Friday, December 12, 2014

It's been so long since I've posted here for so many reasons. Our dance company has been busy. Our daughter is super-busy with school and everything else. (How did that happen?)

I admit, this blog is where I write things that can get me a bit in trouble. I have some strong opinions about food. If you've read this blog at all, you will know why. I have some good reasons.

So here is the first and probably last entry for 2014. I will try to write more in 2015!

I am listening to another program that is promoting veganism as a beneficial diet for everyone and the planet (at one point the speaker egged on a caller/cheerleader with “preach! preach!”) - and I can feel my blood pressure rising....So here it goes. I realize that so many of my friends are vegetarian or vegan, so I apologize for upsetting anyone out there. I love you all and respect your choices. I feel as if I regularly hear the vegan/vegetarian side of this discussion, and I feel as if I get a constant proselytizing media barrage in the Bay Area. I invite you to please take a look at this post. It is not fashionable (although I am happy to say that this argument for an omnivorous diet is becoming more recognized these days) but neither am I.

Food is compassion. It is home. It is where we come from. If we eat what our great-great grandmothers recognized as food, then we are probably doing well. For *most* of us, this is probably not a plant-based diet. Lierre Keith was a veteran of veganism for over 20 years and moved to an omnivorous diet when her health declined to the point at which she simply had to change. She also realized that widespread intensive agriculture is worse for the planet than the raising of pastured animals on a farm that does not rely on monocultures.  Check out her book The Vegetarian Myth for her entire set of arguments. She comes on strong, but knows her stuff. 

It is as much an economic argument as it is a nutritional and ecological one. Our economic system relies on monocultures, even for organic plant crops. Imagine if everyone was vegetarian - a huge amount of the planet’s surface would have to be co-opted into intensive plant crops. It’s not that I don’t think that intensive ranching isn’t bad. There is a huge problem with feedlots and big-box stores - I love that CostCo carries organics, but I worry about their sourcing. (At the same time, there is the expense of that good stuff from the farmers’ markets - it’s hard for us, too!) Keith, who was a proselytizer of veganism for most of her adult life, is now just as preachy for the Weston A. Price Foundation, which makes me slap my head, but that’s her. Meanwhile, she describes the massive clearing of agricultural land for organic plant crops as a form of ecological genocide in which the natural balance of life is enormously disturbed in favor of plant-based monocultures. While California’s big organic ag is maybe not so bad as the acres of Monsanto-tainted corn in the Midwest, it still rips up acres of plant and animal community that is necessary to environmental balance. 

At the same time, Salatin’s Polyface Farm, and others who are increasingly following his lead, raise many different animals as well as multiple crops in a careful dance that results in a thriving farm that uses its waste resources. Its soil stays rich and its ecosystem is self-renewing. 

There are new studies that say that plants may feel pain, which then makes the cruelty-free argument more complex than simply leaving out animal products from our diets.

Preparing food has some very yucky, messy stages. Raw ingredients for an excellent meal remind us that our bodies do require the death of some other organism. We should never take that lightly. At the same time, we can’t simply skip out on the responsibility of feeding our families and ourselves well. Withdrawing is a child’s response to a very large and thoughtful question. Adults need to take that on. Whenever I handle raw meat it is my job to think of how best to honor that animal, whether that is to use as much of it as I can, or to talk to our daughter about where this food came from and about how her grandmother used to cook it, how not to waste the food, to use compost, to live as waste-free as possible. How to not just cook but to eat with family, building many lives from that death, in order to give it respect. 

Then there is the sugar question. Vegetarianism is, by its nature, high in sugars, whether you are eating carrots and kohlrabi in your salads or apple honey cake. The western diet is too high in sugars. Period. Check out Peter Attia’s TED talk. He is a doctor who switched to an extremely high-fat and animal-based diet when he realized that his plant-based eating was actually causing his diabetes. Again, this is very individual and probably refers back to what a person’s ancestors ate. I can say from personal experience, and a family that tends towards insulin intolerance that I can’t live on a diet weighted towards plants. I’m sure that there are plenty of people who can. I haven’t met too many.

