I had four relatives in my family who lived long lives: my mother, my aunt, my uncle, and my dad.
Three of them had severe Alzheimer’s during the last years. But my dad, who lived to be ninety, (he should have lived longer, but that is another story) was sharp as a tack, right up to his last day. He had no signs of mental impairment.
I have often wondered why he was different. The other three took the advice of their doctors, and put themselves on low-fat diets. But my dad continued to eat a special breakfast that had been taught to him, which was full of animal fat. I think he kept sharp because of the special breakfast he always had, and the way he kept his mind active. I do not know if what he did will help others, but I have decided to share it.
The Food: Dad’s “Garbage”
Ever since I can remember, my dad always had the same breakfast. This was the menu:
- Two eggs with the yolks, fried in butter
- A small piece of rye toast, thickly spread with butter
- A thick slice of full fat cheddar cheese
- Several pieces of marinated raw herring
- Some smoked salmon
- Raw onions, that had been marinated overnight in vinegar
My mother, who was Russian, and felt she had a license to be rude, called this meal “garbage.” She ranted and raved at times about all the fat and cholesterol it contained. My dad continued to eat it every day, and eventually referred to it as “my garbage.”
I asked my dad why he ate it, especially when my mother was so mean to him over it. He said that his father told him that it would keep his mind sharp.
Interestingly enough, the butter, cheese, and egg yolks contributed valuable animal fat and other nutrients that are very important for nourishing the brain. Some studies have shown that eating eggs every day may be an important factor in maintaining mental function.
Both herring and salmon are very fatty fish. He ate them raw, though one had been fermented by smoking, and the other by marinating. Fermenting foods preserve and increase their nutrient value. Fish has been recommended for mental sharpness for thousands of years.
The ancient Egyptians believed that onions would heal and prevent all kinds of problems. Again, the onions were raw, somewhat fermented from the marinade.
My dad never wrote down phone numbers. He always memorized them, keeping them in his head. And he always remembered them when he needed to make a call. He could hold hundreds in his mind at a time, and was always able to recall them.
My dad always followed the news of the world, keeping himself current on every issue. He would watch or read about the news many hours a day. And he would think about the issues, analyze them, and come up with ways to solve them that I thought were much more sensible than what the politicians actually did.
I asked him once why he spent so much time on the news, and why he memorized the phone numbers instead of writing them down. He said that he liked to use his mind.
Some studies have shown that older people who are mentally active are far less likely to get Alzheimer’s.
Now, this is what he did, on advice from his father, who was also mentally sharp until the day he died. I do not know if this will work for anyone else.
But I am so grateful that he kept a sharp mind throughout his entire life.
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We have been told, for decades, that butter and other animal fats will cause heart disease, obesity, diabetes, many other illnesses and death. Yet the purveyors of this claim were faced with evidence that could not be denied. The French ate huge amounts of butter and other animal fats, yet had low rates of these diseases, and were far less obese than other people. This situation was described as “The French Paradox.”
Some research was done, and some scientists explained the French Paradox by claiming that all the benefit came from drinking a glass or two of red wine daily, which supposedly counteracted the “harmful” effects of all that fat. This explanation never convinced me, because I knew that many other nations consume similar amounts of red wine and do not experience the better health enjoyed by the French.
But it was not until I had the pleasure of actually eating traditional French butter sauces that I realized the truth of the matter—it is the butter and quality animal fats that have the beneficial effect, not the wine.
It is the butter that helps give the blessing of good health.
My Fear of French Sauces
I did not always know about the benefits of traditional animal fats, like butter. Like most people, I believed the bogus “lipid hypothesis,” thought that butter was harmful, and avoided it. “Rich French butter sauces” got so much bad press that I never used them.
After studying the research of Dr. Weston A. Price, and eating a diet based on his discoveries, I experienced great health improvements. This meant eating a diet rich in traditional animal fats, including butter. Yet I still did not eat French butter sauces. Besides, these sauces were supposed to be very difficult to prepare. I had avoided them for so long that it did not even occur to me to try them, except occasionally in restaurants. The restaurant versions were boring and did nothing for me.
Rich butter sauces such as Hollandaise and Béarnaise are a big part of traditional French cuisine, often served with red meat. It did not even occur to me to put such sauces in my cookbooks, Tender Grassfed Meat and Tender Grassfed Barbecue, though I now realize they go wonderfully with grassfed meat. My mind still was influenced by the old mesmerism that French butter sauces were to be avoided, at all costs, though this belief was subconscious.
I was so wrong.
My New Appreciation of French Butter Sauces
When I was reading a traditional French cookbook, I turned to the section on sauces. As I started to read the ingredients of butter sauces, I realized that their main components were butter and egg yolks, two of the healthiest foods on earth, and two of my favorite foods. I actually became aware of the ridiculous attitude I had—if butter and egg yolks are good outside a sauce, why would they not be good in the sauce?
