paleo

eating meat again

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Disclaimer: I make no assumption about what is good and right for you or anyone else to consume regarding animal products. I make no claims regarding the consequences or benefit of consuming animal products. I only state what I am choosing and a brief cause for why. Please consult reputable research and data to form your own opinions.

It came to me as a matter of intuition. I began joking with friends, “You know how people go on cleanses where they cut out eating this and that for a week to see how they feel?” I’d been on over a dozen cleanses by then. I had a very “clean” diet by so many standards, but I didn’t feel all that great. I felt extremely limited and wholly unsatisfied and created shame around certain ways of eating and indulging.  And I started having extreme physical discomfort after eating beans, legumes, and most grains – which appear to be the power basis of a vegetarian diet. My protein sources limited, my energy and morale low, I suggested, “What if I added meat back in for a week, just to see what happens?!” Folks laughed at me: the nut always shaking up her diet. I wasn’t sure if I’d actually go through with it at first, but as soon as I gave myself permission and stopped making animal foods the enemy, the primal cravings quickly surfaced.

It’s been nearly two and a half months since I had that first bite of chicken in seven years. I survived on a low-protein diet for most of that time, so I wasn’t initially compelled to add meat to every meal. When I do have it, my portions are typically half-size and more like a condiment. For example, I’ll chop a bit to go in with pepitas and carrot shreds in a salad. Though it is true that I entertained adding meat back in for sufficient protein, I do not think a vegan or vegetarian diet lacks in protein.  My VATA imbalance no longer allows my body to support those kinds of plant-based proteins, and I was at a loss.  Subsisting off fruits and vegetables and nuts may sound like a primate’s dream, but I was getting a bit bored, and I often felt malnourished and ravenous.  Overall, adding meat and animal protein back into my diet has made me better able to stay satiated on a legume-free, low-grain diet.

More than simply changing my way of eating, I have changed my tune.  For a long time I was under the presumption that we had to find our one true way and stick to it.  I wanted to be labeled VEGAN so that no one had to guess and I had a set of rules to follow.   But my foodie nature suffered, as it mostly meant lame garden salads and faux-meat substances, and things were still highly processed and full of preservatives. I longed for a simpler way of eating without restriction.  Lately, I’ve offered my wandering heart more forgiveness.  Through studying Ayurveda, I have come to realize that we are constantly seeking a state of balance, and we may flow this way and that, day by day, year by year.  If I can understand my needs and how to work toward balance no matter where I’m at, then I can break free of any rigid systems and do what’s best for me in the moment.  I believe my scrubbed diet (among other things) tipped me into a VATA imbalance over the last seven years and I am in recovery.

Going vegetarian taught me how to cook. It taught me how to love vegetables and get creative when I wanted a “better” version of something. Recently, that fire started to dampen, and when I opened up the possibility of incorporating meat back into my meals, I began to see a future of delicious creativity ahead. I still think of myself as plant-based, because meat isn’t the main thing I eat, or even my favorite thing to eat. But it has been a good friend to me through this trying time.

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THINGS WORTH NOTING:

Ethics: I seek out the most ethically produced meat I know how. There are many ways to research this, many medias to guide your way. I urge you to make these choices for yourself. I want pastured chickens and wild fish. Local when possible. I’m not yet eating red meat or pork (never quite had a taste for them anyway), but if I did, I’d start with buffalo meat, lamb, goat, etc as they don’t tend to be factory farmed like cattle.

Prevalence: I try to only add one animal protein per meal. I may toss a boiled egg into my salad, spread cheese on a cracker, or stir-fry chicken and vegetables – all for separate meals / snacks.  I prefer goats’ milk cheese and sheeps’ yogurt to avoid factory-farmed dairy and lactase. I never desire to drink a glass of milk or anything like that. I prefer ghee or clarified butter with the milk solids (casein) removed, but do eat butter when that is what is available.  To keep within budget, I alternate when I buy certain products. I don’t keep them stocked all at once.

Mainstays: If I want milk for something like cereal or baking, I use a nutmilk or coconut milk. I find them cheaper and more delicious. I do watch out for fillers like gums and preservatives and “natural flavors” so I never buy shelf-stable boxed milk. I have found a canned coconut milk with only two ingredients: coconut and water. Nut milks you’ll likely need to blend yourself at home, but there are decent options in the refrigerator section with minimal ingredients in a pinch.  I avoid whey products (protein powders, bars, etc) as they do not support my personal health.   

More ethics: I’m still wrestling with how to eat animals. I have a tendency, with everything I do, to think through the chain of impact with a level of depth that makes it hard to get through the day without being on the verge of tears a dozen times. I make few decisions lightly. This one feels right for me for now.

