Thursday, October 4, 2012

The sacred cow

This past Sunday, I had the good fortune to meet Ms. Sally Fallon (Morell) -- perhaps best known for founding the interesting and at times somewhat extreme Weston A. Price Foundation, but she will always live in my heart as the woman behind the awesome, activisty cookbook, Nourishing Traditions. And for her advocacy around legalizing raw milk -- which in the District is harder to lay one's hands on than hard drugs, apparently -- she is one of my heroes.

Somehow, over the course of the months we spent corresponding by email leading up to the free talk and potluck I was organizing for Slow Food DC, I managed not to gush too much. I refrained from going on embarrassingly about how much I adore that cookbook of hers, with its recipes for fermented foods and the joys of whole grains and unapologetic tirade against modern health trends. I mean, for heaven's sake, the subtitle of the book is "The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats." (Yes, it really says Diet Dictocrats in the title. Love it.) Unfortunately, my introduction of this local celebrity was a little gushy and awkward, but hopefully most folks forgot about that by the time Ms. Fallon got a few slides into her presentation.

Lord, I hate public speaking.

After some history of the research of Dr. Weston A, Price, whose work studying the links between health (specifically dental health) and diet in populations around the world, Sally -- hee, hee, I used her first name -- launched into a diatribe against the vacillating patterns that are the dietary/nutritional recommendations and health scares of our day. One day butter is bad. The next day it's good. Carbs are bad. No, wait, they are the main component of the USDA food pyramid, but a growing number of people can't properly digest contemporary commodity grains. Red meat is bad. Dairy is bad. Raw milk is dangerous. Fruit is too high in sugar. There's e coli on the spinach.... Aaaagh! What the heck are we supposed to think? Or eat??

After trashing processed foods (no arguments here) and maligning a series of new-fangled diets including vegetarianism (hey, though I do love my pastured bacon and grassfed lamb stew there's no need to hate on the veg lovers), Sally got to the meat (har, har) of her argument: we Americans have lost touch with what our bodies need, which is a complete diet that includes healthy fats. Things like lard. Yes. Lard. You know: Evil Ingredient #3, only bumped out of the top two spots by High Fructose Corn Syrup and Arsenic as things we should avoid putting into our bodies according to the folks telling us what to eat these days. Well, the lard from pastured animals is actually good for us. The junk they call lard that comes from animals raised in confinement is not. (For the record, I am not a fan of HFCS nor a proponent of arsenic consumption. I have been known to cook with lard on occasion.)

Now, I take these sorts of ideas, these calls to eat more meat and animal products with a grain of Salt (which, incidentally, is also not an inherently bad ingredient in moderation), and I was a little taken aback with how extreme her views were at times. However, Sally (hee, hee, I just called her Sally again) did have some good points. There are a lot of important nutrients we can get out of eating animal foods -- eggs, milk, butter, cheese, meat, and (though I squirm to think about it) offal -- but we need to raise our animals differently than we have been. Out on pasture, roaming and eating what they would normally eat rather than a steady diet of commodity corn as they're crammed shoulder to shoulder in a windowless cement building. Raising animals slowly, letting them put on weight naturally over time, and as a result having the flavor of the land they are raised on... these are Slow Food principles if I ever heard any. And since it takes so much more time and work to raise animals this way, the quality of the meat would be higher and the higher price of meat would mean that we would eat less of it overall. I imagine at the higher price, too, we would not want to waste any bits of it... including things like liver (which I would welcome my dad to eat my share of since he loves it).

Speaking of appreciating good food, who could turn down something as delectable as the raw milk cheese Ms. Fallon brought from her farm?

Yes, we had much to chew on -- literally and figuratively -- at the potluck that followed, including some of my beet risotto (this batch made with homemade, free-range chicken stock).

1 comment:

  1. I have the Nourishing Traditions cookbook! She was an original trailblazer, how cool to meet her. The cheese looks fabulous and beet risotto? Bliss.


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