I was asked why I keep looking to the past for cooking inspiration. Modern technology and food science has developed faster and more efficient ways of raising and cooking food, innovations that are supposed to make everything better. Preserving food with chemicals prevents it from spoiling, and being wasted. Science has invented ways of extracting oil from plants that never were able to produce oil before, such as soy and corn. Scientific ways of raising cattle, with genetics, drugs, hormones, and feedlots, which cut the time it takes to bring a steer to market in half. And so many other new ways of doing things, that make the food traditions of the past obsolete.
I see it differently. Speed, efficiency, and innovation do not necessarily make food better. In fact, they often make it much worse, in my experience. These innovations are designed for profit, not for taste or nutrition.
And, to me, nutrition and taste are by far the most important aspects of food. Our ancestors also valued nutrition and taste above all. The food traditions of our ancestors have been passed down for hundreds and thousands of years, tested by every generation that used them. They became traditions because they enhanced nutrition and taste, and because they worked.
Traditional Foods vs. Modern Foods
Modern foods, grown and raised with a heavy dose of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, hormones, genetic modification, and feedlots, preserved through radiation and chemical preservatives, often flavored by chemicals, and designed for long shelf life and profit, are very different from the foods of our ancestors.
The traditional foods of humanity were developed over time, and eaten over many generations, so the ability to use and process these foods effectively was part of our ancestral heritage. These foods required rich soil, full of nutrients, to grow in; or rich pastures, also full of nutrients. Seafood was almost universally wild, with the nutrients of nature. Fertilizers and pest control methods were natural, using the products of nature, not a lab. These foods had a density and quality of nutrients that is rarely found today. And the wonderful natural taste of these foods, from nature, was much better than the taste of the factory foods used today.
Traditional foods were developed over many generations, raised in accordance with the laws of nature. They became traditional foods because they gave great nutrition to people, generation after generation.
Modern factory foods are a product of human technology, not nature. They have a very short history of use, and are developed for long shelf life and profit, not nutrition or taste.
I prefer to eat traditional foods, and am much healthier and happier when I do so.
Traditional Cooking vs. Modern Cooking
Modern cooking methods have been developed for speed, ease, and convenience. They have also been developed to enable people to cook factory foods, which are very different from traditional foods, and must often be cooked differently. Modern cooking equipment often uses methods that have never been used before in history, cookware from modern metals such as aluminum, non-stick cookware, and many other such innovations.
Traditional cooking methods consist of ways of preparing and combining foods that have been passed down from generation to generation, often going back thousands of years, often being slightly modified over time, yet essentially the same. They use the same cooking implements and techniques that humanity has used for thousands of years, many of which can easily be reproduced in an easier form by more modern methods. For example, an ordinary electric oven can bake and roast in much the same way as an ancient wood fire, especially when the temperatures are adjusted to mimic the temperature cycle of a fire burning down. Some techniques, such as frying meat in butter in a heavy cast iron pan, are essentially identical.
My books are devoted to recreating food traditions in a modern kitchen, especially the cooking of grassfed meat, and doing it the easy way.
I prefer traditional foods cooked in a traditional way, because it has been so much better for me in so many ways, and because it tastes so much better with an almost infinite number of time tested dishes to try and enjoy.
Many people believe that good cooking is a mystery, one that can only be solved by celebrity chefs using arcane ingredients and complex methods. These TV chefs often use new methods and combinations that have been invented by the chefs, who gets praised for their innovation. High-tech modern products like meat glue are often used by such chefs.
I believe that simple recipes, using real food such as grassfed meat and organic traditional vegetables, using traditional food combinations, and traditional methods, prepared by ordinary people, taste the best.
I believe that cooking should be easy, not complex and difficult.
I am inspired by the quality and benefits of grassfed meat and real food, with their wonderful natural flavors. I am inspired by the ingenious simplicity of traditional cooking, which often uses just a few ingredients, simply combined and prepared, to produce outstanding, healthy food. These flavor combinations became traditional because they are really good. Many of these traditions are being lost, and I am honored to help preserve some of them in my cookbooks.
