Guess who is going to a Movnat clinic this July 6th-10th? Me. And I'm super excited! We'd love to get an NYC group together to go to this, so if you are interested, let us know at the meetup. If you don't know who Erwan is, check out his website and this excellent Men's Health article.
Good news: The mobile slaughterhouse is here.
Dangerous fish oil: How about doing what our ancestors did and eating fish instead of taking a pill?
Playgrounds: Waaaaaay too dangerous for our precious children. You wouldn't want children to actually be outside moving around instead of sitting inside doing test prep anyway.
This is a food blog...why post about the oil spill? To me, the oil spill represents what's wrong with politics in this country. How is it "free market" to let a company destroy what it doesn't own and not have to pay the full consequences? This whole thing cuts across party lines.
Much of my family lives in the Gulf and wild foods from the ocean are a big part of their diet. In many poor areas of the Gulf Coast these are the last remaining healthy traditional foods that people eat. Because of this oil spill, more and more people will lose their food traditions and become dependent on unhealthy processed food.
That's my gumbo you are ruining BP...
I am having one of my favorite restaurants, Get Fresh Table and Market, so a full three-course paleo dinner this weekend. That means lots of wild fish, grassfed meat, and tangy local vegetables cooked in lard. If you are in NYC, you should definitely check it out.
We don't have an exact menu, since they cook based on what is available at the farmer's market each day, but here are some dishes I have had there:
Pastured pork belly and beets
Tender venison with crunchy pecans and tangy greens
I've also had delicious diver scallops, black sea bass, prawns, duck, and pig's head there. It's a great restaurant and I'm really looking forward to eating a fully paleo meal there.
Is that scary or what? It's the half pig's head at hipster Williamsburg BBQ joint Fatty 'Cue. But pigs head is the best kept secret out there. It's fatty fat flavored fat. And this was more than enough for me and two guys. The best parts- the fatty jowls and cheeks. The parts I let the guys have- the brains and eyes. The tough skin and the bones went to some lucky dogs.
Most species that eat meat prize the head over any other part. Killer whales often just eat parts of the head and leave the rest to scavengers. Native Americans that made big kills often did the same. The head has tons of fat- and the brain particularly is a great source of DHA.
At Fatty Cue it also comes with pork rinds and a delicious pineapple curry that was perfect for cutting the fattiness of the meal.
While the MacLeans article on paleo was one of the better ones, I think the illustration they chose (above) is indicative of what's wrong with paleo media coverage. While there have been exceptions, nearly every reporter I've talked to about paleo has asked me ridiculously sexist questions pulled out of some sort of pulp caveman fantasy. "Do do the guys doing the paleo diet club women and bring them back to their caves?" was one of the worst.
It's fiction people.
It doesn't help that there are more than a few paleo dieters willing to go along with this and frame paleo as a way to pick up hot chickz and to reclaim a ridiculous idea of masculinity. Guess what? While evolutionary psychology has some lessons, it's been distorted to justify disgusting behaviors that have nothing to do with being human. Real hunter-gatherers are diverse: some have rigid gender hierarchies and others don't. But such men don't want to hear about the complexities of human cultures, they just want to cover up their own very-real inadequecies by spouting nonsense about how manliness is being oppressed by modern society.
Nevermind that it's women who are the ones consistently shamed away from eating meat, hunting, and fishing, among other things. The wimpiness of our culture cuts across the gender divide. Did you know the foragers have LOWER testosterone than studied hunter-gatherers? American men are crash and burn- high testosterone when young probably leds to stupidity and aggression, which quickly fizzles out into viagra-popping territory.
In the media's stupidthropology, men in the Stone age hunted while women pattered about with children on their backs gathering the makings of an organic argula-walnut salad. Guess what? Gathering is a dumb word that demeans the role of women, because in the anthropology world it includes fishing, trapping, and hunting game- often with complex traps and nets. But this is consistently ignored, even by female writers.
And guess what- the Stone Age wasn't an era of hot muscular men having sex with a zillion ladies while the wimps were beaten into the jungle. Humans are not bonobos. We are wired for "monogamy," though this biological term has little to do with the modern Christian fantasy of having one partner for the rest of your life. Rather, it seems humans bear biological marks of serial monogamy with some furtive extra-pair copulation....with as all things human, quite a bit of diversity in terms of sexual preferences.
Apparently if you give up gluten without actually being celiac you'll get fat and have headaches. Well, at least according to idiotic dietitian (two words that go together often) Tanya Thomas. I can't believe newspapers give industry shills a platform for their nonsense, but it's almost hilarious given the stupidity of the arguments. You might get headaches from not enough carbs? I'm sorry, but that's not true and even if it were there are hundreds of foods that are both carbs and gluten-free.
There has been a spate of articles saying food allergies are overdiagnosed and perhaps they are, but allergies are the tip of the iceberg. Food sensitivities are a recognized medical condition and elimination diets are the only valid way to diagnose them. Maybe those of us with sensitivities don't have blood tests to wave in front of everyone's faces, but that doesn't mean our problems are fake.
Methinks the wheat industry is scared, which is ridiculous given how small this trend really is.
