IT DONT MEAN A THING (IF IT AINT GOT THAT PROTEIN)

It sure is a controversial idea. Eat how they used to eat back in the day before cholesterol became nutrition’s boogey man. Back before ethics was a player. Eat that lamb chop, and when you’re done eating it, sit back and gnaw on the bones for a spell. When you’re done polishing off that chicken drumstick, treat yourself to a bit of bone marrow. And don’t hold back on the organ meats. Approach dinner like a lion and go for the heart and sweetbreads first, leave the meat for the jackals.

I’m talking about Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook That Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon. The message of the book is that consumption of animal fats and cholesterol is crucial for optimum health. Flicking through Rosie’s copy I am reminded of my Mum (formerly a dietician) making mention of ‘good fats’ as I was growing up.

Be afraid: margarine, artificial sweeteners, salad oils

Fear not: Organic butter, eggs, meat, fats, sea salt

Fallon’s cookbook is based on the findings of Weston A Price. Weston Price was a dentist who became interested in nutrition. In 1939 he published a study Nutrition and Physical Degeneration where he put forward the idea that the modern Western diet of flour, sugar and processed animal fats, caused malnutrition and dental problems. In the late nineties Fallon co-founded The Weston A Price Foundation to spread the word. Nourishing Traditions spreads the word thick like organic butter; dobs it on top of modern cookbooks and watches it melt down the sides.

‘Wild animals eat the organs of their kill first, thus showing a wisdom superior to our own’

The ideas of Weston A Price are debatable. In 1981 an editorial by a doctor identified Price’s work as an example of the ‘’myth of the healthy savage.’ Nourishing Traditions cookbook has its fair share of detractors. I am one of them in places. When I read that you need to consume animal fats for the proper functioning of your brain my thoughts turn to one of the smartest people I know who has had a vegan diet for close to two decades. His brain seems to be doing just fine without eating any brains.

Fallon suggests that organic butter is a healthfood. This must rile health professionals who are dealing with myocardial infarction and subscribe to the idea that a diet high in saturated fats results in an increased risk of heart attack. Dr Fuhrman, (inventor of the word nutritarian but try not to hold that against him)  doesn’t hold any punches when he writes, ‘Nourishing Traditions is full of bad science and illogical reasoning and its appeal is dependent on people’s ignorance about nutrition…Only fourteen of the references are from peer reviewed journals published in the last ten years, and for most of those fourteen, the authors misrepresented what was stated in the articles.’ Ouch. The Dietician’s Association of Australia has criticised Fallon, saying ‘She’s basing her ideas on observations of primitive populations in isolated areas who eat traditional diets, and its so far removed from Western civilisation…In a population that is sedentary there is no need to consume saturated fats,’ but a quick look at their website shows that one of their partners is Nestle! In Fallon’s defence the book is about more than eating fats. It is about eating organic. It is about avoiding processed foods (like … ah something made by Nestle), it is about eating meat in moderation and taking the time to cook.

My foray into this heated argument began with a pot of baked beans. When I heard that Rosie and Lynden, some permaculturists, were cooking a meal a week from the cookbook I insisted that they invite me over for dinner. The first time I went there expecting thymus gland and was disappointed when I saw beans. My disappointment turned to rapture upon tasting them. Rosie had slow cooked the beans for six hours and they were sweetened with apple cider vinegar, maple syrup and molasses. But they didn’t push the limits. I wanted meat. Obscure limit pushing meat. The words Nourishing Traditions had reminded of Adam gnawing on the bones of a lamb chop or peering into a pho of rooster’s balls. I wanted to push my own lapsed vegetarian but still anaemic boundaries. Last Friday I got my chance. Organic lamb’s kidneys with a hazelnut sauce. ‘Everything is from the book even the vegetables,’ Rosie announces as she puts the kidneys under the grill while Lynden and I go look at the moon and the seedlings out back.

As I bite into the kidney Prince’s song Controversy is playing on the stereo. The flavour is strong and the texture unnerving. While Rosie and I take tentative bites of the kidney Lynden smashes the back out of his and is licking the plate. In between mouthfuls I ask Rosie , ‘Why are you doing this?’, expecting an answer that references permaculture, primitve diets, locavores or food ethics. She grins and says, ‘For fun.’

