This blog is about the intersection between evolutionary biology and food. But also about practical applications, sustainable agriculture, and general tasty things.
I'm in the process of moving, so I haven't had time for fancy recipes. Luckily there are a few things that can make anything tasty: salt and acid. Adding a dash of acid to a dish can really improve the flavor profile. For example, on Sunday I made pork chops for Chris with rosemary, sea salt, pepper, and a dash of peach vinegar that I got from this awesome store called The Filling Station. Some great ideas for adding acid include: vinegars, fermented vegetables, and acidic pastes.
My favorite vinegars are coconut vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and flavored vinegars. You can make your own flavored vinegar, like this fig vinegar or this peach vinegar. Trader Joes has some excellent vinegars like tangerine vinegar. The aforementioned Filling Station has at least 10 varieties and many online retailers also sell flavored vinegars.
Fermented vegetables also add a tangy acid kick. Many restaurants I like serve pickled vegetables alongside entrees. Lot 2 in Windsor Terrace used to serve chicken confit with silky pickled mushrooms, which was amazing.
Many acidic pastes are obvious: like tomato paste. There is a reason why tomatoes have been enthusiastically adopted by so many cultures. Another great one, which is the secret in many authentic Thai recipes, is tamarind paste. Many BBQ sauces actually contain this and it definitely tastes great with meat. I often marinate liver or heart with tamarind paste, lime juice, chili, ginger, and garlic overnight, which balances out some of the "mineral" flavor of these offal cuts.
What acidic ingredients do you cook with?
Edit: And duh...citrus! Using exotic citrus is also lots of fun!
This week I spoke at a panel at the Food + Tech Meetup about Meatshare. There are some good tips in there I hope for those of you interested in truly good meat. I credit the program with really improving the quality of my diet since I now have regular access to meat and don't have to shop very much. I shop only for fun items and not as a chore. All the meat I need is in my chest freezer. I do shop for vegetables, but usually not often since I usually have some pickled carrots, beets, or cabbage in the fridge. Gallons of pickles + chest freezer = never venture out in the cold for an annoying shopping trip again. Now if only I had a seafood share...
I strongly encourage people to look into purchasing whole lambs or goats. They are 20-60 lbs. 20 lbs is not a lot and most people can fit that in a normal freezer. And yes, every part is worth eating. You'll discover parts you didn't even know you wanted! You'll have plenty of tallow for cooking with too! And bones for stock!
As for things being hard to cook, I think people set themselves up for failure by trying to do things too perfectly. Normally I just sear the cuts like chops in tallow with rosemary, black pepper, and cumin. The braising cuts go into the crockpot on low overnight with a cup of wine and a cup of water. Then I put that in the fridge in the morning collect the tallow that hardens on top, save the liquid to use as broth, and eat the meat seasoned with sea salt and pepper. Sometimes I do fancy recipes, but most of the time I keep it simple.
I think some people mistakenly think lamb, deer, and other similar ruminants are leaner than they actually are because many times their fat is discarded. That is a shame. I think you should at least taste an animal's fat before discarding it. Ruminants do tend to convert things to fat less gracefully than pigs do. Lard is nearly always tasty until a pig has been fed something truly horrible. Tallow and other ruminant fats can be a lot more variable. The lamb I got from B&Y farms a month or so ago had excellent fat. I've eaten lots of the prime cuts and have some neck bones left. I make them into a stock, but I do it in a two part method to salvage the knobs of fat on the neck for myself. I put them in a crock pot on low, half cover with a mixture of wine and water, and cook for a few hours. Then I put in a glass jar in the fridge. I put the white tallow on the surface aside in a jar for cooking things and remove the knobs of fat from the bones. These I put under the broiler for a few minutes until they are crispy. Then I dress them with lime juice, black pepper, chili, garlic, and cumin. I like to call it lamb popcorn. Mmm. The leftover bones go into the stock pot.
All I'm saying is give this kind of fat a chance!
I got the idea from Xi'an Famous Foods, an unusual NYC Chinese chain that euphemistically calls some lamb offal "treasures." They also have a "lamb's face salad." Either way, I love the combo of lamb fat + cumin that is the hallmark of their food.
