Monday, December 22, 2014

Buttery herbed roasted chestnuts...

See? I lied. Here's another post before 2015!
Because these are really, really good and you have to try them. It's even worth the worn spot on my index finger that I got from about half an hour of scoring "x"s on the chestnuts with a somewhat dull kitchen knife...

I'm sure that it is entirely possible to slow roast them at 200 or 250 for a long while and use a more delicate, non-dairy oil like coconut or one of the hardier nut oils...

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!