Sunday, October 31, 2010

Guanciale Peas

Guanciale is Italian for food of the gods. Actually, it is derived from the Italian for cheek. According to François-Xavier from the excellent (and now sadly inactive) FXcuisine it is unavailable outside of Italy. Well our local high-end deli has some and if I can get it here in Prague it is certainly available in many other places outside of Italy. Guanciale is mostly fat, very high quality, strongly flavored fat from the jowl. It is famous as a key ingredient in Carbonara (a weak substitute being bacon) but I'm not a big pasta fan so I found another popular use--to flavor up veggies with fat.

Threw some slices of guanciale in a skillet.

Added some diced red onion.

When the guanciale was rendered and crispy, I took the paper thin slices out and we ate them. Added peas and a few chilli flakes.

The finished product. Notice the yummy guanciale fat glistening off the peas, now that's the way I like my veggies.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Jag Bantar, jah!

I was talking to a Swedish friend about William Banting, the Victorian Atkins mentioned in the intro of Good Calories, Bad Calories. Banting published a pamphlet on his success with a low-carb diet that was incredibly popular.
Within a year, “Banting” had entered the English language as a verb meaning “to diet.” “If he is gouty, obese, and nervous, we strongly recommend him to ‘bant,’” suggested the Pall Mall Gazette in June 1865. (GCBC, pp.x)
The term is no longer used in English, as far as I know, but is still used in Swedish. Jag bantar means 'I am dieting' (my friend said he'd always wondered where the term came from). Taubes goes onto talk about the backlash against Banting by the establishment:
The medical community of Banting’s day didn’t quite know what to make of him or his diet. Correspondents to the British Medical Journal seemed occasionally open-minded, albeit suitably skeptical; a formal paper was presented on the efficacy and safety of Banting’s diet at the 1864 meeting of the British Medical Association. Others did what members of established societies often do when confronted with a radical new concept: they attacked both the message and the messenger. The editors of The Lancet, which is to the BMJ what Newsweek is to Time, were particularly ruthless. First, they insisted that Banting’s diet was old news, which it was, although Banting never claimed otherwise. The medical literature, wrote The Lancet, “is tolerably complete, and supplies abundant evidence that all which Mr. Banting advises has been written over and over again.” Banting responded that this might well have been so, but it was news to him and other corpulent individuals.

In fact, Banting properly acknowledged his medical adviser Harvey, and in later editions of his pamphlet he apologized for not being familiar with the three Frenchmen who probably should have gotten credit: Claude Bernard, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, and Jean-François Dancel. (Banting neglected to mention his countrymen Alfred William Moore and John Harvey, who published treatises on similar meaty, starch-free diets in 1860 and 1861 respectively.) (GCBC pp. x-xi)
The 'knowledgeable' establishment wasn't slow to react.
The second primary grievance that The Lancet’s editors had with Banting, which has been echoed by critics of such diets ever since, was that his diet could be dangerous, and particularly so for the credibility of those physicians who did not embrace his ideas. “We advise Mr. Banting, and everyone of his kind, not to meddle with medical literature again, but be content to mind his own business,” The Lancet said. (GCBC, pp. xii)
Appeal to authority--sound familiar?

I am convinced that future generations will view our current demonization of saturated fat and deification of whole wheat bread and frankenoils with the same scorn and disbelief we now reserve for witch trials and medical blood-letting. Anyone who thinks that science, or the human race in general, proceeds forward at a smooth pace need only look at the history of dietary science.
It is incredible that in twentieth-century America a conscientious physician should have his hard-won professional reputation placed on the line for daring to suggest that an obesity victim might achieve some relief by cutting out sugars and starches. 
ROBERT ATKINS, author of Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution, testifying before Congress, April 12, 1973 (GCBC, pp. 404)

Addendum: Turns out Barry Groves wrote an excellent article about Banting, also noting the Swedish use: "A friend of mine, Jan Freden, of Uppsala, Sweden, tells me that in Sweden today, 'banting' is still the word most commonly used for dieting to achieve weight loss."

