Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Raindance Organic Farm this Saturday!

This Saturday Siobhan Griffin will deliver to us in Bay Ridge from 9:00-10:30am, and in Park Slope from 11:00-12noon. Please visit www.RaindanceDeliveryClub.com for full details, including the product/price list, and then email Siobhan directly with your order (raindance@baka.com).

Siobhan is a passionate and dedicated farmer who has high standards for humane animal husbandry, eco-friendly farming, and fair employment practices. She has recently installed solar panels on the barn roof which heat the vat for cheese-making. She is an incredibly knowledgeable and multi-talented person and produces top-quality products for all her customers to enjoy.

Currently the product list includes a wide variety of pastured certified organic beef steaks, gourmet quality suckled/pastured veal (certified organic), many kinds of beef sausages, beautiful rainbow eggs from her small pastured flock (limited quantities), aged raw milk "Sun" cheese (an artisanal cheese in the Italian Alpine tradition), and fresh pastured chicken and rabbit. She also has pork products from neighboring Briar Hill farm (not certified organic, though the animals have outdoor paddock access).

We look forward to welcoming you to our Bay Ridge or Park Slope delivery clubs! Keep in mind that everyone will receive a discount based on the total club volume (5% off for $500 combined, 10% off for $1000, etc.).

Thank you for supporting local farmers and local food!

Remembering long-hair Ollie...

Can you believe EVERYONE thought he was a girl? Between that and the comments that he must be hot with all that hair we were guilted into getting it cut. And it does look very cute now. But looking back at these older pictures I do miss the hair a bit... He just looked so full of PERSONALITY! Know what I mean?

The incredible edible egg?

People in the government and the media love to talk about the dangers of raw milk, supposedly a food brimming with microscopic baddies just waiting to wreak havoc on your insides. Consuming raw dairy is described by the FDA as "inherently dangerous" and "like playing Russian roulette with your health." It's a slight relief to me that now a new breed of villain is on the scene: the EVIL EGG! Though of course I feel badly for the 1300+ people currently feeling the effects of salmonella poisoning.

I have been strongly chastised in the past for making it known that I feed Oliver raw egg yolks from pastured chickens (a highly nutritious and extremely digestible food). The CDC (Center for Disease Control) has trumpeted loud and clear on its website for who knows how long that it is dangerous to consume undercooked eggs -- a fact that has been brought to my attention more than once. No distinction is ever been mentioned between eggs from factory farms and eggs from small grass-based organic farms. However, in the matter of nutrition and food safety this makes ALL the difference. You really cannot have a discussion of food safety without talking about where your food is coming from.

If you go to a diner and order an omelet, this is where the eggs are coming from:

Appetizing, right? And yes, these eggs may very well be quite unsafe if consumed sunny-side up, soft-boiled, or raw -- or even well-cooked. It might even be dangerous just to touch one! But really, once you realize the conditions under which these eggs came into existence, you aren't likely to have an appetite for them no matter how they are cooked.

Compare this to the eggs from a happy, healthy chicken that lives mostly out of doors, eating lots of delicious earthworms and bugs, clover and grasses of all kinds, cracked organic corn, and maybe even occasional summer fruits, small reptiles, and scraps from the family's table.

This chicken gets plenty of sunshine and fresh air, and stores amazing amounts of omega-3 fats and the all-important fat-soluble vitamins A and D in its fat, skin, organs, and eggs (which contain 8 times more vitamin D than an egg from its battery-raised counterpart). (I don't have the stats on the vitamin A, omega-3s, choline, selenium, iron, zinc, and vitamin K2, but you can rest assured these are much higher, too.)

Much like the unhealthy environment of the sweatshops of the 19th and early 20th century (which severely undermined the health of every worker), animals raised in densely-packed confinement without light, air, and grass are going to be inherently unhealthy. They will produce meat, milk, and eggs that are at the very least lacking in nutrition if they are not downright dangerous. It is time to take a collective hard look at where our food is coming from and how it is being produced. And it's time to get as far away as we can from the industrial food system that is making our livestock, land, air, citizens, and small farming communities so very very unwell. Real food is something to be eagerly appreciated, to be treasured, enjoyed, and savored -- not something to fear.

I for one am grateful to the bottom of my heart that I can feed Oliver these nourishing and delicious breakfast custards every single day and know that they will be nothing but good for him.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Gerber Dairy Beverage

Have you seen the website banner ads for Gerber's "dairy beverage?" Words like this always raise a red flag for me, never mind the fact that the three points highlighted in the banner ad include:
-Made with fat free milk!
-Omega-3 fats
-Vitamins and minerals

