Tag Archives: traditional food

Forever Youthful for Dirt Cheap and Easy? Yep.

10 Apr

Beef broth about twelve hours in.

Ever suffered from chronic tendinitis? Weak bones, nails, hair, connective tissues? Gut issues? Peptic ulcers? Cellulite? Collagen loss? IBS? I may have the solution for you to all of the above problems, and most importantly, for virtually no money and in a form that conserves resources, prevents landfills from landfilling, and makes you feel like a super-provider for your loved ones.

A couple of weeks ago I picked up some big beef bones at the farmer’s market. They were labeled “dog bones” and were two bucks a piece, and after asking the farmer if there was any reason they wouldn’t be fine for humans, too (“can’t imagine why not”), I bought three and threw them in the freezer when I got home.

So I pulled two of the bones out of the freezer this week, put them in a stockpot, covered them with water, put a lid on, and turned the heat on medium low. I turned it down to just a slow simmer after a while, and for the next 30+ hours I peered in the pot occasionally to see how it was progressing.

Why do this? It’s not simply about making my own soup stock (free of added lab-synthesized flavors, MSG, hydrolyzed proteins, and other questionable and toxic ingredients) – though that is a factor, since I love soup. It’s waaaay more about the amazing stuff I’m simmering out of the bones and then putting into ME. Just about everything that these bones are composed of can be drawn out and thus capitalized on.

That means you can give away your glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate supplements, extracted through murky means. You can stop throwing money away on expensive face and booty creams that don’t seem to do anything at all to fabricate smoother skin. You can stop popping antacids or avoiding foods that are healthy but seem to be hard on your stomach.

Used for centuries as a way to make it through times of scarce protein, the components of gelatin in bone broth actually helps your body synthesize protein:

Early in this century researchers showed that gelatin increases the utilization of the protein in wheat, oats, and barley, though not of corn; that the digestibility of beans is vastly improved with the addition of gelatin; and that gelatin helps the digestion of meat  protein. The last appears to confirm the subjective reports of many people who say that meats found in soups and pot roasts–cooked with bones for a long time in a liquid to which a touch of vinegar has been added–are easier to digest than quickly cooked steaks and chops, and why gelatin-rich gravies are at the heart of many culinary traditions. “Why Broth is Beautiful”

The gelatin in bone broth can also be useful in healing leaky-gut syndrome, which is often a byproduct of celiac disease or lesser levels of gluten or general grain sensitivity and is frequently found in those suffering from disorders like autism and Asperger’s.  It appears that eating gelatin-rich broth, which is easily made from animals that are free-ranging (and not those found in battery/industrial farming) renders most of the more difficult to digest foods far more digestible. This means not only will you not suffer from indigestion, you’ll also find that you have to eat less food because you’re obtaining more nutrition from what you eat (remember that particularly when you decide against buying your kids or your pets more expensive food – you can eat less of higher quality food because your body gets far more out of it – PLUS, it will make them poop smaller because there will be less that their bodies can’t use).

Collagen-rich bones, especially ones like knuckles, are great for restoring your own collagen, meaning that this may be one of your best shots at reversing aging – unlike that shot of creepy botulinum toxin, i.e. Botox.

There are more efficient ways to do it than I did on my electric stovetop, like crockpots, plug-in roasters, convection stovetops, campfire coals, on and on, but use what is most convenient for you.

After adding a little salt I dipped bread in that broth and wow. Sooo goooood. Then I added a couple of cups of it to the chili I was cooking, and it added tons of meaty flavor. Later I just straight up had a cup of it with lunch, then another one with dinner.

