Monday, February 20, 2012

Horseradish Stuffed Ham Rolls in Aspic

Along with tons of normal meat, I picked this up at the local butcher/deli today. It was, uhm, interesting. Aspic, ham, horseradish, cream cheese what could possibly go wrong? Seems to be kind of a German thing, or maybe a Central European thing, I dunno. Not bad actually, but I'll probably not go out of my way to buy it again, mostly because the aspic was too hard, with better aspic I could see...naw. Although it wasn't nearly as bad as this woman makes it out to be, but she used "pineapple jelly powder", whatever the hell that is.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Pubs, Paleo and Communing with Friends

I rarely go to the local pub these days, but I don't miss all the hours I spent in my thirties hanging out most weeknights with friends, typically 6-8 guys and girls drinking beer, eating goulash and intermittently smoking cigarettes. It was the sort of work hard, play hard lifestyle I imagine is typical for a lot of people in their 30s in the big city.

Sure it gave me a giant beer belly, but it wasn't all bad.

In the idealized wimpified sitcom/drama personified by a show like Friends, there's a community of people hanging out because they all happen to live in expensive flats in New York right next to each other and they all happen to be nice and bland and they support each other despite having their little squabbles and suffering the slings and arrows of being young and beautiful and single whilst living in a NYC penthouse apartment.

In the much less idealized sitcom/drama of Cheers, there's a strong community, but the community is a hell of a lot less touchy-feely than the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed Friends.

A German-Swedish friend of mine who used to live here in Prague complained that the strict alcohol rules in Sweden destroyed pub their culture. Nowadays, he said, people in Sweden go to each others' houses and watch a DVD or something when they socialize, instead of meeting in the local pub and talking. I replied, "Yeah, just like in the US, except we never really had a pub culture to begin with."

There's nothing very social about watching a movie at some friends' house compared to bullshitting at a pub for two hours over a few beers, sorry, no way.

Having this close community of friends seems to be everyone's secret ideal but how many have it in real life or have ever had it in real life?

When I do go to the local pub to meet someone I see the older Czechs who are drinking a lot of beer and smoking a lot of cigs, but they are also having a damn good time. These are people in their 50s or 60s who still go to the pub after work for a couple hours, typically a table of five or six men and women. They aren't the healthiest looking people in the world, big Slavic bears with ruddy faces (the men and women), but they typically look a lot healthier than this:

Dean Ornish in the prime of health
I also see younger Czechs who don't drink or smoke as much having a good time hanging out. I don't idealize pubs: beer and cigs are unhealthy and you also see a lot of washed-up pathetic looking loners nursing drinks by themselves. But I do think there's something very positive about the sense of community, about hanging out with people and bullshitting, not staring at a damn TV set together.

As one gets older and has children, focus tends to shift inward on the family, people move away, it's harder to make friends, etc. Nowadays, its possible to make up for that with online communities, and I don't have a problem with that at all. It's not the same as live interaction, of course, but on the other hand it allows like-minded, intelligent people to interact from all over the world.

I think we have an innate need for community, something that has been an evolutionary advantage for millions of years of hunter-gatherer lifestyle, and I also think that few of us get it, or certainly enough of it, these days. Call me a paleo-reenactor if you must.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Won't someone think of the children!

In the latest episode of 1984-The Reality TV Show, a four-year-old in North Carolina was told by a jackbooted stormtrooper, I mean, I mean an "agent" representing the state that her home lunch wasn't nutritious as it didn't meet USDA guidelines.

Okay it's easy to blow this story way out of proportion, AND I"M QUITE WILLING TO DO SO! But I will honestly try and restrain myself.
A preschooler at West Hoke Elementary School ate three chicken nuggets for lunch Jan. 30 because a state employee told her the lunch her mother packed was not nutritious.

The girl’s turkey and cheese sandwich, banana, potato chips, and apple juice did not meet U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines, according to the interpretation of the agent who was inspecting all lunch boxes in her More at Four classroom that day
The Division of Child Development and Early Education at the Department of Health and Human Services requires all lunches served in pre-kindergarten programs — including in-home day care centers — to meet USDA guidelines. That means lunches must consist of one serving of meat, one serving of milk, one serving of grain, and two servings of fruit or vegetables, even if the lunches are brought from home.
Oh, North Carolina, how we love thee.  