One of the most interesting conversation I've had about food was with a Pirahã. It occurred when I ate a salad in the village for the first time.
Rice, beans, fish, and wild game, smothered under copious amount of Tabasco sauce, can keep one's culinary drive satisfied up to a point. But if you like the crunch of fresh lettuce, then after a few months you might begin to dream about eating a salad.
The missionary plane visited us every eight weeks in the jungle to bring mail and supplies. It was our only contact with the world outside the Pirahãs. On one trip, I sent out a note to a fellow missionary and asked if he would do me the tremendous favor of sending some salad makings on the next flight. Two months later, our salad arrived.
That evening I sat down to my first taste of lettuce, tomatoes, and cabbage in six months. Xahopati walked up to watch me eat. He looked bemused.
"Why are you eating leaves?" he asked. "Don't you have any meat?"
The Pirahãs are very particular about foods, and they believe, as we do to some degree, that the foods you eat determine the person you become.
"Yes. I have a lot of canned meat," I assured him. "But I like these leaves! I have not had any for many moons."
My Pirahã friend looked at me, then at the leaves, then back at me. "Pirahãs don't eat leaves," he informed me. "This is why you don't speak our language well. We Pirahãs speak our language well and we don't eat leaves."
This is from Daniel Everett's Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes. I first heard about him through this New Yorker article. He was sent as a missionary to convert the Pirahã tribe in the Amazon by learning their seemingly-impossible language. In the process he was turned from a pious missionary to non-theist linguistics professor. To a linguist, the Pirahã are fascinating because they have no numbers or recursion in their language. To anthropologists they are also fascinating because their culture values immediacy and first-hand experience above everything. They are resistant to Christianity because they do not believe in anything that they themselves have not experienced. They have no formalized religion or religious rituals, but they firmly believe in spirits and often consort with them.
The Pirahã are no longer hunter-gatherers, though they were until very recently. Their diet is still mainly wild fish and game, but it's amazing how far foods of civilization have traveled into the depths of the Amazon. Wheat, sugar, and whiskey in particular seem to have had a large negative effect on this tribe. Socially they have some elements of the tribe in The Continuum Concept, but Everett seems less prone to romanticization, though some is definitely present. I personally find it strange that he would describe the tribe's social structure as being non-coercive when there are mentions of murder, gang-rape, and marginalization of women. It's impossible to say much about whether those are "natural" for humans based on this tribe and other tribes that represent the last of the world's foragers. Almost all such tribes have been removed from their original homelands, pushed into the world's harshest habitats, and subject to the negative effects of trade for things like alcohol.
But that doesn't mean they should be dismissed. Everett recognizes negative aspects of their culture, but is eternally grateful for what he learned about life from the Pirahã.
Reading the book, I took away most lessons about what we don't need. The title itself is what Pirahã say as a greeting at night and alludes to the fact that for them a good night's sleep is a dangerous thing. People sleep lightly at night and there is always someone awake by the fire, sometimes many talking and laughing. People in the US act like a good night's sleep is essential, but perhaps it's not. However, one major difference is that the Pirahã have the ability to nap whenever they want during the day.
The Pirahã also scoff at the idea of regular meals. They have no food preservation methods and simply eat when they have made a kill. Apparently being hungry is no obstacle to exerting themselves: "I have seen people dance for three days with only brief breaks, not hunting, not fishing, or gathering -- and without stockpiled foods."
Children are kept close to their mothers during the nursing period, but after weaning they are treated as full members of the community. According to studies by psychologists, the Pirahã spend more time than any other known culture laughing and smiling. This is despite the fact that loss and hardship are a daily part of life. A breech birth or an infected wound is a death sentence.
Reading this book and its descriptions of how different the Pirahã mindset is from the Western, it reminded me that paleolithic hunter-gatherer cultures would have been more diverse than we give them credit for. We have these stereotypes of chieftains, ritualized dances with painted faces, elaborate myths, trading using shells... the Pirahã have none of these things.
In a world of homogenizing agents like trade and monotheistic religion, the fact that the Pirahã exist is amazing. Most such tribes have simply been wiped out. The paleolithic was a world of fairly isolated tribes that may have had cultures completely different from anything around today.
Frugal it's not, but for busy New York City professionals time is money and Freshdirect does save time. Luckily, their product line has also improved recently and there are several wild local seafood options and even a limited selection of grass-fed local meat. I usually only use Freshdirect if I'm working on an important project with a tight deadline. Despite being kind of expensive, it's a lot cheaper and healthier than the alternative when I'm busy...which is eating takeout.
So what's good at Freshdirect?
100% grassfed local ground beef is an obvious choice. It can be quickly made into patties and seared. If you eat dairy there are several good grassfed cheeses available, as well as grassfed milk and cream. Unfortunately, the local chicken and eggs are fed a "vegetarian diet" which is a euphemism for grains.
But the seafood options are great. My favorite is the local sea bass, flounder, and cod filets. You can also order wild salmon and crabs. I hate to say it, but when you are busy and don't have access to real cooking equipment, a fish cooked in a microwave can be a good option. When a microwave was my only option, I would put the seasoned fish in a microwave-safe glass dish with some chopped vegetable and microwave until cooked.
