Inuit only ate meat right? Wrong, the Inuit have an extensive variety of plant foods as well, documented in this wonderful ethnography...
When I started out on paleo, I used to buy a container of almond butter every couple of days. Some of you might be thinking that it's a lot of omega-6, others might be thinking...what's the big deal? I think at the beginning of your paleo diet you shouldn't worry about omega-6 from whole foods like nuts. You will probably see great improvements, as I did, even on a diet dominated by nuts. I don't want to turn people off from paleo by making these foods seem problematic, but as time passes there might be issues you are still having and it make be worth going closer and closer to the diet of the Stone Age.
I think it's worth mentioning the economic concept of diminishing marginal returns here. The idea is that inputs initially contribute a great deal to production, but eventually the return per individual added unit decreases. It can be a useful analogy in dietary philosophy as well. I'm betting that the very basic first steps towards an evolutionarily appropriate diet are going to be the most significant for us- the removal of soda, candy bars, whole wheat bread, pasta, and other food that's mostly just bad. Beyond that we might get diminishing returns. I personally have cleared up a few minor problems by reducing my intake of omega-6 fatty acids from even whole foods, but they certainly aren't as significant as the ones I got from not eating vegetable shortening and high fructose corn syrup. We all have to look at how close we can get to our ancestor's food and how much is worth it, which can be very individual and can seem nitpicky and obsessive.
But people in the Stone Age didn't have to worry about these things because they simply weren't exposed to them. Nuts were a seasonal food, olive oil didn't exist, and humans simply didn't encounter avocados until we migrated to South America. Even if they are pastured, domestic hogs and poultry require significant amounts of legume and grain rations, so they are going to have very different fatty acid profiles anything our ancestors encountered. One of my friends who processes poultry told me the sad story of a farmer who tried to do pastured chicken without grain/legume rations and they were miserably sickly and thin. Domestic poultry isn't built for surviving on that diet.
I'm not saying that these foods are bad, but if you are on a paleo diet and you are still having some nagging problems, it might be worth limiting them.
This is the diet I've moved to personally. Nuts are there, but I'm no longer eating bags of them. I'm also through with my "lets eat every type of salted/cured pork for every meal" stage. A "basic" paleo diet took care of most of my problems, like GERD, but I still had some lingering IBS issues. Minimizing these foods that are on the borderline made a big difference, but it required trial and error. I've met people who can eat as much bacon as they want, but no tomatoes. When I eliminated nightshades...nothing happened that I could discern and I missed the taste. It just wasn't worth it.
I do think that just because we know saturated fat isn't the worst thing in the entire world means that we should eat as much as we want.
This interview with Cordain points out that while the Inuit were healthier than many modern Americans on an almost all-meat diet, there is evidence they had arterial plaque and lower bone density. I also think Kurt Harris has been a great voice of reason from the other side and his recommendation of mostly animals that eat grass has worked well for me. Probably because I am already thin, I have had good results with a "medium" saturated fat, low omega-6, and medium-carb diet. I don't need to count any calories or do any micromanaging if I eat mostly seafood, coconut, vegetables and things that ate grass...and treat the rest as dessert and flavoring.
What has been your experience?
Edit: Just want to clarify that I don't think saturated fat is bad. I certainly get more than any mainstream recommendation and get much of my calories from it, but I think there is an upper limit to how much is optimal.
Occasionally I get the criticism that the paleo diet would destroy the world if everyone ate this way or it's an impracticable diet for the world. But how many of us are preaching this diet as a cure for world hunger? Not many.
Most of the world's population can't eat paleo, but they also can't get enough calories. Does that mean we all should eat a diet of 800 calories millet gruel every day? Paleo, for most, is a diet of self-improvement and making the best out of your circumstances, which is a healthy and natural human desire.
But I did study agricultural development in college and I do think about what, for example, these people from Chad are eating:
Not much. You often hear the claim that if we devoted blah blah blah acres of land to growing beans for everyone instead of raising cattle we could feed the world. Yeah right. If for some reason farmers in the US had to stop raising cattle do you think they'd just randomly start growing grain for Africans and giving it away? Do you think this unlikely event would be good? How do you think the above farmers would feel if they spent grueling hours toiling over fields of millet and all the sudden there was free grain flooding the market and they couldn't sell their crop?
We need to think really hard about why these people don't have enough food. Corrupt governments mean messed up markets and sometimes the seizure of farmer's land in many third world countries. Lack of infrastructure and agricultural technology means they are unable to get much out of their land. The reasons why the third world is the third world have little to do with my decision to eat grass fed meat in the US.