I was vegetarian from about 15 to 25. I know from living with Lynden that he is a lapsed vegetarian also. I ask Rosie if she had a history of vegetarianism.

‘Yeah until about a year ago.’

‘Why did you start eating meat?’

‘I didn’t really have a reason for being vegie anymore. There was a lot of good meat around.’

By good meat I wonder if she means Lynden, the meat-eater she started dating around the same time of her departure from vegetarianism. But she says that she started eating meat before the love affair.

‘How did you find out about the cookbook Rosie?’

‘At an anarchist collective that I was living in in California. They often referred to it.’ As I eat my kidneys I remember eating them only once as a kid. I remember chewing up a mouthful and throwing them onto my sister Katie’s lap under the table to get out of eating them. But the taste is so familiar that I suspect my Mum of sneaking kidney into the pies of yesteryear. Fallon writes, ‘If you cannot get your family to eat organ meats when served as such, there are plenty of ways to add them to their food without their knowledge.’ . I begin to wonder: While Bondy and Hawke were sipping champagne and coasting on the America’s Cup victory was Mum hiding organ meats in my food?

‘Its amazing how filling meat is’, Rosie says pushing away the plate.

Over the next ten weeks I am going to investigate claims that Nourishing Traditions makes. I will be conducting the majority of my research through my gastro intestinal tract. I might also read some eco-primitivists, vegans and Calvin W Schwabe’s book Unmentionable Cuisines. I am about a quarter of the way into the book Slow Food Revolution: A New Culture for Eating and Living which is having a major impact and I have been cooking from Prince Wen Hui’s Cook: Chinese Diet Therapy. I would love to know other people’s opinions on Nourishing Traditions, please comment and Mum, please feel free to admit to sneaking organ meats into my bolognaise.

When I started talking to my Swiss friend Corinne about this project her brain sizzled like a plate of Geschnetzeltes, ‘Brain is something I don’t really like. I’ll eat it if I have to. My favourite is smoked beef tongue in a madeira sauce. Oh I’ll cook that for you. Except when I first cooked it I didn’t think I could do it. You cook it for three hours and then you gotta peel the tongue. I thought oh. But I can gut a fish so I did it…The tail of the pig and,’ Corinne reaches over and runs her fingers behind my ear, ‘…behind the ear is the best part. I really do not like kidney. The taste is too strong. I eat chicken feet. I’ve eaten the nose of pig and the feet. You know. The trotters. I don’t know if I would eat the testicles. I don’t think I could do intestines. Don’t South Americans eat intestines? Look my philosophy is I’ll always try it once.’

‘Maggot cheese?’

‘Not sure about maggots. I love tripe…’

As Corinne talks about her tendency to overeat blood sausage I look at her and realise she is one of the most robust people I know and I wonder if I too will look like an extra from The Sound Of Music after a few weeks of liver, heart, kidney, sweetbreads, brain and tongue. Maybe. Or maybe I’ll drop dead from a heart attack.

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9 thoughts on “IT DONT MEAN A THING (IF IT AINT GOT THAT PROTEIN)

  1. Nice one Coles. For the record my lambchops were waste-stream and the roosters came from somewhere they were going to be killed and simply buried. It was four very easily quantifiable deaths of animals that lived happy lives, which to me seems a lot less disturbing than the hazy and unknown amount of “embodied death” hidden behind any industrially produced product from the supermarket (including all fruit and veg). Everything from the supermarket is bloodied in one way or the other and if there was truth in packaging it would ooze out of it in appropriate quantities. The pesticides, the CO2 emissions, the ocean dead zones from fertiliser leaching, the soil loss which means untold number of creatures will never have the chance of existing because we’re using the best land, and have lowered the fertility of the continent for thousands of years to come.

