Last night I heard Joel Salatin speak in NYC. I was kind of surprising that he would speak on Easter Sunday. I grew up in Georgia and Easter was a big holiday there, but pretty much everything was open here and lots of people turned out for his lecture.
I only saw the first one, which was about whether or not the local food movement is elitist. Salatin mainly talked about how regulations hinder the development of new local food businesses and make food more expensive. I was familiar with this argument because I did my senior thesis on regulatory obstacles to a healthier local food system and Salatin's book Everything I Want to Do is Illegal was one of my starting points.
You can read his original essay on the subject here. What does this have to do with paleo? Well, the main food regulations affect are animal foods, though produce is becoming more controlled thanks to the spinach, peanut, and tomato food poisoning outbreaks that killed and sickened Americans.
The standard regulatory argument is that risk is risk and every farm should be regulated the same way. I personally disagree with that. Part of the rational behind regulations is that people are victims because they can't make a rational consumption decision due to the structure of our food economy. People wouldn't purchase things made unsafely if they could see the production, but they can't and it's pretty unrealistic to expect most people to closely keep tabs on food factories 1000 miles away. Of course a private certifying agency probably could, but it's equally unrealistic for libertarians to expect the US to drop all food regulations.
Even if you are not libertarian, it's clear that most regulations on food producers are unfair. I went to a big agricultural school sponsored by the government. Much of the technology used on farms is developed by such universities and most of it is geared towards large farms. That's an unfair advantage. So when regulations are written they typical require capital that would be unrealistic for a small farm to own or use. Also, there is rent seeking behavior- manufacturers of this expensive equipment often are the loudest advocates for more regulations. Things are changing- there is a foundation around here that is working on small scale mobile slaughterhouses, but they are facing an uphill battle. The mobile slaughterhouse has to have a separate trailer with an office and bathroom for the USDA inspector. They can't just use the normal bathroom in the farm office, regulations stipulate the inspector has to have their own.
Another subsidy is that large feedlot operations are pretty much allowed to pollute. I don't see why they should be allowed to sully steams they don't own. Small farmers often take great care of their land and the environment in general. Many factory operations also employ illegal workers and the government turns a blind eye, while small farmers struggle with the challenge of having legal workers, which is more than just paying minimum wage, it's often also paying worker's comp and dealing with some draconian state employment laws.
Contrasting with shoppers in the grocery store who really would have a hard time really knowing where their food comes from, people who purchase directly are able to talk to the farmer and often able to visit and work on the farm.
The consequences for all these regulations are stressed farmers who have to haul their cattle hundreds of miles to the nearest USDA slaughterhouse and more expensive meat. One of the reasons poultry tends to be cheaper is that there is an exemption that allows small farmers to slaughter on-farm . Why chickens slaughtered on farm are safe but goat aren't never struck me as logical. The safety of an animal to eat has more to do with the skill of the butcher than the magic of a USDA inspector. I'd certainly rather have animals killed by my own butcher that I know.
Either way, read the book, it's great and will help you understand why small farmers have such a tough time. Salatin also addressed the global agriculture problem. He mentioned how large companies like Monsanto who often claim to be the savior of the third world often don't acknowledge that the green revolution is often the cause of the problems in the first place. He mentioned how the old Thai system was diverse and grew rice alongside fish and vegetables. Replacing this system with rice monoculture created the vitamin deficiencies that the GMO golden rice is supposed to cure.
Another factor is that contrary to popular opinion, small sustainable farmers aren't Luddites. There have been massive increases in the efficiency of many sustainable methods like composting in the past 50 years. Such methods are more sustainable not just from an ecological perspective, but from an economic perspective. In unstable third world countries introducing methods that require imported seeds, pesticides, machines, and oil just isn't appropriate.
Salatin also talked about the choice aspect of the matter. I don't make much money myself, but in the past I had to be on all sorts of expensive medication. Now that I eat a better diet, I don't need those pills and inhalers, which unlike grassfed beef, just masked the symptoms and did nothing to nourish or heal me. Joel Salatin mentioned how tests done at the local ag school showed high levels of CLA, a fat that shows strong anti-cancer properties, and DHA, which is the most prized of the omega-3 fatty acids that promote good health in general.
