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Archive for the ‘Raw Milk’ Category

The funny thing about this whole raw milk battle is that each side is convinced they are completely right, and the other side is completely wrong. I got lectured the other night by someone who is convinced that raw milk kills babies- and here I am convinced that raw milk is the second best thing for babies, after breast milk.

Now, some of the advocates for raw milk are convinced that all raw milk is manna from heaven, and refuse to hear any aspersions against it. I am not one of those people. I am perfectly aware that you can get sick from raw milk, but you can also get sick from pasteurized milk, or meat, or spinach, or any number of things. You can get sick from small children. You can get sick from sitting in airplanes. I mean, we live in a society where people are in very close quarters. It is pretty much guaranteed we are going to be fertile breeding grounds for loads of diseases.

The funny part is, the people who are against raw milk are completely convinced that raw milk is this dangerous risk to public health and it kills everyone it comes in contact with. That website I linked to the other day, for example. That guy is totally convinced that everyone who drinks raw milk gets sick. This is far from the truth. And statistics can be made to say almost anything, and statistics about illness and outbreak even more so- because people don’t always report illnesses, and sometimes when they are reported, they are reported wrong (as in, it is assumed one thing made a person sick when it might have been another).

It was brought to my attention recently that the fancy steaks you can buy in the store go on and on about their quality nearly as much as I do about the grass fed steaks we get from our neighbors. The funny thing being, at least to me, that those other steaks are bragging about being “grain-fed”- the very exact thing I’m always so proud my steaks are not! Apparently the people who sell grain-fed steaks are convinced that they are the height of quality, when it comes to steaks. I, on the other hand, wouldn’t be caught dead eating a grain-fed steak, cause heaven only knows what the poor cow suffered before being slaughtered. Most likely it ended its life on a feedlot, being fed some kind of ridiculous concoction of “grain,” that also included rendered proteins from other animals (oh yes, that’s still happening), chemical supplements, and goodness knows what else. Cows aren’t supposed to eat all those things. Their stomachs are made to eat grass. And you’re telling me they are higher quality because they’ve been fed GMO grains? Puh-lease.

Speaking of GMOs. I recently heard the amusing alternative to GMO (Genetically Modified Organism), “God Move Over.” I believe Mark McAfee of Organic Pastures dairy in California coined that one. Farmers (and corporate types) who are fans of GMOs think they are the greatest thing since sliced bread. Plants with pesticides built in! Who couldn’t beat that? But people who don’t like eating pesticides are not such big fans, and farmers who end up with GMO plants in their fields who didn’t plant them there, and who end up in court because Monsanto is a big dumbface who sues the pants off people just because Monsanto copyrighted seeds accidently ended up in someone’s field are definitely not fans.

The point, I suppose, was that the strange thing about this whole food scene is you have people on such rampantly opposite ends of the spectrum. On the one hand: the germaphobes. On the other: the bacteriaphiles. Or the live culture lovers or whatever you want to call them. And each person is rabidly convinced that their way is the right way. I was reading this fantastic New Yorker article about Sandor Ellis Katz the other day (sorry I can’t share, they made it subscriber only on their website) and the guy was talking about people who love to eat rotted meat. That just crosses a line, in my opinion. The argument is supposed to be that prehistoric peoples sometimes ate rotted meat, but seriously, prehistoric people probably ate a lot of very nasty things, and that alone is not an argument for us to eat them, too. I’m going back to the argument that it’s much more pleasant to drink raw milk then to eat fermented fish heads.

I know I’ve made the conclusion before, but there really is no other way to say it: you have to eat what makes you feel good. The odd thing is, I suppose, that people are really good at ignoring when they don’t feel good. There are plenty of people who run around exhausted all the time, are listless, and have constant stomach problems, and it apparently doesn’t occur to them that this could be related to what they eat. Plus you’ve got all these people being diagnosed with allergies (and the allergies just keep getting crazier, how many people are allergic to peanuts now?), and coming down with diabetes, and cancer, and god only knows what else, and still, no one goes, hmm, maybe there’s a reason for it…

Clearly I must be right!

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That last post went way off track. I had intended to actually talk about how I heal myself if I don’t go to the doctor for medicine. I in fact almost never go to the doctor these days, unless something is going on that I simply can’t diagnose. But after the horror I went through last summer, when doctor after doctor couldn’t do a thing for me, and after I got put on round after round of experimental drugs to no effect, I think I’ve forever been broken of any desire to go to a doctor for a “cure.“ It’s amazing that my childhood didn’t break me of this earlier- it would take me hours to talk about all the ridiculous things I’ve allowed doctors to do to my body in my lifetime.