I contend that the best grassfed meat and real food is simple, using traditional methods, traditional ingredients, and easy recipes. When you have great ingredients, their wonderful natural taste should come out.
With Real Food — Simple Is Better
When I wrote my two cookbooks, Tender Grassfed Meat and Tender Grassfed Barbecue, I had several goals. One of the most important was to make them simple, and easy to use. Another goal was to provide recipes that were absolutely delicious. A third goal was to create recipes that people would actually make.
These three goals are not contradictory, if you are using grassfed meat and real food. The quality of these foods from nature is so high that the food itself provides most of the flavor. In fact, I contend that grassfed meat and real food are the best when prepared simply with traditional methods and ingredients. You can have a wonderful dish with just a few ingredients, if they are of the highest quality, and carefully combined. When you use only a few ingredients, all are important and changing even one of them can have a dramatic effect on the taste of the dish.
Real food ingredients have so much natural flavor and goodness that they are at their best when made simply, so that their wonderful natural flavor can come out.
Then, there is the simple fact that complex recipes, with dozens of ingredients, and difficult, complex techniques, are much harder and take much more effort and time to make. Often complex recipes fail, for any of a number of reasons. Usually, complex recipes are read, admired, and never made.
I want my cooking to be easy and simple, and delicious. I wrote these books for the ordinary person, because I wanted them to have ways to cook tender grassfed meat that were not only delicious, but easy. I wanted my recipes to be used, and enjoyed.
I did not write these books for critical acclaim, but to help people make delicious grassfed meat, the easy way.
In fact, I admit it, I prefer to make easy meals! It is not only easier, it is more fun!
Our favorite holiday roast is a grassfed prime rib, with a nice thick fat cap, plenty of nice marbling in the meat, resting solidly on its own bones. It is not easy to find such a roast, but we hit the jackpot this year.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and the above picture says it all.
This prime rib is one the best I have ever seen.
Perfectly balanced on a strong rack of bones. Covered with a thick layer of its own flavor-giving fat.
Nicely marbled with small flecks of grassfed fat.
A beautiful color.
And there are even more reasons that I know this roast will be something special. Late last week, we had a grassfed shoulder roast picked up from a local market. The meat was beautiful, full of perfect marbling. It was incredibly tender and flavorful. I knew that the butcher had happened upon a truly remarkable steer.
The next day, I called the butcher up and asked if he could sell me a prime rib from the same animal. Turns out that he could. I showed up at the market, and politely called out my preferences as he cut the roast. He left all the fat on, which was my biggest concern. Due to the demonization of fat, most butchers will trim all the fat off a roast without even thinking of it. A very bad decision, because the fat contains most of the flavor, and all of the fat soluble vitamins and nutrients. And the fat itself, crisp and brown when the roast is done, is absolutely delicious and warming.
Not to worry, this butcher knew his stuff and happily complied with my request.
This is the old way of buying a special roast, where you know and trust the seller, know where the meat comes from, and carefully select the roast, even specifying the animal it comes from, and the way it is cut and trimmed. This is the way most humans have done it for most of time. Not at all like picking up a foam package in the supermarket.
Now that we have our roast, the planning for our Christmas dinner is complete. Here is the menu:
Roast Prime Rib of Beef: Lightly seasoned with herbs, pepper, garlic, and just a little salt, added at the last minute.
Roast Potatoes and Carrots: These will be roasted in the same pan as the roast. There will be no rack, as the bones make a perfect rack, and this allows us to place these vegetables in the pan, where they will become brown, crusty, sweet, flavored with the unique flavor of prime rib fat.
Sautéed Mushrooms: Cooked with plenty of butter and a bit of truffle oil, until browned and caramelized, with amazing flavor.
Yorkshire Pudding: Baked in the old style, made with pan drippings, the same magnificent beef fat
European Cabbage: From page 206 of Tender Grassfed Meat, onion, cabbage, and apple slices, cooked to perfection with bacon, in bacon fat.
Dessert? I doubt anyone will have room.
I want to wish all a very happy holiday season.
And, if you celebrate it, a very Merry Christmas!
