Archive for April, 2010

Ok, so Friday night dinner (last week). Finally. It was a Neo-Neolithic meal, according to the menu. The students who prepared it opened each course with a description of the foods, and why they were healthier and what nutrition topic they represented. It was terribly educational, and definitely the best meal I have ever been served at a college function. Light years ahead of the pack. No competition at all. I hope college catering takes a page out of this book. Here was what we had:

Goose Confit
Chicken Liver Pate
Head Cheese
Raw Oysters
Venison Carpaccio
Raw milk
Raw cheeses
Kimchi (Korean fermented cabbage)
Steamed Poke (wild greens) with Bacon
Polenta with Poached Egg
Osso Buco (veal shank and marrow in a sauce)
Raw cheesecake
Coconut Ice Cream

I tried everything, which was pretty intense. Most of it was no big deal, I mean, I’ve had goose, I’ve had venison (not raw, but still), and I’ve definitely had plenty of raw milk and cheese.

But this was the first time I had ever eaten an oyster in my entire life. I was rather terrified of the prospect. I mean, raw oyster? It just looks disgusting. It doesn’t even look like a food. But I was coached in the procedure. And, like all things I find disgusting, I needed someone to stand there and be like, go for it. Eat it. And so I did. With fermented ketchup. I liked the ketchup. I can’t really say I was all about the oyster. I’m not sure why people go on and on about how amazing oysters are. It didn’t taste like much of anything, and the texture… well. It must be one of those things you have to get used to.

Head cheese was another hump. Most people (myself included) have no idea what head cheese actually is, and seem to think it’s either cheese (I had some vague idea that you would ferment it in a head, or something) or brains. It is neither. It is the flesh from the face of a pig. Which means it is mostly fat. Once I figured that out (and got over how disgusting it looked) it was no problem tasting it. And it, not surprisingly, just tasted like fat. The one thing I had no problem trying was the pate, and I hated it. There was something about the taste that had me making what my mom calls the vegetable face. Something like a five year old does when you force them to eat green beans.

Dinner saw me eating my first egg. I did, in fact, eat the better part of the egg. I did not like it very much at all. I avoided the yolk because it was runny and just freaked me out, but at least I ate the whites. I don’t think I could have if it hadn’t been for the polenta disguising it. I also had to ask everyone at the table to give me some moral support, and they were very obliging. I think for the large part they were kind of fascinated that I, who had until several months ago been more or less vegan, was sitting there eating poke with bacon. They didn’t think it at all strange that I was weirded out by the egg (there was another woman at the table who seemed to share my aversion), but they all sat and stared in disbelief as I happily dug into one of the bones from the pot, scooped out the marrow, and spread it on a piece of bread.

I looked back at them, mouth half full. “What?”

Apparently even most meat eaters aren’t brave enough to eat bone marrow. But it’s just fat, really. And that’s what a lot of this meal was about: not being afraid to eat fat. The head cheese, the pate, the bacon, the bone marrow- it’s all fat. And it is the most healthy thing you can probably have.

Amusingly, the reactions I had from my family as I told them about the meal were even more varied. Out of everything I ate, I was most surprised at myself for eating an egg. Followed closely by the oysters. My mom however was frankly appalled that I had eaten carpaccio, particularly venison carpaccio. If you don’t know, carpaccio is nothing more than very thinly sliced raw meat. Usually you roll it up and dip it in something. This didn’t phase me much, but my mom kept repeating, “but do you know where that deer has been? It could have eaten anything.” I kept thinking that I’d rather eat a deer who had been out nibbling things in the forest than a cow that had been eating GMO grains and antibiotics.

Everyone else seemed mostly surprised by the oyster. I have sworn for a very long time that I will not touch oysters, as I find them deeply disturbing. It is highly unlikely that I will be trying them again any time in the near future. But at least I can say I did it once.

By the way, I’ve also always hated cheesecake. But raw, it suddenly becomes very good. Raw egg, raw milk, raw cheese. TAKE THAT, MD state regulators. I DRINK RAW MILK. And eat raw venison and goose and lots and lots of fat, and I am happy as can be.

And that’s really what it’s all about.


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Taco Bell’s New Green Menu Takes No Ingredients From Nature

Hahahahahaha it’s funny because it’s true.

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I was curious to check the stats for my blog and see that someone found my page after google searching “fuck in the water.” That does put a new spin on things.

Also, I wanted to include some food porn of the bread I recently baked. Same recipe as before.

