While I’m on the Low-Carb Cruise, my brother Jerry (a.k.a. Older Brother in comments) agreed to write a guest post or two. He’s a relatively new convert to low-carb eating and is 30 pounds lighter as a result. Nearly 20 years ago, he was the one converting me: I became a libertarian after debating politics and economics with Jerry and realizing I was getting my butt kicked. After licking my psychic wounds, I asked him to suggest some books I should read. He did. I’ve been fascinated by economics ever since.
The State Journal-Register in Springfield, Illiniois has been publishing Jerry’s witty observations on politics and economics for years now. I’ve been bugging him lately to start his own blog and expand his readership beyond Springfield, which he finally did. I know some of you don’t care for my libertarian take on current issues, but for those of you who do, I’m sure you’ll enjoy Jerry’s blog as well: www.JerryNaughton.com. And now here’s his guest post …
If you’re here because you’re a fellow low-carb lifestyle type of one persuasion or another, you’ve probably heard the same thing if you’ve gotten into a conversation with someone after they noticed the “new you” —
“yeah sure, but what do you eat?”
The idea being, of course, that once you’ve had bacon and eggs for breakfast, sausage and eggs for lunch, and a steak or plain burger and water for dinner, you’ve pretty much run the gamut of fine low-carb cuisine. And the gamut only runs from A to B.
Of course, you tell them you also eat fish, some veggies, chicken, the occasional fruits, nuts; and they’re thinking, “Right. Me too — only with bread, pasta, and desert!” It’s a mindset thing.
Meal monotony certainly hasn’t ever been part of (Tom’s or) my lifestyle, and I’m happy to report that, after a bit of research, the switch hardly registered as a gustatory bump in the road for my little branch of the Naughton family tree.
By way of background, you need to know that Tom’s and my upbringing had a few non-traditional (at the time) twists. By which I mean, our mom. Mom went back to college when we were pre-teens –first to pursue French, then switching to English Lit (she got her Masters, which is how Tom got to be a grammar grump. I ain’t so much, but a little).
Nothing sounds more mundane now, but this was in the mid-1960’s. The idea of a married woman going to college just for the joy of it, when she had a husband with a blossoming career and children still at home was a bit jarring to people back then. Her fellow students couldn’t figure out why some woman older than them was in their classes. Some of her professors couldn’t figure out why some woman older than them was in their classes.
At around the same time, Dad got caught in what was then the cutting edge medical fad of the day — he was told he had waaaay too high cholesterol. The statin money machine was either not around yet or was sputtering around killing people in the trials, and the low-fat vs. low-carb debate hadn’t been hijacked yet, so all Mom got was “you need to get away from the red meat and potatoes. Eat more green vegetables, and cut back on the sweets.” Oh, and we started eating margarine. Yuck.
It worked out pretty well though because Dad, who was really a good sport about the whole college thing, also didn’t really mind cutting back on the potatoes, and was ok with more chicken and fish, but still wanted beef fairly regularly. With the occasional martini. For an Irish-Catholic guy with blue collar roots and a first generation college degree, that was damned progressive. And Mom, who’d been enamored of France, found that French cooking, and “gourmet” cooking in general, was not potato dependent. She’d discovered another passion.
So, besides having a mother in college whom we alternated tutoring in math through our high school years, Tom and I would find ourselves saying things like this:
(Sitting down to dinner) “Boeuf bourguignon AGAIN?!? Jeez Mom, why can’t you make us something like macaroni and cheese once in awhile?”
Or (after dinner at a fancy restaurant),
Date: “Wow that was good. What’s you think of the Chicken Kiev?”
Naughton Boy: “Um, it was ok, but it wasn’t as good as my mom’s.”
As a result, by the time Tom and I got out of high school, we didn’t think anything about already knowing how to saute, roast veggies, make killer omelets, and other sundry skills that endear one to college buddies. And Mom passed Algebra.
Fast forward a few decades of being something of a foodie, casually adding a couple of pounds each happily married year. Then there’s a sudden acceleration in weight gain and odd symptoms (mid-afternoon sugar crashes, pantry raids, wondering where your energy went — you know the drill) – which you assume are just part of getting older and a lack of willpower. Then, The Younger Brother makes a movie.
So you’re thinking,
“yeah sure, but what do you eat?…”
Well, fortunately, as we were realizing we had to commit to a new lifestyle, Tom had just sent a copy of the Eades’ Six Week Cure for the Middle-Aged Middle to Mom to look over. After perusing the first part of the book, I bought my own copy and took it home. We figured the protein shakes would be ok for the opening two weeks, then apprehensively thumbed to the recipes section to see how much deprivation this was going to require. We were stunned. As in, “this looks GOOD!” It looked like things we’d pick out of magazines to try (one of The Wife’s favorite “keep busy” activities while I do most of the vacation driving). The first time we whipped up their recipe for steamed cauliflower with butter, cream, and Boursin “Garlic and Herb” cheese in the Cuisinart, our boys declared they’d never go back to mashed potatoes.
