Tom’s been working out the logistics of the updated version of Fat Head and traveling, so I thought I’d pop in to say “hi” before the end of the year, and wish you all the best as we move into 2013 and whatever cliffs we end up falling off of or into.
Tom and Chareva got into Springfield the weekend before Christmas, which happened to work out for a trip to Linda Logan’s farm. Linda is who I’ve been getting my raw milk from, and three of her cows just had calves about a month ago. I’d arranged to bring the grandkids out to see them, so the timing was perfect for Tom and Chareva and the girls to come, too.
Here’s what milk looks like in the original container…
We picked one of the only really cold, windy days so far this year, so we’re all pretty bundled up. That’s Linda on the back of the truck pitching hay to her “girls.”
There’s one less cow than there had been the week before. Linda had a Hereford steer that had finally gotten too big to not send off to the processors. She didn’t want a whole cow, and we had some friends who’d been wanting to split half a cow. So I’ll be putting real grassfed beef in our freezer in a couple of days. I think I’ve also found a source to buy a calf this spring that Linda will pasture for us. It doesn’t get any more local than that. I’m trying to come up with a good name if we get one. Maybe “Roulade.”
Linda’s been reading up on my hero Joel Salatin and Management Intensive Grazing and is planning on getting more into the rotational grazing model. She’s also talking about maybe pasturing some pigs, so I’ve been trying to figure out where to source some Mangalitsa pigs (which I unfortunately heard of due to new Michigan DNR regulations on feral pigs that they’re using to put a family farm operation out of business).
After seeing the cows, the two grandkids and Tom’s girls spent some time and energy chasing Linda’s free ranging chickens around the grounds, and administering copious belly-rubs to the dogs, who would’ve preferred we left all the girls there.
When we went into the house to get our milk and eggs, Linda had something else to show the kids. One of her Coca Maran chickens had hatched three chicks the week before. It was pretty cold weather for chicks, and one of them hadn’t made it, but they’d brought the other two into the garage and they came around pretty well. We spent the next fifteen minutes satisfying all four girls that they’d all got to hold the chicks the same amount of time.
It was a great way to get the kids out of the house for the whole morning, get some fresh air, spend some family time together, and pick up some of the groceries at the same time! Here’s our haul — milk (“creamy milk” according to the grankids), yoghurt, and eggs.
That’s my idea of shopping.
Again, very best wishes for the new year. Let’s keep getting healthier, pester our friends in moderation, and celebrate progress (I’m seeing more celebs talking about carbs being the problem). If this is a cheat day for you, have one for me.
I had a great find at the used bookstore today. It was an old copy of the White House Cook Book, which was copyrighted in 1887! It’s not in the best condition, but it includes photos of the first ladies as well as rooms in the White House. I perused some of the recipes and as expected, they have lots of fat – heavy cream, lard, you name it!
She also informed me that the book is available online courtesy of Project Guttenberg. So I perused the text, and while there are recipes for breads and cakes and other sweet or starchy goodies, there is indeed a heavy emphasis on meats, butter, lard, suet, etc. Here’s a quote from a section on proper frying:
Many French cooks prefer beef fat or suet to lard for frying purposes, considering it more wholesome and digestible, does not impart as much flavor, or adhere or soak into the article cooked as pork fat.
What, no soybean oil? No Crisco? No canola oil? Of course not. Nobody cooked with that garbage back then. The technology required to extract garbage oils hadn’t been invented yet.
Since this book was written before refrigerators were common, there’s also a section on preserving eggs:
There are several recipes for preserving eggs and we give first one which we know to be effectual, keeping them fresh from August until Spring. Take a piece of quick-lime as large as a good-sized lemon and two teacupfuls of salt; put it into a large vessel and slack it with a gallon of boiling water. It will boil and bubble until thick as cream; when it is cold, pour off the top, which will be perfectly clear. Drain off this liquor, and pour it over your eggs; see that the liquor more than covers them. A stone jar is the most convenient—one that holds about six quarts.
Eggs can be kept for some time by smearing the shells with butter or lard; then packed in plenty of bran or sawdust, the eggs not allowed to touch one another; or coat the eggs with melted paraffine.
Butter and lard again. Who even keeps lard in the house these days? (Besides me, I mean.)