I’ve always suspected there had to be another way. Had to be another way besides round after round of medication (always changing, because my body would get used to one and cease to react to it), and too many rounds of antibiotics to count (antibiotics which never failed to make me nauseous). Doctors don’t always know what they’re talking about. There was the nurse that kept telling me to sleep more when I had mono, to the point where I had insomnia for days and was so wired when I went back to the doctor she thought something was wrong with my heart and sent me for an EKG. Turned out she just freaked me out, because my heart rate would go down whenever she left the room. Or there was the doctor who, upon hearing that I charted as my form of birth control, spent the rest of the appointment repeatedly saying, well when you get pregnant… and pointing out that ovulation can be irregular, as if I hadn’t realized this (and asking, repeatedly, are you sure you don’t want to discuss birth control options? Maybe she thought I was too stupid to raise a child).

Most doctors I’ve seen are so incredibly condescending it’s no wonder that everyone walks around half terrified of having some disease. The way they talk, it’s amazing anyone is still upright and walking. And god forbid anyone ask questions of a doctor. God forbid, more than anything else, that you ask questions about what the medication does and how it works. Or if there are any alternatives. I’ve gotten so many nasty, disdainful responses from doctors that I now have some kind of complex about going. I spend the entire day before every visit steeling myself to be treated like an idiotic child who can’t seem to stop sticking things up their nose. I can’t possibly know more about my own body than a doctor. And any attempt I make to explain what’s going on, and what the symptoms are, is usually bull dozed over with a quick, here’s some medication.

I’m not saying there aren’t good doctors out there, I’m sure there are, somewhere. I just haven’t met them yet. No, I would much rather concentrate on prevention. Eating whole foods, that actually have nutrients in them. And exposing myself to lots of good bacteria.

Another thing that struck me in that Mark McAfee interview was his response to the question that all vegans and ex-vegans ask when faced with the prospect of drinking raw milk: but isn’t milk for baby cows? It’s true, it is. And I’m definitely against any farm that doesn’t let the baby cows drink the milk, cause really, that’s just mean. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy the leftovers. Mark McAfee made this point: all cultures that had intact eating habits and intact health (basically, that hadn’t been exposed to western diets) had some kind of super food they used to build immunity and to get the majority of their nutrition. Most cultures have some sort of fermented food that serves this purpose. In a lot of cultures, it’s some kind of fermented fish (especially heads). There are also fermented organ meats. And in the cultures that do have milk, they drink lots of it- though usually sour, because without refrigeration you don’t have a lot of fresh milk. All of these foods share very similar qualities to raw milk. We’ve just been spoiled by generations of mild foods- our tastebuds aren’t accustomed to things like sour milk or fermented fish heads. So while we could go and eat lots of fermented fish heads to get our nutrition, a lot of us are choosing raw milk instead…

… while the rest of the population eats more nutrient-free, sterile food. Do you ever wonder why it is that all those products in the center of the grocery store don’t go bad? Think about this for a moment. Things rot when bacteria latch onto them and start eating the nutrients. Pests go for foods that are high in nutrient quality. So the fact that all those foods can stay “fresh” for days, or even months, means the bacteria aren’t interested. That should really worry you.

I also learned, from the same podcast, the difference between when raw milk goes “bad” and when pasteurized milk goes bad. When raw milk sours, it’s because it’s turning into yogurt. You can very easily take raw milk that smells funny, add some additional yogurt culture, and get some very tasty yogurt. The milk itself isn’t bad. It’s just fermenting. On the other hand, you have pasteurized milk. When that stuff goes bad, you will literally get sick if you drink it. It putrefies, as they say. The few nutrients that remain get eaten by nasty bacteria, and you get that awful chunky grossness that no one in their right mind would touch. The foods I eat are alive. As Mark McAfee says, they don’t spoil, they “evolve.”

And why isn’t there “research” to prove all these things? Why do the doctors look at me like I’m a lunatic when I come in and say I get my health by eating well, eating lots of fermented foods, and drinking raw milk? Well, scientists haven’t really gotten into doing studies on all these things. Studies are very expensive. And who pays for the studies? Why, industries, of course! The medical industry isn’t going to pay for a study that proves you don’t need medications. Duh. Neither is the processed food industry. And since government bodies like the FDA get their funding from industries, well. Their researchers are going to focus on certain things that the industries want. So yes, my decision not to take medications is based on “anecdotal evidence.” But I also like to think it’s based on common sense.