Many view cooking as a boring chore, to be done as quickly as possible, with as little effort as possible. Others never cook, living on prepackaged meals, takeout, and restaurants. It has been reported that two-thirds of the American people do not even know how to cook.
I view cooking as an absolute necessity. Real food, the food of our ancestors, does not come in a plastic package you can nuke in a microwave. Sadly, real food rarely exists in restaurants, and when it does, it is extremely expensive.
So, if you are going to enjoy the vital benefits of real food, someone in your family is going to have to cook ,and it might as well be you. But I do not view cooking as a chore. Yes, it can be a lot of work, but it can also be an art form, one that brings health as well as joy, when done well. And the very act of doing it can be a lot of fun!
The key is to be engaged in your cooking.
Some people just go through the motions when they cook, mechanically following the instructions in a recipe, just wanting to get it over with. This attitude leads to boredom, frustration, and usually results in a meal that is mediocre, or worse.
Not me. Every meal is an adventure, every time I cook it is different, and I have many rewarding experiences.
Here is why. Every food item is unique. I mean every single item of real food is somewhat different than any other. In other words, the T-bone steak I cook today is different from the one I cook in a week, even if it is from the same ranch, is cut the same way, and weighs the same. This uniqueness is true of every item of real food. No two grapes are exactly alike. every teaspoon of a particular spice tastes and behaves a bit different, even if it comes from the same bottle. Every individual onion has unique qualities, even from the onions that grew next to it and were harvested at the same time. The same is true of every individual bit of real food.
Nothing remains exactly the same, as change is the nature of life.
The same is true of the inanimate manufactured items we use in cooking. No stove cooks exactly the same, even if they come from the same manufacturing lot. Each oven has its own hot spots, and cooler spots. The size and shape of the oven also has an impact, as does the altitude. Burners, even on the same stove, vary in how much heat they give off, regardless of the setting. Every pan conducts heat a bit differently. No stove is perfectly level, and the tilt of the stove and oven also have an effect.
Climate, moisture, temperature in the kitchen, and other factors we are not aware of, change every time we cook.
This is true not only of appliances, but of barbecue fires. No two fires, even if made in the same barbecue, adjusted the same way, with the same fuel, will be alike, or will behave alike.
Everything matters, and everything is unique. And everything changes as time goes on.
What does this mean in cooking? To me, it means I pay attention to what actually happens when the cooking begins. Every cooking experience is unique. I pay attention to how the food is cooking, to how hot the oven or pan seem to be, to the smells of the cooking food. I make adjustments as I go, trusting my instincts. If something seems to be burning, or a sauce seems too thin, or the smell seems off, I take action. I make little adjustments, sometimes major ones. When you do this enough, there is a message in the sounds of the cooking, the smells, the look of roasting meat, the way the fat sizzles in a pan, that tells you things. This sense can only be developed by experience. But responding effectively to these messages is an art, and extremely enjoyable, exciting, even inspiring.
Now, this does not mean that I spend every moment a dish cooks staring at the dish, waiting for something to happen. For example, if I place a covered pot in a slow oven to cook for three hours, I will not stand by the oven for three hours. But I will peek into the pot once or twice, just too make sure that the simmering is taking place as it should. And I will come into the kitchen a couple of times, to make sure there are no smells or sounds that are out of place. And if all is going well, I know that I have done what I need to do, that meal, that time, that day.
The instructions in my cookbooks, Tender Grassfed Meat, and Tender Grassfed Barbecue, are as detailed as I can efficiently make them, and the recipes have been cooked by me multiple times, with success.
Yet even the most clear, detailed recipe is a road map. You still have to take the journey. If you follow the recipes, you can expect success. And, as you become an experienced cook, and begin to recognize things, you will begin to understand the magical messages of smells, cooking sounds, the look of the food, and you are in for a lot of enjoyment. And your food will get better and better.
Finally, cooking a great meal of real food is one of the best things you can do for your family, your friends, and yourself. The joy of a great meal brings happiness, and the nutrition provided by real food gives health.
I think it is time to admit to something. My name is Stanley, and I am a grassfed beefophile.
Many people are familiar with oenophiles, who are people who deeply appreciate wines and have great knowledge and appreciation of them.