What does this mean?
1. The fat in milk is where the bulk of the nutrients are! Vitamins A and D (found in the FAT of milk, among other places) are crucial for growing babies and toddlers. Despite the fact that Gerber itself admits that one quarter (23%) of toddlers 12-24 months aren't getting the required daily intake of fats, Gerber still uses fat-free milk! Are parents really that afraid of the normal fats present in whole milk? Apparently so. Instead Gerber adds plenty of vegetable oils (UNHEALTHY!) to boost the fat content. Yuck! This is just like how they make their baby formula, too.
2. Omega-3 fats -- these are supplemented in some artificial way or other. Of course grass-fed full-fat raw milk would indeed provide some healthy omega-3 fats, but this isn't what this beverage contains. And as there are only 140mg of omega-3s per 8.25 oz. serving, this is barely anything even worth mentioning! A single yolk from a regular old egg would give 225mg. (Gee, which is the more cost-effective choice I wonder?) Oh yes, or you could also just breast feed your child as breast milk from an omnivorous mother is a good source of omega-3s (what an incredible idea!)
3. Vitamins and minerals -- Gerber's concoction is basically nutrient-less substances fortified with lots of synthetic supplements. Oh, and do I need to mention that the fourth ingredient (after fat-free milk, water, and maltodextrin, all yucky or unimpressive things) is SUGAR! So you can forget about this product actually providing nourishment to your growing toddler. (They did make a "plain" flavor without sugar as the fourth ingredient, but it has been discontinued. Probably was too gross to be appealing to kids; the sugar is needed to mask all the vegetable oils and additives.)

The whole baby/toddler/child food industry really disgusts me. At least this Smart Sips dairy beverage is made with milk that does not contain rBGH. That is the only positive thing I can say about this preposterous product.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Can you heal your gut on a vegetarian diet?

I just wrote a very lengthy email to someone inquiring about whether one can heal gut issues with a vegetarian diet (she had her pre-adolescent daughter in mind). The Gut And Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet in particular is based almost entirely on bone broth, meats, animal fats, eggs, cod liver oil, and probiotic dairy and fermented vegetables. It is not a vegetarian-friendly diet -- but it truly works. I think it is worth considering, even for vegetarians.

Here is my reply:

"Based on my experience addressing my son's digestive issues, speaking with friends and clients and others dealing with similar issues, and on my understanding of digestive health and nutritional needs I would have to say that I do believe the Gut And Psychology Syndrome approach is the best approach, and I strongly encourage it. I think it would be very helpful to read the book; it will explain very completely why this dietary approach is crucial for recovery.

The issue here is twofold, in terms of addressing your daughter's issues. First, there are four components to the diet that are incredibly important.
1) healthy fats (coconut oil, butter, and animal fats if you choose to go that route; I do believe that high-vitamin fermented cod liver oil is absolutely essential, and obviously that is not a vegetarian food).
2) probiotic-rich foods (fermented vegetables - particularly the juices from these; 24-hour raw milk yogurt; homemade kefir from raw milk; whey from dripping your homemade yogurt, added to foods; and other lacto-fermented foods and healing tonics, such as beet kvass) -- these foods are absolutely essential, and they would be vegetarian-friendly
3) egg yolks (from pastured hens) -- extremely easy to digest and very healing and soothing to the gut lining, while being an excellent source of nourishment and the important fat-soluble vitamins A & D needed for gut health
4) bone broth (also from pastured chicken, meat, or wild-caught fish) -- this is not a vegetarian food, though it is made from bones and scraps that are headed for the landfill, so I consider it to be potentially appealing to people who have a sense for environmentally-friendly compromises to the vegetarian diet. This broth is CRUCIAL. I cannot underestimate its importance. It may just be the MOST IMPORTANT part of the diet. The healing powers of bone broth cannot be underestimated! It requires almost no digestive effort on the part of the human body, contains nourishing fats and protein in ample amounts, is an excellent source of easily-absorbed minerals in electrolyte form, and provides gelatin which is incredibly important for digestion and the gut lining. If you can see your way clear to including this in your daughter's diet I think it would go far to providing the help she needs. (I provide bone broth for sale, as do some other people who make it in the correct way - I can provide information on this if you are interested.)

So as you can see, the four healing components are somewhat compatible with a vegetarian diet.

The second aspect, however, is more difficult to get around. That is the problem of protein. Many people can obtain protein (and essentials nutrients, like iron) from plant foods; however, people who do this for many years often end up with digestive disorders. This is due to the fact that the human digestive system is not evolved to eat exclusively plant protein. Of course your daughter would be eating dairy forms of protein, but this is actually a problem with a GAPS person -- many people do not digest dairy properly and so need to eliminate it for some time. After reintroducing it, it would not be smart to be getting the bulk of one's protein needs from dairy and eggs. This simply would not be possible for a growing girl. In terms of eating things like nuts, beans, and whole grains (all potential sources of protein) this may very well be what is causing the GAPS issues to begin with. These foods are very hard to digest, and many people with gut dysbiosis actually cannot digest them! (My son is one example of this, and I am working diligently on getting his gut on track -- he shows excellent progress as long as I steer clear of the plant foods. It has been very illuminating to study, in essence, the digestive system of a toddler; I have learned the hard way that proper digestion of plant foods really truly does depend on a healthy, strong digestive system. It's a difficult lesson for our family -- my husband was vegetarian for 16 years, and I was vegetarian during pregnancy, relying heavily on soy for my protein. There have been so very many positive benefits of incorporating animal protein again into our diets that the results cannot be argued with. I no longer have hypothyroidism, our son is growing and developing well, my blood sugar issues are gone, hormonal problems have cleared...the list goes on and on.)