Beyond its nutritional brilliance, one of the best aspects of bone broth is that it’s made with animal products that are often thrown away. If you’re a vegan because you don’t like the idea of an animal dying to feed you or because it expands your carbon footprint, then you should capitalize on the benefits of bone broth. In other words, examine your ideals and acknowledge the true reasons you’re a vegan. If it’s for the above reasons, try making broth with parts that ordinarily go to waste. Then you’re doing something even better for the planet than avoiding factory-farmed meat – you’re exploiting the nutrition within what would otherwise wind up in a landfill, and there’s little more conservationist than that. You’re not only reducing your other food consumption but also reducing waste.

Remember also that the amino acids in gelatin, like all amino acids, can only be properly utilized when the diet contains sufficient fat-soluble activators–vitamins A and D–found exclusively in animal fats. So don’t hesitate to put cream in your broth-based soups and sauces, and include other sources of vitamins A and D in your diet, such as butter, egg yolks and cod liver oil. – “Why Broth is Beautiful”

There are so many things you can make broth with that will pass on massive amounts of necessary amino acids, sulfates, minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and silicon that are easily synthesized within the body, unlike those within most expensive supplements. I’m not easily grossed out, but I know that some of my broth constituent suggestions could be a little more difficult for some people to stomach—however, that is exactly why these parts should be consumed, because if modern appetites reject them because we’re no longer accustomed to these foods, then these nutrition explosions will tragically go to waste while you go to Burger King. So yep, you can make it with chicken feet and heads, lamb and cattle hooves, shrimp shells, fish carcasses, even pig skin. These aren’t things that tend to bother me much, but I know for some people they could take some getting used to.

Though I didn’t do it this time and it’s not necessary, try roasting the bones in the oven for awhile to improve the finished flavor. During the heating process a “Maillard reaction” occurs that fuses amino acids with sugars, resulting in a broth that will be tastier and darker.

Cellulite ruining your life? Probably time to get a life.

There are a lot of blog posts and articles out there with manic bone broth obsessions for all of the issues I’ve listed and ten times those. Here are just a few if you’d like to learn more about it before you dive in. Saveur, a magazine I fall more in love with every month, has a great short piece on bones called “Bone Gatherer“. Cheeseslave even did a bone broth challenge, and has a list of links to broth-based recipes, and Melissa, the “Expert Cellulite Investigator” is curing her fluoride-caused cystic acne and (obviously) her cellulite with it. The Weston A. Price Foundation has a couple of articles about how “Broth is Beautiful” here and here. The latter article goes more into depth about the actual contents of bone broth and why they do what they do.

Of course, one of the things that most appeals to me about bone broth is its simplicity in preparation. If it’s too complex, most people, including me, aren’t likely to bother with it. But this stuff is easier than pie, even though you should feel free to complicate it to suit your tastes and what you have currently taking up space in your fridge.

Here is the most basic recipe, and is exactly what I did.

Bone Broth

– Bones

– Water (enough to cover dem bones)

– A splash of apple-cider vinegar

– A big lidded pot to put it in

Heat it up slowly, bringing it to a slow, low simmer, never allowing it to boil. Chicken bones require less time than beef, twenty-four or far less as opposed to twice that, if you want to allow the time, but you can do anywhere from four to seventy-two hours to forever, apparently. In China it’s common for “perpetual broth” to be in restaurant and home kitchens. Solids are removed and buried in the garden every week or two and new stuff is added while the stuff simmers ever onward.  If you feel like adding veggies for extra flavor near the end of cooking, do so. The apple-cider vinegar theoretically helps draw the minerals out of the bones, but I’m still looking around for more evidence of this. Can’t hurt, though. Some people say to skim off the scum that rises to the top off because it affects the flavor or has potential toxins, but I didn’t find it to be a problem beyond simple aesthetics and the toxin idea has been mostly dismissed. I also don’t take the fat off after it cools, either, as some recipes prefer. To make storing and using it simpler, try freezing it in your ice cube trays and storing the cubes in freezer bags to use in more measured amounts as you like.

Then go crazy with it. Put it in everything, the baby bottle, the dog food, the rice, the quinoa, the chili, the soup, the health shakes. And be sure to let me know what you think of it.