If having an agent inspecting four-year-olds' lunch boxes doesn't send an Orwellian chill up your spine, you aren't doing it right. Thinking that is.

Okay, now I'm going to try and be fair. First off, this strict interpretation of Federal guidelines is not a North Carolina thing.

Secondly, they didn't take her lunch away or anything, they just told her it was unhealthy, apparently. And, honestly, it sorta is. Apple juice is verboten for my kid, except on special occasions. Milk is obviously better than unless the kid has lactose issues.

And I have to admit, the USDA guidelines aren't THAT bad, at least they include a serving of meat. Two servings of fruit and vegetables? That means fruit or nothing for most kids of that age. My kid will ask for a carrot when he's watching Bugs Bunny, that's how suggestible kids are to cartoons, but mostly he'll avoid them.

The obvious issue is whether or not the state has a right to override parents dietary choices for their kids. Of course I believe it shouldn't have this right, especially if the parent is going out of their way to pack a lunch for their kids. This is something akin to telling a kid their (and their parents) religious beliefs are wrong.

This is where things get dicey.

Richard Dawkins characterizes religious indoctrination of children as child abuse. And while I am also an atheist it's obvious to me that Dawkins takes this way too far. When it comes to adults, there's a pretty clear line to be drawn in my mind, I've a right to do what I want as long as I don't hurt anyone else. Even this line is blurred of course, as is everything in life. Do I have the right to play loud music that disturbs my neighbors? Is that causing harm?

When it comes to children, it seems obvious that parents have the right to pass their values onto their children. What happens when these values and their inherent actions are unhealthy or dangerous, like giving soy milk to babies or simply physically abusing them?

When do the authorities have the right to intervene? In a libertarian paradise (libertopia) these things would be handled at the community level. This is a very sticky subject and I certainly don't have any easy answers.

What this really leads me to is that fact that ethics and the societal constructs they are based upon simply aren't absolute. So, when it comes to things like politics and ethics I'm actually a consequentialist at heart. This is why I find arguing about the ethics of veganism boring. There is simply no way to "prove" that eating meat is ethically bad or not, it simply is a food we were evolved to eat.

Via Reason

Friday, February 10, 2012

Pig Foot Soup

Commentor Scott asked me to post some pics of cooking the pig foot I bought a few days ago, so here they are, dude.

I cut the meat off the beef ribs and threw the bones in with the pig foot.

Gave it about an hour and a half in the pressure cooker

This is what it looked like after, a prop for an Alien film:

Threw in lots of celery, half a head of cauliflower, garlic, and a couple of onions diced up with my trusty V-slicer.

Gave it another 10 minutes or so in the pressure cooker, the mashed it.

Then hit is with the immersion blender.

Et voila!

And while I've been writing this I've been rendering some lard. Here's what it looked like when I started.

Which is one of the few uses I have for this expensive ass stainless steel wok.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Dr Doug McGuff Shut Out of AHS 2012 For Being An Anarchist or Something

AHS is dead to me.

Sure, some of the best and brightest in the paleo/whatever world, people I have tons of respect for and have often corresponded with are going to attend and lecture, but shutting out Doug McGuff for being iconoclastic is pure unadulterated bullshit.

To quote from Dr Doug:
This week I was disappointed to learn that the presentation that Eric Daniels and I had planned for the 2012 Ancestral Health Symposium was not selected for inclusion.  The title of the proposed lecture is: From Spontaneous Organization to Central Planning in Just One Year:  How Policy Produced the Health Crisis and Will Cause Ancestral Health to Fail. 