With respect, I could care less about wine. But grassfed beef is something else entirely. I love it, in many of its endless variations. I love the endless variety of flavors, caused by the different configurations of meadow plants from pastures all over the world. I love the way it makes me feel—renewed and strong after eating it. I love the wonderful aromas that delight my nose as it cooks. There is no use denying it. I am a grassfed beefophile.
How I Discovered my Obsession
I came to realize this yesterday, after I picked up a package of grassfed ground beef from Uruguay. I noted the deep red color, rich with promise. Even the way the meat was ground caught my attention. I was excited about knowing that this beef had come from cattle who ate grass all year round, as there is no winter there. I wondered what wonderful taste would come from the rich grass eaten by these cattle, on some of the most nutrient-dense soil on earth. I could not wait to get home and cook it!
Seriously, folks. Who gets excited about hamburger?
All the way home, I kept thinking about how I would cook it. I know dozens of ways of making hamburger, and I am not exaggerating. I was torn between my desire to add some spices to enhance the flavor, and my fear of masking the wonderful natural taste. Should the burger be thick, thin, or in between? Should I fry it, or barbecue it, or broil it?
Should I cook it until grey, as the government advises for safety, or should I make it less done, to make it more nutritious and enjoy more of the natural flavor?
So many decisions, so many thoughts. So hard to decide.
Again, I ask you—who torments themselves over the best way to cook a hamburger?
I finally decided to use some flavors from the region, trusting that the traditional flavors would not ruin the meat, or mask the flavors. I added a touch of oregano, a mere hint of garlic, a dollop of olive oil. I sautéed it gently in a pan rubbed with a small amount of olive oil. I cooked it rare, at my own risk, trusting that good grassfed beef would be alright, and knowing that I personally have never had a problem after eating it.
O my gosh, it was WONDERFUL! The meat had a unique, beefy, slightly sweet flavor. There were hints of something I did not recognize, but it was pleasant. It made me feel better with every bite. I enjoyed the lovely aroma, the very mouth feel of the burger, and the sensation of strength and renewal as I swallowed it. I was torn by the desire to wolf it down and the desire to appreciate the eating experience, to savor it, to pay careful attention to it, which could only be done by chewing slowly, and pausing from time to time.
It was a struggle, but the art of tasting won out over ravenous hunger, and I savored this wonderful meat.
Seriously, who gets this kind of deep experience and joy from eating a hamburger?
A grassfed beefophile, that is who.
The Benefits of Being a Grassfed Beefophile
Now that I have admitted to what I am, I must discuss the benefits. Unlike factory meat, which tastes about the same, bland, blah, and boring, has horrible mouth feel, mushy texture, and never makes me feel good—grassfed beef has endless variations in taste.
Most of these variations are good, and many great, if the meat is properly cooked. I always get a different taste by eating grassfed meat from different ranches. Even grassfed meat from the same ranch will taste different at various times of the year, because the forage changes with the seasons. I enjoy grassfed meat in the form of hamburgers, steaks, roasts, stir-fries, pot roasts, pan roasts, stews, and soups. My cookbook Tender Grassfed Meat has many delicious variations of all these forms of grassfed beef, bison, and lamb. I fry it, broil it, barbecue it, stew it, sauté it, simmer it, and often combine these techniques. I use traditional flavor combinations from all over the world, and create my own. My newest cookbook Tender Grassfed Barbecue also has many different flavor combinations for grassfed ground meat.
I eat almost every variety of cut, from nearly every part of the animal. The variety is endless, the taste wonderful, and the nutrition fantastic.
Grassfed beef is far more nutritious than factory beef. See Health Benefits of Grass-fed Products.
If I were to make an analogy to a wine connoisseur, my personal opinion is that factory beef is like the cheap, sweet wine favored by people who just want to get drunk, while grassfed beef is like a variety of fine wines, that are drunk to be savored and enjoyed.
There is some grassfed beef I would not recommend, just as there are some fancy wines a true oenophile would not recommend. But properly cooked grassfed beef, from a good ranch, is a true joy. And since the beef from each ranch is different, I never get tired of it.
