Category Archives: Culinary

How Americans Used To Eat

Hint: It wasn’t plants:

Early Americans settlers were “indifferent” farmers, according to many accounts. They were fairly lazy in their efforts at both animal husbandry and agriculture, with “the grain fields, the meadows, the forests, the cattle, etc, treated with equal carelessness,” as one 18th-century Swedish visitor described—and there was little point in farming since meat was so readily available.

Settlers recorded the extraordinary abundance of wild turkeys, ducks, grouse, pheasant, and more. Migrating flocks of birds would darken the skies for days. The tasty Eskimo curlew was apparently so fat that it would burst upon falling to the earth, covering the ground with a sort of fatty meat paste. (New Englanders called this now-extinct species the “doughbird.”)

In the woods, there were bears (prized for their fat), raccoons, bobo­links, opossums, hares, and virtual thickets of deer—so much that the colo­nists didn’t even bother hunting elk, moose, or bison, since hauling and conserving so much meat was considered too great an effort. A European traveler describing his visit to a Southern plantation noted that the food included beef, veal, mutton, venison, turkeys, and geese, but he does not mention a single vegetable.

Infants were fed beef even before their teeth had grown in. The English novelist Anthony Trollope reported, during a trip to the United States in 1861, that Americans ate twice as much beef as did Englishmen. Charles Dickens, when he visited, wrote that “no breakfast was breakfast” without a T-bone steak. Apparently, starting a day on puffed wheat and low-fat milk—our “Breakfast of Champions!”—would not have been considered adequate even for a servant.

Indeed, for the first 250 years of American history, even the poor in the United States could afford meat or fish for every meal. The fact that the workers had so much access to meat was precisely why observers regarded the diet of the New World to be superior to that of the Old.

Lobster used to be fed to prisoners, because it was considered inferior to other meats. The notion that we ate plants is all part of the junk science of nutrition.


When the benefits outweigh the risks. These two grafs stuck out to me:

My decision to take a statin was not made casually. I first tried a stricter-than-usual diet of home-cooked meals rich in vegetables plus fish and nearly devoid of saturated fats, processed foods and refined carbs and sugars. I took supplements of fish oils, fiber and plant sterols, among other nonprescription products said to lower cholesterol. And, of course, I kept my weight down and activity up — a daily regimen of walking, swimming and cycling. All, alas, to no avail. [Emphasis added]

So if she’s only eating fish, it’s likely that she’s not getting enough protein. She doesn’t explain why she’s not eating land animals. And she seems to think that saturated fat is harmful, when there’s no scientific evidence that consumption of it either increases cholesterol, or health risks. There’s also not much evidence that exercise controls cholesterol. Next:

…for those facing a higher-than-average risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke, the first step in reducing that risk is not a drug but getting modifiable risk factors under control. Even if you plan to take a statin, the drug will be most effective when combined with measures that reduce cardiovascular risk.

That means adopting and sticking to a Mediterranean-style diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, peas and beans, nuts and seeds and contains little or no saturated fats, the fats found in meats, poultry and dairy products that are not fat-free. Substitute whole grains for refined ones. The best oils to use for cooking and salads are olive, canola, grapeseed and avocado.

So she’s recommending eschewing animal products in general, and (again) eliminating saturated fats, with their healthy omega 3s. And substituting seed oils (canola and grape), with their high omega 6s for them, promoting inflammation. She also imagines that whole grains are all right, when refined aren’t when (again) there is little scientific evidence to support it.

One other point: This is exactly the kind of uncontrolled experiment that gives us so much junk nutrition science (e.g., she didn’t try a high-meat, high-fat, low-carb diet; she just assumed that the one she was on was best to lower cholesterol, then gave up and switched to taking statins).

Given that I have never had a cardiovascular event, I think I’m going to stick with my current meat-rich (and saturated-fat-rich) diet, and continue to eschew statins.

Free-Market Meat

Some thoughts on the tradeoffs with animal cruelty. I would love to get pork in a cruelty-free way, and I’d vastly prefer factory-manufactured steak and bacon, if it was indistinguishable in every way from that obtained by killing cattle and pigs.

[Update a while later]

This seems related, somehow: Vegan “pork” rinds.

I disagree with this, though:

Apparently, the gourmands have discovered pork rinds. Yes, the deep-fried, not at all good for you, salt-laden, very high fat, treat found rarely if ever outside the US South or (as chicharones) where there is a sizeable Mexican consumer pool.

They’re actually quite keto, because low carb (close to zero). There’s nothing wrong with high fat, as long as it’s not seed oils.

Eating Healthy

Yes, it’s possible to do it on a budget. The problem with this is that the USDA guidelines are terrible:

The menus offered a variety of food, didn’t have processed foods, were affordable and didn’t require always require cooking to prepare. Each menu also had manageable portions of food without high fat or salt content.

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with high fat or salt content, as long as the fat isn’t seed oils.