The book includes a brief section on how to handle common ailments: figs for constipation, alum and brown sugar for whooping cough, and so forth. But my favorite was the treatment for asthma:
Sufferers from asthma should get a muskrat skin and wear it over their lungs with the fur side next to the body. It will bring certain relief.
I was diagnosed with mild asthma some years ago, but it disappeared when I stopped eating wheat. If only I’d known about muskrat skins …
Amusement value aside, clearly people back then weren’t worried about butter, eggs and lard clogging their arteries and giving them heart disease. And why should they have been worried? Heart disease was rare. Yes, some heart attacks probably went undiagnosed, since the EKG wasn’t commonly used until the 1920s. But even after doctors could properly diagnose heart attacks, the rate of heart-attack deaths didn’t take a sharp rise until the 1940s – when consumption of butter and lard was dropping.
When I’ve pointed that out in previous posts, I’ve heard from lipophobes who insist that the only reason few people died of heart disease back in our lard-powered past is that they didn’t live long enough to die from a heart attack. “Of course people weren’t dying of heart disease!” they tell me. “Most people died before they turned 40!”
What they apparently believe is that most adults died sometime around age 40. That’s simply not true. They’re citing (without understanding) the average life expectancy in the 1800s. Before antibiotics were developed, lots of children and teens died of infections, which dragged down the average. But the people who survived into adulthood had a very good chance of living to a ripe old age, despite the lack of drugs and surgeries available today. You can get a clear sense of how dramatically childhood deaths affected the statistics by visiting this site, which shows not just average lifespan, but average lifespan starting from different ages. For example:
In 1850, the average lifespan from birth for boys was only 38 years. But for boys who had already reached age 5 in 1850, the average lifespan was 55 years. For young men who were already age 20, the average was lifespan was 58 years, and for men who were already 40, the average was 66 years. Keep in mind those figures would include violent deaths, not just deaths from diseases.
By contrast, the average lifespan for a boy born in 1950 is listed at 65, but for a young man who was already 20 in 1950, it’s listed at 68 — just a few years older. In other words, by 1950 antibiotics were saving a helluva lot of kids who otherwise would have died from some disease. That’s why the average life expectancy shot up, not because adults went from routinely dying at around age 40 to dying at around age 70. There have been 70-year-olds in human societies for a long, long time. Even in the Bible — hardly a modern work — there’s a reference to our lifespan being three score and ten years.
I recently finished reading Killing Lincoln (which I enjoyed immensely) and was reminded again of how common childhood deaths were in the 1800s. Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln had four sons. Eddie Lincoln died at age four. Willie Lincoln died at age 11. Thomas “Tad” Lincoln died at age 18. But Robert Lincoln lived to be 82. The average lifespan of the four Lincoln sons: 28 years. But Robert, the only son to survive into adulthood, certainly lived long enough to develop heart disease – as did most people who saw their 20th birthday.
When answering the “people died before they turned 40!” crowd, I’ve occasionally pointed out the longevity of some of the country’s founders: Thomas Jefferson died at 83. John Adams died at age 90. Benjamin Franklin died at 84. (One of Franklin’s legitimate children died at age 4. The other died at age 65. Average lifespan of his legitimate children: 34.5.)
Curious if I was cherry-picking the few old-guy founders who came to mind, I looked up brief biographies of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence. This was not a group of old men — their average age in 1776 was 46. I excluded one who died in a duel and another who disappeared at sea when he was 30. Of the remaining 54, the average age at death was 68 – old enough to develop heart disease.
But again, that’s just an average. Of the 54 remaining men who told King George to stuff it, 43% lived past the age of 70, and 26% lived past the age of 80. In other words, there were plenty of very old Americans back in the day and therefore plenty of potential candidates for a heart attack. But heart disease was rare.
So here’s the history lesson: Cook like your great-great-great-grandma and don’t be afraid of meat, eggs, butter and lard. Follow the recipes in the White House Cook Book of 1887.
I predict you’ll like the squirrel soup in particular.
Chareva’s father loves bagels in the morning but isn’t allowed to eat them anymore because of his type 2 diabetes. After we made the almost-paleo bread recipe last week, Chareva suggested we try making bagels from the same recipe when her parents visited this weekend. (Her parents and brother were here to celebrate her 40th birthday, which was Tuesday.)