Good Looks are More Than Skin-Deep, or Why You Want Attractive Kids

5 Mar

Turns out that the way you look, from the width of your face to the spacing of your eyes to the prominence of your brow or chin, might be more than a matter of simple aesthetics. In other words, rich people aren’t good-looking simply because their fathers before them could afford to entice the most beautiful women into the backseat of the family Rolls Royce. Rich people must tend towards good-looking because they’re rich. Dammit, right?

The reason for this is probably what you assumed, to a degree, anyway. THEY HAVE MONEY! So they can afford the best hairdressers, makeup, zit creams, and so on, maybe. I used to think to myself while in grade school, why does the biggest spoiled brat in school have such perfect skin? Life is so not fair. And it’s true – life’s not fair. But the reality is even less fair than all that, perhaps. If someone’s mom can afford to feed herself well, and then later her growing fetus, then there’s a much greater chance that her offspring’s genes will work to his or her advantage. This translates to fully and correctly formed skulls, skeletons, organs, and teeth. However! – rich or poor, everyone can find, make, grow, or create foods that will create super-healthy fetuses who will later have increased chances of becoming superhumans.

There are valid reasons that we are drawn to particular facial features, and those reasons are completely intertwined with the seemingly magical formula that dictates how all living things form and grow. This magical formula is literally a code of proportional growth, and it silently guides the creation of virtually all of humankind’s most recognized works of art, architecture, photography, and music. This “golden ratio” – 1.61803398 (and so on) is the Fibonacci sequence. In the late 1970’s a plastic surgeon named Dr. Stephen Marquardt, faced with a difficult reconstruction of the badly-damaged lower jaw of a girl involved in a car accident, wondered how he could give her results that she’d be happy with. Exactly what would constitute a jaw that would be attractive on the proportions of her face in particular?

The book Deep Nutrition states, “In his pursuit of the perfect face, Dr. Marquardt discovered that the golden ratio is uniquely capable of generating a special kind of symmetry, called dynamic symmetry. According to the theory of perception, there are two ways to create harmonic balance within an object or space. One is to divide it into equal parts, creating the symmetry of balance. The other is a division based on the golden section, creating the perfect form of asymmetry–perfect because the ratio of the lesser part to the greater part is the same as the greater part to the whole. This is dynamic symmetry. Interestingly, dynamic symmetry characterizes the growth of living matter, while static symmetry characterizes the growth of crystals.”

Contrary to widely-held belief, the popular media doesn’t truly dictate the overriding standard by which we pick our most beautiful people. Even babies stare longer at people whose faces are formed according to the same proportions that shape not just the growth of ferns and the formation of the nautilus shell, but the dendritic connections inside of our brains. This baby gaze implies that our brains seek recognizable patterns in order to draw more rapid conclusions, like, “Oh, that’s human (or not).” As Dr. Catharine Shanahan, the author of Deep Nutrition says, “every time the brain is presented with an image or sound it is, in essence, being posed a kind of mathematical riddle. The more pleasing the image or harmonious the sound, the fewer the barriers standing between the beholder and the pleasure of the epiphany of the solution. The Fibonacci sequence may facilitate this process, enabling us to solve these visual or acoustic riddles faster by serving as a template that helps order our minds and orchestrate our thoughts.” So basically, all this means that beauty is more than skin-deep, at least when we’re talking epigenetics. Epigenetics tells us that our environment dictates somewhere between 80 and 97% of our gene expression. The most direct and consistent way we interact with our genes is via the food we eat.

