Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Of Eating Meat and a Butchery Class

It’s time to discuss a difficult topic for most of us. The ethics of eating meat. *Bam!* *Pow!*

Note: Vegan and vegetarian discretion is advised; graphic images are presented here. Also, I am all in favor of everyone choosing a diet that is right for him/herself. Opinions here are expressly my own.
GF Oatmeal Muffins - good but needed a different flour base I should have listened to Shawna!
This one is a douzy. Last week I took a spring butchery class. I’m of the opinion that if I’m going to eat meat, I should probably know how to break it down. Talk to me 3 years ago and I would run shrieking from the kitchen. I remember a photo I have from us living in NYC and my parents came for Turkey Day with my little nephew (not so little anymore). I was horrified with the practices of roasting a turkey. Ugh! Disgusting!!

Taking a step back. I eat meat. I don’t eat a lot of it as previously stated in many blog posts. I think there are moral, ethical and environmental implications for eating meat that comes from factory farms (or CAFO’s - concentrated animal feeding operations). I’ll leave that discussion for a different time. I choose not to eat any meat that I do not know where it comes from. This basically means that I source any meat that I purchase directly from the farm or I purchase at Bi-Rite Grocery or Avedano’s Meats - both stores are committed to purchasing meat from the most ethical, humane and environmentally friendly farms. I don’t eat meat when I travel.

A tasty breakfast with almond butter and tea
Becoming more in tune with the meat you eat means understanding where it comes from, respecting the animal that you’re consuming, giving thanks to the animal for the nutrition that the meal will give you and understanding that meat doesn’t come prepared on a styrofoam, shrink wrapped package that you can find at your local big box grocery store. It usually means you have to work a little harder to make it into a delicious meal: roasting a full chicken, removing excess fat, etc. I think it’s important to understand the sacrifice that was made to bring a meal that has meat to the table. The environmental impact, the welfare of the animal, the feed the animal consumed and *shudder* any additional growth hormones/antibiotics/toxic substances that were used. Take the domestic debate on pink slime and insert arguments here. This is probably one of the most horrific examples of why we should not consume meat and shows exactly what is wrong with eating meat in this country. I’ll say it here: buy organic, buy local, buy humanely raised meat, know your butcher, know your farmer.
My butchery skiz-ills
I felt that in order to be a responsible meat eater, I should know how to properly break down a chicken. I attended this class at 18 Reasons (affiliated with Bi-Rite) and it was amazing! The instructor was a butcher at Bi-Rite and he did a fantastic job of explaining everything. I really enjoyed the class. I honestly think there is something a bit primal about butchery. That, and I love wielding a knife (I mean that in a good way... usually it’s aimed at vegetables!). Also, you see your work right away. Sort of like making a meal - you see the results at the end. And its what would be in that nasty styrofoam package - only better!
Breaking down a whole leg of lamb (demonstration)
I ran across a challenge this week from the NY Times that set my Twitter feed a twittering (what does that say about my twitter feed?): a challenge for carnivores to explain why it’s ethical to eat meat. Here’s my stab that I want to submit:

I’ve never been much of a meat eater. When I was a child, I told everyone that I was a vegetarian – except I loved hot dogs and pepperoni. As I grew older, I still didn’t eat a lot of meat and hamburgers certainly disgusted me. Then in college I had a medium rare steak, and I was a goner.

Meat from the corner Gristede’s market in New York City where I lived for 3 years is disgusting and nutritionally detrimental at best. One step up from pink slime. Meat from my local, organic and pasture raised CSA in San Francisco is nutritious, healthy and contributes to health – when eaten in moderation (i.e. 2-3 meals per week). Eating meat from organic, pasture raised/fed and humanely treated animals gives the body nutrients that are found no where else in nature. Where else do you find vitamins B12 and D? Bio available iron? I would also argue for omega-3 fatty acids, however these fats can certainly be found in vegetarian dishes.

My personal philosophy is that food is medicine. I don’t want to live a life tied to supplements (which one has to be careful about due to heavy metal contamination) and want to live a life that uses foods to support my body’s nutritive needs. Eating meat a few times a week sustains me.

It is not ethical, in my opinion, to eat meat from a Styrofoam, shrink wrapped package, which contains a product that has been questionably treated. It is ethical to eat meat that you know came from a local farmer who humanely treated their animals, fed them a proper organic diet and raised them on pasture land without harmful antibiotics and growth hormones.

Lastly, we have cultivated these animals to give us nutrition over thousands of years. We have relied on them to sustain us and they have relied on us to propagate their species. Is it ethical to allow these animals to roam only to not survive as they rely on us humans? I argue that no, it is not.

Now, as I am an adult, I still sometimes indulge in that hot dog, only now it’s from my local farm, with grass-fed organic beef and it doesn’t contain nitrates. This is the future me and this is the future of ethically consuming meat.

Again, this is simply my opinion. Everyone is entitled to decide what works best for your body. But I challenge everyone who consumes meat to think about the moral, ethical and environmental implications of eating meat. Maybe you change how you consume meat, maybe you don’t, but at least I think our health and our environment deserve a few minute consideration of our actions.

Do you agree or disagree with me? How does meat play a role in your life? In thinking about the NY Times challenge, what would you say?

Be happy. Be healthy!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring Is Here!

Yeah, almost went off the cliff behind me!
Spring is here but still feel wrapped up in winters’ arms. I feel the need for warm evenings, stews and cold weather (well, as far as cold weather goes in San Francisco).

I’ve taken a break lately from blogging. Life is kind of up in the air. I’ve been traveling a bit, been skiing and have just plain been busy or tired.