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I’m pretty sure I used to be a hypochondriac when I was younger. I used to freak out at the slightest sign of something that was out of place, and would scour the internet for clues as to my symptoms. When it came to lady-related symptoms especially, I would get in a panic at the slightest sign that something was out of place. That all changed when I learned fertility awareness. Fertility awareness, or charting, is unlike the old “counting days” system that many seem to be aware of. Instead, women who chart keep track of three basic clues as to what’s happening in their bodies: their temperature, their fluids, and the shape and feel of their cervix (and there’s another one- how will I chart when my thermometer stops working?).

The more I’ve learned about my body, the more I’ve ceased to be alarmed by the things it does. This didn’t occur to me until the other day when it crossed my mind that I might be sick, and I simply shrugged it off because it didn’t make that much difference, except that I determined I had to get a lot more rest. Some of the peace of mind also, I think, comes from knowing there’s not much of anything I can do about minor illnesses, anyway. In the old days I might have run to the doctor at the earliest sign of a sinus infection (I have a chronic condition where I get sinus infections at least four times per year), asking for antibiotics, but these days there’s very little that will induce me to take antibiotics. Maybe if I had pneumonia or something. But even then I’d think twice about it.

I was medicated for one thing or another (mostly allergies and asthma) my entire life. And now I find out that the cause behind allergies and asthma, and the alarming rates at which they are increasing, especially among children, is poor immune system health. And most of that is related to diet. I’m never going to believe that growing up next to a power plant and generally living in an area with poor air quality didn’t have something to do with the asthma especially, but it makes sense with the allergies. In order to defeat allergies, you need to have an effective immune system that can fight off invasions. And in order to have an effective immune system, you need to be exposed to lots of things that make your body build antibodies and that sort of thing.

This is going to be the least scientific explanation of immune system function in the world, but bear with me. When you are growing in your mother, you are in a fairly sterile environment. There’s not a lot of back and forth with the outside world. You apparently pick up some of your mother’s antibodies, but the majority of your immunity comes from, believe it or not, the vaginal wall on your way out. That’s when babies pick up all kinds of fun germs and bacterias and things, and are forced to develop an immune response. They’re aided and abetted in that task by breast milk- which is full of all kinds of enzymes and more bacteria and antibodies and all kinds of things that babies need for functional immune systems.

Nowadays babies don’t get all these immune boosters. Instead, more and more babies are born through c-sections, and more and more babies are fed formula instead of breast milk. Formula does not contain antibodies, nor does it contain even a fraction of the nutrition found in breast milk. But we’re obsessed with sterility these days, and breast milk is just plain dirty. Add to all that an overabundance of antibacterial hand soap, sterilized foods, and an aversion to playing in the dirt. This leaves you with people who get sick really often. And are allergic to everything.

I was struck the other day, when listening to an old interview with Mark McAfee (on Underground Wellness, my current favorite podcast, but it’s not on this page, you have to get it on iTunes I think), raw milk guru, by just how insane this is. I’ve always said it was insane, but he put it in a whole new context. Our bodies are mostly made of bacteria. Like half our body mass is bacteria (or something). Bacteria help us with everything- from digestion to fighting off infections to simply existing. And yet we use antibacterial everything. We’re obsessed with pasteurizing milk and irradiating food to “kill the germs.” But our body is made out of “germs.” And by trying to sterilize our environments, and our food, we’re literally killing ourselves. If we removed all the bacteria from our bodies, we would die in a minute. And by not regularly inculcating our guts in particular with a host of good bacteria (from wonderful raw foods), we leave the path wide open for the bad guys- the E. Coli 157s or whatever the new one is.

It seems so illogical, when you stop and think about it. But we’ve all been raised to think germs are bad. We’ve all been raised to think that the cleaner something is, the better. But I’ve stopped washing all the dirt off my vegetables (gasp!). When I get sick, I drink more raw milk, because all that beneficial bacteria has to be good for something (and all the nutrients are pretty good too). A farmer friend was once making me dinner, and he stopped to apologize because he had dirt under all his fingernails. Actually, his fingers are kind of permanently black on the tips. This happened to be during the whole swine flu freak out, when everyone around us was paranoidly spraying down every surface with Lysol, trying to avoid getting sick. We both laughed that we would never get swine flu, because we were simply too dirty.

It’s really true. Children that play in the dirt are healthier. I mean no, not dirt that has been contaminated with industrial waste, and I’d never let kids go near a pile of manure from feedlot cattle. There are obvious limits. But some good healthy dirt? Children have to be exposed to the bad things if their bodies are going to learn to fight them off. Because, let’s face, there’s no way to avoid the bacteria. Not without avoiding ourselves.