Last night I whipped up the bread recipe and made it more bagel-ish by adding about a half cup of finely chopped onion and a pinch of garlic powder to the batter. I poured the batter into a donut pan and sprinkled more onion and a bit of coarse salt on top before baking. Since this wasn’t a big ol’ loaf of bread, I only had to bake each batch of six for 30 minutes at 325 degrees.
The experiment was a success. We got 21 bagels from the mix, and they toasted up nicely this morning. By the time we spread butter and cream cheese on them, they tasted just like the jack-up-your-glucose bagels Chareva’s father can’t eat anymore.
When we bought our little farm, we told the elderly woman who’d been living there she could leave behind any junk she didn’t want to move and we’d deal with it. In addition to quite a few tools and farm implements, she left behind two shelves full of books, including some old, faded cookbooks published in the 1950s. Chareva looks up recipes in those books now and then and noticed some interesting entries recently.
The first was the opening of the section on poultry in a Better Homes & Gardens cookbook. The section was titled To Clean Poultry:
Pick poultry dry or dip into hot, not boiling, water until water penetrates the skin. Grasp feathers close to skin and pull in the direction they grow, not against it. Cut off wing tips if desired. Singe by holding dry bird over direct flame, turning to expose all parts of the body. Remove pinfeathers with tweezers, or use the dull edge of a knife.
Cut around vent and make slit almost to the breastbone. Insert hand and carefully loosen entrails from back and sides; pull out, making sure lungs are removed. Push back skin of neck; cut off neck close to the body and remove windpipe. Separate gizzard, heart, and liver and cut away gall bladder attached to liver, being careful not to break it. Cut through thickest part of gizzard; open and pull out sac. Remove oil sac from tail.
Gizzard? Gall bladder? Lungs? How many cooks these days would even know what those look like? I don’t think I could identify a gall bladder. We’re so far removed from our food these days, it’s actually surprising to find a cookbook that describes how to clean a chicken.
Another interesting section in the same cookbook is titled Your Daily Food Plan. Here are the recommendations:
Leafy green and yellow vegetables: one or more servings per day.
Eggs: preferably one each day, at least four per week.
Milk and cheese: Children through teens, 3 ½ cups to one quart of milk. Adults, 2 ½ to 3 cups. (There are conversions listed for cheese.)
Potatoes and other vegetables: two servings per day.
Citrus fruits: one per day.
Meat, poultry, fish: one serving every day. Include liver, heart and other organ meats.
Breads, cereals: some each day.
Dry beans and peas, nuts: one or more servings per week.
Fats and oils: some every day and as needed in cooking.
We went from those recommendations in the 1950s to being told to avoid eggs, butter and whole milk and to consume 6-11 servings of grains per day in the 1970s. Boy, that sure worked out.
In an old Betty Crocker cookbook, Chareva found this introduction to the Meat section:
Meat has been the backbone of man’s diet from the beginning of time. Wild fowl and fish were devoured with the deer and wild boar which the caveman brought from the hunt. The great feasts of medieval times were made up of meat and very little else. It is not strange that food in those times was referred to merely as “meat.”
Less than fifty years ago in our own country, any dinner or banquet worthy of the name included a separate fish course, a main course usually referred to as “the roast,” an “entrée” or made-dish such as creamed sweetbreads or chicken patties.
Family and guests in a famous Washington mansion at the beginning of this century started Thanksgiving Day with a Porterhouse steak and codfish balls for breakfast. The dinner a few hours later began with oysters on the half shell, followed by cream of chicken soup. Next came fried smelts with tartar sauce. All this was the prelude to the roast turkey with cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, baked squash, boiled onions, and parsnip fritters. Following was chicken salad, then a venison pastry. The traditional mince and pumpkin pie shared honors as dessert with ice cream and hickory nut cake. Fruit and cheese topped off the meal. In the even, a supper was served including cold roast turkey and scalloped oysters.
Today we are content with a serving of meat, poultry or fish for dinner. Without one of these three, it is an unsatisfactory meal for most people, undoubtedly because they miss essential nutrition elements. All three give adequate amounts of high quality protein and B-complex vitamins. Only fish also gives some vitamin D, and fish is a good source of vitamin A. Meat is particularly rich in iron and phosphorous for blood and bones. Shellfish and salt-water fish contain more iodine than other common food. In addition, the fat of these foods is a rich source of energy … it also adds flavor and eating enjoyment.