He said it's a shame that libertarians, free marketers, and conservatives have so often been reactionary against healthy eating, but the tide is turning. I agree. While paleo dieters come in all stripes, a growing segment is people traditionally associated with the right.
Want to know what's in season? Interested in seeing what foods you can look forward to next month at your local farmer's market? A local foods wheel is an attractive addition to your kitchen that can answer these questions.
Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be one for every region, but perhaps some commenters can point me to more.
Jessica Prentice's wheels are beautiful with bright colors and wonderful illustrations. She has two: one for the SF Bay Area and another for NY Metro Area. Comparing them is fairly depressing, I'm admittedly jealous of the year round bounty in San Francisco. The NY one has the addition of a larder, which shows foods available year round like beef, so you can feel better when you turn the wheel to December and only see some turnips.
Chew On This also has a NY Wheel, which is much more detailed since the creator lives in NYC, but less colorful. The Forty Culinary Herbs wheel is the real treasure, as it shows herbs you never would have thought to use and different ways to use and preserve them. It's a great way to find ideas for a simple quick supper as it shows what herbs go best with various ingredients like poultry or fish. I've been cooking with lots of fresh herbs lately and also growing them myself. I don't think I'll be able to grow all forty in my apartment though!
Reading the fat acceptance bloggers on Jamie Oliver's new show, is a typical argument of theirs goes like "Food Revolution is awful because it is portraying fat people as unhealthy! Plenty of skinny people are unhealthy too, but they target the fat people for shaming!"
I totally agree with that actually. Focus on appearances distracts from real health problems. It's easy to pick on people who are overweight, but food related illness doesn't discriminate based on weight. As a skinny adolescent, I suffered from all kinds of terrible health problems related to my diet. Candy and soda didn't make me overweight, but it surely contributed to the stomach problems, headaches, and fatigue I suffered from.
As a child growing up the South, many of my friend's fathers succumbed to heart attacks. They were slim men in their 40s.
The old argument that being obese isn't genetic because where are all the the fat hunter-gatherers? While a few statues from the Stone Age seem to glorify curvy ladies, skeletal evidence has yet to be found. BUT there is strong evidence that gene expression can be determined by the maternal diet, gut bacteria, and environmental toxins. All three have been linked to obesity. There is no question that some people are going to have a much harder time with their weight than others. And once someone is obese for a long it's likely that the metabolism is altered enough that they are going to really have a tough time losing it and keeping it off.
Because of an appearance-focused approach to health, plenty of skinny people I know think they are healthy despite eating terrible diets. Not to stereotype, but while Swedes I knew when I lived in Sweden ate relatively healthy, sugary alcoholic drinks and bags of gummy "godis" were a regular part of their diets. For awhile I was confused...how were people eating these awful candy gummy craps and sugar berry flavored vodka soda and looking so good? The answer is probably in the healthy full fat whole foods that are still part of the diet there (in America we both eat crap AND don't eat much nutritious food). But when I started meeting my friend's parents it became clear that there are still effects to these foods, they just show up later. Sweden isn't too far away from the United States in heart disease rates.
For all the blather about Americans being fat, Eastern Europe leads for heart disease per capita. Type 2 diabetes is really hitting other countries hard too- India in particular, despite their "healthy vegetarian diet." So much for meatless Mondays having a huge health effect...but really, what India and Hungary have in common is love for fried processed carbs and massive amounts of sugary desserts without much actual nutrition in between. But maybe diet isn't really even that much of a factor: "In a study of Japanese migrants in the United States the cultural upbringing was the strongest predictor of coronary heart disease. Those who were brought up in a non-Japanese fashion but preferred the lean Japanese food had a heart attack almost twice as often as those who were brought up in the Japanese way but preferred fatty American food."
In the focus on food we often forget about other factors like lifestyle.