If you think being a vegetarian will feed these people you are wrong. And if you asked these people from Chad what food they would like, they would say meat. Meat is the most prized food in most poor cultures and poor women will go to great lengths to get it for their children. Development projects they provide people with animals such as Heifer International or microloan programs are among the most successful. Livestock is an investment, provides milk/eggs, some meat, and fertilizer. One of the most revealing moments in my wealthy high school was when my homeroom was sponsoring a Heifer project. A wealthy white vegan girl was against it because she was worried that the people in Africa might eat the animal...
Paternalistic development projects that assume one size fits all models are mostly useless and sometimes devastating. I suggest everyone read development economist William Easterly's excellent book The White Man's Burden.
So what is the paleo diet? For most of us, it's not a project to save the world. It's a diet for a post-demographic transition society* where fertility is low and calorie availability is high. It's for people more worried about diabetes than dysentery.
I think most solutions have to be localized and local-driven, which also why I think the battle between the anti-organics and organics is so silly. Sometimes GMOs are a good solution and sometimes organic composting is a good solution. It depends on the local situation. I don't really believe either is a point-blank solution, particularly when infrastructure and badly hampered markets seem to be the elephant in the room.
*If you are worried about OMGTOOMANYPEOPLE you should definitely know about the demographic transition. Hint: Once women have jobs, they aren't so interested in having 12 children.
I recently made a big change to this site's newsletter. Previously, it was a Google Feedburner newsletter than went out every time a new post came up. Now I'll be managing it myself. It will go out once a week and feature this weeks posts, as well as bonus content like my favorite links and recipes! Subscribe on the sidebar or with this form.
One of my new favorite snacks is sweet potatoes cut into fries and then baked. Then I dip them in this delicious duck-fat aioli! Substitute a cold-pressed fruit oil for canola of course. Duck fat aioli also goes well on salads or with grilled asparagus if you are not into carbs :)
The Healthy Cooking Coach posted a delicious looking recipe for jerk pork ribs with crunchy kale. I can't wait to try it! I'm also hoping to try my hand at savory Japanese custard this week. How about meyer lemon chicken and asparagus? Or garlic and rosemary roast lamb? Or some lovely raw tuna poke salad?
It's fitting that we'd follow up yesterday's interview with a read question about how to transition to meat eating:
I'm hoping you can help me though, cause I think you have a unique perspective on this. My girlfriend has been a kind-of-vegetarian/overall-horrible-eater most of her life - we're talking grilled cheese and french fries for dinner. We've been together 3+ years and she's been eating healthier and healthier, but she still won't really cross that line to eating meat on any regular basis. She's been talking to me lately about wanting to incorporate more into her diet for health reasons (I've been paleo for 4 months, she's seeing the results and is intrigued), but she says she just doesn't like the taste of meat. I think that's an overly broad statement to make, but I was hoping you'd be able to shed some light on that, as an ex-vegan. When you switched over, what meat did you 'like' eating? I'd love to help her and will make any accommodation I can, but I've been a meat eater all my life and have no friggin' idea how I would help someone start to eat meat. Any help would be appreciated! =)
I think it depends where your coming from. I was an ultra-health conscious raw vegan, so I had a different experience than someone coming from grilled cheese. It was very hard to add meat to my diet though because I didn't know much about it. As a sad survey of my early paleo fridge shows, I ate mostly fruits, vegetables, and fish. I hated fish to death and pretty much had to bury it in sauce, but I really did believe it would make me feel better...and it did. It took me over a year to get into grease, braising, and offal. I was a faileo, but it was a start.
I've also had junk food eating boyfriends and while my current boyfriend is fairly health conscious, when we met he was mostly vegetarian and his staple meals were canned lentil soup and pasta. He said he really just didn't like most meat. But now he's happily ordering grass fed steak!
I think the most important thing is replacing things like grilled cheese and french fries with any healthier alternative, meat or not. Baked sweet potato fries dipped in homemade mayo are one of my favorite snacks. I also recommend kale chips.
If you cooking varied meals you can also let her try things. That's how I got my boyfriend to eat steak. I would make it for myself and offer him a bite. It was actually raw bison that was one of the breaking points and he realized he just likes his red meat kind of raw. Also, grass fed meat is more palatable to former veg*ns beccause it's lower in fat.
With fish, I could milder fish like striped sea bass and make good sauces to make the food more attractive. Also going together to a good market or getting a tasting menu at a restaurant that really knows how to make things taste amazing can help expose you both to new foods to try. Some of my first exposures to things like bone marrow were at top restaurants.
Also, if you are interested in improving her diet, the onus is on you to cook delicious meals. My boyfriend eats paleo....because who refuses free homemade food?
So there my secret has been betrayed: tasty paleo snacks, homemade delicious meals, and simple exposure to new foods. And remember everyone has to start somewhere. My pathetic salmon and chicken breast opened up a world of lamb shanks.
