Food Blogging: Cookbook Shock-Jock?


01/11/2014 by syrbal-labrys

photo This is my current cookbook read. And my, oh my, the author is unpopular with reviewers. I picked this up in a used book store because I liked some of the recipes I saw; only now, months later am I reading the nutrition portions of the very large book.

Fallon takes to task the medical crew of naysayers and I admit, I enjoy this to a large degree. This is because I was sent to an alleged “nutritionist”(i.e. the Idjit) because of the difficulties in my diet due to food allergies. It was a waste of time:

me – I’m cold all the time and I’m anemic.

the Idjit – Well, you need more iron.

me – Ok, I eat red meat now and then, I like liver, and I cook in iron pots.

the Idjit – OMG, NO! Red meat is bad for you and NEVER eat organ meats they are full of cholesterol!

me – They are also full of iron; and I eat eggs.

the Idjit – No, egg WHITES are good for you, only egg whites.

me – There is no iron in egg whites.

the Idjit – Uh, well no, but ::::silence:::

And so it went. Every food possible for me was IMpossible by the nutritionist’s standards.

So, when Sally Fallon lambasts the “No meat, no dairy, use margarine and liquid oils and only eat egg whites and veggies” crew, it did make me want to cheer. (I was on my way, in my 20’s, to crippling hand and wrist pain. Then I threw out margarine and solid shortenings and began cooking with butter and ghee. And eating butter instead of margarine. I still used some liquid oils, but my hands did stop hurting.)

Generally, Fallon finds liquid oils unbalanced in the Omega 6 vs. Omega 3 matter; and contends that this sets bad processes in motion in the body. It is only anecdotal (as researchers would say), but in my childhood everyone ate butter and lard and very few were vastly overweight. Oils became popular and pushed in the markets as I entered my teens. Fatness was not far behind, and this IS one of the things Fallon blames. Fallon’s other issue with some liquid oils is that they are heat processed, producing rancidity issues and transfats. She appropriately points out that much of the blame piled upon saturated fats (butter, coconut oil, meat fat, lard, etc) is accurately true about transfats which were NOT generally eliminated from the ‘studies’ that led to the banning of saturated fats.

She also lambasts fads like soy in every-damned-thing, giving a good account of the reasons soy may NOT be oh-so-healthy even for folks NOT allergic to it as I am. So far, so good. She likewise untangles the bad press given to the dairy industry and makes some pretty reasonable statements about the issues of lactose intolerance and such, but still defends the use of butter, cream, buttermilk and cheese as good nutrition. (Besides all those French chefs can’t be wrong, can they? Julia Child followed their example and lived to be 92!)

I’ve only completely read the general nutrition section, but already, for me, Fallon gets a bit kitchen shock-jocky. Almost all “everyday” foods are bad for us. For example, meat has the best nutrition eaten raw according to her and she provides LOTS of recipes for steak tartare. Sorry, I like my meat cooked, albeit sometimes rare. As if in acknowledgment of this, she speaks of the supposed carcinogens in grilled/high-heat cooked meat, but notes that WAS how meat was cooked for millenia — so says we could enjoy it now and then in that manner. Having it both ways…possibly reasonable, right? But then, she says only grass fed organic meats will do. She believes animals fed inappropriate grains, cottonseed meal, and soy are not good meat for humans. This poses significant financial hardships to most American households. Including mine.

As noted in an earlier post, the twin issues of inhumane treatment of meat animals and the unsafe level of bacteria AND related antibiotic resistance have driven the Minotaur and I to a semi-vegetarian trial for this year. We will eat meat meals only a couple times per month, and possibly fish 3 or 4 times a month; otherwise it is eggs, cheese, beans and vegetables. She views this sort of diet with dismay, but does say if it is one to be embraced to do it in age, not in the hard charging, reproductive years. She may have something there — I dropped vegetarianism in the first 6 weeks of my pregnancy being sick and starving no matter how much I consumed. (And no, any vegan or vegetarians reading — do not pile on about this, your mileage may vary.) I can only afford the organic chicken and grass fed bison that we eat on rare nigh-holiday occasions.