I think I let them rise for too long, because they didn’t seem to spring up in the oven the way they did the first time.

And just for the hell of it, a picture of my counter space and the mess I usually make while doing any kind of cooking. I’m of the “use every bowl in the kitchen” method of cooking. That is indeed the corner of my laptop in the picture. I find having my laptop on the kitchen counter to be helpful- it means I can frantically do google searches on things like “why aren’t my eggs soft peaking?????” while I am actually trying to get eggs to soft peak. Also I like to endlessly listen to the Harry Potter books on tape while cooking.

This was indeed during the ill advised angel food cake adventure. I may be brave enough to try it again. One day. Maybe this weekend. Right after I finally get the wine going that I have been putting off for weeks.

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Picky Eaters

One of the other things Sally Fallon Morell mentioned, I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Children don’t like vegetables. Or, I should say, children are extremely picky about their vegetables. It’s very true. My favorite foods as a child were, in descending order: noodles, bread, potatoes, steak, bacon. I would eat just about anything if you put bacon in it. I hated most vegetables. I would eat them under duress, and only with a lot of salt. I wouldn’t have touched a salad to save my life.

Most children I know are like this. If you start them on it early enough, they will eat some vegetables- a few here and there that they will grudgingly accept as foods. But really they would be much happier with a lot of pizza and mac and cheese. I had been thinking about it a lot, because I babysat last week (and will do so again this week) and was challenged to think of what to make for dinner. My normal meals are not exactly kid friendly (spicy Thai vegetable stir fry, anyone?). I have a suspicion that if I have kids they are just going to have to suck it up (and get really used to stir fries), but with other people’s kids, well….

The thing that baffles me is the strong aversions kids have to certain foods. I can’t remember for the life of me why I was ardently against apples, for example. I remember I didn’t really like oranges because all the white stuff bugged me. It was a texture thing. Salad was also a texture thing, which I can understand because I’m still not huge on salads. Some of the kid things seem to be completely irrational, like an aversion to things that are a certain color (like white cheese). And I have to wonder how much of that is just being raised on processed foods.

But Sally Fallon (MORELL) mentioned the kid vegetable aversion and suggested it was because kids don’t need a lot of vegetables. Apparently, they have a hard time absorbing nutrients from vegetables. This is an intriguing concept. If kids instinctually know that they need a lot of other foods (especially high calorie foods like cheese and chicken fingers), maybe there is a reason they avoid vegetables.

This article has a good perspective: Taking the Icky Out of Picky Eaters Though she seems pretty sure kids should eat vegetables. Reading through her other articles, she keeps mentioning feeding kids salad, which seems pretty miraculous to me.

Really what I want to know is what to make for kids that they won’t turn their noses up at but that is still healthy (and preferably that doesn’t come in a box). Nothing is going to induce me to serve Kraft Mac and “Cheese” to children. Suggestions, please?

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I had temporarily forgotten that I was reading my way through the Julie/ Julia project, and went back and started reading it this weekend because really, what is better than lying in bed reading about cooking and listening to thunderstorms? Not much of anything, I should say. And as I was reading, I thought, wow, I really have to give this woman credit for making me want to eat meat. Because when I started reading her, starting with the book and moving on to the archived blog, I was still more or less vegetarian, with only a chicken to my name. And now I am eating meat like, every day, and I feel weird when I don’t eat it. It’s so strange.

I have a lot of food related things to catch up on, starting at the end, I think, and going backwards. Friday night was a melee of food: a ridiculously amazing dinner, prepared by a class of students at the college and their awe inspiring professor, followed by a lecture by Sally Fallon Morell. Unfortunately it was the short version of the exact same lecture I just finished watching online, so I had heard the whole thing already. But she threw in some bits I hadn’t heard, like her anecdote about putting a half stick of butter in her oatmeal every morning. Which immediately made me think: Julia Child!

Really, Sally Fallon (Morell- so hard to remember to call her that) is a sweet lady. More than a little politically correct for me. But having chatted her up quite a lot during the cocktail hour I would feel terrible saying anything particularly negative about her online. Not that I have negative things to say! Just that I don’t necessarily agree with her on some subjects, namely the following:

She suggested that we should all eat better so our brains are sharper so we can fly planes and build better computers, two things which I believe are absolutely unnecessary. I believe we should all eat better so we can figure out how to stop flying planes and building better computers.

She seemed to imply that it was my duty to have healthy babies by eating a good traditional diet. This frightens me a little. I’m not really down with the baby thing.