This leads to the argument that I do see all the time on the web, which also annoys me to no end because it fuels our cultural obsession with skinny bodies. Yes, a high carbohydrate diet, even if it’s “healthy”, will generate excess fat. Eating meat and whole, saturated fats do not make you fat. People who eat a higher sugar diet and have high triglycerides are at greater risk for heart disease than people with above average overall cholesterol count and low triglycerides. In other words, eating cholesterol does not give you high cholesterol. 

The part of the vegan/vegetarian argument that gets me the most upset, however, is a statement that I hear all the time, even from well-educated, sophisticated people. I also hear and read this constantly in medical research, which is disturbing. This is the assumption that all meat eating is inherently a feedlot-based diet and relies western menu staples, such as “meat and potatoes.” Even worse is the assumption that the hamburgers that come out of my kitchen are, by virtue of their meat content, equivalent to what comes out of a fast food restaurant. That may sound really silly, and it is, but many medical studies (I will insert one here when I can - there are dozens) simply record that a person ate a “hamburger” with no interest in its sourcing as a factor. Believe me, my hamburgers are nothing like the thing you’d get at a drive-through window.

The call to eat more vegetables is probably a good one. We have forgotten how to eat them. We have also forgotten that for many indigenous communities who do have a high plant to meat ratio in their diets, that grain porridge and roasted potatoes were NOT preferable to roasted meat, but was what they ate in lean times or between good hunts. We are not meant to eat meat only all day. We are also not meant to eat plants only all day. Every person, each dietary heritage is somewhat different as far as that balance goes, but it is extremely rare to find a truly vegan community, unless they are following the diet for specific religious reasons. (On the other hand, the Masai’s diet of meat and blood does exist.) Veganism can also be used for detox for a period of time, or, according to Sally Fallon, near the end of life when the human body simply needs less animal-based food.

I invite everyone to please ignore fashion, whether that is to eat vegetarian or to follow the trendyarianism of the moment and please check in with your ancestors to see what's good. (If there are tiny marshmallows in it, then look farther back.) If history has been lost, please read up on where your family came from and find some clues, then maybe surprise your relatives at the holiday table this season!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Blueberry Pie - Happy 4th of July!

This is a recipe based on Bruce Fife's, which is terribly inaccurate, so I referred to Joy of Cooking for the stuff that made no sense (and I'm discovering that there's an awful lot missing from Fife's recipes, at least in regards to his pie fillings.)

Basically, make a jam from your blueberries, but not too mushy since they cook quickly. Add sweetener as needed, enough to make it a little syrupy, but not so much that they get too sweet. Both vanilla and lemon juice are nice flavors for blueberries, so those go in, as well.

We're transitioning off of GAPS at the moment, so I did make a base of arrowroot starch and water to start.

Make a top and bottom crust of your choice (Fife uses a nut topping, but that's not a possibility for us, so we went with a regular crust).

It was super-yummy topped with unsweetened yogurt.

Here it is (I have, as yet, to be able to get photos of any pie that hits our table before it gets eaten!).

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Epic Seder 2012!

We just finished an enormous Seder at our apartment  - 25 people crowded into our dining room. Our apartment isn't exactly tiny, but it's still an apartment, so there was definitely a similar feeling to the 20-clowns-in-a-volksy trick. It was warm and lovely and people sang. At least three people had never been to a Seder. Quite a few hadn't been to one in years. 

There was an enormous amount of food, and amazingly, much of it disappeared, which I suppose it does with 25 guests!

I made an unusual brisket - marinaded overnight in red wine with the first spring tomatoes, paprika, onions and garlic. I blended the vegetables into a nice thick sauce. I roasted two chickens, which all but disappeared, and one of our guests who is a terrific cook made salmon with agave-lime sauce. There was asparagus, greens, and, courtesy of other guests, roasted herbed vegetables and salad. I served my chicken broth and one of the grandmothers brought her homemade chicken soup with vegetables and matzo balls.