Additional Reading:  You must do the work yourself.  You must be interested in order to form opinions.  You must research well in order to form grounded opinions.  You must believe for yourself in order to form strong opinions.  My journey has been long; nearly a decade.  These are some sources that have guided my way.
Avoiding Factory Farmed Foods: An Eater’s Guide by HuffPost
The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan or any of his other books
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Any memoir about farming, homesteading, eating ethics, food politics, etc.
SOME carefully chosen documentaries: Food, Inc and other factory-farm docus.  Important to distinguish between the investigative ones uncovering injustice versus those trying to shame you into veganism.

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she cites her influences as

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Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimal Health by Jo Robinson

Maybe we know about vegetables and how we should be eating more of them. We know it matters where our food comes from and the impact genetically modified agriculture has had on global welfare. However, unless we personally know all the best farmers and constantly read seed catalogs, we may not know the difference between varieties of a particular plant, what to look for, or how modern agriculture has altered edibles into the familiar foods we know now. Robinson takes us into the farmers’ market, and even into the grocery store aisles, to pick the produce with the highest nutritional profile; and even offers tips on how to best cook it to preserve all those nutrients we’ve heard so much about. This book was so powerful for me that I even put together a grocery store guide based on Robinson’s recommendations. I think I still have it saved somewhere… I learned orange carrots are not original, cauliflower also comes in a rainbow of colors, and that red apples are sweeter than green (which I never thought about before!).  At the very least, some of the things constantly at the tip of my brain when shopping for produce are because of the ideas in this book.

More details: Robinson focuses on individual plants like apples, oranges, potatoes, greens, etc and explains their nutritional profile, how they were eaten by our ancestors, how they appear in the wild, how we mostly see them now, and how to source the most nutritious of the bunch to which we currently have access.

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The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat & Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet by Nina Teicholz

When we were handed this book in our Culinary Nutrition course, they apologized to the vegetarians for the meat-centric photo on the front cover. I had no idea the impact this book would have on my thoughts about food, and how much it would break down almost everything I had been taught before. You will feel duped by popular science and the American government, wish for parts of your childhood back that you spent eating fat-free yogurt and drinking skim milk, and ache for your friends who haven’t quite crossed over yet. Not to mention that most of the country still operates under incredibly misleading half-truths and flat-out lies about fats and carbohydrates; you will likely struggle to see the world the same way again. But you will relax a bit about your primal cravings and know that you can add something to your list of things to rebel against. Fat is in; carbs are out.

More details: Teicholz debunks the “science” that flung the low-fat, high-carb lifestyle onto medical and government nutritional recommendations by dissecting the original and subsequent studies that got them there.  She makes the case for animal-based eating and animal fats by studying cultures not yet tarnished by Western imperialism.  She makes a caveat at the end of the book to acknowledge that ethics and meat-eating would require an entire additional manuscript, and thus the book does not enter that realm.

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Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

I have spent my entire adult life not eating animals. I completely overhauled my diet within two months of starting college and haven’t looked back. Still, my diet has continued to shift constantly from extreme (and extremely processed) veganism to allowing my refried beans to be cooked in lard to eating turkey on Christmas. But I’ve never fully embraced the return of meat to my diet, largely for the things I still feel strongly about after reading Foer’s expose. I don’t think eating meat is the devil, though I think there are incredibly unsustainable and unethical ways to do it. I don’t think not eating meat is freakish or crunchy or just trying to get attention. There are unhealthy ways to be a vegan, too. What I loved about Foer’s prose is that he connects a more scientific approach to assessing the effects of the meat industry to the personal and moral qualms that many of us can hardly stomach. He doesn’t make a solely data-based argument, nor is it highly emotional or philosophical. It begs us all to lay down good reason why we make the choices we make, once we finally realize our impact on the whole thing, and to move forward from there. Foer didn’t start out as a vegan with a mission to evangelize; he was a card-carrying meat-eater who did the research and came out the other end, as we all do, a different man.

More details: Foer tackles factory farming, cultural considerations, why we eat some animals and not others, red meat, white meat, fish meat, environmental impact, political corruption, and a philosophical digestion of morality.

collected ii

My week in food and fun.

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CITIZEN BISCUITS: the formation. Let me be clear: I really dislike working with coconut flour. I’ve mentioned a few times already that I found myself stuck with about a pound of it and in an effort to not waste an ounce of my existing pantry of expensive to semi-expensive goods, I’ve been trying to sustain myself off of it. These were an idea after a little bit of soul-searching lead me to find a way to give an offering to humanity. A sort of You’re out there, I’m thinking of you, I can’t solve all your problems but I can send my love. I wouldn’t say they turned out particularly well. Go figure. Bre + baking = questionable results. BUT I’ve never even made real biscuits before so I think that, coupled with the fact that they were still edible, means it wasn’t a complete failure.

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WORLD PEAS SOUP + CITIZEN BISCUITS FOR ALL MANKIND

Pea soup is inspired by Heidi Swanson (the most awesome Yellow Split Pea Mash found in her Near & Far cookbook). Basic idea is cooked split peas (I used green ones), blended with a bit of coconut milk and salted. Heidi suggests topping with pan-fried scallions but onions caramelized in turmeric will work just as well.  Jared and I devoured caramelized onions immediately so they’re not pictured.   Soup paired with the coconut flour biscuits described above.