More Salt and Olive Oil

I liked the Sel de Guérande aux herbes so much I decided to try this:

While it says gray sea salt for the table (or however that would be translated), I found it to be more of a beige color, with dark green specks of algae:

Algae of course is rich in iodine. In fact seafood and sea salt is one of the few sources of iodine. No idea how much of iodine is in this salt, though, my mass spectrometer is in the shop. This salt is much drier than the herb Guérande and much saltier. I would imagine using this more as a finishing salt while I've been using the herb Guérande a lot in cooking.

If anyone is wondering what happened to bottle #1726 of Primum olive oil, I've got it. Oh yeah.

This stuff is pretty slickly package (maybe a little too slick). It hails from España. Taste wise, it doesn't seem as smooth as the last stuff, although that could just mean it is stronger or heavier. It does have a similar strong 'green' smell that is lacking from the mainstream processed or fake olive oils. I'm not sure if I will bother with the fridge test.

It comes in a nice box with an optional pouring spout so it would make a great healthy gift. The last liter bottle lasted 5 months so I figure the extra expense is worth the step up in quality and health.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fake Mashed Potatoes

I've been meaning to try cauliflower 'potatoes' for a while and finally got around to it today. These are a favorite in the paleo/primal/low carb world. My big hope was that the kid would love them as much as he loves real mashers.

I steamed some cauliflower for about ten minutes.

Added some cream cheese, herb salt and black pepper. Mashed.

Then used the immersion blender to really get them smooth. Ever overcook or overmash mash potatoes and they turn into a giant ball of glue? I used to do it all the time. One has to worry a little bit about a food that can do that. I whipped the hell out of this cauliflower and it was in no danger of turning into sticky sludge.

The result was still too 'cabbagey' for my tastes, so I added more cream cheese and herb salt.

Not too bad. Actually looks like mashed potatoes and the extra cream cheese made it quite smooth and, uhm, creamy.

Served it up with a pork chop.

Unfortunately the kid wasn't so crazy about them. I might have gone a little heavy on the black pepper. He much preferred the cauliflower soup I made last week. So it was a bit of a failed experiment in that regard. On the other hand my wife really liked them and I thought that they were pretty decent. I don't feel compelled to eat a pork chop with anything other than a knife and fork (if that) but I really should eat more veggies.

Here's a quick and dirty side by side comparison taken from wikipedia--sorry, I was too lazy to get the cooked values directly from the USDA database. The biggest advantage the cauliflower has, 1/4 the carbs, 1/5 the starch and 1/3 the calories (I'm not exactly sure how something can have 4 times as much carbs yet only 3 times the calories when it has the same fat and protein), along with a lot of Vit C (although Vit C is easily broken down or evaporated by cooking). Potato has some more iron and slightly more minerals.

In conclusion, something I will be trying again, perhaps with some added onions and garlic to take the cabbage taste down another notch. I might try steaming some carrots also to add a bit more of a neutral flavor, perhaps to make some fake mashed sweet potatoes. Actually I would just buy real sweet potatoes if they were easily available here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sometimes You Gotta Cheat

Or at least I do. Not for myself you understand, but as a responsible, or perhaps irresponsible parent.

I try to avoid grains as much as possible these days. This runs up against one problem--kids love pizza. I don't mind it a lot myself. I worked as a pizza cook in high school and ate pizza every day for a year and never got sick of it. And the only thing my kid loves more than eating pizza is making pizza. There is plenty of mess to be made what with throwing around the flour in the guise of mixing and kneading and such. Anyway, this is something I occasionally indulge in even though I try to stay more or less paleo, or at least primal, most of the time. It's a father-son project so I'm not going to sweat the occasional wheat hit.

I warned you. Die hard paleoticians avert your gaze now.

Those may look like ordinary rolling pins but they are actually Roley and, uhm, his little brother or something. All I know for sure is that they talk and sometimes have misunderstandings with the dough. I don't know what the name of the dough is.