My next project is adobo, the Filipino dish that got some press in the NYTimes this week. Why didn't I think to make this before? Cooking meat in coconut vinegar is genius. I love the combo of acid and fat. I hope I can get some coconut vinegar. I know it's somewhere in NYC since we do have a Filipino population. I recently bought coconut aminos, which is a bit like soy sauce, and it's REALLY good. Dare I say better than soy sauce? I made some marinated spare ribs with it last night and it was incredible.
My fav meat techniques so far:
- Confit: cooking meat in large amounts of fat. As a bonus it keeps for a really long time. Yes you can use any meat and any fat. I've made salmon confit.
- Wine: antioxidant effects and the stock makes a great sauce. Throw it into your crockpot or your braising pot.
Those of you who are in my Meatshare, a meat buying club, might notice that the latest share is much cheaper than the last one. Farms vary, so I don't mind pricing varying, but lower prices usually mean we can't offer charcuterie, so no sausages. We do have some educational events in the works and maybe even a supper club. Stay tuned!
The past couple of posts I've gotten some comments implying I'm misandrist, which any man that actually knows me will confirm is untrue, but furthermore, would a misandrist own a cookbook called A Thousand Ways To Please A Husband With Bettina's Best Recipes?
Unfortunately, I can't link to this cookbook because it's very old. It's from 1917, but actually old cookbooks are a pretty cheap collectible. You can get some nice ones for less than $20 and they make great gifts. I suspect it's because many of them really show their age. American cooking has changed a lot and dare I say that it's better now? Yes, we eat a lot of junk these days, but it's possible to get cookbooks that have healthy AND flavorful recipes. Reading this cookbook, I get the feeling that if anything in it is healthy, it's an accident. As much as I love old things, I feel very lucky that we can evaluate them scientifically. **edit: someone just informed me that this book is available free on Google Books**
This cookbook was from a very strange era. It melds retro gender roles with a more modern emphasis on convenience, thrift, and simplicity. Back when I first got this cookbook, when I was a teenager, I never made anything from it because it had "exotic" ingredients like lard and tallow. Now I don't use it much because everything is bland and has white flour and sugar in it. It reminds me that while our health wasn't so bad back then compared to now, it was probably in the decline. There are wise traditions, but there are unwise traditions as well. I get the feeling that bread-crusted lamb chops are an unwise tradition. It's entirely possible to make unhealthy foods from scratch.
Though let's be honest, anyone who came home to these meals would probably be pretty happy. Each chapter has a trite little story as an intro that makes me very grateful that I am not as boring as Bettina, though her husband Bob is pretty lame too. Then there is a selection of recipes for each occasion. For example "A Sunday Dinner" has roast beef, brown potatoes, browned gravy, baked squash, and Devil's food cake with vanilla icing. Don't worry, it's not entirely woman's work. One progressive chapter is "Bob Makes Peanut Fudge." Don't worry, while Bob is making his manly candy, Bettina is at work on liver and bacon, fruit gems, creamed turnips, and apple sauce. In another chapter titled "Bob makes pop-overs"...Bob makes pop-overs, though really Bettina is making them when Bob comes into the kitchen and says "Let me help you with them, Bettina; this is one place where you can use my strong right arm."
Flour is added to EVERYTHING. The food actually reminds me a bit of what was served at the Baptist church potlucks my family went to when I was a child. The only thing missing is the Jello.
For Valentine's Day there is broiled steak, macaroni with tomatoes and green peppers, baked potatoes, bread, butter, and cornstarch fruit pudding. Probably the most hilarious menu is for Washington's Birthday
"Good bran bread," said Bob, reaching for another piece.
"I like that recipe," said Bettina, "and it is so easy to make."
"What have you been doing all day?" Bob asked, "Cooking?"