Have you checked out Let Them Eat Meat? If not, you definitely should. Filmmaker and writer Rhys Southan's blog explores the idea of veganism from the perspective of those who eventually gave it up (many of whom seem to adopt the paleo diet...). Why do people give up all animal products and why do some of those people eventually fold to the appeals of steak? Rhys explores this through interviews with ex-vegans, veg*ns and others with a "steak" in the food system...as well as jabs at vegan absurdity. Of course, many vegans think it's the worst blog in the entire world, but that speaks more to the power of the vegan diet than anything else. When was the last time someone who quit the South Beach Diet got called a "selfish murderer" or "pro-slavery?" Veganism is more than a diet and leaving it is not acceptable to the animal rights crowd.
But if you've never thought about giving up bacon before or the personhood of fish, why read Let Them Eat Meat? Personally, I find it a facinating exploration of the ethics of eating and what drives people into diets that aren't particularly good for themselves. Like it or not, distorted ethics affect us all when they become policy. Animal Rights organizations like PETA or The Humane Society now hold quite a bit of political clout.
Rhys himself was a vegan for nine years and now follows a paleo diet. Why did he give it up? Why did he jump into paleo? Does he feel guilty about the poor animals? After he interviewed me, I asked him these questions:
What made you decide to be a vegan? Why didn't it end up working for you?
Losing arguments with vegan and vegetarian friends in high school got me thinking that maybe I was on the wrong side. After I graduated, I wasn't around them as much, but the uneasiness with meat they had instilled in me lingered. About six months out of high school, I decided that meat was murder. Since I didn't like seeing myself as a serial killer, I began eating less meat. One day at a buffet I happened to get nothing but vegetarian food. The friend I was with asked me if I was vegetarian, and I said "Yes." So then I was.
I became vegan a year later to resolve the contradictions of ethical vegetarianism, since dairy and eggs lead to animal deaths even if you aren't eating animal flesh.
In retrospect, veganism was bad for my life in a few ways (though good in some, like the friends I met by living in a vegetarian co-op), but the main reason I left is that after nine years of not eating animal products, I felt physically awful. I was constantly tired and low on energy, my thinking had dulled and I was chronically depressed.
What made you choose the paleo diet?
Once I became fully cognizant of how bad I felt all the time, I compared this to my ex-vegan roommate, who was following Art De Vany's "evolutionary fitness" model and was healthier and happier than ever. Though I didn't get into veganism for health reasons, I had come to believe that if done right, nothing could be healthier than avoiding all animal products in favor of unrefined vegan foods. I should have been the healthy one, then, and my caveman-mimicking roommate should have been sluggish and depressed from all the cholesterol and saturated fat he injected into his arteries at every meal.
Much of what he said about evolutionary nutrition sounded right, though. I had always been wary of refined sugar, and he convinced me grains weren't much better. I started to glare at my millet with a more skeptical eye. One day I was cooking a meal that was almost pure starch -- brown rice and red lentils (with a little kombu thrown in to make the beans digestible) -- and I realized how crappy I would feel after eating it. That was when I stopped equating veganism with health.
At first I tried to be a more paleo vegan, cutting out grains and beans and eating more nuts and vegetables. I knew, though, that I was delaying the inevitable, so I convinced myself that eating animals wouldn't make me an evil person and I weaned myself onto animal products.
Knowing about paleo made it a lot easier to leave veganism. I was glad I wasn't abandoning all food philosophy. Going from veganism to an eat-anything omnivore would have seemed too chaotic and meaningless to me at the time. Now I could do it if I wanted to, but I don't see the need since I'm happy with paleo.
Since you've been paleo, have you noticed changes in your life?
I instantly felt better after going paleo (ie, adding meat and eggs to my paleo-ish vegan diet). I wonder if selective memory is making me exaggerate how quickly my mood improved and the brain fog dissipated, but other ex-vegans seem to have similar experiences. As a vegan, a lot of people had told me I was eerily pale; once I started eating meat again, a vegetarian who was shocked by my new meaty diet had to admit that my face had taken on a healthier hue. With my energy back, I got into weightlifting and quickly regained the muscle mass I'd lost by the end of my veganism. My nearly lifelong eczema, which had its worst breakouts during my veganism, hasn't been a problem since I've been paleo.
A less predictable change is that I became more assertive. I tend to be introverted, so maybe I lean toward meekness and passivity naturally, but veganism exasperated the problem. Veganism is a suicidal mentality in the sense that it's about doing your best not to exist (while still existing). Vegans don't believe they deserve to put their own interests before the interests of animals. Most humans, however, do think they deserve to put their own interests ahead of the interests of animals. So either vegans respect animals a lot more than everyone else does, or vegans respect themselves a lot less. In my case, veganism was more about lowering myself than raising up the animals.