I also made about 36 hard boiled eggs, a baked apple dish, brown rice, three Seder plates with real horseradish, and carrot tsimmes. People brought all kinds of desserts, including macaroons which disappeared immediately. They were nearly GAPS-friendly, so I will see if I can get the recipe and pass it on here. 

 When I have recovered I will post the recipe for the brisket and tsimmes.

Here are some of the dishes in progress. I was too tired to get the finished images, so please bear with me.

The baked apple dish before baking

Half of the 36 hard boiled eggs.

Carrot tsimmes in progress. This one was a winner. Only two small jars left!

The beginnings of the brisket - meat after marinating and browning. We just started to get tomatoes in our CSA box. Very exciting!

When you're on GAPS, it's sort of like Passover all year, but for those of us who do eat gluten, I got some matzo.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Woohoo! Gluten-free Sauce Mornay!

This one is also starch-free so I can have it on my broccoli...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Oh, what to do with a bunch of turnips... one celery root and a carrot. (the first part can be sung to the tune of "What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor")

The consensus was to call it "Whipped Tuber Cloud" although Little Moo has suggested that it could be called "Chicken Salad" as a kind of a joke.

5 small turnips
1 medium celery root
1 large carrot
2 tb ghee or butter

Steam well. Purée in blender. Mix in ghee.

That's it!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mushroom Leek Quiche (GAPS-friendly)

As promised!

This recipe was based on Julia Child's version of Flamiche - Quiche Aux Poireaux. It is SO rich that one small slice is enough to fill me completely up and zaps any sugar craving for about two days. I increased her original recipe again by a half (give or take a little here and there) to fill a deep-dish 9" pan. I also cooked it a bit longer and at a lower temperature for the sake of the coconut flour in the crust. Also, I chopped the mushrooms to make it more child-friendly, but I needn't have bothered since she didn't like it anyway. Next one I'll slice them.

Also, the coconut flour crust browns way too easily. Ours got very brown, even though I covered it with foil half-way. Here is a possible solution that I have not tried, but might work - end the crust at the level of the pie, possibly adding the pie crust edge with 12 minutes to spare on the baking. Let me know if that works.

Mushroom Leek Quiche

Preheat oven to 350 degrees


Pie crust:
  • 1/2 cup sifted coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup flaked coconut
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup ghee or butter, melted
  • pinch salt
Beat the eggs. Slowly pour in the ghee while stirring so as not to cook the eggs. Add the rest of the ingredients, finishing it with your hands when it's too thick for a spoon. See here for more information on how to roll out a coconut flour crust. 

Before making the filling, spread a thin layer of cheese at the bottom of the pie crust.

  • about 3 1/2 cups sliced, cleaned white of leek 
  • about 1 cup chopped or sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2-3/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 4 Tb butter or ghee
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups coconut cream or milk
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 1/2-3/4 cup grated goat jack cheese (Swiss would be nice, but we can only do goat's or sheep's milk, so it wasn't an option for us)
  • 1 Tb ghee, cut into pea-sized dots
After slicing the leeks, submerge in a bowl of cold water to clean out the dirt that collects between the layers.  Boil them over moderately high heat with water, salt and ghee until the liquid is partly evaporated.  Add the mushrooms. Cook until the liquid is almost evaporated, then turn the heat down to simmer, cover the pan and stew gently for 20-30 minutes until very tender and aromatic.

Beat eggs, coconut cream and seasonings in a big mixing bowl to blend. Slowly add the mushrooms and leeks bit by bit so as not to cook the eggs. (Julia suggests at this point that you taste to check the seasoning.) Pour into the pie shell and distribute the rest of the cheese and ghee over the top.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until puffed. (Ours didn't brown, presumably because of the lower temperature. In our case, a knife came out wet but more or less clean at the end.)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Breakfast Quiche

This is a mushroom-leek quiche based on Julia Child's recipes, substituting coconut cream for dairy, a coconut flour crust, and goat milk jack cheese for Swiss.
Recipe to follow...