She is generally kind of evasive with her answers. Or maybe this is more of a desire to move things along and not get into long detailed responses. It’s just not my style. I prefer discussion.

She really seems to think it’s not that hard to get raw milk in MD. It really is. Unless you know people or are willing to drive to PA. But for someone who is just getting into this food thing and has no idea where to go? It’s really hard.

Finally, I asked her one of my burning questions: how much of mood related “disorders” is diet and how much is life itself? Because a lot of what I’m reading, and not just Sally Fallon, goes on about how much happier we’d all be if we were eating right. Now, I won’t deny this. I’m sure we’d all be MUCH happier if we were eating right. But she said diet was like, 99% of it and that just can’t be true. I was talking about it yesterday with someone else who was at the lecture. And he was saying, oh yeah, you’ve lost your land, you’re basically a slave in some kind of neo-colonial system, you’ve seen your entire family murdered in front of you, you’re in fear for your life, you could lose your children at any time, but if you eat enough butter you’ll be totally happy. And I said, yeah, and it doesn’t matter so much if your father is beating you and raping your sister, you just need to eat more good fats. It’s kind of ludicrous, to suggest that diet affects that much of our mood, that we can “make the environment we want.” It’s simply not true. To say such a thing would be to deny the mess that we’re in, and the fact that it simply sucks. I can eat healthy and I will feel a lot more stable and capable of dealing with shocks, but if my life sucks, it doesn’t stop sucking just because I eat healthy. That’s fairly insulting to all the people who are living in really, truly terrible situations.

Aside from that I think her message is terribly important and that she’s worth listening to. Definitely worth learning from as far as healthy eating goes, and she’s a strong advocate for making those kinds of foods available. I wish her all the best. We just have very different methods- but that isn’t to say that either of us is necessarily going about things the wrong way. If she wasn’t out there writing and speaking it’s doubtful I ever would have come across this diet. And thank god I did, because I’m pretty sure it saved my life. And for that I can be eternally grateful.

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Feds Invade Farm for a 5AM Inspection

I hate the FDA. I really do. I don’t think I have anything else to say. I will definitely be asking Sally Fallon about it tonight at dinner.

Here is my NICFA update from late last night on the same matter:
FDA Raids Amish Farmer Dan Allgyer
Please take action (see ACTION at end of notice)

Kinzers, PA-At 4:30 a.m. on Tuesday April 20, Amish farmer Dan Allgyer went outside to begin milking his small herd of dairy cows. On the normally quiet Kinzer Road in front of his farm, just a few miles from the Nickel Mines Amish massacre of 2006, several unfamiliar vehicles drove slowly past. Two months prior, on February 4, FDA agents had trespassed on Allgyer’s farm, claiming to be conducting an “investigation.” Allgyer had suspected they would be back at some point, because many other small dairy farms around the country have been similarly treated by the FDA. Following is Dan’s account of Tuesday morning’s events:

I became aware of the cars as soon as I walked out on the sidewalk as part of my morning routine around 4:30 a.m. and immediately said to myself something is going on, there is too much traffic on Kinzer Road. I was watching and noticed three cars were cruising down Kinzer Road right behind each other, and immediately thought, hey, that looks like trouble. I watched and pretty soon one car came back and parked on my neighbor’s farm, on private property, just as the FDA agents had when they came on my property in February; it was exactly the same place.

A couple minutes later, the other two cars pulled up and joined the first on my neighbor’s property, where the occupants appeared to be in conference with one another. Shortly after that, they turned their headlights on and drove in my lane – this would have been at about 5:00.

I stood back in the dark barn to see what they were going to do. They drove past my two Private Property signs, up to where my coolers were, with their headlights shining right on them. They all got out of their vehicles – five men all together – with big bright flashlights they were shining all around. My wife and family were still asleep. When they couldn’t find anybody, they prepared to knock on the door of my darkened house. Just before they got to the house I stepped out of the barn and hollered at them, then they came up to me and introduced themselves. Two were from the FDA, agent Joshua C. Schafer who had been there in February and another. They showed me identification, but I was too flustered to ask for their cards. I remember being told that two were deputy U.S. Marshals and one a state trooper. They started asking me questions right away. They handed me a paper and I didn’t realize what it was. Agent Joshua C. Schafer told me they were there to do a “routine inspection.” At 5:00 in the morning, I wondered to myself? “Do you have a warrant?” I asked, and one of them, a marshal or the state policeman, said, “You’ve got in your hand buddy.” I asked, “What is the warrant about?” Schafer responded, “We have credible evidence that you are involved in interstate commerce.”