I applaud Jamie's expose of the venality of our school lunch system, but I just don't think some homemade pasta is going to cut it. Also as a Southerner, I'm also a little annoyed that it's not a fellow Southerner leading this effort. One of the principles popular in the food justice movement is providing both healthy AND culturally appropriate food. It's too bad that the Southern culture has really been lost.
I often hear about how sending away the Native Americans to government schools caused them to lose their culture. But it wasn't just Native Americans who lost their culture because of government schools. Watch the food being served to those kids in Food Revolution. Some people think Southern food is fried pablum like that, but it's not. They aren't being served Southern food, they are being served industrial gruel. In fact, I'm sure real Southern food is illegal under the USDA guidelines. That's too bad, because my Southern ancestors were living into their late 80s even a hundred years ago on ham hocks, collard and mustard greens, turtle soup, crawfish, buttery grits, and full fat buttermilk. The awful Paula Deen flour and sugar creations are to Southern food what fry bread is to Indian food- neither authentic nor traditional.
Surprisingly enough, many people write to me asking what I eat and where I get it. I think it's boring, but I guess it's useful for many people, especially if you live in NYC. I haven't been good at posting the rest of my week, but here are some things I've been eating!
- Delicious salad with argula, iceberg lettuce, and beets. The most important thing was the calorie-loaded tangy paleo green goddess dressing. I had the real stuff at a restaurant recently and couldn't get enough. I made mine with fresh scallions, mayo, basil, lemon, garlic, salt, and pepper. I used this recipe as a base and just left out the sour cream, but if you can eat that and you have a good source...it's really good. The only questionable ingredient was the anchovy paste, but I left it in because I was feeling great and it's only a small amount. I bought all the ingredients at Whole Foods, which I only go to occasionally because it's expensive and inconsistant.
- More shrimp poached in butter, but this time I also added virgin coconut oil, cilantro, and basil. I poured the whole thing on top of cubed mango for a delicious fruity shrimp salad. The shrimp were from the Park Slope Co-op, which is also inconsistant, but fortunately at least they are relatively cheap...
- A roasted cornish hen from Bobo sold at the Park Slope Co-op. I spatchcocked it and cooked it in the toaster oven because it's so much quicker. I seasoned it with garlic and oregano. Spatchcocking might seem scary, but since the chicken lies flat it cooks pretty fast. The main point is just to remove the spine. Once you have that out, you can figure out how to cut to lie it flat without much technical direction. When I first tried it I just confused myself watching Youtube videos.
- Simple grassfed ground buffalo from the Park Slope co-op sauteed with coconut oil and herbs is a staple of mine. You'll notice most of these items are from the Co-op. I go there at the beginning of the week and sometimes it will feed me until Thursday. If not, I sometimes order Freshdirect or go to Whole Foods. The co-op is good for some things, bad for others. Seafood is particularly bad there. I like the frozen wild salmon filets, but they don't have too much else and you can only eat so much of those before you get sick of them. On Saturday I try to go to the Farmer's Market at Union Square. I like the fish and the variety of meats, but everything really is very expensive, so I definitely don't get very much there.
- Kale salad with some REALLY good sauteed mushrooms from the co-op. Most of the produce there is good, except for the Thai Young Coconuts, which are frequently spoiled.
- I made some pastured local lamb (also from the co-op) in homemade coconut milk with herbs, ginger, and garlic. Making coconut milk from a brown coconut took me nearly an hour and I probably won't do it again anytime soon. I'm trying to avoid canned things, but it probably would have been easier to get a thai coconut (Freshdirect has the best)and make the curry from the flesh, which is very soft and easy to work with.
What delicious foods have you been eating lately? Where are you getting your ingredients?
Butter Poached Shrimp
Butter poaching is a simple and gentle method to make quick and delicious seafood! First bring a little water (1-2 TBSP) to a boil), reduce heat to low, and whisk in A LOT of butter/ghee...as much butter/ghee as you want to eat! Then mix in your favorite fresh flavors like lemon zest or crushed garlic. Add the shrimp and cook through. Season with lemon juice and bit of salt.