With a title like this it is little wonder that it was not accepted at an event run by the Harvard Food Law Society.  Like Leonard Peikoff once said…”if you are openly putting your head in a buzz saw, you should expect to get bloody”.  I proposed this talk after AHS11 because I saw a mounting tide of progressive sentiment that felt that things would be better if only public policy could be dictated by the “really smart people” at the meeting.  I wanted to show how when great ideas emerge from spontaneous organization and market forces, that there is a tendency to want to capture those great ideas that percolated from the bottom up and make them into societal policies that are enforced from the top down.  However, the enforcement of even good ideas from the top down by necessity stifles further creativity, prevents incorporation of new knowledge, and results in the good knowledge being applied improperly or out-of-context by a populace who receives its knowledge by an argument from authority.

I knew Doug McGuff was a sharp guy but the title of his proposed talk is simply awesome. From Spontaneous Organization to Central Planning in Just One Year:  How Policy Produced the Health Crisis and Will Cause Ancestral Health to Fail. 

And policy is still producing the health crisis. AHS wants a piece of that action.

Spontaneous organization is a fascinating subject, it's basically the driving force behind the internet and things like the paleo movement (or Linux or Wikipedia). Organizations that won't brook any criticism from major figures in their field are treading the road to serfdom.

The lesson: if you want to cogently criticize AHS for moving towards left wing/statist bootlickers they will take the typical left wing/statist bootlicker approach and censor you.

Real science has to be open to criticism. That's the core point of the scientific method--don't fool yourself. AHS prefers to move into the realm of monetized mysticism, which, to be fair, will probably make a lot of people rich and famous.

The CDC Goes After Bread--For Being Salty

April Fools has come early this year at the Center for Disease Control.

Yeah, I wish.

I bitch about the hidebound idiocy of conventional medicine a lot, but this really has to take the cake.

The CDC have discovered something unhealthy in bread. Not all the glutinous white flour, no, it's all that damn NaCL.

I've written about salt quite a bit. I don't think it's a health problem for most people (it seems to be a risk factor for some). If you are pounding down the bread, the salt is the very least of your problems.

This is so far into the stupid zone that it's way beyond my pedestrian ability to mock or satirize.

This is for you CDC, a classic that never grows old:

Paleo Ain't Expensive

As we've seen from the 7-day challenge I did a while back, price is simply not an excuse for avoiding paleo or real food for anyone who can afford to eat a standard crap diet.

I just got back from the local run to the local butcher, here's my haul:

All this stuff cost me 300 kč, about 15 USD:

1/2 kilo ground beef
1/2 kilo ground pork
1 kilo fatback for rendering lard
Some beef ribs
A bunch of Viennese sausages (for the kid)
A bunch of bacon (well, the Czech version)
1 pig foot

No fancy steaks or grassfed stuff, just lots of cheap meat (except for the bacon). When I'm feeling ambitious I buy whole cuts of meat and grind it myself, with the Fleischwolf, but I wasn't feeling it. I don't mind the grinding, I just hate cleaning up the damn thing.

This probably isn't all the meat we'll eat this week, but six kilos or so of protein, fat (and some bone) means a lot of calories for a family of three. I might throw in a vegetable or two.

Like some oven-dried tomatoes:

Sunday, February 05, 2012

WAPF In Czech Republic

The Czech chapter of the Weston A Price foundation is now active, with expats and Czechs participating. As Batman famously said when asked to join the Justice League, "I work alone." But I'm happy to use my bat-blogging powers to give them a heads-up.

Man, I need to spend less time watching cartoons with my kid.

Actually, Weston Price was kind of a real life superhero who solved crimes (against humanity) with his brain rather than innate superpowers, rather like Batman. If you aren't familiar with Weston Price, the original text is available here. And one certainly could do worse than read Chris Masterjohn on the subject.

(Thanks Daniel Visser)

Gambling and Other Addictions (Revisiting Food Reward)

It's easy to be dismissive of other people's addictions. Gambling isn't heavily regulated here and there are a lot of herna bars in my neighborhood (smoke-filled bars with one-armed bandits and often other forms of gambling). There are four or five within a few blocks of our flat.

There's been a lot of talk lately about the "hyper-palatability" of modern processed food. This is often used as an excuse to regulate it. The line of reasoning goes something like this, "The evul corporashuns create hyper-palatable foods in their secret underground laboratories that we simply aren't capable of avoiding. Okay, WE can avoid those hyper-palatable Cheesy Poofs, but the poor dumb masses can't, so the government needs to step in." Stephan Guyenet, Robert Lustig and (apparently) most expert luminaries in the field of nutritional research generally take this as a given.