The opposite of the self-sabotaging vegan mentality -- intentionally destroying as much as possible to make your mark -- isn't particularly great either. Going paleo helped me find a balance. As you have pointed out, there isn't really a moral component to paleo, though being against factory farms and supporting local food can be a part of it. Since paleo is about doing what's best for yourself, it was great for my self-confidence after sacrificing myself in the name of "the animals" for so long.
Another advantage of paleo's lack of a moral component is that there's no reason for me to judge anyone who isn't paleo. I get along with people better now. (Except maybe for the vegans that I piss off with my blog.)
What is your main philosophy behind eating now?
I think the best way to eat is a locavore paleo with a focus on offal, insects and hunted meat for protein. This way animals suffer less compared to a standard American diet, and I certainly suffer less than I did as a vegan. But I'm not living up to my own ideals yet. I'm far from a locavore. My preference for odd animal parts leads me to Asian grocery stores -- not the best source for local foods in the United States. I also have yet to find a steady supply of insects. I do eat pretty much any insect that crosses my path (as close as I get to hunting at the moment), but they seem to be aware of this and aren't coming around as much anymore. My current ideals are a lot more relaxed than my old ones, though, so I don't feel any guilt about not living up to them yet.
It seems like you are still very interested in having a diet that minimizes suffering. What sort of philosophy inspires that thinking? Wouldn't it be simpler if you took up Rob's challenge and just ate bivalves or just ate a diet of other animals that probably are incapable of suffering? At what point is it immoral to cause suffering?
I'm not sure how much philosophy is behind my inconsistent attempts to reduce animal suffering while still eating them. Maybe I could say that instead of the vegan idea of "least harm," my philosophy is "somewhat less harm." Yet I'm looking forward to eating live octopus while visiting New York, and there are probably less suffery ways for me to eat our tentacled friends. And I still eat factory farmed foods. I don't believe this is immoral, because if I thought that, I wouldn't do it. It's funny because I find myself wanting to say that it's wrong to cause suffering that is "unnecessary," which is a vegan argument. But for me, "necessary" could include eating live seafood. Vegans and I evidently have different interpretations of that word.
When I first wanted to leave veganism, I still believed that you couldn't care about animals and then turn around and eat them. So I decided to not care about animals. It helped that my vegan depression made me indifferent to my own life; the personal problems of animals then seemed especially worthless. Thinking that way made me okay with eating meat again, but once I got over that depression, I realized it didn't have to be so simple.
Recently I read about a woman in China who made a video of herself stomping a kitten to death. I couldn't deny that something seemed wrong with that, but I had trouble deciding what that was exactly, since I had no problem with animals being killed for food. I guess my reasoning is that it's humans who give animal lives any sort of meaning. And the meaning conveyed by stomping on a kitten is a disturbing one, even if I don't think that an animal's life is important in itself.
If you see animals as morally significant only in relation to us, factory farms can be defended without retreating to nihilism. From a human-centered perspective, what matters about animal suffering is how we feel about it. Are we repulsed because it's gratuitous, or do we accept it because it's for something worthwhile (such as mountains of affordable meat)? Since vegans think that eating meat is "unnecessary," the suffering of animals in factory farms is no different than Francione's example of "Simon the Sadist" torturing animals for fun. But again, I think vegans are being too strict with the definition of necessary. Torturing animals purely for sadistic pleasure is not a component of a rich, fulfilling life (at least not the way I envision one) in the same way that eating duck confit is. I'm not going to eat that live octopus because I hope to hurt it. It's just an experience I want to have and I don't expect to suffer any guilt over it.
I'm intrigued by the "ostrovegan" idea that the ethics behind veganism leave room for eating bivalves. That's a healthier and more logical approach than purity veganism, which says that you should never eat any animal products ever, even if doing so doesn't conflict with vegan ideals. "Rob" has repeatedly said in the comments that I have no excuse not to cut out all animal products except for bivalves, since those nutrient dense yet brainless shellfish could potentially address the health problems I had with veganism. If I still shared Rob's ethical views I would consider it. But I don't. I see veganism or ostroveganism as guilt abatement tactics. And since I no longer feel guilt about eating animal products, I have no need for self-restrictive eating plans tailored to dodge that guilt.
I've come to appreciate ethics as one possible ingredient in a meal, but not a mandatory one. If I eat kidney instead of chicken wings, I might think, "Maybe animals are suffering a little less because I'm eating the less popular parts. That's nice." But if I eat the chicken wings, I don't think "I'm a terrible person." I just think, "Yum."
Do the insects you eat actually taste good? How do you prepare them?