The chef must sample his product for quality control of course.

Here's what it looked like going in the oven, red and yellow bell peppers, bacon and half jalapenos for the adults.

The finished product. Pure evil!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

All Food is GM

Katherine Mangu-Ward has an excellent article over at Reason magazine on the introduction of fast growing salmon or Frankenfish as they are known by hippie alarmists. These salmon have been modified to mature faster. However, instead of this having been done by farmers over hundreds or thousands of years, it was done by scientists in a few short years. Farmers and scientists both genetically modify food, of course, but when scientists do it it is somehow inherently evil.

I'm not a huge fan of stuff like GM maize. First of all, I'm not a fan of grains in general, and secondly, I'm wary of the additional pesticide. There are plenty of nuances, since the added pesticide seems a lot safer than what the corn would have been sprayed with otherwise. Also, I'm not well-conversed with the facts because I can't be bothered researching something that I try not to eat anyway.

What I don't have a problem with is the idea of manipulating DNA, or that it should only be done in a 'natural' way through selective breeding.

an example of healthy and natural genetic manipulation

Salmon 2.0 are simply designed to mature faster. Belgian Blue cattle are selected to be massively muscled. In the wild, these strains would quickly be weeded out because they are less efficient than their slimmer or slower-growing competitors. In the case of the Belgian Blue, the gene for myostatin, a muscle inhibitor, is messed up from a 'natural' mutation. In the case of growth-enhanced salmon, a gene string was transferred (transgene) from another fish. Why is one case evil and the other hunky-dory?

A big objection is that these modified salmon will escape and breed with wild salmon and screw up the species forever. I wonder why the same objections aren't made for dogs, cats, pigs, cows, and all the plant cultivars like grapes, wheat, etc? Is anyone worried that Cabernet Sauvignon grapes will suddenly escape and take over the countryside? Oh the tragedy! Or that Belgian Blues will breed with water buffaloes creating an African supercow that will take over the world and make us all wear bells around our necks? Of course not. A salmon that grows too fast, or a cow that has (literally) a ton of extra muscle it doesn't need would quite quickly be deselected in the wild. You can't screw up these wild species because they are already way better adapted to their environment than their modified cousins, whether modified by breeding or by adding a gene from another animal. These species we've modified over the past millennia (or in the last decade) are all hothouse flowers as far as Nature is concerned.

The real problem with these fast-growing salmon is that they will still be fed the same crap other farmed animals eat, thereby screwing up their n-3/n-6 ratio. Not to mention all the other unhealthy aspects of farmed animals: antibiotics, inadequate exercise, inhumane living conditions, etc.

Quick and Dirty Adovada

Carne Adovada is a thing of beauty and a wonder to behold. Especially when it is made with the proper ingredients and is assembled and prepared in the authentic manner. Then there's the stuff I make. Still, quite tasty but definitely not 'correct'. Instead of marinating using real chillis and red chilli powder, I use this stuff which is what's available locally:

The biggest drawback to Sriracha is that it contains sugar. In fact, it is the second ingredient, yikes! The advantage is that it really has a kick to it so a little goes a long way. The disadvantage is that I use a lot more than a little. Actually it isn't super sweet so I don't think it has tons of sugar in it like ketchup. Anyway, I pour  a liberal amount of Sriracha over some cubed pork shoulder, add some salt and pepper and green onions (which were all I had), water, cumin, and sweet paprika. Marinate for a few hours (or overnight). Ends up looking like this:

The key to this is low and slow. I cooked at about 150C for 3 hours covered, then another quarter hour uncovered to brown it and get rid of some of the excess juice. For some reason pork seems to be more forgiving of this kind of cooking, beef has more propensity to dry out or get stringy.

Out of the oven:

Falling apart with a kick like a mule. Perfect way to get my fix of hot. It needs to cook all afternoon, but the total amount of prep time is minimal, mostly cutting up the pork.