The Thai coconuts I've ordered from there have been the best quality that I've found in the city. I often get purple spoiled ones at the coop, but the Fresh Direct coconuts are well...fresh. They also sell coconut oil now.
They have local vegetables and fruits too, which are usually pretty good. If you are truly pressed for time, they also sell vegetables that are pre-prepped.
Overall the OMGIDONTHAVETIMEFORANYTHING Fresh Direct diet is: grassfed beef patties and local fish cooked in coconut oil with some easy-cook vegetables like asparagus. Now if they only sold lard...
Yesterday I face two cooking fears: small fish and frying. I was at the Union Square Farmer's market with a paleo friend yesterday. At the Blue Moon fishery booth I was about to get some sort of inoffensive seafood, maybe scallops. But then I saw my friend order something that was an unappetizing pinkish grey. It was monkfish liver. Not to be outdone in the adventurous eating department, I looked for something slightly more appetizing. My eyes alighted on a barrel of small iridescent blue fish with pearly eggs spilling out of their guts.
"What are those?" I asked. The fisherman answered "sparing." I had no idea what that was, but I ordered half a pound. It was a mere $2, but instantly I felt regret. What would I do with those? I'd never even heard of sparing.
Apparently they are smelt. Which I'd heard of, but never tasted. When I visited Madrid last year I had many fresh delicious sardines and anchovies, which I found much tastier than the canned varieties, but since then I haven't eaten many tiny fish.
I didn't eat fish until I was 18 or so and didn't cook it until I was 19. My family always ate fish, but I thought it was absolutely disgusting and only fit for cats. I forced myself to eat fish when I went paleo because of the convincing literature on the health benefits. I definitely didn't like it and pretty much did my best to drown it in heavily-spiced sauces. Since then I've tried different types of fish slowly and always with trepidation. I've fallen in love with shellfish, but my relationship with oily fish is a little less stable. I usually try fish for the first time at restaurants, because at least they sort of know what they are doing...right?
Either way, I was stuck with these smelt and wasn't about to waste them. According to my Google searches...eating the whole thing was recommended. Pretty scary...the thought of eyeballs and brains and ugh.
Per some tips on paleohacks, I washed and dried the smelt, then dipped then in egg, and then in a mixture of coconut flour, almond meal, and my favorite spices. I'm pretty cautious about frying, but a good method I've found is just to use lots of heat, but protect yourself with a lid from the popping oil. I fried the fish in a couple of tablespoons of ghee until they were crispy. Then I seasoned then with a dash of salt and a pinch of lime.
And I ate them. I'd never eaten a whole entire fish before, but these were delicious. I totally forgot about eyeballs and other nasty bits. They were crispy and mild. I dipped some in my delicious homemade mayo and they were perfect. It's great to add another healthy, cheap, and fairly easy food to my recipe box!
Bets asks "Where does one even buy an eye or a nose to eat? The thought of peeling a tongue invokes pain to my core. That said, I never say never and am game."
From Offal Good's store
Offal can be scary, but it can also be mind-blowingly delicious. I hate to admit it, but if I had started out on offal with a bag of bloody livers bought from the farmer's market, I might not be writing this blog (the same goes for fish...I'm never would have tried shrimp or lobster if I didn't eat out). Let a good restaurant usher you into the wonderful world of offal, starting with the least-scary things- cheeks and marrow bones, which are so delicious they probably don't qualify as offal. Tongue is also delicious, but hard to cook right. If you are willing to eat non grass-fed meat, most authentic Mexican places serve it, but it's increasingly found in upscale restaurants. Liver you might not need to go to a restaurant for, since pates can be found at a good butcher or grocery store.
Eating food prepared by an expert can give you a taste of how great offal can be when prepared properly, which is a great motivation to cook it yourself. When I started cooking from Nose to Tail, I knew what I liked about offal and was able to modify the recipes accordingly. For me, the route to a great offal recipe is tons of spicy chili and lime.
I also admit to being very inspired by the offal adventures of one Anthony Bourdain.
Another reader pointed out that most of my advice seems cleared towards people in major metro areas, but I started out eating offal in Champaign, IL, which is three hours from a major city. You might have to travel some, but supporting a good chef and eating great food is worth it. Also, sometimes ethnic restaurants in American towns will have offal items not on the menu, so it might be worth asking.
My latest offal adventure was at Traif with Rhys Southan & friends. I admit I was a little scared to try the sweetbreads, but both of us have reputations as adventurous eaters to uphold and we bravely ordered them. Thankfully, they were absolutely delicious...who knew they would have so much delicious fat! I remember when I was a kid and I thought sweetbreads were cinnamon rolls and asked for some. When my grandma told me what they were I was totally appalled and couldn't believe anyone would eat such a horrible thing. Hehe.
However, Rhys and I were sorely dissapointed by X'ian famous foods. When we ordered the lamb face salad we expected it to be absolutely ghastly, full of macabre parts of eyeballs and gums, but instead it was a mixture of nice spicy fatty cheeks and vegetables. Sometimes you want your offal good, other times you want to just eat it because it exists.