That’s what your grandmother or perhaps your great-grandmother knew about cooking and how to feed a family.
Too bad we decided Grandma didn’t know as much as all those experts in the 1970s.
School kids have been complaining about the tasteless lunches mandated by the USDA. Meanwhile, at least one school in Sweden had the opposite problem:
A talented head cook at a school in central Sweden has been told to stop baking fresh bread and to cut back on her wide-ranging veggie buffets because it was unfair that students at other schools didn’t have access to the unusually tasty offerings.
Annica Eriksson, a lunch lady at school in Falun, was told that her cooking is just too good. Pupils at the school have become accustomed to feasting on newly baked bread and an assortment of 15 vegetables at lunchtime, but now the good times are over.
The municipality has ordered Eriksson to bring it down a notch since other schools do not receive the same calibre of food – and that is “unfair”.
From now on, the school’s vegetable buffet will be halved in size and Eriksson’s handmade loafs will be replaced with store-bought bread.
Setting aside the health ramifications of serving “too good” bread to students, this incident underscores an attitude among some people (including many voters in the U.S., unfortunately) that drives me nuts: If some people are better off than I am, that somehow makes my situation worse, so I don’t want them to be better off. The kids in other schools who don’t have access to Ms. Eriksson’s good cooking aren’t being harmed, but somehow it’s more “fair” to them if the kids in her school don’t get to enjoy her meals anymore.
I don’t know anything about Swedish politics, but it would be interesting if food fairness became a campaign issue. I can picture some burly Swede named Joe the Baker confronting a Swedish candidate (one who has never baked anything and has no idea where bread comes from or how the baking business works) and demanding an explanation.
“Look, I don’t have anything against you,” the candidate will answer. “I just think we need to, you know, spread the bread around.”
“But it’s my bakery. I saved for years and worked 80-hour weeks to get this going.”
“You didn’t build that. Somewhere along the way you had some help.”
I didn’t mind giving up bread when I went low-carb, but I do occasionally miss tuna melts, patty melts, BLTs and other sandwiches, so I’ve kept an eye out for grain-free bread recipes.
We tried this one last week and thought it was pretty good, although the loaf only rose to about half the height of sandwich bread. So we tweaked it and tried again. This time the load produced sandwich-worthy slices. Here’s the tweaked recipe:
16-oz. jar creamy almond butter
2 teaspoons baking power
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup warm water
1. Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. Mix the ingredients in a mixing bowl.
3. Pour the batter into a 9 x 5 greased bread pan.
4. Bake until firm. (In our oven, it took one hour.)
While watching Sunday Night Football, I decided to taste-test the bread by making one of my long-ago favorite sandwiches, a grilled cheese with ham and a fried egg. (Yes, I know cheese isn’t paleo.) I’m pleased to report that the almond-butter bread held up well. Chareva also informed me the bread holds up to being toasted in a toaster.
I took a ham and salami sandwich to work today and it was quite filling, no doubt because the almond-butter bread has a very high fat content. Since Chareva’s parents are visiting later this week in honor of her 40th birthday and her dad loves bagels, we ordered some bagel pans. With any luck, the recipe will work for onion bagels.
Chareva and I watched an excellent documentary over the weekend. Farmageddon is a look at how our federal and state governments are beating up on small farmers who sell real food directly to the public. If you still believe the fiction that we live in a free country, this film should change your mind.
Farmageddon was released in 2011, but I somehow missed it. I became aware of it last week only because Passion River Films, which is placing Fat Head with schools and libraries, sent me a proof of a promo sheet that included both films. Intrigued by the description, I asked them to send me a copy.
The film was written and directed by Kristin Canty, who wondered why it’s legal to buy processed junk food for her four children, but often illegal to buy real, fresh, unprocessed food directly from a local farmer. As she put it:
“I decided I needed to tell this story. My goal was to let these honest farmers using centuries old farming practices tell their side of the stories. So, I set out to make a film. Farmageddon is in no way meant to convince anyone to drink raw milk, or eat grass fed beef, but rather an argument to allow those that want to make those choices to do so. It is simply about freedom of food choice.”