Your first reaction to the title of this post might be, “What!? Cooking is important?”
That is typical of a culture that no longer values cooking, one of the oldest and most vital human skills. In fact, two-thirds of American adults know almost nothing about cooking, and never cook. To these folks, cooking means heating up an already prepared product in the microwave, or warming up takeout that has gotten cold.
Suppose you had the power to create an almost magical medicine that had no side effects, yet gave you strong bones, powerful muscles, strength, stamina, great vision and hearing, a happy optimistic viewpoint, a clear mind that can focus on anything, a great memory, an immune system so strong that you almost never get sick?
Suppose this power and this medicine brought great happiness and pleasure to all who used it?
Would you want this power?
Well, you can learn this power, and make that medicine.
The power is cooking, and the “medicine” is real food.
The Power of Real Food
Nothing affects the health of our bodies as much as the food we eat. Our bodies are made of the food we eat. Our bodies use the food we eat to repair themselves, to run the natural functions of the body, and to get energy. We need the right kinds of food, and enough of it. If people do not have enough food, they die. If people do not get enough good real food, their health deteriorates and they become vulnerable to all kinds of diseases.
Doctors and hospitals can be very good for traumatic injuries, and some very serious conditions, yet their drugs and surgeries and radiation cannot keep our bodies healthy.
Only food can do that.
Hippocrates, the most famous of doctors, said it best:
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”
In ancient times, and actually until the twentieth century, most food was real, and grown and produced in accordance with the laws of nature. Countless generations of humans had eaten this kind of food, and our bodies adapted to using it. The main problem was getting enough of it, and obtaining certain foods that could be hard to get.
In modern America today, most of the food has been raised with chemicals, and has been altered. Fruits and vegetables are grown in poor soil with the use of chemical fertilizers. Produce has been altered to have a longer shelf life and better appearance, at the cost of taste and nutrition. Meat animals are fed substances unnatural to them, that cause the very composition of their fat and meat to change. Antibiotics, growth hormones, and other drugs are used to cause meat animals to grow faster.
Humans have never eaten this kind of modified food before the twentieth century.
Real food is the unmodified food of our ancestors, grown in good soil, or grazed on good grass, without the use of chemicals. It is what our bodies know how to process, and we thrive on it. But it is not enough to just buy real food. You have to know how to cook it.
The Magic of Cooking
The art of cooking transforms produce and meat into almost magical creations that give our bodies the nutrition they so desperately need, and create great pleasure for the people who eat a well cooked meal. You cannot get this kind of food in a can or microwavable container. You can almost never get it in a restaurant. But you can learn how to cook it. You can create the magical “medicine” advocated by Hippocrates, which can keep your body healthy and functioning perfectly.
Our ancestors knew this, and knew what foods to eat, and how to combine foods to sustain life and health. Much of this knowledge has been lost, yet much has been preserved. My major motive in writing my cookbooks, Tender Grassfed Meat and Tender Grassfed Barbecue, has been to rediscover and preserve some knowledge of how to cook grassfed meat, perhaps the oldest and most valued food of humanity. Learning how to cook and eat this meat and other real foods healed all the problems that modern medicine could not help me with.
I am an attorney, yet cooking real food is my most valuable skill, without a doubt.
People seem to think that the only way to have a delicious one-pot meal is to make a dish like a stew, or put various items in a slow cooker. Of course, it is easier to use only one-pan to cook the entire meal.
But there is, in my opinion, a much more delicious alternative, one heavily used in traditional cooking. One that is very simple. When you roast meat or poultry, add vegetables to the pan.
Many people never roast vegetables in the same pan as the roast, because they have been taught to always use a metal rack when roasting. I almost always roast vegetables in the same pan as the roast, and I do not use metal racks for roasting.
Both the roast and the vegetables are so much better when this tradition is followed.
You do not need a metal rack for roasting
Most modern cookbooks claim that you should always use a rack for roasting, which is not what our ancestors did. Using a metal rack prevents you from roasting vegetables together with the roast, and from basting the roast with the drippings. It is also not necessary.