The child who in the womb had a steady diet of nutrition-packed fetus food will enjoy the fruits of her parents’ dietary investments for her entire life. Not only will she have a healthy brain inside a spacious skull, she’ll have muscles and bones that are built to perform, rather than slowly assuming the same dimensions as her beanbag video gaming chair. Even if she squanders these genetic gifts by spending years eating crappy food, drinking soda, and playing World of Warcraft for 18-hour stretches, she will still suffer fewer negative effects than someone who does all those same things without the same inheritance (however, her kids would be screwed – parents, stop parking your kids in front of the TV or your grandkids could wind up not-so-hot). Interestingly enough, while prenatal vitamins can aid in proper fetal development, those vitamins would do far more good if they were administered in the months before mom ever becomes pregnant, creating an environment that’s rich enough to prepare for the baby’s first ten weeks of development, when fetal formation is most able to be influenced. So, if you or someone you love is thinking about getting pregnant, make sure you’re doing everything within your grasp to give those future babies a leg up. In that same vein, it’s important that every mother give her body at least three years between children to recover fully so the next baby will be offered all the same advantages.

Another important factor to consider as a mom is that no matter how little you have to offer of yourself to that growing baby, he will find it and take it for himself. Not eating enough quality saturated fats and grass-fed animal products? Your brain will actually shrink as a result of pregnancy because, no matter what, your baby will get what he needs in order to form arms, legs, fingers, toes, eyes, organs, and so on. He will harvest your vitamin, fat, and mineral stores from your bones, your central nervous system, your organs, anywhere they can be found. So if you’re interested in having not only a healthy kid but staying healthy enough to take care of it, EAT WELL. The investment you make in quality food now could save you countless dollars and heartache down the road. I’m not talking only about saving on orthodontic braces. Think about how much money it will cost to treat allergies, spinal or facial deformities, asthma, chronic illness, or digestive problems. Think about how much suffering any of the above could put your child through, much less you.

Here are some basics:

  • READ! Find as many sources of information as possible on nutrition. Try Food Rules by Catharine Shanahan for great guidelines.
  • Take a high-quality prenatal vitamin starting NOW if you’re interested in baby-making anytime in the near future. (Studies have shown that this can also cut autism rates in half.)
  • Avoid vegetable oils and sugars. These block signals that control our metabolism, adding to fetal growth issues in the womb that deprive your fetus of what it needs to build nerves and bones, and even develop sexually. (While it’s come out recently that high-fructose corn syrup behaves the same as regular fructose in the body in terms of insulin reaction, HFCS is still an industrial toxin to your baby’s and your systems. Avoid it especially.)
  • If you’re a vegetarian, and especially if you’re a vegan, do some serious research. It is incredibly important that you not sacrifice your baby’s long-term success to your dietary choices, no matter how rooted in ethics or distaste they may be. Find out which vitamins, minerals, and fats that fetuses need to thrive, and assume that any RDA woefully under-represents realistic demands pregnancy will make on a mother’s body. Consider introducing organ meats, particularly liver and other pasture-raised meats, dairy, and eggs, as well as purified fish oil into your diet ASAP. Here’s a website that is acutely devoted to making babies as well-built as possible.
  • Know that today’s veggies have not nearly the nutritive value as those grown even a few decades ago due to how drastically generations of commercial agriculture have depleted our soil. If you can, grow as much as possible in your own organically fertilized and composted garden, shop at your local farmer’s market, and eat massive amounts of quality veggies from the full color-spectrum (particularly of the leafy green variety). Green smoothies are a great way to load up on all the goodness of several typical servings of veggies along with all the necessary fiber to keep them in your system long enough to absorb the goods.
  • Eat healthy, stable fats. This is necessary for a million reasons, not least of all being that to use many of the most vital nutrients from your food, your body needs fat to synthesize them.
  • Find a good probiotic so that you absorb more nutrition from the food that you eat.

Building a person is the most important job you will ever have. Treat it as such and hopefully by the time you’re old enough to be in diapers again your child will still be fit enough to change them for you.