When she gets into dairy and grain issues, she again takes on a nearly religious fervor. According to her, all dairy should be from raw milk sources. Well, good bloody luck with that in most places. I have a choice of ONE raw cheese in the three places I shop and NO raw milk creams or yoghurts. So, come ON Sally; this kind of insistence is going to mean MOST if not all readers will toss (1) the book and (2) their hands in the air and go back to eating MacDonalds in sheer despair of a WORKABLE solution. Because homogenized and pasteurized milk are not perfect by her analysis, less nutritious than it could/should be, does not for me, negate the nutritional value. And frankly, even in her own yoghurt making technique the milk is heated to 180 degrees first — even a bit above pasteurization, so why is it ok for yogurt making but otherwise not?

Her analysis of what could be fueling the ‘no gluten’ trend (not so much gluten as certain elements of grain that block some mineral absorption) is very good reading and possibly helpful. But her insistence that all grains must be either skipped or prepared by some fermentation method to counteract the anti-absorption problem is likewise going to scare off anyone who is not a dedicated kitchen masochist (like me!). She DOES provide recipes that will be tested in the months ahead on how to deal with this issue. Stand by for later posts of results! Since I have barley allergies, most boughten baked goods and all-purpose flour have LONG been off my list. I use more spelt flour and some non-gluten blends when I bake, and occasionally organic whole wheat. And rye, I love rye. I actually am looking forward to creating a sourdough culture with rye.

I encourage any of you with access to this book, either in a library or as an inexpensive used purchase to take a look at this cookbook. She does get nearly religious about the what-not-to-eats; which makes me want to snarkily label her a kitchen Pol Pot, because we cannot go back to the 18th or 19th century of grass fed cattle and bounding lambs and piglets. She doesn’t want folks to use supplements, but says (rightly) that the foods are not as nutritious coming from exhausted over-fertilized fields and dangerously adulterated sources, including meats and eggs. She does not offer perfect or easy solutions for these problems.

I’ve plowed through her opinions of vitamins, minerals, beverages, spices and all. She DOES come down with both heavy iron-soled (thank you Russian fairy tales) shoes on the way all sugars have insinuated their way into American (and other) diets with much more damage than the scientists being paid by food processors (like sugar growers) will ever say. She cogently points out past lies long revealed about how other dangers were ignored, like the current “Sugar doesn’t cause diabetes.” (No, of course not, just eating it in EVERY damned thing does.) Oh, and semi-off topic in a dramatic fashion…since Fallon does talk about sugar processing: do you know how they make sugar so snowy white? Take note of this linking quote: “Whitening sugar, at the price of their health and youth, such is the destiny of these serfs to sulfur.” Now, if that isn’t a buzzkill to a sugar high, nothing will be!

She is anti-soft drink, which I fully agree with; but she is also anti-stimulant — no caffeine at all. I limit my coffee and drink only a few herbal teas. I don’t intend to deny myself the one welcome bit of morning — coffee. She hashes through several of the most famous/infamous diets (macrobiotic, high-protein, ‘blood-type’, ‘fit for life’ and points out issues with them all. Her book is a bit pre-paleo craze — but I suspect she would like most of that one. She is big on meats, fats, and veggies and wants to see 50% of your food be raw.

She has rough lists of “traditional nourishing foods” (read ‘approved’), “compromise foods” (ok, if you MUST!) and “newfangled” things to be avoided. Since “newfangled” means all luncheon meats, bacon, ham, soy of the non-fermented sort, processed fats, pasteurized daily products (or alcohol or vinegar products!), reduced fat dairy products, most carbohydrates like refined flours and most sugars, canned food, CHOCOLATE, soda, fruit juices (in amounts over 2 oz.) distilled alcohols, rice and oat milks, coffee, tea, baking power, preservatives, artificial sweeteners — she basically is insisting a household produce most of its own food. I do not see that as practical in households where most adults work away from home for most of the day. She is also against microwave usage or irradiation of foods — so most spices being suspected of irradiation preservation would be banned. “Grow your own thyme” (tho’ I do) seems an inadequate substitute for my massive spice collection.