We’ve since found other sources – Dana Carpender’s books, for instance – and realized there’s really no lack of great dining experiences available. Your mileage may vary, depending on from which angle you’re approaching. If you’ve decided on straight paleo, for instance, you won’t likely be serving strawberries with whipped cream.
I can see where it can cause hang-ups if your culinary history has been pretty much straight meat-and-potatoes. After all, your universe of known food options just got cut in half. But if you consider that making a commitment to a healthier lifestyle was really the major decision, consider also that learning to make hollandaise sauce or investing in a good food processor or a couple of cooking classes is not a big deal. It’s actually fun. Plus, you get to eat your mistakes!
There’s been very few favorite recipes that weren’t adaptable to low- or no-carb. Some are easy as ditching the milk for real, honest-to-God cream.
If you don’t believe me, just see for yourself…
Sure, we eat seafood. Preferably broiled in garlic butter and seasonings, and with a side of Parmesan broccoli and red peppers from the Eades’ book.
Of course there’s the beef. This is a tenderloin with a sauce made with the drippings, beef stock, green peppercorns, and lots of cream. This was a family dinner, so we ate around the starch and hit the veggies in the Queen Ann’s Potatoes. The beer? That’s our oldest son’s — he’s low-carb otherwise, works out like a fiend, and can throw a ball from deep center field to home plate like a bullet. He also took these pictures, mainly to torment a couple of his buddies who are finishing up law school too far away to join us for meals very often.
Pound chicken breasts flat, lightly fry in butter and olive oil, saute shallots in drippings, add wine and lemon juice and reduce by half, a few capers, garnish with parsely. Wow, you just made Chicken Piccata for a crowd.
Why just have steak when you can top it off with gorgonzola butter? Bake a garlic head in foil with a little olive oil in the oven for an hour or so, let it cool and pop cloves into a bowl with a stick of real butter, a couple ounces of gorgonzola (blue cheese), and some parsley. Mash it up, roll into about an inch wide “log” and refrigerate. Next time you’re grilling, when the steaks are just about done, slice pats from the butter log and put it on top to melt its wonderfullness onto the steak (or finish it off under the broiler). Those are sweet potato fries that we fried in bacon drippings — couldn’t catch a duck. Yeah, the wine is a cheat. If we could figure out how to make a nice Malbec with whizzed up cauliflower, The Wife and I would give up the occasional glass! Pick your battles, no?
We thought the Sunny Day Garden Salad from the Eades’ book sounded good. Their suggestion to add salmon was even better. Then The Wife said “why don’t we broil some of the Boursin Garlic and Herb cheese on top?” Perfection.
So you were thinking, “what about breakfast,” right? The Wife saw this on a Paula Deen show. Why would you eat an English muffin carb-bomb when you can use just a whiff of flour on thinly sliced green tomatoes, fry them in bacon drippings, and use that as your base? And nothing against our neighbors to the north, but you needed bacon drippings anyway and it’s practically a rule that you need some bacon each day, so that subs for the Canadian bacon below the poached eggs on top. Use the super easy hollandaise sauce recipe — drop three egg yolks into a small blender or processor with two tablespoons of lemon juice (that “cooks” the yolks) and a dash of white and/or cayenne pepper, then whiz it up some. Melt a stick of butter — God, don’t you love being a low carber!! — in the microwave, then drizzle/pulse it into the yolks/lemon juice as close to serving as possible (hollandaise tends to set up pretty quickly). You can’t mess it up like with the double-boiler version, and people will think you can whip Julia Child’s butt.
Speaking of butt, here’s something that oldest son does for fun. This pork butt got brined overnight, then spent the whole day getting smoked. It’s even better than it looks. It literally melts in your mouth. I started the brine for him about a half day too early once and it got a little salty. Psych! You’re a low carber, remember? You can’t get too much salt!
Here’s what the pork butt looked like just before it was done. And yes. That is bacon. On the grill. Being smoked. With Canadian steak seasoning on it. Could it possibly get any better?
Thanks to all of you for putting up with me while Tom was Low-Carb Cruising. I hear he got a really good video of his new “Science for Smart People” presentation, so hopefully that won’t take too long to edit before us landlubbers get a chance to see it.
See you in the comments.
Here’s The Wife, Mom, and me (“The Older Brother”) in southern Illinois last fall at the excellent Blue Moon winery — doing our locavore duty by drinking locally. I’m the one in the middle!
As you might guess, we’re saying:
— The Older Brother
If you enjoy my posts, please consider a small donation to the Fat Head Kids GoFundMe campaign.