Feel free to pass on any other recommendations you have in the comment section. Thanks for reading! – Lydia

Dear Deer, …

2 Feb

Thank you for being so incredibly tasty. I’m truly sorry (what does it mean to be truly sorry, anyway?) that you had to (well, YOU didn’t have to, I guess) die to put meat on my plate. Thank you for being oblivious enough to the lethal intent of humans that you failed to hide from them all. I’m also sorry that apparently your mom witnessed your death, as did your twin brother. I heard that she’s running around with a broken leg right now but seems healthy otherwise, still eating and all. Shay, who shot you, said he recognized her by the bald spot on her rump, plus your brother was with her. And the other night we fed three people on your backstrap, which was cooked medium rare and covered in portabellas and onions sautéed in butter and deglazed in red wine.

The months I spent in the Red River Gorge this year doing canopy tour construction meant a good bit of time around deer. Every day we were out in the woods, rain or shine or sleet or snow, and often young deer would wander up to my crew to check us out. A woman who lives nearby takes in hurt or orphaned deer, meaning they become accustomed to humans being a source of food and scratching. This also means when they wander off the property, and thus off of “wildlife preserve” space, they are easy targets. Sad. I still can’t imagine killing an animal myself unless I’m in dire straits. I think of a lot of you meat eaters feel the same way, and I’m not saying that attitude is or isn’t okay, but it’s just reality. 

Being an animal-loving meat eater is difficult (poor us, right?) because you can feel hypocritical a lot of the time. I kill other animals to feed my cat (though to be fair, his meat comes from the King Family Farm in Ohio, and is happy chicken offal that most of us probably wouldn’t eat, anyway, but he loves it). I will go far out of my way to help a dog or cat or hell, even a cow or pig or chicken, who is in pain or lost or separated from its owner/protector. I do this because I believe that no animal should suffer. Nothing that can feel pain should be made to feel it if at all possible.  And here’s where it gets complicated. Even the tiny fraction of food animals that come from farms that care to ensure that their charges are healthy and comfortable still have to have their animals slaughtered, and this is where it can get ugly. I read Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Eating Animals last year and it made an impression, and a pretty nauseating one at times. Foer is a vegan whose wife was pregnant and who wanted to know if he could conscionably raise his future kid as vegan, so he went out to make his research (not “do” because he went out on the front lines, finding activists who would help him sneak/break into massive factory farms that have a policy of NO OUTSIDERS (warning sign #1). He learned that even those farms who care about happy animals still have to have their animals slaughtered in inhumane ways, because the more humane mobile killing units (that bring a trailer to your property and take the animals in there for the process) are fewer and farther between because they can’t afford to stay in business.

Foer tells us that about ten percent of pigs are assumed lost from the beginning because they are so consistently terrified that they drop dead before they can go to slaughter. Another ten percent is written off because the pigs that almost drop dead, but just make it long enough to be loaded in the truck and shipped out, have such intense and sustained adrenaline surges that their muscles turn into inedible mush.

Sounds a little incredible, right? Well, two days after I read that I was digging through my fridge and I saw a big grocery store-labeled pork loin. I asked my boyfriend where it had come from, because he and  I hardly ever buy meat, and when we do it’s from sources we trust, and he surprised me by saying that he had bought it for the ten guy friends of his who had crashed at my house the previous weekend to go to our local climbing festival. The weekend had been so full he’d never gotten around to cooking it.

Well, I said, we better cook it or it will go to waste. As far as I’m concerned that’s one of the ultimate sins –  meat thrown away and an animal dead for no reason. So I called up a couple of our buddies and invited them over for a pork dinner that night. And it was really good. So good, in fact, that I went back for seconds. I sat back down on the porch swing, took my first bite, chewed it, furrowed my eyebrows, swallowed, and looked down at my plate. There was something wrong with this pig. I smelled it, and it had a fragrance faintly reminiscent of blue cheese. But that wasn’t the most disturbing part. The consistency of this meat was like paté, soft, and um…mushy. Oh, no. This was the very thing I’d read about. I had just ingested the meat of a tortured animal, who lived a life in fear and no doubt died in pain. And now, not only was I a part of that hellish cycle, that sad energy was now going to play a role in shaping my cells. The first part of the loin we’d cut into was normal, but an entire third to a half of it was not at all normal.