"No, indeed. Charlotte was here this afternoon and we made plans for the tea we are going to give at her house on Washington's birthday. Oh, Bob we have some of the best ideas for it! Our refreshments are to be served from the dining-room table, you know, and our central decoration is to be a three-cornered black hat filled with artificial red cherries...blah blah blah blah"
So what's on the final menu? Corned beef au gratin, baked tomatoes, apple sauce, cream pie, and GLUTEN BREAD. Yes, not just bread, but GLUTEN BREAD. Planning parties all day sounds nice though.
A little too much sugar here, which probably accounts for some of the gout men of this era suffered from (if you search Google books for this era you'll find several diabetic and uric-acid free cookbooks), but I've learned some lessons from the book. One of my major mistakes has been making extremely complicated multi-course meals. Bettina makes several simple things. She also often boils or steams things, which I didn't really do much until this year, but they are very simple and gentle cooking methods. Bettina occasionally uses a "fireless cooker," which was a primitive form of crockpot.
While I find Bettina annoying, I don't see her as a mere housewife. These days I'm sure she'd be gainfully employed as a party-planner or something. And while I don't think cooking is a "woman's role" I do personally enjoy cooking for men.
Please your stalkers with a freshly baked cake!
Bake then, even babies helped in the kitchen. Wait... that's not a baby....
Here is a recipe: Head lettuce with Roquefort Cheese Dressing
1 head of lettuce
1/4 a cup Roquefort cheese
Cream the cheese, add salt, pepper, and vinegar. Add the oil gradually. Mix well, shake thoroughly. Pour over the lettuce and serve.
I've really become a fan of retro salad dressing recently, particularly Green Goddess, even though that takes me a very long time to make since I make my own mayo.
Edit: Bettina's family recipes seems a lot better and it's also on Google Books for free. These smothered potatoes are calling me...
Hmm, I guess the problem with getting your family into eating healthier is that you might come home expecting to indulge in some Christmas sweets and find a fridge full of not fudge, but grass-fed meat and oranges.
When I looked at that fridge full of healthy foods I felt less than festive. And an inexplicable craving for fudge.
That was despite being surrounded by a million zillion twinkling Christmas lights and four Nativity scenes. Rich sweet foods are unfortunately tied to Holiday cheer.
So I chose to make one holiday dessert this year.
I've always been a bit of an Anglophile. I always like to read some Charles Dickens for Christmas and I've always been entraced by the food in those books. I think British food has a bad reputation that is unjust. Jane Grigson's book is a great introduction to British cookery and shows that true traditional British food isn't terrible different from good Swedish food. Lots of fresh fish, seaweed, goose, and mutton. Some of this was lost during the Industrial Revolution's urbanization, when people moved into the cities and could no longer harvest these foods from the land or afford them in shops. Unfortunately Jane's book has many recipes containing flour and refined sugar. I'm more interested in foods from the Middle Ages, when those ingredients were scarce. I'm not saying all British food is bad, but I do think there are some hidden gems.
This year I already made mincemeat, but I gave most of it away. I used this recipe, but added more suet since the lamb was a little lean. I also used fewer dates and added some brandy instead. I love the rich festive spiced taste of mincemeat and use it as a dessert or in a simple gluten-free almond-flour crust as a delicious pie.
For Christmas I'm making this Baked Almond Pudding for 4-6, which Jane says is a "firm cake-like pudding with a 'sad' centre and crisp outside."
250g ground almonds
a few drops of bitter almond essence
2 tablespoons double cream
1 tablespoon brandy
4 tablespoons rapadura
2 egg yolks
Melt the butter, pour it into a bowl, and add the remaining ingredients in the order given. Grease a shallow pie dish or Pyrex dish with a butter paper, ladle in the mixture and bake at 375 F for about 45 minutes. The time will depend on the depth of the mixture; allow room for it to rise a little. The surface will brown lightly and acquire that appetizing baked almond crust. Serve with sugar, butter and a sweet wine or sherry.
MMM. Not "healthy" but already gluten-free and not so bad either!
Guess what I had for dinner last night at a super secret supper club? Hint, "I'm so hungry I could eat a _____."
Yes, this is horse heart with truffles. Oh, I can just hear the gasps of horror right now. This was from Quebec, where it is legal. In most of Europe it's still eaten.
