Good-for-you food can taste good

Published 1:23 am Saturday, October 1, 2011

We recently spent three days at a conference of the North American Devon Association with the title “Gourmet Beef on Grass.” This was our fourth conference with the Devon folks, and we have always found them informative and interesting. This one took place in Rock Falls, Ill., so we drove the 14 hours from our home and saw a lot of cornfields. We spent one day at a Mennonite member’s farm, and listened to the owner tell how he worked his pastures with his many Red Devons. He was the one who had purchased the $34,000 Devon in the cow sale last year. Now that we have our own 22 Red Devon, the conference means more to us. Ours, I might add, are not so expensive.

Of interest, we learned Ronald Reagan was born in this area of Illinois. I had forgotten that fact, but Reagan was born in Tampico, Ill., in 1911. We took a little time off from the conference to visit his birthplace, which was a three bedroom apartment over a store on main street in the small town. The guide had lived in Tampico all her life and loved talking about her subject. She told how Reagan and his mother went to the Church of Christ and Neal, Reagan’s brother, and his father went to the Catholic Church. The plane 7carrying Reagan’s body back to California flew over Tampico and tipped its wing to the town where Reagan began.

The Devon conference is about cows and farming, but much more. I spent an entire day at the conference listening to Jerry Brunetti, who has a book called “Cancer, Nutrition and Healing.” His main topic for the day was why modern medicine myths are making us ill. We have all been told that fat is bad, but in truth, good fat is the best thing we can eat. The carbs, which equals sugar, is what is making us sick. Americans are eating 150 pounds of sugar a year, 200 pounds of refined grains and 365 cans of soda. Brunetti feels that cancer feeds off sugar, but good fat helps protect the cells. Good fats come from eating things such as olive oil, avocados and the fat from grass fed or pastured or wild animals and fish . Sugar is in almost everything, and one should read the contents on the back of cans and avoid canned goods and refined foods as much as possible. The chips, crackers, white bread, salted meats and any processed foods need to be eliminated from our diet.

Dr. Weston Price, an American dentist, did a study in the 1930s looking at people’s diets all over the world. He established six food groups, and they are rather interesting:

• seafood , fish and shellfish-fish organs, sardines and anchovies;

• organ meats from wild and grass fed animals;

• Insects, such as grubs;

• fats of birds-sea mammals, hogs, bear and guinea;

• whole milk-cheese-butter made from grass fed animals; and

• egg yolks from birds and chickens.

Now the insects are a turn off, but we have all been told to drink low-fat milk and stay off eggs. Even now, we are learning that eggs, especially eggs from free-range chickens, are an excellent source of omega 6s and 3s. The brain is 60 percent fat, and yet the children who are on the WIC program only get low-fat milk. Wonder how that helps their brain development in the first two years of life? Americans are obese, and the increase of diabetes is stunning. We are obviously eating the wrong things.

What can one do? It is really hard to find the good foods out there and they do tend to be a little more expensive. But there are certain things one can do. Go for the dark fruits such as blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and cherries and do not eat as many bananas, mangoes and oranges since they tend to have more sugar. Eat dark greens such as kale, broccoli, chard, Brussels sprouts, spinach, asparagus and lettuces. Drink the whole milk, not the low fat. It is better for you, and the cream in the milk is good for you. There is growing demand for raw milk, but it is hard to find. In many states it is banned. Butter is good, but grass fed butter is hard to find. Never use margarine. Spices are really good for us so use turmeric, cumin, basil, thyme and any herbs that you like. Drink green tea. One glass of wine a day is not bad, and dark chocolate is good, but just a small piece. Try to buy your fish wild caught; buy grass fed beef and buy chicken from local farmers who raise the chickens free-range.

Hippocrates said, “All diseases begin in the gut.” What you eat does not solve all health problems, but it is certainly a given that what you eats does make for a better or poorer life. I have decided to do better with my diet. As one participant said, “I eat right 85 percent of the time.” Perhaps that gives us a little leeway to eat that cookie or that special dessert when we feel the need to be a little naughty.

Fermented foods are good for you. I got my new Saveur magazine, and there was an entire article on fermentation. This fermentation brings to mind things like fish sauce, soy sauce, Marmite, fermented beans and sauerkraut. I thought how fermented cabbage has been a life sustaining bridge between the fall harvest and the first shoots of spring in many countries. I am going to give this recipe a try as soon as I can. Cabbage is one of the good greens and fermented it may be even better for you!


Makes 6 cups

To ferment cabbage, you have to thinly slice and massage it with salt to force the water out of the vegetable and create a brine.

Within a few days, the acidifying activity of several strains of bacteria (including Lactobacillus) will start transforming it into this sweetly sour and spicy condiment. In a large bowl, combine 1 cup 1”-long matchstick carrots, 1 tbsp. kosher salt or sea salt, 1 tbsp. dried oregano, ½ tsp. crushed red chili flakes, two medium red onions (very thinly sliced lengthwise) and 1 large head (about 2 ½ lb.) green cabbage, cored and shredded. Massage ingredients with your hands until the cabbage begins to release its liquid.

Transfer cabbage mixture to a sterilized 1-quart plastic container with a large mouth, such as a cleaned plastic yogurt or sour cream container. Place a plate small enough to fit inside the container over the cabbage and place a heavy can or weight on top to keep cabbage mixture submerged in liquid. Drape a large kitchen towel over container and let sit at room temperature (ideally 70-75 degrees) for three days. Uncover and transfer cabbage mixture to a sterilized 1-quart glass jar, cover with lid, and refrigerate for one day before serving. The sauerkraut will keep for a week stored in refrigerator.