Much of the film is exactly that: small farmers and co-op owners telling their own stories — often augmented with video footage they shot while being raided by government agencies. Those stories ought to horrify you. They did me. Imagine hearing a noise in your kitchen downstairs, taking a peek down there, and seeing some burly guy dressed in black pointing a gun at you and ordering you downstairs. (That particular farmer believed for a moment that a serial killer had broken into her home.)
In raid after raid documented in the film, police and government agents showed up in SWAT gear, guns drawn. The raid on Rawesome Foods, which I wrote about in a previous post, was one such raid caught on video and included in the film.
I always wonder why raiding a co-op or small farm compels these government thugs to pack enough heat to take down a Central American drug cartel. What do they think the farmers are going to do? Hurl gallon jugs of raw milk at them? Slap them with some unwashed spinach? Splatter fresh eggs all over those cool SWAT uniforms?
Before anyone protests that the farmers who were raided must have been breaking some laws (we’ll set aside the stupidity of those laws for now), in many cases they weren’t. In what struck me as the most outrageous episode documented in the film, federal agents seized and destroyed a flock of milk sheep from a family farm. The family had legally imported the sheep from Belgium and New Zealand and jumped through a number of federal hoops in the process. So did the feds raid the farm because the family was selling raw sheep milk illegally?
Nope. The USDA decided – based on zero evidence – that the sheep might be carrying Mad Cow disease. Rather than do something legal and logical, such as testing the sheep, they seized the flock and destroyed it. When the family demanded the results of tests the feds had conducted after killing the sheep, they were told (for months on end) that the results were pending. They only learned later, in court during a lawsuit they filed, that the results were negative and the feds had known as much almost immediately.
Since this was a government operation, the idiocy didn’t stop with destroying expensive sheep. No, the feds decided the entire farm might be contaminated and also seized valuable equipment – they even carted away the hay that the sheep had been eating. The feds claimed the hay had to be destroyed in a special facility to avoid the risk of spreading Mad Cow disease. The farm husband became suspicious, followed some feds who took away his hay, and saw them dump the stuff in a nearby landfill.
When it became clear that the federal agents had destroyed a family’s livelihood to prevent a non-existent threat, the USDA expressed its deep regret by offering the family a fraction of what they’d spent to import the sheep.
And you wonder why I’m a libertarian? As George Washington put it, Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force. Force and the threat of violence should not be employed to prevent willing sellers from making voluntary exchanges with willing buyers. It always amazes me how many people can’t wrap their heads around that simple idea.
On my other blog, I’ve been debating a big-government lover I knew when I lived in Los Angeles. In one round, I sent him a link to an article about a raid on a farm-to-forks dinner, during which the food cops destroyed all the farm-fresh food. Since admitting that government regulations can be wrong would cause his head to explode, he of course immediately replied that for all we know, the uninspected food would have made people sick.
Yes, whenever you sit down for a meal (whether the food has been inspected or not), there’s a small risk you’ll eat something that will make you sick. Whenever you drive, there’s a small risk you’ll be killed by an oncoming vehicle. Whenever you jet ski, or play football, or hike in the woods, or do pretty much anything besides lie quietly in bed, there’s a risk you’ll be injured. The point is, you should be allowed to take those risks if you choose.
I can choose to smoke cigarettes, drink 44-ounce glasses of Coca-Cola, buy a pint of bourbon and chug it or have unprotected sex with strangers, and no armed authorities will try to stop me. But if I want to buy raw milk from a farmer who certainly knows it would be bad business to make his customers sick, suddenly it makes sense to some people to send in men with guns to stop us. Amazing.
And let’s be honest here … these raids aren’t about protecting the public from the horrors of raw milk or unwashed vegetables. They’re about protecting large producers from the small farmers whose food more and more consumers are coming around to prefer.
Sally Fallon of the Weston A. Price Foundation makes several appearances in the film, as does Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms and an attorney who’s battling to give consumers the right to buy real food from real farmers. Let’s hope he wins those battles. As Thomas Jefferson said (quoted in the opening of Farmageddon):
If people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.
This is an important film, and I urge you to find a way to watch it.