I know this is a hard issue, but what it comes down to is this: either we eat in the way that our bodies are demanding, or we will suffer health issues. For some people, even a vegan diet will work, at least for a certain length of time. For others, plant foods are almost intolerable. It is my guess that your daughter is somewhere in the middle, as are most people. It is also possible that she is reacting to a particular food in her diet (such as gluten, casein, soy) that is causing the digestive distress. If you would like to schedule a consultation to try trouble-shooting in this way then please let me know. I could make recommendations for assisting her digestion in general before you go to the trouble of GAPS. It must be stated here that the consumption of soy products for protein is extremely destructive to the digestive system, and also very harmful for the growth and development of children and teens; so soy is not an option for obtaining protein.

The last thing I would like to mention -- and again, I am just being very open and honest with you, and I do hope you will just take what is helpful to you from this email and leave the rest -- the last thing is that I now have a MUCH better understanding of farming than I ever did previously. And perhaps the most important thing I have learned is that we absolutely require animals (livestock) for healthy, organic farming that is good for the earth and the environment. Without livestock we must use petro-chemical fertilizers, neurotoxic pesticides, herbicides, and more such deplorable substances that are harmful to every party involved. Fertilizer (manure) from healthy animals ensures that our soil remains fertile and able to continue to bear crops and provide healthy flourishing grass. Having a mix of plants and animals on each farm (biodiversity) helps pests and weeds to be controlled naturally, without the use of chemicals, and ensures the safety of our food system (as opposed to relying on monoculture farms, such as soy, which require heavy applications of chemicals and are vulnerable to being wiped out completely if any blight or pest does come along). The use of grasslands and pasture for grazing animals keeps our precious topsoil in place (erosion of topsoil is a dire issue for the U.S.), while protecting our environment, since grass is highly effective in absorbing carbon dioxide.

If we accept that these methods of farming, which employ animals, are important and actually necessary, then it stands to reason that we must make proper use of the animals that we rely on for milk and eggs. It would not make sense to allow animals to become old and decrepit, nor would it be humane. Furthermore, since our digestive systems and our bodies are so very reliant on the nourishment to be found in animal foods, it is only practical, economical, and good use of our resources to consume animal foods. We can obtain so much more intensely healing, easily-digested nourishment from one small meal of liver, for example, that we could obtain from a week's worth of grains, beans, or produce -- I see this truth as inescapable and something we must consider if we are concerned both about conservation of resources and the desperate need to attain true health for people and our environment."

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Governor's Island birthday trip

Oliver turned 2 on Thursday!! To celebrate, we took a rare family excursion to Governor's Island today, a process that involved travel by 1) foot, 2) shuttle bus, 3) subway, 4) bus, and 5) ferry. We would have employed the services of a family cart-cycle thing (what are they called??) on the island except that they were in short supply. The weather was not exactly ideal, but we preferred it to one of these all-too-recent scorching hot days, and a good time was had by all.

I prepared quite a spread for our picnic lunch. A bit much perhaps? (we did leave one of these watermelon containers at home)

We enjoyed local pastured chicken breast "nuggets" in cashew flour crust (fried in lard of course, served with honey and honey-mustard dipping sauces), local watermelon, "sun" cheese and summer sausage from Raindance Organic Farm (untouched until we got home), local cucumbers with lime juice and Mexican chili powder, homemade lacto-fermented pickles, homemade lacto-fermented ginger ale, homemade raw milk kefir in Oliver's bottle (for naptime), and local pastured beef sticks (jerky-like). It actually proved to be too much food, oddly enough (perhaps the strain of carrying this heavy load depleted Hugo's appetite...).

The chicken was especially delicious. I started with a whole bird which I cut up, then pounded the breasts thin, sliced them into nugget-like shapes, rolled them in beaten egg, then dredged in fresh cashew flour (cashews from Wilderness Family Naturals ground in the food processor, mixed with salt & pepper, dried thyme, and some garlic powder), then fried in pastured-pork lard. Wonderful served with raw honey! Also very good with my impromptu honey-mustard sauce (more or less equal amounts of raw honey and Dijon mixed together -- surprisingly like the "real" honey-mustard from a package.)

Here are a couple of cute pictures from our picnic time. At first Oliver got right into the spirit of it and did a lot of lying around, taking up most of the picnic blanket. After eating it turned into a gymnastic session with Hugo.

Oh yes, and my homemade pickles? Nothing but a Mason jar stuffed with whole kirbies (small pickle-sized cucumbers), with a bunch of coriander seeds and mustard seeds shaken in, 1 tbsp. unrefined sea salt (I use Celtic sea salt or Eden brand), a handful of fresh dill (couldn't find the kind going to seed, so just used what they had at the store), plus a small amount of whey from dripping yogurt (1/4 cup I think). I let them ferment for 3 days at room temperature. They are not bad at all -- quite pickly and tasty! Next time I will use some garlic and ferment them a little less time.