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Well, last Saturday I had a holiday party, which kept me busy all day and from posting too many exciting pictures. This Saturday you get the make up for that: pictures of all the amazing desserts I made with raw dairy products! Bwahahaha!

So it started with an apple cake. Apples were from Lockbriar. The recipe was from my brand new local food cookbook, Dishing Up Maryland by Lucie Snodgrass. Beautiful photos, and everything I’ve made from it has been delicious so far. It has a brown sugar icing made with, you guessed it: raw cream! Before hand:

And after:

Mmmm. Delicious, really sweet icing.

Next up was a pumpkin pie, of course made with a little local pumpkin (from Redman Farm). It also included some raw cream, and plenty of local eggs, and flour. Recipe was from Joy of Cooking, and it was served with delightful raw whipped cream! Yay!

The spread from afar:

The spread up close:

It included the pie and cake, of course, but also some fermented veggies (also farm fresh and unpasteurized), crackers made by my friend Ms. Zumba (can you believe she MADE crackers? I’m still amazed), raw cheeses, bread from Against the Grain bakery, and the whipped cream plus some chocolate mousse, which didn’t make it into the picture as I believe they were still in the fridge. The arrangement is by Ms. Native Daughter Nursery, who you can also find at the farmers’ market.

The chocolate mousse actually turned out to be the hardest thing. I shouldn’t have been surprised, because I am flat out terrible at making anything that involves beating eggs for long periods of time. I get bored about halfway through, or I decide I’ve been going for too long and get afraid I’m going to over beat them or something. As a result, they weren’t as fluffy as they were probably supposed to be. But let me tell you about this mousse. I hadn’t really realized mousse is mostly eggs. I think I was thinking of ganache, which is just cream and chocolate. Mousse is butter or cream, chocolate, and eggs. Julia (whose recipe I was using) called for coffee and orange liquer, neither of which I had at the time. So I just added a dash of Kahlua.

And boy, was this stuff amazing. A-fing-mazing. So amazing that I didn’t mind that I accidentally spilled egg literally all across my kitchen (the floor, the wall, and on into the bathroom). I mean, I’ve always loved chocolate mousse, but this was on par with the best chocolate mousse I have ever tasted in my entire life. Just flat out mind blowing. It disappeared faster than anything else on the table (except the raw cheese and Ms. Zumba’s crackers).

Especially when paired with the whipped cream.

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More on Raw Milk

Real Raw Milk Facts
This is a fascinating little website, built by lawyers who specialize in food poisoning cases. Its intriguing that one of the cases they refer to regularly, the one in California in 2006, where six children came down with E. Coli 157 poisoning, is also the one where they never found the same strain of E. Coli on the farm where they all got their milk. If you read the CDC case on the incident, you will also notice that they never confirmed that any of the patients became ill from raw milk- just that they had all consumed raw milk in the past week (as did the rest of their families, so very odd that they were the only ones in their families to fall ill).

I’m not going to deny that there can be contamination in raw milk. There can be. There can be contamination in anything though. The issue is that the FDA and CDC are not always able to establish linkages- in fact, in a lot of cases, the families come forward and say they are pretty sure their children got sick from something other than the milk- but those cases are still used to keep raw milk illegal. The association is enough for them. If I go out for dinner tonight, and get food poisoning tomorrow, chances are they would claim I had gotten sick from the raw milk I drank for breakfast this morning (rather than from the restaurant last night). There is a predisposition to blame raw milk for all ills.

My other big problem with this website (but don’t say I don’t show you the other side!), is that they seem to claim raw milk is inherently dangerous because farms are inherently dirty. No fricking shit. Farms have dirt on them. Farms with cows have manure! My god! How could such a thing be? How could we be allowed to come into contact with such things! The horror.

As always, decide for yourself. I know I’m looking forward to a nice big glass of raw milk when I get home, however…

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Good morning! Sorry I haven’t been posting regularly. It’s that no-internet-at-home thing again.

So, on this beautiful (freezing) Friday morning, check out the latest raid on raw milk drinkers. This one is at a drop point- someone’s house. Nice move, Minnesota government.

There are two videos from customers of the raid. The agents from the Minnesota Dept. of Ag. ended up towing the entire truck of milk.

The Complete Patient: Minnesota Raw Milk Drinkers Better Get Over Their Shock
The Complete Patient: Confrontation Over Raw Milk in MN

I agree. It’s time to start getting arrested, because challenging this in court is the only way we’ll get the law changed.