And, as I read the recipes, I came to realize something else. These sauces did not sound that difficult to prepare.
I prepared a Béarnaise sauce to go with some grassfed steaks two weeks ago. This was easy to make, though it required concentration. The resulting sauce was mostly butter, and had nothing in common with the pallid restaurant versions I had tasted before. It was absolutely delicious, and greatly enhanced the flavor of the grassfed steak without overwhelming it. But the real surprise was how good I felt. I always feel good after eating good grassfed meat, but this time I felt even better. Much better. The sheer enjoyment of the wonderful taste, the immense satisfaction of eating so much butter, and the wonderful combination of animal fat and meat, left me feeling full of energy and happiness, ready to do just about anything.
It struck me that this wonderful feeling of satisfaction, of enjoyment, of well being, was my body rewarding me for eating something wonderful, something highly nutritious. I never felt anything like this when I drank red wine.
I had exactly the same feelings of contentment, satisfaction, energy, and well being after I ate some homemade Hollandaise sauce on Mother’s Day, combined with some grassfed tenderloin steak.
To me, this solves the “French Paradox.” It is the butter. And my next cookbook will have easy, traditional ways of making these wonderful sauces.
Anyone who reads my books or this blog will soon realize that I am a passionate advocate for the benefits of eating animal fat.
Anyone who has seen me in the kitchen knows that I practice what I preach, NEVER trimming off any fat from the meat, using large amounts of natural lard, pastured butter, grassfed beef tallow, lamb tallow, bison suet, uncured fatty bacon, and duck fat in my cooking.
Anyone who has seen me at the dinner table will know that I put my fork where my advocacy is, eating huge amounts of pastured butter, grassfed animal fat, well-marbled grassfed meat, chicken skin, turkey skin, duck skin, goose skin, pastured pork fat, and the crisp wonderful fat from all kinds of roasts.
When people learn about my fondness for animal fat, they almost always ask this question, in one form or another—“But what about the cholesterol? Doesn’t that fat contain plenty of cholesterol?”
Yes, it does. And that is one of the reason I eat it—for the cholesterol.
The Blessings of Cholesterol
I recently had the pleasure of watching a DVD entitled “The Oiling of America.” This DVD was made during a lecture given by Sally Fallon Morell, the president of the Weston A. Price Foundation. The lecture was based on research done by Dr. Mary Enig, the renowned scientist who discovered the danger in artificial trans fats. I highly recommend this DVD to everyone, and it is my source for this column.
Some of the most important facts I learned from this superb DVD are as follows:
- Cholesterol is vital for life and the natural functions of the body.
- If you had no cholesterol, you would be dead. It is that simple.
- Cholesterol is used by the body to keep water out of our cells, so they can function properly.
- Cholesterol is used by the body to make Vitamin D, in combination with sunlight.
- Cholesterol is used by the body to make many vital hormones, including all the sex hormones.
- Cholesterol is what the body uses to repair damage. Cholesterol actually repairs tears in arteries, rather than clogging them. The body uses cholesterol to repair other wounds and damage as well.
- Cholesterol is used by the immune system to fight off infections and disease.
- Cholesterol is crucial for the proper functioning of our brains—much of the brain is made up of cholesterol.
- Cholesterol is used by the body to make serotonin, the chemical used by the body to prevent depression.
- Cholesterol is a powerful antioxidant, used by the natural functions of the body to protect itself from free radicals. Free radicals have been implicated in many diseases, such as cancer.
These are just some of the blessings of cholesterol, there are many others.
Some of the other facts I learned from The Oiling of America:
- Cholesterol does not cause heart disease.
- Cholesterol does not clog arteries. In fact, when arteries or damaged or clogged, the body sends cholesterol to fix the problem. That is why some cholesterol is found in clogged arteries, along with much larger amounts of other substances that actually clog the arteries. Blaming cholesterol for clogging arteries is like blaming firemen for the damage caused by a fire they fight.
- Women and all elderly people with higher cholesterol live longer and are healthier than women and elderly with low cholesterol.
- Eating cholesterol does not increase the cholesterol level, as the body will make the cholesterol it needs and does not get from food. Trouble comes when a weakened body cannot make enough cholesterol, and there is not enough cholesterol in the diet.
- All the cholesterol made by the body and included in natural foods is good, and is used by the body. The only bad cholesterol is an oxidized form found in some processed and refined foods.
But What about the Studies?
Yes, there are a number of studies that are interpreted to support the common belief that cholesterol is bad for health and causes heart disease. Most of these studies are funded by drug companies, or other organizations that have a direct financial interest in perpetuating the error that cholesterol is bad. Because of this conflict of interest, they do not persuade me.