I feel like when I tell people that the energy of the meat that goes in your body is important, that they think I sound like a hyper-spiritual hippie, that the bad juju of factory farming will somehow curse my body and my offspring for seven generations. But here’s what I mean. The emotions animals have, just like the ones we have, cause chemicals to be released. These chemicals cause real physiological changes. For example, the release of adrenaline triggers the fight or flight response by causing particular blood vessels to constrict and other ones to open in order to facilitate survival (an interesting side effect: ever get scared and have to poop? – adrenaline causes smooth muscles to contract, meaning your body wants to drop the poop in order to lighten the load and even potentially distract a predator) (so maybe a good cure for constipation – besides more fiber, of course – is a quality scare). If a constant onslaught of adrenaline can cause muscle to eventually turn to mush, imagine what other chemical damage is going on that we don’t even know about.

Also makes you wonder what four cups of coffee and its resulting adrenaline surge could do to you after a couple of decades, right? Not to mention what kind of damage consistently taxing your adrenals can do…anyway, sounds like a good subject for another day.

So, though I wasn’t really intending to go in this direction when I started writing today, here we are. I believe there are a lot of us who can’t really do all that well without meat. Sure, there are some people who do just fine, but everyone is different. I tend to develop muscle easily, and I crave meat. I feel like a million bucks after a plate of sashimi. Not so much after a plate of pasta (particularly once I realized that I needed to go gluten-free). One of my favorite references is Sally Fallon’s incredible cookbook Nourishing Traditions, which bases all its premises about what’s best for human development on the studies of a dentist who traveled the world studying bone structure and tooth decay in isolated cultures. These isolated cultures, who were deprived of the brilliance of processed foods, had no cavities, wide faces, straight teeth, and easy births. Their diets were composed of meat and organs from healthy animals, oily fish, full-fat unprocessed dairy, and fermented foods, and were high in saturated fats. Without fail, as soon as processed foods and vegetable oils were introduced into a populace, bone structure in the following generations seemed to literally cave in. The most obvious sign of this was a narrow palate (the space between your upper teeth) resulting in teeth that were crowded. What does this really mean? It means that the rest of the body fails to fully develop, too. Hips are narrower, meaning more difficult births. Skulls are smaller, meaning less room for developing brains. All internal organs have less room to grow.

It came as a relief to me that a lot of the foods I already ate were on the good list, like salmon and sardines, eggs and saturated fats from healthy animals. However, there were plenty on the bad list. Not only that, I’d been missing out on all of the incredible benefits of eating fermented foods, which make your digestive system super-functional and capable of absorbing all of the good stuff you need from food, and soaked grains and legumes, which are FAR easier for your body to take advantage of.

So, though I’m an animal lover, I come first, and so do any potential offspring I might have in the future. I want to be sure that I’m shaping myself into the best person I can be with whatever resources I have (and I still have a long way to go, for sure), and that I give every potential opportunity possible to my children. I don’t want kids with shrunken heads and puny brains. I also want to make sure that the animals I eat have gone through as minimal an amount of suffering as possible, because when I eat them or what they produce, I become them. I get the majority of my protein from eggs, and after that, sardines (yep, I love them). I eat a lot of beans, soaked overnight, and lots and lots of vegetables. I try to eat kim chee and miso and drink kombucha and kefir whenever I can. I take fish oil that’s certified PCB-free. If I eat meat, it comes from the local farmer’s market, or local shops that stock meat from local farms, or, like deer, it comes from the wild, or I buy it from local restaurants who promise that they source local meat.

So, as long-winded as this post may be, I know it’s just scratching the surface. Let me know where you stand.


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