In California, if you are arrested for serving this, the minimum sentence is 2 years. To contrast, you could torture this animal and have sex with it and get less than a year.
Yes, I know horses are pretty and sparkly and we owe them something. But that's not logic- that's no better than basing a law on religious beliefs. And in fact such laws do have roots in religion. Horse meat has a long association with paganism and back when that was a major threat to Catholicism, the pope outlawed it.
Don't get me wrong. I like horses and I've ridden them since I was very young. When I was 14 I gave an impassioned speech in debate club about the horrors of horse slaughter. But a horse is no smarter than a pig. And if it were legal, I would eat my own horses. Many horses go lame or break their legs quite young. Instead of eating them, we often euthanize them and cremate them.That's too bad, because the meat is quite good. No gaminess, so it was a little like lean beef. Also, draft horses are much more practical if you are allowed to eat them sometimes. That's why some draft breeds are still thriving in Europe while they are mostly seen on museum farms here.
Back when I was 15
I like cows and pigs too...and I eat them.
During the dinner, a woman from Kazakhstan who grew up as a nomad said she was so happy to be eating this, since she hadn't had it for 15 years. She talked about her culture's complete reliance on the horse, which involves use for riding, blood, milk, and meat. There they treasure horse meat and offer up prayers to thank the horses for their gifts to humans.
The chefs at the dinner paired horse with another unjustly illegal ingredient, Tonka Beans. No, I wasn't going unpaleo here :) Tonka beans are not eaten like real beans, but like vanilla beans. Shavings of them are used as a flavoring that many describe as being close to vanilla. I found it otherworldly, but bizarrely reminecant of buttercream iced birthday cakes. These beans are illegal because they have an ingredient that's kind of like a blood thinner, but scientists generally agree that they are safe and they are used in Britain and France.
< sarcasm > Since there are no factory farms that are producing digusting and unsafe food whatsoever, the FDA has plenty of time to raid Michelin-starred restaurants like Alinea, which used to make desserts with Tonka. < /sarcasm >This is stupid. Tonka beans aren't even remotely unsafe. Sadly, Tonka beans don't have a lobby that would help get the stupid law repealed.
Palo Santo is a small restaurant in Park Slope, Brooklyn that has a bit of a cult following in the paleo community. Robb Wolf has praised the food there. It's also popular with members of local Crossfit gyms. I've eaten there many times and the food is incredible!
So when I saw that chef Jacques Gautier would be teaching a cooking class on Pre-Colombian Cuisine: Indigenous Foods of the Americas, I signed up right away!
Jacques had never heard of paleo, but he is an ardent defender of traditional foods. You'll never find bottles of the ubiquitous canola oil in his kitchen. At night he collects all the fat from the meat he has cooked and uses that as the cooking fat the next day. He never uses MSG-leaden bouillon, instead he makes his own traditional bone stock. In the restaurant industry, this is quite rare.
The concept of this class required Jacques to research what was cooked in the Americas before contact with Europe. Luckily, this food is less dramatically different than Pre-Colombian Indian (NO peppers!) or Italian (NO tomatoes!) cuisines. Of course, it's hard to know exactly what was cooked back then and some delicious liberties were taken. Some ingredients omitted included wines, oil, cilantro (we used native Culantro instead*), and onions.
Foolishly, I forgot my camera, but I was too busy enjoying the experience to take many pictures anyway. First everyone in the class had to chop up some vegetables like sunchokes and pumpkin. Then Jacques showed us how he uses stock and a traditional fermented corn drink called Chicha to build delicious sauces with meats, seeds, and peppers. Building such moles was time consuming, but the end result was worth it. We had venison in a smoky red mole and turkey in a refreshing bright green mole.
We also cooked some succotash with clams. I thought it was a brilliant and easy recipe that I will attempt at home. We used stock to cook the vegetables in: corn, pumpkin, lima beans, and sunchokes. The steam from this helped open up the clams:
Another cool thing we did was cook sea bass on a bed of seaweed, which added flavor and prevented the fish from burning.