Monday, October 25, 2010

What is Truth? Bacon!

I came across this sentence on Steve Landsburgh's blog in a discussion of Gödel's incompleteness theorem and it sort of blew me away:
Every statement, of course, is derivable from axioms because any statement can be made an axiom.
Not sure why exactly, it seems pretty obvious on second glance. Any statement can be logically proved in some system. What it does highlight is the importance of choosing one's axioms well.

If one takes as an axiom that 'meat is murder', for instance, then many of the tenets of veganism follow naturally from that. That a vegan diet is innately more healthy than a caveman diet has nothing to do with the meat is murder axiom. It is another axiom in the vegan paradigm, since we know that it is not backed up by research.

Derivability does not equal truth.

Godel's incompleteness theorems showed that there are always statements consistent with a system (set of axioms) that cannot be proved in that system. It is obviously true that kung-fu movies are way cooler than romantic comedies, but how does one go about proving that? I guess that has to be an axiom.

Of course, we don't live in a strict mathematical world, but in the real world. Is there a difference? Well, if one buys into the platonic ideal, and Roger Penrose convinced me to do that, then mathematical proofs are discoveries not constructs. An unveiling of reality rather than an artificial device.

Hold on, I will scare it up in his own words.

Still there? Ok great:
When one 'sees' a mathematical truth one breaks through into this (Plato's) world of ideas, and makes direct contact with it ('accessible via the intellect'). I have described this 'seeing' in relation to Godel's thereom, but it is the essence of mathematical understanding.  When mathematicians communicate, this is made possible by each one having a direct route to truth, the consciousness of each being in a position to perceive mathematical truths directly, through this process of 'seeing'. .... The mental images that each one has, when making this Platonic contact , might be rather different in each case, but communication is possible because each is directly in contact with the same externally existing Platonic world! (The Emperor's New Mind, 1989, pp. 554)
(Roger Penrose is total ninja)

So while there's no such thing as an ideal circle, only by imagining one can we come upon greater truths that do describe reality. Or something along those lines. What is my point? Well I think the same can be said about bacon. It is a truth, and when paleoticians eat bacon, each one has a direct route to truth! The mental images might be different but each one is in contact with the same existing Platonic world, which has tons of bacon, of course.

A glimpse of eternal truth

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Goat's Cheese

This cheese is quite good. 43% fat, four simple ingredients (goat milk, culture, rennet and sea salt). But someone really ought to explain to Dodoni the difference between an adjective and the possessive.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

When are Fallback Foods No Longer for Falling Back?

Try saying that five times fast . . .

The previous post got me thinking more about what constitutes a fallback food. John Hawks concludes his article:
Considering the very high C4 proportion indicated by the OH5 and Natron isotope values, it doesn't seem likely that this reflects a fallback strategy, but possibly an initial exploitation of such resources as fallbacks facilitated a later, more developed adaptation to them.
So what's the difference between a fallback and an initial exploitation? Given that animal flesh provides the highest concentration of energy in any ecosystem (which is why lions, not ostriches, are on top of the food chain), all other foods must constitute some sort of fallback position. Of course ostriches can't live off of zebra steaks since they are most likely unadapted to process it but eliminate all the other predators and nature will quickly fill that top slot with some sort of killer bird, much like it did in New Zealand. The top slot always fills up quickly. Not all animals can occupy the top slot, carnivores need herbivores, of course. But all animals would like to be in that top slot, and will evolve into it given the opportunity. By the same token, omnivores will prefer a juicy filet mignon steak to, say, 30 bananas, unless they've been heavily conditioned otherwise.

Now anyone who dropped the grains and gained a huge jump in health will tell you that grains are a fallback food, at least for them. If there was a nuclear holocaust and the only thing left was a warehouse full of wonderbread, they'll eat it, otherwise pass the bacon.

