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Surf and Turf: A Great New Online Cooking Class

August 7, 2010
Zimmy and Tiva

Zimmy and Tiva humbly hope for some Surf and Turf

I wish I could say I’d created this Surf and Turf cooking class myself, but I can say I highly recommend it, both based on the sample video from the 13-week class on making ceviche (it looks so good, I’m still dreaming of it days later) and because I can vouch for the author, AnnMarie Michaels. The blogger at CHEESESLAVE is very knowledgeable about food and nutrition and is a good cook to boot. Here’s another link to a giveaway for a free class registration at a new blog I just learned of, Primal Toad.

[UPDATE: I actually won the Primal Toad giveaway—I did all the possible entries!—and am enjoying AnnMarie’s Surf & Turf class, and it’s every bit as good as I’d expected.]

I’ve been a fan of her blog for more than a year now; I discovered CHEESESLAVE and Kelly the Kitchen Kop at about the same time. (I interviewed both of these ladies for my Mothers Day tribute to Mothers of the Real Food Blogosphere.) I wasn’t new to this way of eating, but I was less committed to it then.

Over the past turbulent year, one constant has been my deepening commitment to a nutrient-dense, wholesome, traditional diet centered around pastured meats, wild-caught fish, vegetables (organic as much as possible, and often from the farmers market or my own garden), eggs, and to a lesser extent fruits and dairy. Not to forget the copious amounts of good-quality natural fats, such as butter, ghee, coconut oil, my special coconut/ghee combo, olive oil, lard (unhydrogenated), bacon drippings, etc, that I eat.

Why? I just can’t afford to get sick, and following the USDA Food Pyramid—with its 6 to 11 servings of starch a day plus vegetable oils in lieu of good fats—is a blueprint for disaster. It’s partially responsible for the sad state of nutrition and health (or malnutrition and disease, let’s face it) in America today.

I’ve learned that getting and staying healthy is not a matter of fad diets or popping copious food supplements (if I could cash out all the money I’ve wasted on dubious supplements over the years—or if I’d just paid for more real food, I’d have been so much better off). It’s about eating the diet of nutrient-dense, animal-and-plant-based whole foods that Nature/God intended and our evolutionary history indicates, depending on how you want to explain it.

And by whole foods I don’t necessarily mean whole-wheat bread, brown rice, beans, or other starchy foods, especially those with gluten. I still eat beans that have been soaked for at least 8 hours and cooked gently in a crock pot with good stock, and the occasional soaked brown rice, and the very occasional sprouted grain or sourdough bread, but even those superior ways of preparation don’t make them completely benign. The still bloat me, raise insulin levels and drive carb cravings. Soaking reduces phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors, but that may not be enough for those who are particularly sensitive, or who can’t handle the carbs. Like me. And don’t get me started on sodas. You don’t still drink them, do you? And diet sodas are little better. I’ll go into more detail another time, but take my word for it, both are bad news.

Another gratuitous dog photo. Aren't I gorgeous?

Notice there is no margarine, butter substitutes, fake oils, canola oil, safflower/sunflower oil, corn oil, and especially not soybean oil on the list. In other words, no highly polyunsaturated seed or vegetable oils (with the exception of a little flax seed oil occasionally, and I’m on the fence about that one). What’s wrong with polyunsaturated fatty acids, PUFAs? For one thing, they’re over-abundant in the modern diet.

Our ancestors did quite well on animal fats (assuming they were in a position to get enough to eat) and the big shift to vegetable oils and their awful derivatives—margarine, Crisco and other trans-fat-laden partially hydrogenated oils—didn’t come until the early part of the 20th century, and they’ve only slowly driven out the natural animal fats and naturally saturated plant oils like coconut and palm/palm kernel oil. There are all kinds of technical explanations out there, but what it boils down to is you want to eat natural, and not highly processed, fats, and plenty of them. Not steamed, skinless chicken breasts, but roasted chicken dripping with butter, or preferably thighs, which naturally have more fat, and flavor. Animal fats are the best sources of fat-soluble vitamins that Dr. Weston A. Price noted were key components in the native diets of healthy traditional peoples: A, D, E and K. This is all detailed  in his seminal work, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. A good shorter substitute for plowing through NaPD is Traditional Foods Are Your Best Medicine, by Ronald Schmid. It’s sort of NaPD-lite, but he draws heavily on that book and reproduces many of Price’s priceless photos of healthy people and their not-so-healthy city cousins (or subsequent generations) who had shifted from their traditional whole foods diets to the modern Western diet of processed, packaged foods heavy in sugar and flour.

The Weston A. Price Foundation—which AnnMarie, Kelly and I all are members of—has championed Dr. Price’s work. (The Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation does likewise, although a bit lower-key; they publish Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.) The WAPF has enormous amounts of free literature available on their website; here are tours for beginners, an excellent way to start. I have learned so much by just going from topic to topic there. Their quarterly journal, Wise Traditions, is well worth the price of membership.

So back to the Surf and Turf cooking class. If you’re interested in eating paleo/primal, low carb/gluten-free, etc., or want to learn to eat for healthy weight control and diabetes prevention and control, learning to cook animal foods and fish from scratch is a foundational skill set. My cooking is very basic, but I make bone stocks from chicken necks, backs, feet and carcasses, know to cook tougher meat cuts “low and slow,” and tender cuts “hot and fast.” That’s about it for my repertoire! I look forward to trying the ceviche recipe for myself. If you sign up for the class, tell AnnMarie I sent you!

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