple of epic fail experiments, I finally found the secret (small, small batches in very hot wok!) So now I’m ready to Thai some more.

      • Oh you know I’ll do that one of these days.

  6. How easy is it to find fresh wheat berries? Guess I would have to check at the local health food store. What other types of flours would you recommend, other then evil white!

    • Whole wheat berries are sold at most health food stores in the bulk area. You can use anything though, or a combination of several. Rye berries, whole oats, buckwheat, kamut, etc. will all make a good flatbread-ish kind of concoction like this.

  7. I think Sally Fallon would be happy that you freshly ground your grains from whole wheat berries. Traditional cultures that ate grains used a number of strategies including: fresh grinding, sprouting and fermenting. Of course, we have limited information about what a given group really did. If this traditional group hand processed the grains, there would have been a “fermenting” period in the fields which would not happen on a modern grain farm. In hand processing, stocks of grain are tied together and stacked into cone shaped structures. These structures would sit in the fields for weeks before harvesting. Sometimes it would rain or dew would partly sprout the grains.

    In traditional populations with a regional food supply, people ate local or died trying. In this case, someone unfortunate enough to have a cileac-like condition would simply die in infancy or childhood. This person would not have a change to breed. Over time the population, under selective forces of the environment, would produce a population extremely fit for their environment.

    The question for the modern individual is would their diet work of me as an individual? Do I really know all the elements of their diet to reproduce it in the modern world? And can it be reproduced in the modern world?

    • I doubt Celiac disease is something that occurs amongst healthy populations with flawless heredity. It too, is likely to be a disease of the modern human.

      You’re right, Sally would be happy, as the freshness of the grain is always what Price stressed, and McCarrison too. The focus on fermentation is her schpiel, not Price’s.

  8. Hmmm..I remember Ryan writing about the Hunza, and specifically this site about the misconceptions of them

    I know, great website name

  9. this doesn’t have to do with this post’s topic so i hope it’s okay to ask it here. i just reread this post and noticed the phrase “beta endorphin slaves” referring to coffee. can you please explain what that means? i have my own theory about people who *have* to have their coffee. although, i also have a theory about my other half’s need for coffee every single day. he won’t drink it black. he has to have sugar and cream or milk. usually he uses stevia b/c i am/was convinced that it was way healthier than the white stuff or even the unrefined stuff. but then when we run out of it if there is no substitute all hell breaks loose. what’s the deal with caffeine anyway? is it altogether bad?

    • Beta endorphin is a natural opiate neurotransmitter. People with addictions tend to have low levels of beta endorphin, and they seek out substances that raise the levels. In other words, it’s easier to become addicted when you have low levels of key neurotransmitters. Serotonin, of course, is another key player. Caffeine is one of the most underestimated evils out there. It is a stressor and adrenal exhauster that can lead to long-term problems. An impeccably healthy person could handle all the caffeine you could throw at them, but it’s very difficult to recover from health problems with caffeine in the diet. For more on addiction, I highly, highly recommend the work of Kathleen DesMaisons.

  10. This is a great article and it looks delicious. I must try it soon.

  11. Matt,
    Amazing stuff! I stumbled upon your site after many years of research that led me to ditch vegetable oils, switch to coconut oil and eat more saturated fats. I was about to head on a low carb path but your site has freed me from the bondage of a carbless existence.

    Since you are the most impartial and most reasonable voice for health and nutrition I have come across, I am interested in your thoughts on pasteurized dairy (I can’t get the raw stuff). Is it best to steer clear of pasteurized dairy even with a diet that is free of sugar, refined grains (except some white rice) and vegetable oil? Is is okay to drink it if I take lactase pills with it or is milk sugar as dangerous as fructose in your opinion?

    • Chris, I think the biggest problem with pasteurized milk is the homogenization followed by the synthetic vitamins. Out of all the dairy products, milk is the least tolerable due to the lactose. I eat plenty of pasteurized butter, cheese, half n’ half, cream, etc. It’s the milk that I tend to shy away from. Regardless, any milk is probably better than Coke, Crystal Light, or Powerade – and maybe even 100% fruit juices, but I”m sure you know this already.

      • Hi Matt, can you point me in the direction of the info that makes you think homgenization is bad? A couple years ago I looked at what I could find (WAPF, etc) and decided that peoples fears were overblown with not enough evidence to condemn the process.