Most of the bugs I have are raw. I just pop them in my mouth when I find them outside. The first time I ate insects like that was on Toronto Island last summer. These bugs were either incredibly naive or suicidal -- they kept landing on me and didn't fly away when I reached for them. I enjoyed the experience of eating them, but I don't remember much of a taste. They were mainly texture. The other bugs I've had did taste like something, and mostly the taste has been good. I liked caterpillars a lot, but I can't place the taste. Once I had a small black bug that honestly tasted like oranges. I found a second one and that one tasted like oranges too. I now believe bug eating articles when they claim that a certain bug tastes like almonds or butterscotch and so on.
I say the taste has "mostly" been good because of the one insect I have prepared, silkworm pupae. I got these at a Vietnamese grocery store (packaged as "dade") even though I'd heard they were disgusting. To make them as palatable as possible, I toasted them for a while to get them crispy before I stir-fried them with vegetables. It didn't really work. They tasted musty, with a splash of flavorless juice as you bit into their centers. It was pretty much how you'd imagine a moth in a cocoon to taste. Mixed with vegetables they were tolerable, and I finished them all. A few weeks later I was kind of craving them, but that was a craving that I didn't satisfy.
Why did you decide to create a blog about ex-veganism?
Veganism is such a compelling dogma that it can be hard to get out, even when it's hurting you. Initially I started the blog to help vegans with nutrition-related health problems make the connection between these problems and veganism. The way I thought to do this -- going to vegan and vegetarian events and snapping photos of unhealthy looking people -- probably was a bit misguided, though. It was also incredibly depressing to go to these things and I felt guilty about what I was doing, which made me wonder if I was really doing it to help. I also began to think that the health issues I associated with veganism might be the least of veganism's problems.
But the blog was never just photos. From the beginning I was writing entries about "the vegan mentality," and the alienation that comes from thinking everyone in the world is a murderer, and I enjoyed that more than posting the photos. This year I took down most of the photos and have been focusing on the writing and interviews.
As far as veganism, one assumption I used to have is that all long-term vegans quit because of health problems. I felt that anyone who had made veganism such a big part of their lives for so long would not think to question their beliefs unless physical reality forced them. (I probably thought that way since that's what happened to me.) Now I know about plenty of long-term vegans who left veganism for environmental reasons or because they no longer believed in the philosophy. I was wrong, but in a good way. I'd much rather someone leave veganism because they lost a bet and had to read The Vegetarian Myth than because they're on the verge of physical collapse.
Your blog is interesting because it makes so many uncomfortable- both vegans who believe their diet is the best possible diet in every possible way and omnivores who haven't really thought much about the ethics of food. Has there been anything you've rethought yourself since starting the blog?
Earlier this year I did an entry that included a dig at flexitarians. I wasn't trying to be mean, but it was obvious that I considered flexitarianism silly. A few flexitarians were upset about that, which surprised me, since I saw flexitarianism as a trendy label that nobody took too seriously. I still had my vegan thinking that it was either wrong to eat animals or it wasn't, so the idea of cutting back on animal consumption for moral reasons but not eliminating it entirely made no sense to me. An interview I did with an ex-vegan who is now a flexitarian helped me see that there could be a philosophy behind it. This shouldn't have been news to me. When I eat organ meats (which theoretically might otherwise be wasted) instead of muscle meat so that fewer animals have to be killed for me, that's the same sort of thinking that forms the basis of flexitarianism.
Have there been any negative consequences since you started a blog that many people feel is "anti" vegan?
Nope. Just kidding. Yes. It upset a couple of my vegan friends, and it really pissed off my brother, who is vegan. He found it hard to talk to me after he found out about the blog at the beginning of this year. But I recently had my birthday dinner, which brought together my vegan friends, my brother and my mom, and none of them seemed to hate me. (Not that my brother suddenly approves of the blog now.) Now I would say the main negative consequence of starting this blog is that my focus (obsession?) on veganism is keeping me from other projects I could be doing. I'm looking forward to finally saying everything I have to say about veganism and never talking about it again. It might still be a while, though.
You have one persistent naysayer, a vegan commenter known as "rob" who pretty much weighs in angrily on everything you post. Why do you think he's so obsessed with your site?
Rob first appeared on the site after I wrote an entry about Lierre Keith getting pied in the face. He seemed to detest Lierre Keith; he denounced her as a genocidal liar and has since compared The Vegetarian Myth to Mein Kampf. But Rob's interest in my blog extended beyond that entry. He started commenting on every single thing I wrote -- sometimes seconds after I posted it. I got into a long argument with Rob in the comments of one random, short entry, and was amazed at Rob's willingness to argue endlessly. And it wasn't just with me. If any commenter wrote anything vaguely anti-vegan, he made sure to critique their comment in some way.
Rob really got into my head at first, partially because I was trying to figure out who he was and why he was so persistent. Before I posted anything, I would think "What is Rob going to say?" And that would influence my editing, especially with the interviews. I dreaded checking my email for fear of finding more comments from Rob. I went through and deleted my own side of that long argument with him just to try to stop thinking about him. My blood pressure was up for days, and some nights I had trouble sleeping.