I suppose an archaelogist from the distant future (munching on vat-grown beef) might do an analysis on our bones (well mine would skew things a bit) and conclude that since we spent 10,000 years eating grains they must not've been a fallback food, even though they are--unless we were to evolve to become completely adapted to them, to the point of losing our ability to process animal protein, in which case the neolithic revolution could be viewed as an initial exploitation.

 Ask this dude if he'd like to initially exploit some heart healthy whole-wheat bread. Go on, I dare you.

Designed to Eat Paper.

As Richard Nikoley points out, some vegan reporter at Reuters uses the discovery of a possible 30,000 year old loaf of wonderbread to throw a smackdown on paleo. The supposed 'bread' was supposedly made from potato-like tubers but let's not quibble the point.

This proves we are evolved to eat bread!!!!

Yeah right.

This got me thinking about what we actually are 'designed' to eat and how long it takes us to adapt. Birds are well adapted to eating grass seeds, for instance. They don't even need to soak them, grind them, cook them, eat them and then declare them heart healthy. Birds and grass seeds have been fighting an evolutionary arms race for a very long time.  The Red Queen Hypothesis posits that predators and pray co-evolve better defenses and better attacking strategies. Since birds evolved from dinosaurs, long before human ancestors even thought about picking up a thigh bone and whomping on a pig, they are pretty evenly matched with seeds. Ever heard of a sparrow with celiac?

Would you like some paper with that?

Humans jumped into this fray around 10,000 years ago, or possibly even 30,000 years ago in some parts of the world and I'm sure there's been some adaptation. Probably more or less depending on where your ancestors hail from.

No one really knows how quickly we can adapt to something like eating grass seeds after having spent millions of years adapting to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Lactose tolerance, for instance, is a fairly recent adaptation that was quickly picked up by 99% of Northern Europeans, among others. But that is a fairly simple thing. All mammals drink milk when young but mostly lose the ability to produces lactase when weaned. So a single mutation to leave that ability turned on is all it took.

So what are we evolved to eat? Well perhaps papyrus stems it seems.

John Hawks pointed to a paper a while back that shows that a high incidence of C4-derived carbon in A. africanus could come from a heavy diet of papyrus culms "which have roughly the nutritional and caloric value of domestic potatos, although would require a significant gut flora to deal with the cellulosic content". Australopithecus africanus lived 2-3 million years ago. That's a pretty serious amount of time to adapt (and by an odd coincidence it is also the amount of subjective time I experience when forced to listen to a Celine Dion song).

There's nothing wrong with eating vegetables, of course, according to most folks in the paleosphere, although I would prefer some steamed broccoli to something that "produces a bolus in the mouth that has to be spat out at intervals". Does this mean we are "designed" to eat paper? I tried a sheet and found it distinctly unpleasant, then I remembered that paper is made from wood pulp. Well maybe yes, maybe no, I'm certainly not qualified to judge. Thinking of diet in terms of our long-term evolutionary environment is really the whole point to eating paleo. The question of whether or not we evolved to get our primary source of food from animal fat and protein has been put to bed, at least as far as I'm concerned.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Beating a Dead Horse, a Rant in the Key of E minor.

I just came across this wonderful piece of so-called research. It was mentioned in Scientific American (remember when Scientific American actually had articles written by scientists?). They didn't actually link to the study (why would anyone want to view the actual paper when a journalist can explain it to us lesser mortals?), but I managed to track it down in a few nanoseconds thanks the wonder that is Google. To quote Scientific American's summary:
Another study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, looked at human moods. Researchers followed 106 overweight people. Half followed a low-carb, very high-fat diet, and half ate a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet. After a year, both groups averaged about 30 pounds weight loss. And though both groups’ moods improved after two months, only the low-fat, high-carb group kept up the good feelings. So what we eat doesn’t just go to our waists—it also goes to our brains.
Ok, both groups lost the same amount of weight, both groups improved their moods, but the high-carb group kept their better mood? My bullshit detector immediately jumped to 11.