Sally Fallon Morell and Dr. Mary Enig do a great job of exposing the statistical manipulation, cherry picking, tricks, and other misleading mechanisms used to misinterpret the results of these studies, going through this in great detail. After seeing the calm and convincing debunking of these studies, it is clear that they have been manipulated for a reason. And that reason is profit.
Finally, all of the healthy peoples studied by Dr. Weston A. Price ate foods rich in cholesterol, in amounts much greater than any modern people. None of them had heart disease.
My thanks to Sally Fallon Morell for giving me permission to use the information in The Oiling of America. You can purchase the DVD Oiling of America here.
I will continue to enjoy my delicious diet rich in natural animal fats, knowing it is great for the natural functions of my body.
By Stanley A. Fishman, author of Tender Grassfed Meat
Meat and potatoes were once so popular that the very term came to mean the very essence, the indispensible part of anything, the “meat and potatoes.” In terms of a good main meal, meat and potatoes were always there, and anything else was optional.
The attempts to ram grain and vegetables down people’s throats, as exemplified by the ridiculous food pyramid, changed this. Meat has been demonized as unhealthy in a myriad of ways. Potatoes, with their high glycemic index and starch content, have also come under attack, and are avoided by the low-carb movement.
Yet the combination of meat and potatoes is a very old tradition in Europe, one that goes back centuries, back to the introduction of the potato. It was the foundation of the diet (when people could get meat), and they thrived on it. However, the European tradition had a third component, perhaps the most important of all—fat. Fat that was almost always from animal sources, like butter, bacon, lard, beef tallow, lamb tallow, etc. Of course, animal fat is the most demonized food of all.
Demonization aside, the combination of meat, potatoes, and fat is one of the most nutritious and delicious combinations you can have in a meal. Most of our main meals feature this combination, and we thrive on it.
But it is crucial to use the right meat, the right potatoes, and the right fat. Together they create a wonderful balance, both in nutrition and pH balance, and are one of the tastiest food combinations.
The Right Meat Is Raised in a Pasture, Not a Feedlot
When most Americans think of meat, they think of the relatively tasteless, watery, mushy, greasy, nutrition-light factory meat that comes out of feedlots, having been fattened on GMO corn, GMO soy, and a variety of other unnatural feeds that can easily include rendered chicken manure. While this kind of meat is considered safe to eat, safe is not enough. This meat just will not work as part of the traditional trilogy of meat, potatoes, and fat.
Grassfed and grass finished meat, the same kind of meat that was eaten when the meat-potatoes-fat tradition began, is a very different substance. Grassfed meat has incredible flavor, has a nice meaty texture, is not greasy, and is nutrient-dense, having the right ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids, and a number of valuable nutrients that are often missing in factory meat.
Grassfed meat is the right meat.
The Right Potatoes Are Not Saturated with Pesticides
The potatoes eaten when the meat-potatoes-fat combination began were not sprayed with pesticides. Most potatoes in the United States are heavily sprayed with a multitude of pesticides, and are one of the most pesticide-heavy foods you can get. The only way to avoid this is to get organic potatoes.
Dr. Weston A. Price studied some of the traditional peoples of Peru, and found them to be free of chronic diseases and tooth decay. Organic potatoes were an important part of their diet, though they ate many animal foods and seafood as well.
The right potatoes are organic potatoes.
The Right Fat Comes from Animals, Not Factory Crops
The fat eaten when the meat-potatoes-fat tradition began in Europe was the fat of grassfed animals, or the fat from their milk. The one exception was olive oil, though olive oil was often combined with animal fats in cooking.
The fat that comes from modern vegetable oils just will not work for this combination, as it did not even exist when the meat-potatoes-fat combination began. These oils have a very high ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids, which is very undesirable. The fats that should not be used include: soybean oil, canola oil, corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, cottonseed oil. An excellent article on this subject is Know Your Fats Introduction.
It is crucial that the fat comes from grassfed and/or pastured animals, eating their natural food, so the fat will be similar to the fat available when the meat-potatoes-fat combination began. This includes butter, full-fat cheese, full-fat milk, full-fat cream, full-fat yogurt, full-fat sour cream, full-fat cultured cream, natural unhydrogenated pork lard, grassfed beef tallow, lamb tallow, bison tallow, and the fat from pastured chickens, geese, and ducks. These fats are extremely nutritious and lend an incredible flavor to food.
The right fat is the fat of grassfed animals, the fat from their milk, and the fat of pastured animals.
Meat, Potatoes, and Fat Balance Each Other
I have come to understand that traditional food combinations stand the test of time because they are beneficial. Time and time again, science has confirmed the wisdom of these traditions.