It's hard for me to understand now why he upset me so much, because I soon grew to love Rob. I did ban him twice, but each time lasted only a day because I realized how much he contributed to the site. Thanks to Rob, posts that would otherwise be non-substantial, like a quote or a link to someone else's blog entry, might end up with over 100 comments. Plus, he gives vegans someone to root for. I've seen a couple of vegans on message boards say that they read my blog only for Rob's comments. I was also amused when some vegans theorized that *I* was Rob.
Rob haunted me at first, but when I think of him now, I envision a straightedge vegan Ignatius Reilly, eating vegan hot dogs as he furiously types screeds against logically inconsistent omnivores. Which is to say, I think of him fondly.
But there's still the mystery of why Rob is obsessed with Let Them Eat Meat. After getting to know Rob a little through his comments, my guess is that the majority of pro-vegan blogs don't have much to offer him. As much as he will spring to the defense of most vegans in the name of supporting veganism, I can't see Rob getting along with other vegans very well. He is a distinct breed of vegan, what I would term a "logical vegan." These vegans are more interested in the airtight consistency of animal rights arguments than in animals themselves, who are just abstract variables ("sentient beings") in their philosophical equations. There are outlets for such vegans. Gary Francione, the cultish leader of abolitionist veganism, is a great example of a logical vegan. But Rob has said that he doesn't like Francione. That's certainly to Rob's credit, but it leaves him somewhat adrift. There are still a couple of blogs Rob can identify with -- Unpopular Vegan Essays seems to be his favorite -- but for the most part, he has nowhere else to go. It's not like he can go to Vegetarian Star or Ecorazzi and rant in the comments like this.
I also like to think that part of him knows he is destined for bitter ex-veganism and subconsciously sees me as a comrade in arms.
What do you think about the debates that happen in the comments?
I love the debates, even though I mostly stay out of them. That's really Rob's fault. I don't want to get roped into a forever discussion, so I usually only comment if I think I can do it without giving Rob much room for retort. Luckily, after Rob became so prolific, some articulate non-vegans (you, for instance) took it upon themselves to address Rob's points, leading to some great discussions (and entries with absurdly large numbers of comments). These comment threads add a lot to the blog.
I especially like it when the vegan commenters get super philosophical. The more intricate animal rights theory becomes, the more obvious it is that arguing about animals is nothing but human self-indulgence. An intelligent and convoluted argument for the rights of fish is like one of Armond White's film-theory laden reviews in praise of Hollywood dreck. The smarter the defense, the more laughable it is.
Consider the Mark Wahlberg film "Max Payne," based on the video game. "Max Payne rocks!," while a stupid thing to say, is far less ridiculous than Armond White's take: "The opening panorama of Max drowning, flashing back to the start of his aggrieved mission, recalls the magnificent underwater cruciform in DePalma’s Femme Fatale. ... Through Max’s confession, 'I don’t believe in Heaven. I believe in pain, fear, death,' Moore explores genuine, contemporary anxiety. ... These phantasmagorical visions have vigor as well as dread. Looking deeply into Payne’s pessimism, Moore stirs the energy of hope, of earthly, human possibility. Imagery this powerful redeems the ghosts of urban grief and 9/11."
That's what I think of when vegans get too clever. They just can't win with me, I guess. The better they argue for the rights of chickens, the more they remind me of Armond White.
A little bird tells me you are working on a book. That's quite a project! What sort of issues will it tackle? What made you decide to make the jump from blog to book?
When I first thought to write about veganism, it was going to be in book form. But I don't have a literary agent or connections at publishing companies and I'm terrible at self-promotion. So I started a blog instead. I'm glad I did, because it's a great way to get feedback and reformulate arguments. Seeing the vegan and non-vegan reactions to what I've written so far has influenced this non-existent book quite a bit. The content would be different than the blog, but the tone would be similar. You'll have to trust me when I say that it will be a good book if I ever get the chance to write it, because the imaginary agent in my head doesn't want me to reveal any spoilers.
I don't always agree with everything Fanatic Cook says, but her series of fish oil is worth reading.
- Fish oil isn't like fish
- Increased stroke risk from fish oil
- Increased risk of colitis from fish oil
My view on fish oil is: it's not as good as eating fish, it is often from suspect sources, and who knows what's really in it?
I used to take it, thinking it would cancel out the effects of excessive omega-6 in my diet. But my rule these days is "you can't eat a bunch of peanut butter and expect to cancel it out with fish oil." The modern Inuit are a good example of this. They get plenty of omega-3, but still suffer from obesity and diabetes.
Want to balance your fatty acids? Don't eat oil, do eat fresh oily fish. There are so many tasty fish out there that there is no reason to take fish oil.