We also ground our own masa! Jacques explained how we "limed" the corn to increase its digestibility, a traditional practice. Stone grinding gave me new respect for what people had to go through before the advent of Cusinarts...needless to say, we didn't have extra tortillas at the dinner table.
We fried our tortillas in pork fat :) In the Americas they wouldn't have had pigs, so they would have used other animal fats like turkey. Jacques told us how he saw a traditional stone-cooking setup where they had meat braising in crevices and they would scoop up the fat to fry the tortillas in.
Finally we sat down to eat our delicious foods! My favorite was the venison with cactus.
I'm definitely going to be working on building better sauces and trying out the method of cooking succotash with calms. If you are in Brooklyn, definitely check out Palo Santo.
* gardeners, growing Culantro is a great idea because unlike cilantro it doesn't go to seed and stop producing leaves
Have you seen Chris Masterjohn's latest post? Since his last posts have been rather serious, I thought he was seriously going to write a paleo book. ANd I thought...well that's quite a bit unlike the Chris I know and a little odd to boot. But seriously, it reminds me of all the reasons I'm not writing a book any time soon.
First, my unabashed love of many neolithic things. It brings to mind this comment I saw on a Meghan McArdle blog post about Nestle selling in the Amazon:
Makes me think of an account I read, I can't remember where, of some travelers or explorers in a very remote area on some island I think in Indonesia or somewhere like that. Anyway, the travelers met a local hunter gatherer and shared their dinner of white rice with him. They wrote that he cried because he had never tasted anything so delicious before. Imagine living on roots and leaves and then having people complain if you get something tastier.
I have a little book written by an actual archaeologist on prehistoric cookery. Needless to say, I have not made any of the bland and miserable-sounding recipes in that book.
I have no desire for asceticism for the sake of asceticism. Yes, I like to eat with evolution in mind, but unless someone comes up with a study that shows that my lovely neolithic goose rilettes are culpable for ruining health, I am unlikely to trade them for soggy sea weed and unseasoned muskrat stew.
It's been quite some time since I read this book, but it has the most honest title: Evolution of the Human Diet: The Known, The Unknown, and The Unknowable. Yes, there is much not known and even more that is unknowable. We know very basic things about the paleolithic diet, enough for a very basic framework. But not much more. We know their diets were high in protein from isotope studies, we know they ate nose to tail from butchery marks, we know they ate some plants from coprolites (though these studies have the worst methodology), and yeah...
There is SO much pop anthropology floating out there right now. Like the idea that cultures like the Inuit or the Kitavans are paleolithic relics. It shows just how far this movement has gone away from actual anthropology, which recognizes that the paleolithic is an era that is OVER. There are no more paleolithic cultures. There are some foragers left, but ALL of these groups have had significant contact with agriculturalists and many have also been agriculturalists at some point in history. This is called agricultural regression and its well-known in anthropology, but apparently has not taken hold of pop culture, though the Boston Globe had an article on SE Asia that featured it recently. So most modern foragers are NOT living fossils. Laughably, many of these cultures mistakenly held up as examples of the Stone Age are not even foragers. The Kitavans, for example, are horticulturalists. Horticulture is a form of agriculture, which differs in some very significant social, cultural, and environmental ways from agrarianism. It's shifting vs. settled, communalism vs. private property, hoe vs. plough, agrobiodiversity vs. monoculture. It's different from the agriculture we know and it's almost always accompanied by foraging, but some foraging does not a forager make.
I wish mainly in this post to demolish the arrogance that is pervading the "paleo" movement. It's rather extraordinary since in many ways the movement is a reaction to the arrogance of mainstream health authorities.
The whole Paleo approach has become very fashionable with various camps arguing over a number of things that we really can’t know about for sure. How do you answer the critics who say this approach romanticises a brutish existence?
Let me be a bit provocative here, purposely: I do not care about my ancestors. They’re all dead!