So what exactly did this so-called high-fat group eat?
Participants on the LC diet were prescribed a dietary plan aimed at providing 4% of total energy as carbohydrate, 35% as protein, and 61% as fat (20% saturated fat), with the objective to restrict carbohydrate to less than 20 g/d for the first 8 weeks and with an option to increase to less than 40 g/d for the remainder of the study.
41% of their diet was PUFA?!?! How did they even manage that? Were they guzzling corn oil? Yuck. No wonder they felt like crap.

Ok, this study has already been debunked in my mind. But wait, there's more:
The participants met individually with a qualified dietitian fortnightly during the first 8 weeks of the study and then monthly thereafter; the dietician provided detailed individualized dietary advice, meal plans, and recipe information pertaining to each diet. To facilitate dietary compliance, the participants were supplied with a selection of key foods (approximately 30% of total energy) that were representative of each diet's macronutrient profile fortnightly for the first 8 weeks, and then a A$40 food voucher was provided at each monthly diet visit during the remainder of the study. Both dietary patterns were also structured to include specific food quantities and weights to ensure that the correct macronutrient and energy requirements were achieved as previously described.
They met with a 'qualified' dietitian every two weeks and were given a food voucher once a month to 'facilitate compliance'? 40 Aussie bucks a month to facilitate compliance? So we don't actually know if these participants were really guzzling their corn oil (LC) or munching down their 'heart healthy' whole wheat bread with skim milk (LF) or if they were just going out for beer and pizza every night.

And don't even get me started and what makes a dietitian supposedly qualified.

Am I done? No!

Another thing that pisses me off is self-reported happiness.
Mood was assessed using 3 validated questionnaires: (1) the POMS, which measures 6 separate aspects of mood, including tension-anxiety, depression-dejection, anger-hostility, vigor-activity, fatigue-inertia, and confusion-bewilderment, and provides a global score of mood disturbance (total mood disturbance score [TMDS]) that is determined by subtracting the vigor-activity score from the sum of the 5 negative mood factors;
These self-reported measures of mood are total . . . oh wait they used three(!!!) validated questionnaires. We are supposed to believe that the only difference between a LC and LF diet (besides the fact that SFAs will kill you, of course) is that a low-carb diet makes you sad?

I'm so sick of hearing about which country is the self-reported happiest. I may not be the happiest person on Earth but at least I can think for myself. Steve Landsburgh has a great takedown of the idiocy of self-reported happiness and how these 'studies' are used as propaganda.

This is, of course, the perfect study to get picked up by the mainstream media. I don't know who else ran with it besides Scientific American but I wouldn't be surprised if it made the front page of the NY Times, the BBC, and was picked up by the AP and AFP. It's nothing short of propaganda as far as I'm concerned and people are dying or living degraded, unhealthy lives because of stuff like this. I'll close with a picture that sums up my opinion j-school graduates and their so-called reporting on science:

Saturday, October 16, 2010

How to Fake Grill a Steak

A few years back I did some experimenting and reading about how best to cook a steak without a grill. I eventually came across this and it works better than anything else I've tried. One caveat with this method, doesn't work well for thin steaks which is often how sirloin is sold in this country for some reason. Last night we had a couple of super thick hunks of sirloin and it worked great.

First, get your iron skillet super hot. I usually blast it on high for about ten minutes before dropping on the steaks. The iron skillet I use is actually for making tortillas, my Mother sent it from New Mexico a long time ago. I never could figure out how to make a good tortilla, and now I don't cook with grain products (except for the occasional pizza with my son) but this thing is perfect for cooking steaks. Also make sure to pat the steak as dry as possible with a paper towel or whatever. If you salt the steaks beforehand it will cause water to leech out of the steak. Any moisture on the surface of the steak will interfere with the searing.

Flipped over, see how beautifully they seared. Not cooked on a grill but they could probably be passed off as (well, except for the missing black vertical stripes).

Pop into the oven for few minutes. If you have an oven thermometer you rock. I don't so I have to take them out and check 'em. Or leave them in too long if I'm lazy and space it out. That's what I did last night.