My other rule: if you don't want to taste it, don't put it in your mouth. Our tastebuds evolved for a reason- to protect us from poisonous foods and to encourage us to nourish ourselves. Don't bypass them. If you take cod liver oil, buy the unflavored stuff. Your mouth will tell you when you've had enough :)
Is the price of grass-fed meat getting you down? Why not try some delicious nutritious meat for free in NYC this Sunday? Try some samples of meats our ancestors would have loved and which are enjoyed by many hunter-gatherer cultures. The cuts will be kind of small, but it's hard to get large steaks from these animals. I am a little worried that the animal rights protesters will be there holding up signs like "Don't squash their lives away," but just ignore them.
Yes, I am talking about eating bugs. They are a 100% paleo and a 100% sustainable source of protein. I've eaten them from time to time. I can't say they are delicious, but why not? Bug Biters Brooklyn is serving them. Be there or be square.
I've been really enjoying the farmer's market lately. Bizarrely enough, some people really want to know what the heck I eat. It's boring to me...but apparently exciting to you?
The above dish was from the Friday farmer's market at Union Square, which isn't always my favorite, but I scored this ground ostrich for pretty cheap and some fresh nettles. Yes, you can eat the stinging nettle and its full of great nutrients. I always collected it in Sweden and despite wearing gloves I got stung regularly. It's not so bad and might even be beneficial for people with inflammatory illnesses. But I didn't get stung this time. They were in a bag and I blanched them in boiling water before quickly putting them in an ice bath. Then I chopped them finely and mixed them with a beaten egg. After coating with some coconut flakes left over from making coconut milk (almond or other nut flour would work too), I fried them in lard. Pretty good nettle fritters. The ostrich I just made into patties in cooked. It was fairly good, but a little gamey and like all farmed poultry, the ostrich had been fed corn. Ruminants >>>> poultry in terms of fatty acid balance.
At the Saturday market I scored tons of asparagus, ramps (a wild leek), a grassfed beef heart, lovely purple potatoes, and tons of bison marrow bones. The beef heart got my "offal killing marinade" overnight. I call it that because it really does kill any off flavors, but maybe the heart didn't need it because it's not that offaly. Either way, it's minced red hot pepper, jalapeno, ginger, and cilantro in lime juice overnight. Then I grilled the heart and salted it....and it was DELICIOUS. I will definitely buy it again. I put the marrow bones on top of the potatoes in the oven and let the fat from the bones coat them in deliciousness as they cooked. Then the killer combo of lemon juice, salt, capers, and black pepper.
Today I got more asparagus and some striped wild sea bass. All of that went in the toaster oven at work with duck fat, salt, and pepper. Sea bass is an incredible fish- 100% silky and 0% weird. I love how quickly and simply it cooked too. I will definitely buy it again.
What's next? Rhubarb and strawberries, the former I try to limit my consumption of because historically it's a medicine and not a food. It was originally imported from Asia to Europe as a laxative, well...at least according to the Linnaeus mueseum in Uppsala, Sweden. Interestingly, Linnaeus suffered from terrible gout, which he was finally able to cure with wild strawberries. But either way, rhubarb is very high in oxalic acid and definitely requires sweet to taste palatable. My paleo rhubarb recipe mixes finally chopped strawberries and rhubarb and lets the mixture sit overnight, then tops it with crushed walnuts/fat/honey mixture. A treat that I shouldn't eat ALL the time like I did when I lived in Sweden, probably because people there ate rhubarb crisp like crazy.
Surprisingly enough, there are many vegan and vegetarian restaurants I enjoy. When I am out with vegetarian friends, I don't mind getting a bowl of various vegetables and some of these restaurants are actually fairly good. Overall, when confronted with a choice between meat from a questionable source and a vegan entree, I'll often chose the latter.
But one restaurant I will not be eating at is Otarian. Besides insulting resource economists everywhere by using questionable calculations to make their food look "low carbon," it appears the owners are a bunch of dietary fascists:
Indian Australian billionaires Pankaj and Radhika Oswal have banned workers building their Peppermint Grove mansion from eating meat, attracting the ire of the Western Australian construction union.
The building workers have been told that they cannot eat ham sandwiches or meat pies at the building site of the 70 million dollar mega-mansion.
Workers at the site said yesterday there was one small shed at the bottom of the site which they were allowed to eat meat in.
A source close to the Oswals, who did not want to be named, said some workers had continued to eat meat on the site "just to spite them".
Oswal, who is in New York this week helping his wife prepare for the launch of her vegetarian fast-food chain, Otarian, defended the meat ban, saying "This is our home".
Radhika Oswal has previously accused the meat industry of "raping the earth".
"Meat eating is creating bad karma and you are also creating a vicious cycle. It's destroying us environmentally, economically and socially. I'm putting my money where my mouth is. I've always been a vegetarian so I have always felt strongly about it," she said.