      • Mike, I base some of this on WAPF materials, mostly Ron Schmid. I do feel like pasteurized milk is far more villainous than its raw counterpart, and it’s difficult to put my finger on why that might be. Since we can eat cooked food like it’s going out of style, I have trouble feeling like heat treatment is really the problem. That leaves poor milk production practices (like crappy feed and high bacteria counts), synthetic vitamins, and homogenization. I base that on a hunch more than any solid proof. It’s more of a cautionary recommendation on pasteurized milk (because it is suspect), than an outright warning.

  12. Good stuff, Sir Matt Stone! I really like your no-nonsense take on nutrition — real practical. I, too, wonder if wheat-sensitive folks like myself can regain a tolerance to gluten. I’m so used to a gluten-free diet at this point that it’s not a big deal, but I’m still curious.

    I agree with Michael above, who suspects that our degeneration plays a big part in us being gluten wussies.

    By the way, thanks for posting a link to my blog, facetiousess and all. As you know, it’s not “disease” that matters to me but “health.” 🙂

    • No problem Ry guy (not to be confused with rye guy). We obviously don’t need grains to survive, or thrive, so grain-free or not, don’t really matter. There’s no doubt many are better off gluten free. No problem on the link to you. Good sites like yours deserve recognition. I got nothing but props to give to “Disease Matters to Me.”

  13. Just tried some cheapattis. Tasty. Very nutty as one might expect from the whole wheat. When I cooked them (60s/side, medium gas heat, cast iron pan) the inside was a little darker and moister. I get about the same thing when i make corn tortillas as well. Is this normal or undercooked?

    • That’s normal Mike. I like ’em soft on the inside. I usually cook them a little hotter though.

  14. I made the chappatis last night using spelt grains, very tasty, served with homemade hummus and tapenade and the last of my tomatoes from the garden 🙂

    • Mmm, tapenade.

  15. OK, I’m brand new here. Could you just use a good quality 100% whole wheat flour instead of grinding your own wheat berries?

    • Flour goes bad very quickly after being ground up. The polyunsaturated fats become rancid and the vitamin E goes on vacation and never comes back. Although using pre-ground flours is certainly not the end of the world, it’s best to grind up your own. That was always thought to be the key according to McCarrison and Price, and they may be onto something with that. Home-ground flours are much coarser too, which is great for preventing bloog sugar levels from surging higher (for example, my recent experiments have shown that my blood sugar goes to 110-120 on white flour vs. 86-91 on equal quantities of brown rice).

  16. Hey, Matt, I would love to read your reply to this article “” too.

    • Yes, I read the Hunza article many years ago. It sounds they did take advantage of their reputation for longevity – or that it was at least common. I don’t believe that they were 150 years old or any such nonsense. I do believe that it was common, at least in areas where they were well-fed enough to avoid malnutrition, to live a good lifespan at a high level of physical vitality. This was the case for any undeveloped area with a well-balanced agrarian diet. I’m sure the Hunza followed that rule, and were not the exception, but as anyone should know, any area with insufficient food, which was more common amongst agriculturalists – will show all kinds of metabolism-related health problems such as tooth decay, osteoporosis, short life expectancy, propensity to die from infectious disease at an early age, small stature, etc.

      The chapati talked about here is based more on the Sikhs though – the focus of the segment of McCarrison’s work that I’m familiar with. They don’t fit the description of the Bible Life article at all.

  17. hi matt and anyone else who might be able to answer this: does anyone know what would cause someone’s tongue to split right down the middle? and i’m talking like a really big crevass. i had heard one time it was due to being pre-diabetic, but i couldn’t find info to back that up. do you think it has to do with digestion, metabolism etc?

    also, would lack of enough food and nutrients cause muscle soreness? for as long as i can remember when i run my fingers down the outsides of my legs and arms it is incredibly painful. also my shoulders and upper back get so tight and sore that i find it hard to breathe. i do see a chiropractor quite often, but i am wondering if it’s from years of eating “just enough” but not really getting nourished and being hungry all the time. i think i live on adrenaline a lot, too with this crappy type A personality.

    anyway, i’d appreciate any thoughts. thank you.

    • Amanda,
      The tongue is an excellent window into the body so-to-speak. I think a person’s health is reflected in the tongue quite well. I am certainly no Chinese medicine expert though. I can’t tell you exactly what the big crack down the center may be.

      The pain you are having sounds like the beginning stages of a fibromyalgia or something. This has everything to do with the overall metabolism. What are your morning temps like? And you are definitely right to suspect a high-stress lifestyle and a “just enough” diet.