I agree that it is usually better not to set the meat of the roast directly on the pan, but I have a better alternative, one used in many traditional cuisines. Set the roast on its own bones, if it has them, or set the roast on a bed of vegetables. My cookbook Tender Grassfed Meat, uses this delicious technique in most oven roast recipes.
Use Good Fat
This technique works only if there is enough fat in the pan. This means greasing the pan with butter or animal fat. The fat cap, the natural fat covering the meat, gives great flavor and tenderness. If your roast does not have much of a fat cap, baste it with butter, or beef tallow, or natural pork lard, or any good animal fat. The fat in the pan will mingle with the juices released by the meat as it roasts, caramelizing the vegetables, and giving them incredible flavor.
Use a Variety of Vegetables
I roast onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, peppers, carrots, celery, leeks, green onions, garlic, apples, and other similar vegetables and fruits. The trick is to use vegetables that will not release too much liquid into the pan. Apples and onions will release small amounts of liquid, that will provide incredible flavor. I will usually use several vegetables. When I do this I have a complete meal.
Turn the Vegetables
The vegetables should be turned over at least once, so both sides will be cooked in the fat and juices.
Use High Enough Heat
If you only roast at a low temperature, the vegetables will not cook properly. At least part of the roasting time should be at a temperature of 300 degrees or more. My roast recipes in Tender Grassfed Meat are designed so vegetables can be successfully roasted along with the meat.
Baste the Roast with the Drippings
One of the greatest benefits of roasting vegetables with the meat is the wonderful drippings they provide. Throughout history, people have basted roasting meat with pan drippings. Even if meat was cooked on a spit, in front of a fire, a drip pan was placed to catch the drippings, so they could be used to baste the meat, and for gravy.
The roasting vegetables release juices that mingle with the meat juices and the fat in the pan to provide drippings that have incredible flavor, intense and wonderful, that is perfect for basting and making gravy. Just basting the roast once or twice with these super delicious drippings will give incredible flavor to the meat.
This is a delicious tradition that has become standard practice in my kitchen—so easy, so delicious.
I used to hate hamburger, and ground beef in all its forms. Factory beef makes terrible hamburgers, in my opinion. But that all changed when I switched to grassfed ground beef, and found that I loved it.
As one of my favorite grassfed ranchers once said, “These are hamburger times, not steak times.” Many people think hamburger is boring and uninteresting. Yet many cultures celebrate traditional ground meat dishes, and often prefer them to more expensive cuts.
The beauty of ground grassfed meat is that you can do so much with it. You can add all kinds of ingredients, and the variety is limited only by your imagination and research ability. I have found that traditional ground meat flavor combinations can make the plain hamburger into a delicious, nutritious, delight.
Traditional Ground Meat Delights
I first learned of the value that other cultures give ground meat mixtures when I went to an ethnic restaurant with a friend who wanted to introduce me to his native cuisine. There were many grilled items, and I asked him what he liked best. I thought it might be the lamb kebabs, or the marinated chicken kebabs. Instead, he enthusiastically recommended the ground meat kebabs, which he said were the best thing on the menu. I took his recommendation, and was astonished by how flavorful and good they were.
Many cultures have their own unique traditional ways of preparing ground grassfed meat. The meat is almost always mixed with other ingredients. In Germany, the meat could be mixed with eggs, breadcrumbs, cream, and a little nutmeg. In Poland, a ground onion might be mixed into the meat, with some bread that was soaked in milk, squeezed dry, and incorporated into the burger.
Armenians could mix finely chopped parsley and onions into the meat, along with various spices. In India, curry spices and other ingredients could be mixed into the meat. The combinations are endless.
Turning Grassfed Hamburger into a Delicious Masterpiece
The key to having a flavorful variety in burgers is to mix other ingredients into the meat.
I have tried traditional flavor combinations with grassfed ground beef, grassfed ground bison, grassfed ground lamb, and pastured ground pork. I have used olive oil, all kinds of minced vegetables, eggs, egg yolks, toasted sesame oil, milk, cream, fish sauce, and a huge variety of spices from all over the world. By using traditional flavor combinations as a guide, I have come up with a variety of wonderful burgers that are very distinct in their taste and flavors. The ground meat recipes I have published in Tender Grassfed Barbecue include:
- Great Plains Cherry Bison Burger
- Balkan Burger
- Transylvanian Garlic Burger
- Cinnamon Burger
- Curry Burger, and
- Cajun Burger, to name a few. They are all different, yet delicious.