An evolutionary approach is only interesting if it helps us, people of today, people that are still alive. In that sense, I am not interested in a so called “truth”, but in what we can experience today, and how understanding our past may help us improve our present lives. I am not living a caveman lifestyle, I’m sorry. I am a man of today, I’m in the here and now. I am not “sprinting and lifting heavy things” thinking that I am mimicking a caveman lifestyle. That is BULLSHIT. I am sprinting and lifting heavy things (among many other things I train) in order to be ready to do so in today’s world when the need arises. It’s about real-life preparedness and not role playing. MovNat is about connecting to reality, not to a reality that does not exist anymore.
On a whim, I purchased Cordain's new cookbook on my Kindle recently.
In it he mentions that he buys whole sides of beef from a local farmer, which I applaud. In fact, I'd love to be in Cordain's cow-share, because it seems that he is still maintaining a bit of a fat phobia. Exhibit 1: Foods You Should Avoid: candy, sugar, soft drinks, lamb chops...wait??? Lamb chops? Yes, Cordain still says to avoid fatty meats like turkey legs, pork ribs, pork chops, fatty beef roasts, T-bones steaks, etc. What does he do with those cuts in his cow share? Throw them away?
I understand that wild animals do generally have less fat than domestic animals, but even grass-fed animals have plenty of fat. If you are truly eating as our ancestors did, nose to tail, you are going to eat both lean and fatty meats.
But according to this cookbook " the foundation of the Paleo Diet is high-quality, low-fat protein foods, don’t feel guilty about eating lean meat, poultry, fish, or seafood at every meal—it is precisely what you need to do, along with adding as many fresh fruits and vegetables as you like."
On his recommended foods list is "LEAN POULTRY (white meat, skin removed)." In a chicken recipe he says "Drain excess fat from pan and return pan to burner." Jesus wept.
Processed meats are bad because "they are synthetic mixtures of meat and fat; they are artificially combined at the meatpacker or butcher’s whim with no consideration for the actual fatty acid profile of the wild animals our Stone Age ancestors ate." And skinless chicken breast cooked in olive oil is just like the fatty acid profile of wild animals?
Eggs? "So go ahead and enjoy this highly nutritious food; just don’t overdo it."
Yes, he recommends cooking with olive oil, which is a great way to ruin good oil, since olive oil has lots of delicate omega-6s. Not to mention the flavors of a good oil are destroyed by heat. At least he no longer recommends the vile canola oil. This piece of info was useful:
Since the publication of the first edition of The Paleo Diet in 2002, I have reversed my position on canola oil and can no longer endorse its consumption. Canola oil comes from the seeds of the rape plant (Brassica rapa or Brassica campestris), which is a relative of the broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and kale family. Undoubtedly, humans have eaten cabbage and its relatives since before historical times, and I still strongly support the consumption of these health-promoting vegetables. Nevertheless, the concentrated oil from Brassica seeds is another story. In its original form, rape plants produced a seed oil that contained elevated levels (20 to 50 percent) of erucic acid (a monounsaturated fatty acid labeled 22:1n9). Erucic acid is toxic and causes tissue damage in many organs of laboratory animals. In the early 1970s, Canadian plant breeders developed a strain of rape plant that yielded a seed with less than 2 percent erucic acid (thus the name canola oil). The erucic acid content of commercially available canola oil averages 0.6 percent. Despite its low erucic acid content, a number of experiments in the 1970s showed that even at low concentrations (2.0 and 0.88 percent), canola oil fed to rats could still elicit minor heart scarring that was considered pathological. A series of recent rat studies of low-erucic canola oil conducted by Dr. Ohara and colleagues at the Hatano Research Institute in Japan reported kidney injuries, increases in blood sodium levels, and abnormal changes in the hormone aldosterone, which regulates blood pressure. Other harmful effects of canola oil consumption in animals (at 10 percent of their total calories) included decreased litter sizes, behavioral changes, and liver damage. A number of recent human studies of canola and rapeseed oil by Dr. Poiikonen and colleagues at the University of Tempere in Finland showed it to be a potent allergen in adults and children that causes allergic cross-reactions from other environmental allergens. Based on these brand-new findings in both humans and animals, I prefer to err on the safe side and can no longer recommend canola oil in the modern-day Paleo Diet.