Lately, I’ve been feeling quite unhealthy. Two weeks ago, I was in Boston for work, which means jet lag, early mornings, lots of potatoes for carbs (gluten intolerant = no bread), unhealthy meals at airports and too much alcohol. The weekend before that I was celebrating birthdays in Seattle - amazingly fun! But hard on my liver. My GI tract still feels like it hasn’t recovered from the course of antibiotics I took back in January or I’m just eating poorly, so that adds to my problems. I’m exhausted. I need to reset my body to get ready for spring as I always feel a huge surge of energy once we’re in April and I’m sure that if I don’t plan for it, I’ll get sick! Also, I’m still trying to stave off my seasonal allergies with herbs and homeopathy, which is still working, but I can feel the underlying crappy feeling that seasonal allergies bring (tired, runny nose, sneezy, run down, etc).

So, in thinking about this and trying to prepare for spring, just a few days away, I’ve started a little bit of a detox for 2 weeks that I started yesterday. Here are my thoughts around what I mean by “detox”:
-No sugar!
-No alcohol! (ok, I might bend the rules on this one a scoatch)
-No meat (but will allow for eggs if I feel the need for some protein, and I will include fish in my diet)
-Incorporate bitter greens into at least one meal per day
-Have a food that is probiotic at least once per day (a couple of ounces of kombucha or water kefir, live miso, homemade sauerkraut, kimchee - yogurt can be considered here as well, see note below)
-Cook mostly at home to ensure I’m eating organic foods that are plant based
-Have beans/legumes 2-3 times each week
-No dairy (at all, zip, zero - no cheating!)
-Sleep 8+ hours per night
-Write more (this blog is kind of therapeutic - apologies if I rant too much)
-Meditate 3-4 times per week for 5 minutes (its just unrealistic for me to do this every day, I would do yoga, but I have bursitis in my shoulder right now and it’s pretty painful to do yoga poses - don’t worry! I’m in physical therapy right now and should be recovered in 3-4 weeks)
-Exercise at least 4 times per week
-Drink about 2 liters of water and herbal tea per day

To be fair and kind to myself, as one must do, I mostly eat this way and I normally exercise that much. Its just with all the travel, the allergies, being so busy, having too much alcohol, eating out, etc, I just cannot seem to catch up with myself. I feel heavy, lethargic and just plain tired!

A few clarifications are needed here: I don’t really believe in detox plans that cut everything out of your diet for any period of time. I cannot agree with individuals who choose to take supplements or go on juice diets to “detox.” The reason for this is because my personal philosophy is Food Is Medicine. If you don’t feel good, change the way you eat! I have a pretty open mind here, so I understand that some will be adamant about their lemon juice/honey/cayenne pepper juice fasts, but this just isn’t my cup of tea and I believe it would be detrimental to my body. I personally believe that meat and dairy belong in our diets (highly controversial, I know), but in order to heal, I want to cut these things out of my diet just for a short time. Meat is amazing after I’ve done a 70 mile bike ride. Yeah, currently not doing that right now! I *love* cheese and milk but as I’ve expressed before, I think my body doesn’t tolerate these foods very well. It’s best to take these things away from my diet if they aren’t needed.
Winter Salad over Brown Rice with white Truffle Oil
Another note on bitter greens: S forwarded me this amazing post on bitter greens last week and the corresponding link “Blessed Bitters,” which I totally geeked out on as they discuss how bitter greens effect the body in detail. In essence, without going too in depth, bitter greens support your immune system, your GI tract and your mental/emotional mind. Seems kind of crazy, I know, but in reading the article, it makes so much sense. We lack a lot of these greens in our current western diet and some suspect that these greens help diminish depression, constipation help with mineral absorption, etc. If this topic interests you, I highly recommend checking this article out!

I stumbled across this recipe last week and made it. It seems nostalgic as we’ve just started spring and these foods won’t be around until next winter! It’s also *packed* with bitter greens. This can be made vegan by omitting the goat cheese, gluten free by putting it over brown rice (which is what I did here), or carnivore friendly by adding steamed dungeness crab or a chicken breast. I would recommend adding beans, if you’re not incorporating any other protein, as I was still fairly hungry after eating this meal (an excuse to eat that GF brownie...).

Let me know if you have any questions! I know this is sort of out there and I’ve made a lot of claims that may need explanation. And keep an eye out for that asparagus (!!!) that just came into season a week or so back as we’ve had such amazing weather (until this week).

Be well!
Winter Salad
Adapted from Ruth Riechl’s Gormet Today Cookbook  

-2 tsp finely chopped shallot
-1 tsp honey
-2 tbsp fresh orange juice
-2 tbsp champagne vinegar
-Salt & fresh ground White pepper
-1/2 cup organic, extra virgin olive oil, first cold pressed
Whisk together the shallot, honey, orange juice, vinegar, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp white pepper until salt is dissolved. Add olive oil in a stream, whisking until well blended.

-3 Belgian Endives (I used 2 small red, 2 large white), halfed lengthwise, cored and cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch wide strips
-1/2 small red onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced into half moons
-1/2 large fennel bulb (or 1 small), stalks discarded (save for stock!!!), bulb cored and thinly sliced lengthwise
-1/2 apple, thinly sliced (I used a Fuji, but a green Granny Smith will work, too)
-1 head of leafy radicchio, thinly shredded
-2 cups of spinache (but can also use any other leafy green here)
Chop up everything and toss with the vinegrette! Season with more salt and pepper, if needed.

Top with goat cheese and drizzle the salad with truffle oil. Serve over rice, add beans, chicken breast or steamed dungeness crab. YUM.

*Note: DO NOT SKIP the truffle oil!!! Do yourself a favor - go buy a nice, albeit small, bottle of white truffle oil. It will change your life. I have never tasted a dish that I have made that paired so well with truffle oil!* 
The storms finally came in last week, here, a beautiful stormy morning.