Oops, 181F, definitely overdone, although my wife prefers well done. I usually try and shoot for around 165F (74C).

Oh yeah, and how cool is granite? I can set a super hot iron skillet directly on the counter, no problem. I've gotten so used to it that I have to be careful not to burn someone else's counters when I cook there. We may not have a grill or a backyard or a big-screen TV or enough storage space, but we've got some bad-ass counters.

These turned out quite tender and juicy despite not retaining even a hint of pink in the middle. Yum!

Friday, October 15, 2010

To Sleep, Perchance to Eat Cheese.

A paper on sleep and light in the early edition of PNAS has garnered some mainstream media attention, here's The Economist's article about it. Basically, when they added light at night to the environment, mice got fat and had increased glucose intolerance. Interestingly, the effect was the same whether the night light was bright or dim, although as The Economist points out, mice are nocturnal and normally eat at night so this might screw them up much worse than humans.

The importance of sleep (and darkness) has been discussed a lot in the paleosphere, Stephan recently did a post on it and of course Mark Sisson has touched on it several times (is there anything he hasn't?). I recently bought a bunch of candles to use in the evenings, the candles lasted 3 days and I didn't notice any difference in sleep and that was the end of my little experiment - ok so I didn't exactly give it the old college try (or rather I gave it Calvin's father's version). Maybe if I could find some cheap bulk candles I would give it another shot.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Farm Subsidies or the PCRM are a Bunch of Lying Liars.

Drew over at How To Cook Like Your Grandmother has a great takedown of the supposed idea that a Big Mac is cheaper than a salad because beef is so heavily subsidized, a canard I've come across more than a few times. Here's a screen shot from this table at the Environmental Working Group:

Corn and wheat alone account for around 100 billion dollars, whereas livestock received a mere 3 percent of that in the same period. Is it any wonder HFCS is so ubiquitous?

Tell people to eat unhealthy food, use their tax money to subsidize the hell out of unhealthy food. And when everyone turns obese and diabetic go after Mickey D's. How's that working out so far?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sprints and Scenery

Foggy and slightly frozen in Stromovka this morning. Looks beautiful and makes for some rather primordial running. I'd prefer a cool summer morning with the Sun long up but I'm trying to spin this in my mind 'cause I got a lot of winter running coming up so I'm going to have to get used to it again. In the dead of winter here, the sun rises around noon and sets about ten minutes later, or at least that's how it feels. I grew up in New Mexico so I'm pretty much a big fat wimp about the cold and not so crazy about five hours of daylight.

It was hovering around freezing this morning and I was somewhat under-dressed. But it was picturesque and that does make up for a lot.

My tracks through the frosty grass.

I tried a different protocol this morning. Instead of attempting to hit tabata times, I ran about 60 meters and walked back, a couple warmups and something like eight actual sprints. Longer rest times are less brutal than tabatas and also allow for more intensity on the sprints. I think tabatas are great for people in really good shape (like the guys Dr Tabata involved in the famous experiment, college Phys Ed majors), but I'm not one of those people. 

By the time I finished, the fog was burning off.

And the dog walkers were starting to show up in droves. I love dogs but there is nothing they enjoy more than to chase a sprinter (with the possible exception of licking their nether regions).

I am also working myself up to sprinting on my neighborhood streets despite all the stares I'm sure I'll get (and one has never been stared at until one has been stared at doing something unusual in Central Europe). Sometimes I just don't have the time and/or gumption to huff it down to the park and back. The main reason I always used to run at the park was to save my knees, but sprints are so much lower impact that doing them on pavement isn't a big deal.

Good Food, Good Mood.

Last night was some good eats.

Scallops wrapped in bacon or prosciutto. I got the idea for this from Girl Gone Primal. I've tried cooking scallops just about every way possible and these are definitely our favorite.

The finished product. These scallops were huge, by the way.

Swedish meatballs cooked in lots of butter.