They wanted me to answer some questions, my name, middle initial, last name, wanted to know how many cows we have on the farm. I answered those questions and some more. Finally, I got over my initial shock and said I would not be answering any more questions. They said O.K., we’ll get on with the “inspection.”

I went to go talk to my wife. As I walked away, they held a quick excited conversation and I heard one of them say, “I’ll take care of him.” At that point, apparently, they had designated one of the marshals to stick close to me and dog my footsteps. He followed me as I walked toward the house. I went in the house quickly and told my wife a few words to let her know the situation, then immediately came back out of the house before the marshal had time to follow me in. When I came back out, they were inspecting all the coolers sitting out. They spent about a half hour digging through the packed coolers filled with milk and other food – all private property – taking pictures.

At one point during the cooler inspection the state trooper said to me, “You have a nice farm.” I responded, “We’re trying to be sustainable, but they don’t want to let us.”

While they inspected the coolers, I read the warrant. Among other things it said that any search was to be conducted “at reasonable times during ordinary business hours.” When I exclaimed, “Ordinary business hours!” and pointed this out to the marshal who was dogging me, he said, “Ordinary business hours for agriculture start at 5:00 a.m.” I challenged him that the warrant does not say agriculture hours, it said ordinary hours. He replied, “That’s what the government told us.”

Then they started looking around, as though in search of something in particular. They went up to one door that had a clear No Trespassing sign on it, specifically including government agents, and they did not go in the room, though they shone their flashlights around in it. Then they asked me, “What is on the other side of the door in that [same] room?” Agent Joshua Schafer asked this. I looked him in the eye and did not answer. When they saw I was not going to answer, the other FDA agent said, “Okay, come on,” to agent Schafer, and they went into the room and through the closed door on the opposite side. I had another one of those signs on my walk-in cooler adjacent to my freezer, so they went through that door also. They spent probably another half hour rooting around, like a couple of pigs, in the freezer and cooler area and took many pictures.

When they came out, they asked me where I keep my containers and jugs for milk, and I refused to tell them. I figured they could look for themselves. Then they were walking all over the farm, checking everything out, everything except the house. Agent Joshua Schafer even opened my dumpster and inspected inside it, as though he thought I was hiding something in it. At that point I went and started milking my cows – it was way past milking time.

When I was just about done milking, Schafer and the other agent came in the barn and wanted me to answer some more questions. I told them I would not. The second agent said, “Are you gong to deliver those coolers to Bethesda and Bowie Maryland?” I just looked at him. Then Schafer made a gesture and said, “The stickers with those towns names are on the coolers,” as through to say, you might as well tell me.

I replied, “I told you I won’t answer any questions.” After that they said, “We are done for today. You’ll be hearing back from headquarters.”

Then they got in their car and left. The state trooper and the marshals had left already.

They came in the dark, shining bright flashlights while my family was asleep, keeping me from milking my cows, from my family, from breakfast with my family and from our morning devotions, and alarming my children enough so that they first question they asked my wife was, “Is Daddy going to jail?”
THE NEXT MORNING Allgyer received an overnight, extremely urgent Letter of Warning from the FDA stating that “Failure to make prompt corrections could result in regulatory action without further notice. Possible actions include seizure and/or injunction.”

ACTION: Please call and write the number and address below. Express yourself. Tell them that you support Dan Allgyer. If you drink fresh, unpastuerized milk tell them that. Tell them that more people every day are drinking fresh milk and this is going to increase. It’s not going to stop no matter how many farmers they persecute. Tell them the government has no placebetween individuals and the farmers from whom they get their food.

Philadelphia District Office
Serves Delaware and Pennsylvania.
Food and Drug Administration
U.S. Customhouse
Second and Chestnut Streets, Room 900
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 597-4390 8:00a.m. – 4:30 p.m. (Eastern time)

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Time, Water Running Out for Ogallala, America’s Biggest Aquifer

When I first saw the headline for this article I thought, wow, finally, the mainstream news has picked up on what is likely to be one of the major (ecological? economical?) disasters of our time. Aside from running out of oil. Next major issue: running out of water. I only put that one second because it’s likely we’ll hit the oil crisis first. But everywhere around the world, especially in the US, aquifers are drying up. And when they dry up, WE WILL ALL DIE.