Bone Marrow Watercress Salad
Buy some marrow bones from a good butcher...they should have plenty of white fat in the middle. Put them in a toaster oven or oven on 400F or so in a pan that will catch any fat that comes out. While they are cooking, wash the watercress and dress it with lemon juice, some chopped basil, and chopped shallots OR garlic. When the marrow bones are soft inside, scoop out or loosen the marrow with a knife into the watercress and mix around. Salt to taste.
Bone Stock Butternut Squash Soup
Save the bones from the above dish and put them in a stock or crock pot with some chopped shallots or onions, carrots or celery, and lemon juice. Simmer for several hours, the longer the better. Strain the stock and put it in the fridge, once cooled skim off the fat. Peel and cube the butternut squash and boil it in the stock. When the squash is soft, add your favorite herbs like basil. Puree with a hand blender if you like your soup smooth, salt to taste.
Some people wondered about the chemical-free part of Sarah's diet. Of course all foods are made up of chemicals, but Sarah means added isolated chemicals. Her recipes featured flavors from fresh herbs and fruit rather than from dried spices or oils.
My own principle I would relate to people suffering from problems linked to increased gut permeability (leaky gut, though that term has been so dragged down with woo that I hesitate to use it) such as IBS the principle I would relate is: fresh. Personally, I did a zero carb week to minimize the populations of methane-producing bacteria in my gut (which was inspired by Hyperlipid's writings on the subject), but once you do that, you still have to heal. A diet based on fresh foods can minimize things a sensitive gut can react to. These things might surprise you- mold in dried spices/herbs or nuts, histamines and amines in preserved meats, and oxidized fats in oils for example.
A fresh diet works its magic by being as gentle as possible. I would say the principles are
- Fresh meats (pastured lamb, buffalo, goat, and beef are the best choices) from a reputable farmer or butcher that haven't been aged long eaten raw if you feel comfortable or cooked by steaming, boiling, or low-heat methods
- Seafood can cause problems for some people, so it might be wise to eliminate it for awhile, but if you know you tolerate it well, wild seafood is great choice for steaming
- Fresh, not dried, fruits and vegetables. Vegetables should be peeled.
- Use only fats that are fresh (coconut or avocado) or not susceptible to oxidation (coconut oil and butter are best)
- Flavor with fresh fruits like oranges, vegetables like celery, or fresh herbs.
- No fried foods, alcohol, egg whites, fermented foods (take a probiotic instead), strongly spiced foods, high-heat roasted foods, bottled sauces, nuts unless you harvested and cracked them yourself, dried spices, canned/dried/cured meats, olive oil, lard, or vegetable oil.
I have to emphasize this is a diet that can be temporary for most people, but everyone can benefit from including more fresh foods into their diet. I recently had some off seafood (not even raw...just normal cooked mussels that I was either allegic to or weren't kept properly) and right now I feel like doing this recovery diet to get things back to normal.
This week I will be featuring several fresh recipes and a fresh map featuring places in NY with amazing fresh ingredients!
These elders from the Troibriands (Kitava is part of this island chain) are clearly suffering from the effects of yam consumption. (more) Those carbs really catch up to you when you get old, especially since the islanders are only slightly more active than the average westerner.
Whereas this raw reindeer eater is much superior on his diet of mostly meat.
All in jest of course. Really, all of these men look healthy and certainly seem to have aged better than most Americans. I'm not against carnivory, but I personally don't see the need to restrict my diet to one that I find to be boring, expensive, and time-consuming when it doesn't seem like people eating unprocessed carbohydrates are exactly wreaked by them.
In fact, given Western standards of lean beauty (which I would say are often totally unconnected to health and I personally don't expect to look like I do now once I am 60 and have had several children), the Islanders look much healthier and more attractive at any age, though there is probably more incentive to look great if you are going around without many clothes. I think a bad reaction to carbs is more a testament to a damaged metabolism, poor gut flora, or epigenetic problems than our evolutionary heritage.