He notes the curious fact that coconut oil doesn't seem so bad, but can't seem to admit that it's because saturated fat isn't bad:
Strangely enough, traditional cultures that consume coconut foods have little or no heart disease, stroke, or other cardiovascular problems normally associated with eating saturated fats (such as the lauric acid found in coconuts). Although we don’t completely understand this inconsistency, it may be due to lauric acid’s positive antibacterial effect in the gut.
It's a bright spot in a book that highlights the main defect in the paleo diet movement: disconnect from tradition. We don't know what Stone Age people really ate. They are all dead. The science lab has some lessons, but it becomes plainly obvious that many paleo professors would be baffled by the wild. It's interesting to contrast this book with Plants That We Eat, by Anore Jones, who lived with the Inuit for 19 years. That book deserves its own post, but while wild animals don't have good marbling, it's clear they have fat. Enough to use to preserve greens and berries, enough to make "agutuk" ice cream with caribou fat, enough to have jars and jars of the stuff, as I do from my "lean" grass fed lamb. Lean is relative. And there is a lot of bias in our culture because we discard the fat of venison, for example, because of its "unpleasant" taste.
Cordain notes that "hunter-gatherers typically ate the entire animal—brains, eyeballs, tongue, marrow, liver, kidneys, intestines, gonads—whereas these organs are unappetizing to most of us." But chicken breast cooked in olive oil is not a replacement for marrow!
Overall I really wanted to like this book. Cordain seems like a great guy and it's clear he makes an effort to feed his entire family well. It's funny that when I was tired I misread his recipe for Monterey Mushrooms as being for Monastic Mushrooms. I think the diet he prescribes is unnecessarily ascetic due to his bias against saturated fat. There are some recipes I will be trying, like the "tamales" made with squash, but overall I think the diet he eats could be more nourishing with the addition of more fat and organs.
When I was little my mother read the Little House books to my sister and me. Looking back, I wonder if those books were part of what predisposed me to liking traditional foods, hunting, and farming. We had The Little House Cookbook as well and I remember being intimidated by the receipes, which called for things like lard.
I feel that it's a major accomplishment in my life that the recipes in this book now seem so normal to me. Lard? No problem, I've got plenty in my fridge.
One thing I'll always remember is the heart-shaped cakes that Laura and Mary got for Christmas. Back then such desserts were truly special. They each got one teeny tiny little cake to treasure and the fact it was made with white flour and sugar was unusual.
The cakes were too pretty to eat. Mary and Laura just looked at them. But as last Laura turned hers over, and she nibbled a tiny niblle from underneath, where it wouldn't show. And the inside of that little cake was white!
What else was in those cakes? Lard and cultured buttermilk. Not something to eat every day, but made with some good ingredients at least. Being a holiday today, I try to be mindful of such an eating philosophy. If you are going to eat something that's not the pinnacle of health, it might as well be good. Grandma's pie? Yes. Costco pie? No thanks, I'll have more turkey.
When I lived in Sweden I had the pleasure of having a very large kitchen and many friends who couldn't afford to go home, as well as interested Europeans. I helped cook both American and Canadian Thanksgivings. One of my goals in life is to once again have a really big kitchen where I can entertain my family and friends for meals like that. But for now it's just my small family and we are keeping it mostly paleo besides some candied walnuts. Disorganization is on our side— a good homemade pie crust is hard to make!
Another goal is to cook more of the recipes in this book. Blackbird pie anyone? First I need to practice shooting.
He cut into the pie's crust with a big spoon, and turned over a big chunk of it onto a plate. The underside was steamed and fluffy. Over it he poured spoonfuls of thin brown gravy, and beside it he laid half a blackbird, browned, and so tender that the meat was slipping from the bones. He handed that first plate across the table to Ma..."It takes you to think up a chicken pie, a year before there's chickens to make it with," Pa said. He ate a mouthful and said, "This beats a chicken pie all hollow."
Have a great Thanksgiving! Thank you for reading this blog!