That’s what makes the water issue so much more dramatic than oil. Yeah, oil will dry up and the entire economy will collapse, but after the upheaval and the civil wars that will undoubtedly result, people will still (presuming no nuclear weapons were used) have a shot at surviving. You can survive without oil. The knowledge is there and it does not require fancy schmancy technology. Water, however. There is no possible way for humans to survive without water. NONE. And, in case you are one of those people who never figured this out, we can’t drink salt water. It dehydrates you because of the, you know, salt. There is only so much fresh water in the world, and we are losing it at an immense rate because people insist on attempting to grow crops in places where it is completely illogical to grow.

I take a little offense at the article implying the Great Plains were once deserts. They might be by the technical definition, in that they never got that much rainfall, but they were certainly lush with growth. Any desertification in the sense of lots of bare ground and tumbleweeds and all that is the result of agriculture gone horribly wrong (I mean, in Nevada, yes, plenty of that, but not the actual Midwest). Before Europeans came along, the Great Plains were endless fields of very complex perennial grass based ecosystems. These grasses had root systems up to twenty feet deep, that were so old, and so interconnected, that you could really go from one end of the country to the other on these roots. You could never have the millions of buffalo that once roamed the plains surviving on nothing. They were eating these grasses. And then the Native Americans that lived there ate the buffalo.

To say that the Great Plains today are fertile is a flat out lie. Yes, once they were fertile, because all those deep root systems had built up foot upon foot of nutrient rich topsoil. But when Europeans came in, they tore up all the grasses and planted annual grains (like wheat and alfalfa) that sucked all the nutrients out of the soil, leaving it dry and dead. The only reason the Midwest is green at all these days is because they dump massive piles of synthetic oil based fertilizers on the fields, and irrigate them with the water from those aquifers (this article doesn’t even mention oil). You didn’t have to irrigate the perennial grasses. One, they had evolved to be perfectly happy with the amount of rainfall in that area. Two, their roots reached down far enough that they could get to the water below. Now, of course, the aquifer has been drained so far that you have to drill hundreds of feet to hit water. So I’m not even sure what the chances of restoring the grassland ecology of the plains are.

Because that’s really what needs to happen if we’re not all going to die. At the end of the article he goes on about buying time until farmers develop dry farming techniques (you mean managing native grasslands, mr. reporter? because that’s the only dry farming technique I know of) and the biotech industry develops drought resistant crops. Are you SERIOUS? Your proposed solution to the draining of the largest aquifer in the country and perhaps the world is to GENETICALLY ENGINEER DROUGHT RESISTANT CROPS? Idiot. Complete idiot.

What is possibly going on here is that he still thinks the Midwest is the “bread basket” it was before the Great Depression (which was caused by, you know, REMOVING ALL THE TOPSOIL FROM THE PLAINS). You know what ended the Great Depression? Developing petroleum based fertilizers to make up for the loss of topsoil. And now what’s going to happen when the oil runs out? It’s going to make the Great Depression look like a Sunday picnic. But all is not in vain. I would say that the vast majority of the irrigated crops in the Midwest are some kind of grain, yes. But most of them are not edible grains. At least not by us. They are definitely not being used for bread, unless that bread happens to contain high fructose corn syrup (ok, again, some of them are, but not the majority). These grains are for animal feed. They are fed to animals at feedlots to fatten them up to make hamburgers. And they are also turned into all kinds of fun products like additives and artificial sugars and just about every ingredient in processed food you can think of (because corn and soy are also grains).

But you know what else would feed all those cattle (and make them a million times healthier to eat)? Restoring the grasslands. Halting all this expensive and ridiculous planting of annual grains that has demolished the topsoil and turned it into a dustbowl (especially once the aquifer is gone). Cows can eat perennial grasses. In fact, it is what they have evolved to do. Bison, too. And then we eat the cows and the bison. None of this, let’s try to force the soil to produce nutrient leeching annuals by drowning it in the dead bodies of million year old animals. It’s easier, this way. Rotate animals on pasture. Or, for that matter, just let them go wandering or something. Though because we have a capitalist structure where we have to own things, I suppose that wouldn’t work. Death of the commons and all.

I’ve heard of people trying to develop perennial grains so we can keep producing all that grain while not destroying the topsoil, but the problem is perennials are more interested in building root mass than in putting their energy into a large seed (which is what annuals do- that’s why the vast majority of our food crops are annuals). This might be all well and good if it ends up working, but to me it seems kind of counter productive. What are we doing eating all that grain in the first place?

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