    Obviously it’s a terribly despicable thing to eat ill-treated animals merely for our own convenience. At the same time if we resist eating sustainably produced meat when the alternative means we increase our eco-footprint, we keep our own hands apparently clean while causing cruelty upstream. Vegetables, except for home grown, are almost inherently unsustainable, and ‘unsustainable’ in this case can be used synonymously with ‘cruel’. It’s pretty much impossible to grow vegetables on the broad scale without twice yearly exposing the soil to erosion and loss of carbon through sunlight — and these are always the most fertile parts of the landscape being destroyed.

    Unsustainable farming has the habit of destroying civilisations, but when we do it on the global scale it means taking much of the biosphere down with it. The most unsustainable food we have at the moment is grain-fed battery animals. On the other hand there are cases where local ecologically farmed meat is more sustainable than vegetables, and therefore less cruel in terms of its whole impact on present and future animals. Pasture country is usually much more marginal than vegetable growing country, so in some cases (eg. you’ll never be growing soy on the Mongolian steppes to take an extreme example), there’s no alternative to pasture to provide for human needs.

    It is possible to produce perennial vegetables, fruit, nuts and some animal products in ways that are sustainable and even regenerate damaged landscapes, capturing carbon back into the soil, and providing habitat for wildlife. Agroforestry mixed with ‘cell grazing’ of animals can radically improve the soil. Combining grain production with pasture is the only way I have heard of making grain growing sustainable (see: ‘pasture cropping’). It’s a murky issue and for most people suckering on in the industrial food system, cutting meat out is a step in the right direction. But to then take a black and white approach and not ask questions about how sustainable our vegetable-based food is, and to not distinguish between different forms of meat production, means we might miss some truly sustainable and regenerative options.

    Also, I think Sally Fallon is a bit dodgy and one-sided on the health issues around soy.

  2. Sorry my post was a bit serious. I should have just posted the BARBARION Retox Diet

    Breakfast:
    – 1 large steak
    – 6 Fried eggs
    – 2 pounds of bacon
    – 1 Mug of ale

    Lunch:
    – 1 Roast chicken
    – 6 Pork sausages
    – 12 Frankfurters
    – 1 large packet deep fried dim sims
    – 3 Mugs of ale

    Dinner:
    – 1 suckling pig, roasted
    – 1 boiled potato
    – 4 pounds of cheddar cheese
    – 6 Mugs of larger

    AAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. I would have to run this by Mum but I’m not convinced this is the diet for me. Unless I was planning on going on a murderous rampage, which I shouldn’t rule out so yes pass the suckling pig.

  3. I enjoyed this article Coles. Thought provoking responses from Adam too, I mean, this BARBARION diet is something I need to get all up in. Also, you repeat ‘…fair share of detractors…” twice in close proximity. I’m sure this is an oversight.

  4. Hey! I left a big long massive reply to this a week ago but it not here! I even created a WordPress account to do so call My Other Blog Is a Tumblr. Aww shit! Now all my witticisms and insights seem old hat. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed your post and would eat it, all the food mentioned within, and Adam’s fine BARBARION diet on any day of the week. Except today. I have Boxfit today. I mention you repeated “…fair share of detractors…” twice in close proximity but who am I to nitpick.

    1. Thanks for pointing out my inadequacy as a hardhitting reporter Travis. I like being held accountable for lazy journalism. Please keep reading and commenting. I’m not going to key your car even though I know where you live. I may even edit that post!

    1. Hello Vinnu,
      Thank you for your question. I have been meaning to answer it for some time now. I will post a reply this month. But in the meantime I will say this. I watched a documentary once and I remember them saying that margarine was invented when Napolean offered a prize to anyone that could make fake butter for his army. It wasn’t the result of people thinking how can we make something nutritious but how can I cut costs? Probably not the greatest starting point!
      Coles

    2. Hello Vinnu,
      Thank you for your question. I have been meaning to answer it for some time now. I will post a reply this month. But in the meantime I will say this. I watched a documentary once and I remember them saying that margarine was invented when Napolean offered a prize to anyone that could make fake butter for his army. It wasn’t the result of people thinking how can we make something nutritious but how can I cut costs? Probably not the greatest starting point!
      Coles

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