The house, expected to be finished at the end of 2011, will have a gymnasium the size of a regular Perth house, a beauty salon, an observatory, parking for 17 cars and a swimming pool 10 times bigger than the average backyard
Hmm...in the words of Midtown Lunch " I wonder how many Tex Mex Burgers you’d need to eat to off set their 17 car garage?" Meanwhile, vegans are rightfully angry that the restaurant serves dairy. I'm sorry to break it to the owners, but Bessie the cow doesn't go to Florida for retirement when her milk production slows.
That's the difference between the paleo diet and ideological diets. The paleo diet is about you feeling your best. While many people who eat this way enjoy telling others about the benefits, we have no reason to try to force it on others through coercive language or policy.
I'll admit their "Sweet potato chiplets" looked kind of good...until I read the ingredients "Sweet Potatoes, Breadcrumbs, Corn Starch, Lemon Juice, Vegetable Oil, Wheat Flour, Garlic, Salt, Water." Yeah, there is nothing more sustainable than corn starch grown 500 miles away. I wonder where the dairy in the salads is from? They say they are working with a top supplier, but that's all the information they'll provide. They also say they are working to not have the cows slaughtered after their production ends, but that's not exactly compatible with environmental friendliness as that means the cows will be eating and producing methane for many more years. That's a laughably low feed conversion ratio.
Meanwhile, there are plenty of restaurants that offer food that supports our local community both animal and vegetable. The great thing about local food is that you are intimately connected with the effects of your purchase. When people tell me about the rainforest being cut down to feed beef I tell them I'm glad I don't eat beef that's a. lived in Brazil b. eaten anything grown in Brazil.
Probably the most efficient system would be a mixed local one based on growing things appropriate for each ecosystem. Framing the argument as vegetarian or bust obscures the complexity of environmental economics and ignores the fact that meat is an inevitable by product of dairy and egg production and that sustainable agriculture involves animal-based fertilizer. I know an egg farmer is a good one if he or she is selling spent hens and rooster meat. Not only is a young rooster flavorful and cheap, but it means that they didn't just waste the male chicks that were born. I also highly respect goat dairies that sell wonderful goat meat. MMM- there is nothing like a nice goat curry.
I hate to write too much about food policy, but the truth is that if you are eating paleo, the government is a major threat to the freedom to fill your plate with grassfed local meat. While the government buys loads of the crappiest factory farmed meat and grains devoid of nutrition and feeds them to the nation's unwitting children in public schools, it sees no problem in regulations that disproportionately affect farmers that get no government help whatsoever. The local food movement is small and many farmers already struggle getting their meat to market. What is the government doing to help? Oh, it's making more regulations that are easy for Conagra to comply with, but would probably put your local butcher out of business. Great.
The sad thing is that local small scale meat producers have never been involved in a major impact and if they were the government wouldn't need to spend a year figuring out where the poisoning came from. Direct purchasing is 100% tracable.
What can you do?
The major threats these days are a HACCP proposal, which is a food safety protocol obviously built for Kraft and not for your local farmer, and the Food Safety Modernization Act, a dystopia of paperwork and burdensome rules.
How has local food, particularly meat, impacted your life? What regulatory challenges have you witnessed your local farmers, butchers, and processors dealing with? Why should the government treat small producers differently?
I urge the USDA to consider the impact this HACCP system would have on the growing movement of small butchers, meat farmers, and farmer's markets. Many people now look to this small, but burgeoning, market to purchase specialty meat products valued for their contribution to the local economy, taste, and health properties connected to grass finishing. When I wrote my honors thesis at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on the impact of HACCP on small local food businesses, I couldn't find any studies that analyzed the impact. Despite their small size, they are part of the business landscape and deserve to be informed on the details of this proposal so they may participate in commenting. Furthermore, there is strong evidence that regulations such as this disproportionately impact such businesses. This impact deserves to be further studied as we weigh the costs and benefits of further HACCP implementation. Not doing a full economic impact analysis would be unconscionable.
I would also like to see recognition of the obvious fact that small local food businesses are fundamentally different in their risks and challenges compared to large agribusiness, the source of most large outbreaks this proposal was created to respond to. Such a recognition would allow for specific regulations that are appropriate for small business, further study on less capital intensive HACCP programs, and exemptions that take into account the unique consumer-producer relationship inherent in direct purchasing. Small local food businesses, regardless of their risks, are more traceable and therefore more accountable to the consumer. There is no year long manhunt for the cause of outbreaks when it comes to direct purchasing.
Read up on the Food Safety "Modernization" Act and call your senators. Farm and Ranch Freedom has some great information on how to take action.
We don't want empty farmers markets and boarded up butchers- we want the right to direct purchase food that makes us and the local economy healthy.