Even with her somewhat desperate “No, not THAT!” coming from the opposite direction as my Idjit ‘nutritionist’, I am finding this semi-worthwhile reading as I walk the food tightrope, but likely NOT for the reasons the author would wish. I consider the book a valuable addition to my arsenal as I wend my way through stores simply because it helps me negotiate my food allergies and intolerances. I found the side columns of the recipe section a sort of dietary anthropology study and fascinating. But that said, simply labeling a food or process “traditional” does not endear it to me.

Dying of food poisoning was once traditional, as was death by starvation because of inadequate means of food preservation (canning, for instance). Raw milk products STILL have been found to be cause for food-borne illness, whether or not flocks are inspected for tuberculosis. While I personally find some very old traditional food prep curiously appealing? I don’t generally find reification of the past very fruitful to living in our complex world; it is starry-eyed at best and an expensive pain in the ass and stressful at worst. She never comes out and says she is a seasonal eating fanatic; but if canning is off limits and the fruit or veggie you want doesn’t freeze well? Then it is lacto-fermented salty veggies/fruits or do without till spring. Now, in the past — nutritional lacks and illness resulting was ALSO traditional, especially in winter.

She rails against faddish diet plans, but pretty much is slipping into paleo as it first existed — it too railed against coffee, tea, chocolate and alcohol and baked goods. (Then paleo-proponents found how unpopular that made it with MOST of the public.) Fallon is NOT guilty of what some reviewers charge her with: “Doing/saying anything to justify bad habits in eating.” The cooking/eating life she delineates is NOT easy and I do not think it is unhealthy in any way at all. I think it is impractical for 75% of the people in this country and unachievable by 90%. She is not in any way saying “Yep, hit the fast food triple cheese burger joint cause meat and fat together is good for you.” She IS saying meat and fats ARE healthier for you than you’ve been taught…but NOT in concert with refined carbs and a 32oz. Pepsi! I do agree that Americans are being sold a bill of goods about low fat diets and no meat diets; and statins were discovered and DISCARDED by the Japanese as TOO toxic for human use…so the drugging us to low cholesterol numbers bit scares me to death. But this book is NOT permission to go on gobbling super-sized bagels, cakes, sodas AND eating meat at every meal. I think it IS sound nutritional advice, but impractical and unaffordable for the normal working family.

Thoughts? Stories? Questions?

Next Week: I begin exploring the recipes and traditional processes she teaches…I sometimes enjoy archaic habits. (I write with a fountain pen when not on the computer.) I think I will try a lacto-fermented vegetable first! And later? Perhaps a cultured butter of the type I adored in Germany! And yes, I will keep it shorter and give recipes used.

4 thoughts on “Food Blogging: Cookbook Shock-Jock?

  1. Rowan says:

    I don’t know about shorter. I enjoy the information you impart and hearing your opinions about it. Otherwise I wouldn’t bother reading. I don’t have the food allergies that you do. I *was* lactose intolerant Until I had to run a long course of antibiotics for the lyme and suddenly I wasn’t lactose intolerant anymore. I still don’t know what that is about … yet. But changes here has made any and all changes in diet a possibility. I’ll see if I can get this through the library so I can discuss this with some intelligence.

    I did briefly think to myself, I wonder how so many apartment dwellers are supposed to comply with the grow-your-own suggestion.

  2. Big Bad Bald Bastard says:

    I think the key is to eat a variety of things (excepting, of course, things that you are allergic to or otherwise cannot consume for health reasons). The average consumer here in the states eats an appallingly low “diversity” of foodstuffs.

    I’ve always enjoyed a variety of things and, since making my foraging resolution about four years ago, have increased my culinary biodiversity.

    I think I will try a lacto-fermented vegetable first!

    Kimchi for the win! Sadly, No! and alicublog regular “tigris” is a kitchen wizard. She could give you ideas for making sauerkraut and kimchi.

    • That is one of the things the author pointed out, that Americans have a very poor diversity of food choices. I have made kimchi in the past I’m the only one in my family that likes it. I think I might make some sauerkraut this winter and then try other things in the spring when we start growing things.

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The name of this blog, and my Dreamwidth blog, Herlander Refugee, is taken from a 1915 feminist novel "Herland". It makes my heart sing that modern women are experimenting with creation of a new "Herland"! Yes, comments are closed. Anyone who just MUST reach me can do so at syrbal6 at gmail dot com.

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