Oh, and by the way, the “Food Safety” bill passed the house and is back to the senate. Holding our breath to see what happens next…

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I have been referring regularly to my copy of the Joy of Cooking, a birthday gift from my dear uncle, owner extraordinaire of Normals bookstore in Baltimore. It is a 1970s reprinting of the original 1931 book. It is, unlike many other used cookbooks, surprisingly lacking in stains and bits of 40 year old food. It also is the container of hundreds upon hundreds of recipes.

One of my favorite things about the Joy of Cooking is certainly the key feature it is known for, which is explaining what things are in general before diving into recipes. So if I need explicit instructions on cutting up chicken parts, they are right there (with illustrations), followed by a brief overview of all the ways to cook a chicken. And then a few variations, or what constitutes the recipe portion of that chapter. The same if you need to make a pie crust, or a custard, or chop up a cabbage. Clear, concise instructions. On, as far as I can tell, literally every aspect of cooking.

The one place she is not so clear is on what some of the items she describes are. For example, when perusing the book last week with the HF, we were rather perplexed by the series of recipes for Charlottes. The first was a Charlotte Russe, which I know to be a clothing store aimed at teenage girls who desire to look a little sexy. After perusing the various recipes, I realized Charlottes are apparently those things you get when you soak ladyfingers (a kind of cookie thing) in alcohol. Will be making some of those promptly.

Presumably the people of 1931 knew what Charlottes were. People in 1931 apparently knew a lot of things modern cooking audiences would be very perplexed by. And that, I think, is my favorite part of the Joy of Cooking. She writes for an audience who would see “milk” in a recipe and assume whole, unpasteurized milk. In several recipes she actually makes a note that if you are using pasteurized milk you need to alter the recipe. Hmm, I say, how intriguing- you mean, there is a difference between whole, unpasteurized (raw) milk and pasteurized milk? Funny, that’s what the FDA has been claiming there’s no difference at all, except that all the pathogens have supposedly been killed in the pasteurized version. I wonder how that could be…

Needless to say, any book that suggests using unpasteurized milk might work better for a recipe gets a big thumbs up from my direction. She in general seems to assume you are going to be using ingredients, as in, flour, sugar, whole butter, not “buy a box of cake mix.” I HATE, and by hate I really mean HATE HATE HATE recipes that for an ingredient ask you to buy a box or can of something already prepared. For example, when perusing stuffing recipes for Thanksgiving, half of them had you buy stuffing mix at the store and then doctor it up. Are you kidding? No. When I make bread stuffing, I want to make it from BREAD. I wouldn’t think that would be so hard to understand, but then again, most people shop at the grocery store, so who am I to say.

The Joy of Cooking literally has everything (or so I’m convinced). You can’t just sit down and look through it page by page, because it’s got about 500. And one page might have ten or more recipes on it, if the recipes are variations on a basic concept. But if I have a large quantity of something or another and no idea what to do with it, I am now turning first to Mrs. Joy, because chances are there at least fifteen recipes for it. I’ve already demonstrated this method with cabbage. As HF and I were glancing through it the other night, with me looking for recipes for chicken, we discovered just how extensive the book really is. Not only are there recipes for chicken, and turkey, and lots of them, there are also recipes for: quail, pheasant, mudhen, grouse, etc etc. A few pages on you come across the chapter for small game, which includes recipes for not only rabbits, but squirrels, opossums, raccoons, beavers, armadillos and that standby Eastern Shore favorite, muskrat. According to the Joy of Cooking, beaver tail is actually quite a delicacy, highly prized by Native Americans. The thing I love about this chapter is that the master recipe not only talks about how to cook small game, but includes directions (and diagrams) for skinning, gutting, and otherwise chopping into pieces various small game. There is a special diagram for squirrels, as they are so small. And very special instructions for removing the musk glands from muskrats and beavers. Apparently the key to any small game is to hang it in the cold for several days (HF says this is to remove most of the stink).

For my part, I have told the HF that if he brings me a beaver, I will do my best to cook it up for him. This caused me to picture an image of a pioneer household, with the wife at home baking, when the husband, muddy and cold, suddenly comes in the door with a beaver. He hands it over to the wife, but before doing anything she reaches up for her handy copy of the Joy of Cooking. HA! I do figure that when civilization collapses, if we haven’t quite puzzled out sustainable farming with animals, the book to have is not some crazy survival manual, but the Joy of Cooking. Because if all else fails, at least you will know how to properly cook a beaver.

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