For example, it is known that it is important to maintain a body pH balance that is not too acidic or alkaline, with slightly alkaline being ideal. Meat is acidic, and potatoes are one of the most alkaline foods you can eat. They are a perfect balance for each other. This may explain why the meat and potato combination was so popular, as traditional peoples always seemed to know what foods should be eaten together.
The adverse effects of the high glycemic index of potatoes are avoided when the potatoes are eaten with plenty of good fat. The fat changes the way that high glycemic foods are digested and absorbed. Again, traditional peoples seemed to know this. In Europe, potatoes were always eaten with plenty of good, natural, traditional fat. Potatoes were baked with cream and milk, fried in lard, fried in butter, fried with bacon, made into casseroles with butter and cheese, covered with sour cream or butter, and combined with cheese and baked into pies. These are just a few of the thousands of ways fat and potatoes were combined. Even the poor would dip their boiled potatoes into butter, or eat them with full-fat milk or cheese.
All of the potato recipes in Tender Grassfed Meat contain plenty of good fat, and they are intended to be eaten with meat, following the tradition.
The food trilogy of grassfed meat, organic potatoes, and natural fat provides the body with an incredible combination of nutrients—leading to satisfaction and contentment.
The taste benefits of meat, potatoes, and fat are just as incredible. I know because I eat this combination almost every day, in many delicious variations.
Here’s to meat and potatoes—and fat!
By Stanley A. Fishman, author of Tender Grassfed Meat
I know literally hundreds of ways to turn grassfed meat into wonderful meals. But I have to confess something. My favorite meal remains what it always has been—steak and French fries. I am not alone in this. Many accomplished chefs have admitted to the same desire.
Steak and French fries have gotten a very bad reputation over the last 40 years. I contend that the steak and French fries I will enjoy this coming Father’s Day will be nourishing and good for me, as well as absolutely delicious.
The Allure of Steak and French Fries
Why have steak and French fries remained so popular, even if most people think they are a guilty indulgence? Steak and French fries are a traditional food combination, going back to France. The French know something about good traditional food combinations. I will point out that the original steak and French fries used grassfed beef for the meat, and good old saturated animal fat, such as beef tallow or lard, for frying the potatoes. The potatoes used for this traditional dish were organic, since all food used to be organic. The combination of steak and potatoes provided a meal that had a perfect pH balance, with the potatoes balancing the meat. Frying the potatoes in plenty of good animal fat tamed the high glycemic index of the potatoes, since the potatoes were fried in such a way to ensure that they would absorb plenty of the fat. In fact, potatoes were always cooked with fat (usually animal fat), in traditional Europe. As a follower of the teachings of Dr. Weston A. Price, I consider the fat of healthy grassfed animals to be one of the best foods I can eat. An excellent article on this subject is “The Skinny on Fats.”
Perhaps the greatest attraction of this combination is the joy of eating tender, juicy meat with crisp, delicious potatoes.
My Traditional Steak and French Fries
When I think of steak and French fries, I am not referring to the usual combination of a factory steak with factory potatoes fried at high heat in a modern vegetable oil. I think of a traditional, grassfed steak, with organic potatoes, fried at moderate heat in a traditional fat such as beef tallow or old-fashioned lard. This recreates the original ingredients that gave birth to the tradition.
A grassfed steak has much more flavor and will sustain and improve the natural functions of your body. Cooked right, it will be tender and taste so much better. The cuts I prefer for such a festive combination are Porterhouse, or a bone in rib steak, though I will also enjoy a strip steak, or even a less expensive cut such as center cut shoulder or cross rib. A less expensive cut of steak was often used for this dish in France, which was called Steak Frite. The cut I choose for the classic version is tri-tip steak, and my version of Steak Frite is contained on page 77 of my cookbook, Tender Grassfed Meat. The book also contains more than 20 other recipes for grassfed beef steak. These steaks all have something in common—they all go great with French fries.
I use only organic potatoes for French fries. I think it is important to use only organic potatoes, because conventional potatoes have been heavily sprayed with a number of pesticides, and just do not taste as good. I will fry the French fries in rendered beef tallow, or natural, unhydrogenated lard. I will fry the French fries twice, initially at a very moderate heat. Some might ask, “Doesn’t that mean that the fat will get into the potatoes?” You bet the fat will get into the potatoes. That’s a good thing. Eating fat with potatoes is an old European tradition. My recipe for Old Fashioned French Fries is contained on page 198 of Tender Grassfed Meat. You can see how they look in the photo above. They taste even better than they look.
A meal of traditional steak and French fries provides important nutrients that will maintain and support the very structure of your body, such as your bones, muscles, and cells, while also supporting your immune system and other body functions. But my main reason for wanting steak and French fries is that it tastes so very good.
This post is part of Real Food Wednesday Blog Carnival at Kelly the Kitchen Kop.
This post is part of Fight Back Friday Blog Carnival at Food Renegade.