My upcoming cookbook will include many new recipes for grassfed ground meat, including this one that I have already shared on the Internet:
Ground grassfed meat need never be boring, and can be delicious in so many ways!
This post is part of Fat Tuesday blog carnival.
I ran into one of my favorite butchers yesterday. He was trained the old way, when butchering was an art. He knows a lot about all kinds of meat. He can cut steaks and roasts that are so beautiful that they are like a fine painting.
He had just finished reading Tender Grassfed Barbecue. He said that he agreed with everything I wrote about nutrition. He could see it in the meat, over the many years he was a butcher. He had wondered for a long time why grain-finished meat looked so different, and was so full of blocky streaks of fat, rather than the fine marbling he looked for in a superior piece of meat. He said that he believed that most conventional foods were not that nutritious. And then he let out a shocker.
“I am still going to eat the conventional food. I know the grassfed meat and real food is much better for me, but it is too much trouble to change. It would just be too much work. And the better food is too expensive.”
I have heard words like these from so many people. It is too hard, too much trouble, and too expensive, to make the switch to real food.
Having reached the point where we eat nothing but real food and grassfed meat, I can tell you this:
- It is very hard to make the switch.
- It is a lot of trouble.
- It is more expensive.
And, many people will think you are nuts.
Is it worth it?
Absolutely. The blessings of good health and mental clarity that I have received from changing my diet are worth all the trouble, expense, and even being made fun of or being thought of as a nut. It has been like being reborn.
Health Is Much Better than Convenience
Many years ago, when I was twenty, my Dad asked me if I ever felt good when I woke up in the morning, full of energy, eager for the challenges and pleasures of the day. I honestly told him that I never did. I did not even know what he was talking about. When I woke up, I was discouraged, annoyed, short of breath, and in pain.
I thought I was eating a good diet, because the FDA inspected all food, and would not allow any food that was not good to be sold. I ate only conventional foods sold by big supermarkets, because they were cheaper, and “just as good.”
I thought I was well nourished, because I was big and looked powerful. And because I followed my doctor’s advice on what to eat.
I thought I was getting the best medical care in the world.
So why was I so sick, exhausted, and miserable?
I am convinced I was suffering from severe malnutrition, like most Americans. And I did not even know it.
Because it is easy to find, buy, and use conventional food, I had convenience. But I did not have health.
Making the Change
Eventually, things deteriorated to the point where the medical profession had no help to give me, and told me so. Rather than give up and die as predicted, I got furious. I got determined. I used my skills as a research attorney to find another way.
What I found was the website of the Weston A. Price Foundation, and the priceless information on their website enabled me not only to save my life, but become healthy for the very first time as an adult.
I knew I had to switch to real food. It was difficult. I had to drop most of the food items I used to buy. I thought I loved many of them, though in reality, I was addicted. I had to learn a whole new way of cooking. And we spent much more money on food than we were used to. And I had to deal with the fact that some of the foods I needed could not be bought, only made. Making homemade broth, especially skimming it, and straining it, seemed so hard. Learning how to cook grassfed meat was hard, especially when I kept ruining it and there was nothing I could find that taught me how to cook it. I wrote Tender Grassfed Meat to make it easier for others to learn how to cook this wonderful meat. Making my own fermented foods was hard, at first. And I really missed the factory foods I was addicted to.
But once I learned how to make broth, cook grassfed meat, and make fermented foods, it became familiar and easy. Still time consuming, but easy.
I learned how to find and buy real food, which became fun. And the extra expense became easier to accept, as we adjusted our spending priorities, realizing that nothing we can buy is as important as the good food that keeps us healthy. We also learned how to find sales and bargains, which really helped.
The addiction to the factory foods began to fade, as we ate much better real food alternatives.