To quote Stephan from a few months back:
Dr. Robert Lustig gave a keynote address on Thursday evening, which I unfortunately wasn't able to attend due to my flight schedule.  From what I heard, he focused on practical solutions for reducing national sugar consumption, such as instituting a sugar tax.  Dr. Lustig was a major presence at the conference, and perhaps partially due to his efforts, sugar was a central focus throughout the day.  Nearly everyone agrees that added sugar is harmful to the nation's health at current intakes, so the question kept coming up "how long is it going to take us to do something about it?"  As Dr. David Ludwig said, "...the obesity epidemic can be viewed as a disease of technology with a simple, but politically difficult solution".

Taxes/regulations are vigorously opposed by the processed food industry, and also (more understandably) by people who don't want to have their food choices legislated.  Children in particular should be federally protected from predatory food industry practices.  Personally, I'm in favor of legislation that de-incentivizes added sugar consumption.  What if we had a sugar tax that paid for some of the obesity and diabetes-related expenditures that taxpayers currently shoulder through Medicare and Medicaid?  That would simply balance the "externalized" cost of health problems that are caused by sugar in the first place.
I'm not going to get into the externalities argument, that's easily shown to be a fallacy, but it oughtn't to matter even if it did exist.

Is the obesity epidemic a disease of technology? What does that even mean? Yes, we would all be healthier if we lived on farms, got plenty of exercise and ate real food--as long as we also had access to modern medicines like antibiotics, knowledge of germ theory, etc, along with knowledge of modern agricultural techniques. Otherwise we would be back in the middle ages where the average lifespan was like 12 nanoseconds or something.

I would liken the hyper-palatability of Cheesy Poofs to the hyper-gambility (yeah, I just made that up), of games like roulette or one-armed bandits with blinking lights and whatever else they come up with to stimulate the pleasure-response reaction. These could also be considered diseases of technology. If only electricity and the wheel hadn't been invented there'd be no roulette or one-armed bandits with blinking lights. And writing and the number system are responsible for the spread of card games such as poker. The solution is simple but politically difficult, more taxes, regulation and government intervention. Yeah right.

There's an addiction aspect to food. This I buy unconditionally. There's an addiction aspect to just about anything. Shopping is a big one that seems to affect a certain sex. But it can be anything, collecting stamps, finding the hippest band no one's every heard of, or memorizing baseball statistics. The main difference is that things like collecting stamps, unlike eating, aren't necessary for survival. Shopping is, at least in the world most of us live in, and I'm probably not the first one to suspect a hunter-GATHERER female predilection for this activity.

Getting back to the opening paragraph. It is easy to dismiss people engaging in an obviously destructive addiction like gambling. When I walk by a herna bar and see these people with their lined and weary faces lit by the light of a slot machine obsessively feeding in their hard earned coins I ought to think to myself, "There but for the grace of God, go I." Because I'm sure the impulse to become addicted to something like that has its germ in all of us.

What I don't condescendingly think to myself is that these people are suffering from a disease of technology and need to have the government step in and eliminate that technology for the good of the herd. I've a right, at least in some places, to shout from the rooftops that gambling is idiotic, animal fats are healthy, and ABBA really sucks. I don't have a right to use force to change people's behavior as long as they aren't hurting me. Lustig, Guyenet, et al, feel otherwise, but they've got PhDs and stuff.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

How Fast Does Your Skin Wrinkle Up in Water?

I've noticed my skin prunes quicker than it used to. I suspect this is tied up with overall health but I've never heard anything specific about it. Perhaps I'm just imagining things.

Pruning of fingers and toes in water seems to be related to the differential of water retention between the dermis and epidermis. But why the increased susceptibility to pruning as one ages? It takes a very long time for my five-year-old to have his skin wrinkle in the bath. I suspect there's an overall health correlation, and I suspect that this correlation could be tied in with diet.