Something I've been thinking about lately are poverty foods. Paleolithic people did not usually engage in food storage, but with the advent of the neolithic, people starting keeping a larder that could help them survive. Cured, pickled, canned, confited, salted, highly spiced, and dried foods are legacies of this heritage. Some would argue that many hunting societies like the plains Indians or the Inuit also ate dried meat and that's true (though they knew they needed at least some fresh meat to prevent disease), but it's a good example of why hunter-gatherers are not models of the paleolithic.
Many such foods are popular among paleo dieters from jerky to canned sardines. I wouldn't argue that all of these foods are bad, but I have had to eliminate many of them from my diet and if you are on a paleo diet and continue having problems, perhaps they are worth eliminating. Studies on them are mixed. The regions that rely on them in very high amounts like Koreans (who eat massive amounts of pickled/salty/spicy foods) and those who live in Assam in India (VERY spicy and hot foods) have high rates of GI cancers. Perhaps the dose makes the poison though. For example, spicy foods have also shown to be cancer fighters! That's confusing!
Either way, I think fresh foods are always better and if you are in the process of healing you might want to try to eat only fresh to avoid things that sick people can be sensitive to like oxidized fats and histamines. I think emphasis on fresh foods is one reason that people often initially do well on raw diets.
I eliminated spicy foods when I started paleo because of their association with heartburn, which I suffered from. I now eat spicy foods a few times a week and haven't had problems so far, perhaps because my stomach isn't so inflamed by other crap. But recently I fell in love with a heavily spiced tea and was drinking it daily. If I didn't know that spices could be a problem I might not have realized it was causing me trouble.
I am excited to welcome our first ever guest blogger. Sarah Davies is a member of Eating Paleo in NYC and is a testament to the diverse appeal of our group. We have everyone from Crossfitters building muscle to celiacs interested in healthy healing grain-free eating. Sarah is an example of the latter. Last week she helped me teach the first NYC Paleo Skillshare making some delicious roasted vegetables, soup, salad, and mandarin chicken! She talked about how her cooking methods allow her to get through the week without stressing about food. That's very appealing to me, because as long as I've been doing this, I admittedly don't plan as much as I should. I often come home from work and realize that salmon filet that I was planning to eat was eaten three weeks ago and all my vegetables are spoiled! Inspired by Sarah, I'm planning to well...plan more! Hopefully you will be too!
Bergen, Norway dinner with mussels, wolf fish, vegetables, and potatoes...the only thing missing was some lamb or mutton
Louisa asked what carbs I recommend. I did low carb when I started paleo to reduce the excessive amount of bacteria that seemed to cause my IBS. But as I got better I added in more carbohydrates. Personally I enjoy life more with moderate carbohydrate consumption and none of my problems returned. I think low-carb approaches like PaNu are a great approach for losing weight, but I don't think carbohydrates are going to make a slim insulin sensitive individual like me fat. I also think many paleo advocates selectively ignore the large amounts of evidence that roots were important to early humans. I think the best blogs that advocate a sensible approach to carbohydrates for healthy people are Whole Health Source(start with his Kitavan posts) and Primal Wisdom(start with Primal Potatoes).
I do carb cycling. I divide my favorite carbohydrates into rather unscientific categories, trying to rotate them to reduce the odds of me being affected by any antinutrients. My categories are tropical, local winter, and local summer.
The local winter carbs include carrots, squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, beets, and other vegetables that grow locally. In the winter I often eat a serving or two of these a day.
The local summer carbs include fruits, with a basis towards wild fruits, which I particularly enjoyed in Sweden. When I lived there I would often simply go out into the woods in the morning and gather a basket of lingonberries, sea buckthorn, blueberries, or currants. I think berries can be enjoyed daily in season and more domesticated fruits like apples or apricots with more moderation.
Tropical carbs are more like supplements or treats. They don't grow in New York, but with the Caribbean/SE Asian population in NYC I'd be amiss if I didn't enjoy some plantains, taro, cocoyam, mango, coconut, and other tropical delights similar to what the Kitavans or Okinawans are so healthy eating about once a week or so. Thai coconuts are my favorite because they pack a punch of potassium and it's possible to ferment most of the sugar out of the water.