Many of our family members, friends, and acquaintances thought we were too picky. Some got offended when I would not eat the conventional food they liked.
The convincing argument, the one that convinced me that real food was worth all the time, expense, and trouble, is this—I became much healthier. When properly nourished, the natural functions of my body kept me healthy, without any drugs. My mind became much sharper, and the occasional short term memory problems disappeared. The quality of my life became so much better, in every way.
Now I wake up each morning eager for the challenges and pleasures of the day, full of energy, and so happy to be here. I finally understand what my Dad was talking about, so many years ago.
When I think barbecue, I think about the magic of wood and charcoal, of fragrant smoke, of the heavenly smell of meat roasting in front of a charcoal fire. Yet most people have gas barbecues.
I was faced with a choice when I wrote Tender Grassfed Barbecue. Should I write it for charcoal barbecues, or gas barbecues, or both?
Writing it for both would give me the widest audience, and the most sales. Yet I chose to write it for charcoal only, though I did include a small section on how you could use a gas barbecue.
Why? Because our ancestors used wood coals, and 100 percent hardwood charcoal. I always try to honor tradition in my books, and there is no tradition in gas grilling. The traditional fuel is wood burned down to coals, or 100% hardwood charcoal. And it tastes so much better.
The Tradition of Cooking with Fire
Our ancestors cooked a great deal of their meat in front of fires. The fires were usually made of wood burned down to coals, or 100 percent wood charcoal, which has been used for thousands of years. The wood and the charcoal give a distinct and glorious flavor to barbecued meat, and have other cooking benefits that you do not get from gas.
I also like starting a fire, controlling it, adjusting the heat by how I adjust the vents, and adding flavor to the charcoal with wood and herbs. I enjoy looking at the coals, judging when they are just right to begin cooking.
I love the smell of meat roasting in front of charcoal, which mingles with the glorious smells of the fire to make my mouth water in anticipation of the joys to come.
And I love the flavor that comes only with the use of wood or charcoal, or both.
No gas grill can provide these experiences, though it is possible to get some wood taste into meat by using smoking chips with a gas grill.
And I believe that cooking with wood and charcoal adds something special to the meat, something that may even improve its digestive and nutrient qualities, since humans have been cooking this way since the beginning. I have no scientific proof of this, but I feel in my heart that it is true.
Many people who use gas barbecues talk about how they are much more convenient. But cooking with charcoal can also be very easy and convenient, as advances in barbecue technology has made it so much easier. I have developed a system, using a chimney barbecue starter, a drip pan, a meat thermometer, and a covered kettle grill, that is very easy to use and makes the most delicious barbecue I have ever tasted. This system is at the heart of Tender Grassfed Barbecue.
Starting the fire, controlling the temperature, avoiding flare-ups, and cooking the meat is very easy with this system, and I use it most days when the weather and the law allows.
And a little extra effort is so rewarding, in taste, in the pleasure of mastering fire, in the wonderful smells, and, best of all, in the delicious food it produces, which I love to eat.
Gas Barbecues Do Not Have the Magic of Charcoal
First of all, I have a confession to make. I have never used a gas barbecue. I have had friends with gas barbecues test my ideas on how to add some barbecue flavor, and have tasted the successful results.
But I have never used one. Not even once. That said, I respect the right of everybody to use the method of barbecue they prefer. And I have tasted a fair amount of barbecue cooked with gas. Some of it was good, but all of it was lacking, in my opinion. And what it lacked was the magic of wood and charcoal.
In my opinion, there is something magical about cooking with wood and charcoal, the qualities and tastes and textures it creates, which are like no others. And the smell, the wonderful, heavenly smell that makes my mouth water and gets me hungry in a way that no other form of cooking has ever done.
Finally, grassfed meat, my favorite food in all the world, and charcoal cooking were made for each other, being perhaps the oldest food of mankind, cooked in the most traditional way. This union of fuel and meat, when done right, appeals to a taste that seems to be coded into our very genes.
People have been eating meat cooked with fire for a very long time, since the beginning. People have only been using gas for barbecue since the twentieth century.
For these reasons, barbecue means wood and charcoal, to me.
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