And even some veggies, roasted red bell pepper, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with herb fleur de sel. My wife made a salad, but I've given up forcing myself to eat salads. I'm just not into them and I've decided not to sweat it anymore.

Unfortunately, we don't eat like this every day and we really should (but who can afford scallops every night?). I woke up this morning feeling great, which almost always happens when I eat a great dinner like this (unless I accompanied it with too much wine). I'm psyched to go hammer my bod with some sprints in the cold, foggy darkness.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Drinking on Eggshells

Something I've recently started doing - adding eggshells to the coffee grounds. Usually not this much but a fair amount. It really helps smooth mediocre coffee, something we have too much of, unfortunately, by cutting down the acidity. In fact, too many eggshells can actually make the coffee taste rather weak. But beyond the flavor benefit it is a great way to add some trace minerals to one's diet. The hardest part for me is remembering not to throw away the eggshells when cooking. I let them dry out a few days then smash them up and put them in a jar next to the coffee maker. Some people recommend baking the eggshells to help release more minerals but I can't be bothered to make that big of a production out of it.

Black Gold

I never considered myself to have much of a sweet tooth, despite the fact I used to put sugar in my coffee for years and years (blech!). But because of its purported benefits, I'm now buying chocolate on a regular basis, not something I used to do. I don't get the generic crap with a list of ingredients a mile long, of course (although I used to). When it comes to chocolate, the high quality stuff actually costs less since a little goes such a long way.

This is what I've been buying lately to get my fix, I mean my heart healthy dose of anti-oxidants. Vivani 85%. The ingredients are as follows: cocoa, cocoa butter, and raw cane sugar. The amount of cocoa butter makes the biggest difference between the good stuff and the mediocre stuff as any chocolate lover will tell you. It's the difference between hard bitter chocolate and melt in your mouth quality stuff. So I got to wondering what exactly is cocoa butter? Well cacao, like other tropical plants such as palm and coconut (and that obscure class known as mammals), prefers to store energy as SFA. Cocoa butter is around 60% SFA and 40% MUFA and is one of the most stable fats around. The stuff is liquid gold, truth be told. And when mixed with the black gold of chocolate is, oh screw the metaphors, it is good stuff.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

FH King, a Window into the Past.

Out of curiosity of what constituted a 'normal' diet a century ago, I downloaded and have been dipping into
Farmers of Forty Centuries; Or, Permanent Agriculture in China, Korea, and Japan  By F. H. KING, published posthumously in 1911. The free etext is available on Project Gutenberg.

King was a pretty interesting dude, and well ahead of his time. He held the radical notion that nutrients in the soil might be important, for which he was canned from the USDA, and he invented the circular silo. All those round silos you've seen all your life? Invented by F.H. King.

King visited Asia in 1909, a time when people were most likely growing and preparing food in a similar way as their ancestors a millennium before, and wrote about his observations in the aforementioned book. 

Now if you are a hardcore paleo type, you won't be interested in what traditional neolithic cultures in Aisa were consuming. But, thanks to people like Stephan, I believe that traditional food preparation and quantities can be enlightening. Evolutionary thinking about diet is crucial but traditional foods and preparation methods haven't been around for thousands of years by accident. It's not a coincidence that soy was processed in specific ways to reduce anti-nutrients in Asia for thousands of years, and nobody used raw soy milk as a "healthy" alternative to ruminant milk or attempted to substitute it for human milk. Or that the traditional bread here in Central Europe is a fermented sourdough rye.

In an upcoming post I will highlight some passages I found interesting.

Kiwi Cows, now with built-in Crisco.

New Zealand has mostly pastured cows from what I gather, and, of course, that's a good thing. But they have been increasingly supplementing with a feed made from the palm seeds after being squeezed for their oil. Palm oil is considered a 'healthier' SFA by people who buy into the conventional wisdom about SFAs being inherently bad, and apparently this palm feed is causing the cows to produce palmitelaidic acid, a trans-fat. More evidence of the dangers of messing with an animal's natural diet, be they human or ruminant.