      • well, i guess i will have to study up on chinese medicine. i’m not the one with the tongue issue, thankfully.

        the only time i have ever taken morning temps is when i was charting my cycles and trying to conceive. it probably won’t work right now since i am nursing and the baby is only 3 months old and wakes up quite a bit at night so i don’t get very large consecutive amounts of sleep. should i take it anyway just to see what numbers i get?

        i’m pretty sure i wouldn’t be as stressed if i ate more. but like i have mentioned before, i find it extremely difficult to eat enough b/c i spend so much time thinking about what i could be eating and with two kids now, which is more challenging than i ever thought it would be, i don’t have large blocks of time to just cook. it’s just a vicious circle b/c if i don’t eat i feel miserable and then i think of something to eat but i am too tired from not eating to fix something so quick snacky stuff or a sandwich is about all i can do. at least during the day. i can barely get dinner started and we end up eating pizza a couple of times a week. i did try your ideas for bulk cooking from 180kitchen one weekend, but wow was that tough for me. i need to try it again.

  18. I’m on a gluten free diet, but not a confirmed celiac. Eating gluten for me leads to eczema, itchy eyes, bad moods, dry skin, etc. One week when I’m really feeling bored I thought I might try some of the sourdough fermented dark Bavarian pumpernickel (made with just rye, no wheat) that you can find at Whole Foods or other gourmet stores. I remember every kiosk in the Copenhagen airport selling this stuff when I was on layover a few years ago. I have some small amount of hope in the idea that the yeasts might help breakdown the protein and lessen the gluten-load enough to not make me ill. Otherwise it’s true what everyone says- you don’t really miss the stuff once you’ve been going with out it. My only regret is that I never ate any Poilâne country bread before I quit!

    Anyway Matt, I’m curious how you feel about some of the other arguments against wheat that apply to non-celiacs as well? Like this:

    To be honest I would probably still eat at least some wheat if it didn’t make me feel so terrible. On the other hand, I have no problem avoiding vegetable/seed oils just based on theory. They never tasted good to me and the chance that PUFA are healthy or even neutral in those amounts seems highly unlikely. Long before I cared about nutrition I would always replace the canola oil with butter when making recipes out of the French Laundry cookbook. To me this is the whole reason that the top French restaurants always merited three Michelin stars and Spanish/Italian restaurants only started to get that rating when they went bizzaro intellectual and started foaming everything and doing off flavor pairings! Olive oil just doesn’t make food taste rich enough to charge those kinds of prices… you really need the cream, butter, egg, duck fat and foie gras!

    • The belief that wheat is toxic doesn’t jive well with my own logic, since it has been shown repeatedly that great health can and has been achieved with staples such as wheat and rye. Like I’ve pointed out in the past, even McCarrison’s monkeys fared well on milk and wheat, so long as it was freshly-ground – hardly evolutionarily-appropriate foods for monkeys.

      Like anything though, you must be able to digest a food in order to be able to make it useful. All mammal species have virtually the same nutrient requirement. As long as a food substance is congruent with a creature’s design and digestive capabilities, it’ll work. Humans are undeniably omnivores, and grains, to a healthy human with a sound metabolism and strong, untainted digestion, are perfectly acceptable. Wheat doesn’t appear to give me any trouble whatsoever. If something happens to make me change my mind, I’ll certainly report on that. Still, I maintain that for some, wheat is not an acceptable or desirable food. It is personal though. Whether it deserves to be in an individual’s diet is up to each person to decide.

      You hit the nail on the head with the French cooking. Olive oil can in no way compete with duck fat, bone marrow, dairy fats, and foie gras. That was the whole point of 180 Kitchen, that it doesn’t take talent to be a great home chef, you just need the right fats in ample qualities to make food that exceeds what you can get elsewhere. These fats are to a chef as steriods are to professional athletes.

  19. Matt!

    Are you familiar with Jennifer McLagan’s book/cookbook “Fat”? Oh my, I just got it from my library and there’s a recipe for Spinach-and-Lamb-Fat Chapatis…couldn’t help but think of you. They look so tasty!


    • I haven’t, but I clearly don’t need to read it. I ate spinach cooked in lamb fat last night with rack of lamb and creamy potato gratin! How funny.

  20. […] If you want a written description you can check out this post on making a McCarrison-style Chapati. […]

  21. […] let’s remember McCarrison. I brought this point up long ago in my McCarrison posts, and that is the fact that on a […]

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