This blog is about the intersection between evolutionary biology and food. But also about practical applications, sustainable agriculture, and general tasty things.
Maybe because I just moved from NYC to Chicago, I was a little insulted by this little rant the New York Times published on the horrible life of a vegetarian in the Midwest. Of course, she lumps the entire Midwest into her rant, even though it seems the author has only lived in one Midwestern city, which is Kansas City.
So, yes, I’ve “eaten” at some of these famous restaurants. There was the meal at the Golden Ox steakhouse (baked potato), Stroud’s fried chicken (rolls) and Arthur Bryant’s barbecue, where, searching for vegetarian options on the menu, skipping over the lard-bathed French fries, pausing to consider the coleslaw, I ordered the safest option (a mug of Budweiser).
I'm sorry, but that just made me laugh, because this whole lard revival thing is going on right now in New York City. Maybe lard never left the menu on Kansas City, but in NYC right now, a lot of fancy restaurants are BRAGGING about the animal fat they are using to make their fries. In fact, I created a Dinevore list of various restaurants that use duck fat for their fries in NYC. It has 12 restaurants and I'm sure I'm missing a few. In fact, one of the most famous restaurant empires in NYC, David Chang's various Momofuku ventures, are explicitly vegetarian-unfriendly.
So I'm not sure what the point of harping on about lard was, except to write an article to make New Yorkers feel smug about themselves. I would say that New Yorkers can feel quite smug that they do have better vegetarian and vegan food though. I like to eat an occasional vegan meal myself, but so far the vegan food in Chicago seems to be stuck in an era of vegetable oil and wheat (would you like some breaded soy nuggets fried in vegetable oil??) that most vegan food in NYC has escaped.
But at least I'm not lobbying to have bread baskets burned. Back in the 1980s, vegan activist front Center for Science in the Public Interest lobbied for fast food restaurants to trade their animal fat for hydrogenated vegetable oil. Unfortunately for them, it became clear that synthetic trans-fats are probably the worst thing you could possibly eat.
But they are still in use in some fryers and the oils that have replaced trans-fats, industrial soy and canola oils, really aren't that much better for you. Nothing seems more backwards these days than trading lard for vegetable oils. Lots of New Yorkers know that. In fact, it's super easy to get very high quality lard in NYC, which I haven't found to be the case in Chicago. Oh the irony. However, Chicago has redeemed itself by having tallow fries at Longman & Eagle.*
* not that fried carbs should ever be a dietary staple, but it's nice to know when you are having an occasional treat that you are not downing a cup of vegetable oil crap for no reason
John Durant's latest post on Before & Afters reminded me of this pair of photos:
Eating a bagel
It's funny because my skin was pretty clear in the bread photo, but overall I think I looked more bloated or chubby back then. But attached to that picture is memories of all the time I used to spend at the school medical clinic and all the classes I missed because I was sick. I was thinking about what degree I might like to peruse recently and while I'm immensely grateful for my current health, it's hard not to be bitter about what I missed out on. I remember dropping out of some advanced math and stats classes because I was just too sick to keep up. Even though I know they'd take over my life, I am sort of tempted to take them now just to prove I can.
I had a great New Year's. I had a rough year last year, as my regular readers know, which involved an eviction, job loss, and some possible health problems among other unpleasant complications. As I watched the fireworks in the park, I thought for a second "Wow, I feel great and it's wonderful to feel this way considering how the year started out."
Honestly, I have no idea what was going on earlier this year, but one of my main symptoms was very low blood pressure. My doctor told me if I couldn't fix this on my own, he was going to have to put me on medication.
I'm happy to say that my symptoms are gone! I could speculate on what caused them, but honestly I'm not sure. Stress, lack of sleep, and undereating were regular parts of my life back then. These are the things I think might have worked:
The last part was facilitated by my purchase of large quantities of grass-fed lamb in bulk. I pretty much mostly eat that now. It means I don't worry very much about shopping which is nice. Some health complaints that have disappeared since have caused me to question some paleo paradigms. All plants have potentially problematic chemicals in them, no matter where they are from or how much of them your ancestors eat. Chris Masterjohn and I have talked extensively about this and he's writing a series about it.
Choosing plant foods because of their history without taking biochemistry into account is dogma, not science. I strongly believe that switching from yams to white potatoes as a carb source had an immensely positive effect on my health. There is something in yams(Ipomoea) that bothers me, which is absent in white potatoes. Not all domestication is bad. Many crops have been bred to be LESS toxic.
So I won't be avoiding nightshades for the paleo challenge. Avoiding grains mainly to see what happens and because I'm due for a dental checkup in Feb and Stephan's post on Dr. Mellanby intrigued me. I'll also avoid nuts, but I don't eat much of those anyway. I have some leftover grits from a wonderful New Year's brunch at Applewood and then I'll be grain-free for 30 days.
I'm more concerned about exercise this new year. I'm going to try to do that more systematically and get outside more. I also want to learn some new recipes...by actually following them. I think I've reached a plateau in making up recipes and need some wisdom.
My New Years wish for the paleo community is less reduxctivism. I would like to see fewer books saying that some parts of an animal are healthy and others are unhealthy based on fat content. I think the healthiest balance is found is eating ruminants nose to tail. No, drinking butter and eating lard are not paleo (though not paleo doesn't mean bad), they are more traditional nutrition(and can be a great part of a healthy diet), but lamb chops are.
Unrelated, but I'd also like to somehow figure out a way to clear my email backlog...sorry if I owe you an email!
Image from MARTHA STEWART, she is badass
My fridge is full of jars of creepy goo. At least my roommates thing that. But the truth is that those jars hold liquid gold! I love jars, as they are easy to clean fat off of and don't leech plastic byproducts. But I love what's in those jars more:
Stefansson also forced himself to like fish, you can read about it in his interesting book online:
Until I was twenty seven I had the belief about myself that I could not eat fish and felt certain that its taste was obnoxious to me. I thought it an interesting peculiarity and assumed that everyone else would think so and there were few things I told about so often as the fact that I was peculiar in that I could not eat fish. I think I might have lost the notion sooner if it had not formed such an excellent topic of conversation