 

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A sort of behind-the-scenes shot. Baked beans inspired by the Modern Potluck cookbook. Of course I ignored the fact that I didn’t have any of the ingredients called for, so quickly picked through my cupboards to find proper substitutions. This, my first true batch of vegetarian baked beans, will be hard to top. Navy beans (cooked from dry) plus a sauce made from maple sugar, honey, soy sauce, and sweet and sour mustard seeds.  Baked for 1.5 hours at 350 degrees.

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Beginning the month-long project of making apple cider vinegar from scratch. A simple mixture of sugar water and chopped organic apples. The leprechaun hat courtesy of a glass wedged strategically to try to keep the apples submerged in water (lest it mold). In addition to the zillion cooking contributions ACV can make, I use it in a homemade face toner (equal parts ACV, water, and witch hazel) and dip the tips of my hair into a jar of ACV cut with water as a sort of conditioner in the shower.  I had to leave behind my old brew for the cross-country move so I’m currently making do without.  It’s challenging…

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Local berries. We bought three baskets of strawberries and couldn’t eat them all before they began to mush (we’re mindful to keep the appropriate fruit at room temperature to preserve their flavor and nutrient profile). The last basket made a lovely compote-style jam which was sweet enough on its own. I also find strawberries to jam up nicely without starch or pectin, so all I did was cook down the berries until spreadable consistency. This simple concoction quickly became a favorite and we’re anxiously awaiting the next set of market strawberries so it can be re-imagined!

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I was clearly using up a can of coconut milk this week! Soak one tablespoon of chia seeds + 1/3 cup old-fashioned oats in 1 cup coconut milk and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, top with local sage blossom honey and up to one teaspoon maca powder. If my batch was ready, I would have stirred in some vanilla extract (one-half to one teaspoonful). This served as a most delicious, energizing breakfast, but I’ve been craving it as a late-night snack as well (replacing the maca with cinnamon or chopped chocolate).

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I’m grappling with whether or not to put my SCOBY into hibernation until I feel more inspired. This next-to-last batch was double fermented with carrot juice and it was actually a raging success, requiring me to heavily reconsider.

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I dry roasted these golden beets without a touch of salt or oil. I love both those things and use them liberally but this yields a nice result as well. They dressed a bed of massaged kale topped with a coconut milk dressing (blend: coconut milk, lemon juice, honey).

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“CEREAL” aka pan-toasted oats, honey, strawberries, blackberries, oranges, and the last of that can of coconut milk.

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Hi, hot springs!

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Another one of those baking (mis)adventures… I’m calling this a sponge cake. I have no idea what a sponge cake traditionally is, but for my purposes it’s when the porous cake soaks up the whole ganache and tastes better after setting in the fridge overnight.  We decided we’d gone particularly nutrient-dense in the cake (which is also hiding zucchini!) so we bought a couple bars of high-quality milk chocolate for the ganache. #badkids 

Side note: despite all the laughable shortcuts made during the baking process, the biggest complaint was texture from the coconut flour.  There are better gluten-free flours and, most notably, I’m not gluten-free, so my favorite sprouted spelt flour and the occasional unbleached whole grain wheat flour will do (especially when trying to share with a dude). End rant. Original recipe found here.

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The gift of this fella is immense. Mama Bear says, after hearing me describe daily life with him, “It’s like having a child!” WHOA; hard to believe that’s come upon me at this stage of my life (though I’ve been calling Jared a doggie dad for two years now).  Beyond trying to feed his need for attention at all times of the day, re-learning life through his eyes gives new meaning to it all. He’s truly the one who seeks adventure at every turn, is always ready to play, and is so unbelievable curious about the little things, like the process of brushing my teeth, getting dressed, the smell of curry powder, where the trash goes, what we’re always doing in the fridge, etc. This particular photo was on the way to a long afternoon of hiking straight up in straight sun. He wants so badly to feel the 80mph wind on his face that we have to hold onto his harness as he hangs out the window.  On the way home, in a rare moment of peace, he was passed out in the back.

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Another sort of behind-the-scenes look at what I deem BTS-worthy. I’d like to note that I started cooking my dry beans with a bit of seaweed (kombu is always a favorite) to help improve digestive ease (re: reduce impending gasses). Also, look at this beauuuuutiful Le Creuset dutch oven graciously gifted to us by our fabulous aunt + uncle cheerleaders, Rusty and Kris. Between their donations and my antique restorations, our cookware is the sturdiest stove-to-oven set you ever did see.

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This summer I discovered that my second favorite cocktail (besides bourbon + ginger) is bourbon + beer. I had fun coming up with names for it, since I figured it doesn’t qualify as a traditional cocktail but more of a bomber. I couldn’t choose between BOUR or BEERBON, so I use them interchangeably. Introduced the fellas to this blend of “local” (old hometown region and new). Did the trick.