walkitout (walkitout) wrote,
walkitout
walkitout

food fads

I don't argue with people about their food things in person. It is astonishingly unrewarding. But once in a while, I feel like venting.

Here's what set me off this time:

http://motherjones.com/environment/2010/07/is-vegetarian-diet-green

I let my subscription to Mother Jones lapse, because those people are just a little too likely to succumb to the latest and greatest and I don't have the tolerance for it. That article about the home near Coney Park, for instance, just looked like a liberal got suckered by a property developer who was thinking about ten steps further down the road than the lefty. Maybe 20. Oh, hell, at least a mile and a half.

I've watched the pasture-fed meat video (I forget the farmer's name). I've mail-ordered grass fed beef. We eat some buffalo meat in this house. Yes, it is Tasty. Yes, it is raised much more humanely. But then a life-long vegetarian starts writing stuff like this:

"A 2009 study by the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology found that while producing a plate of peas requires a fraction of the energy needed to produce the same number of calories of pork, the energy costs of a pea-burger and a pork chop are about equal."

Someone needs to be taken aside and have it explained to them that _pork_ and specifically the largely unprocessed _pork chop_ are amazingly efficiently produced in caloric terms. _Beef_, specifically, ground beef burgers are _amazingly inefficiently_ produced in caloric terms. And I've _made_ pea burgers -- the black-eyed pea burgers which were expanded versions of what Cafe Flora serves as part of a brunch platter and which can be found in their cookbook (I think they are called fritters) just are not that complex or energy intense to produce. Cook rice. Cook veg. Cook beans. Mash them together with some other stuff. Let it sit. Then fry it. (This may, in fact, be the issue: once you start using _any_ processed fat, oil or otherwise, the caloric cost to produce rockets up.) I would like to see a _detailed_ explanation of why this requires so many more calories than just cooking the peas.

And while this sort of makes sense: "The finding [that soy beans are defatted with hexane] was enough to turn Cornucopia researcher Charlotte Vallaeys off of fake meat. "I can't think of a single meat-alternative product where I could explain how every ingredient is made," she says. "With a grass-fed burger, well, there's one ingredient. And with grass-fed burgers I actually might be doing something good for the environment."" You can eat bean burgers morning, noon and night without going anywhere near defatted soy. Not Your Average Joe's makes their own bean burger, for instance (altho, to be fair, they use soy oil to cook with, so your hexane impact is still present. But then again, are you _sure_ your grass fed burger wasn't cooked in soy oil, if you order it at a restaurant? And if it was canola, I could think of other issues there, too...).

I'm completely fine with meat eaters. I am a meat eater. But I vehemently object to sloppy thinking which justifies eating a _beef burger_ by bringing into the discussion the relative caloric costs of a Boca Burger vs. a pork chop. NOT FUCKING RELEVANT.

As for this, "But a girl can only eat so much roasted kale before she starts craving protein", all I can say was if all you were eating was kale, you probably wouldn't be craving protein. Kale is 20%+ protein by calorie content. Judging by this:

http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2461/2

The protein quality isn't great (but it isn't horrible, either) and the complementary stuff (nuts, mostly) is really palatable with kale.

I agree with Lappe (because that's a woman who comes from a line of smart women): "Just because you're not eating meat doesn't mean you don't have to educate yourself." But this article does not contribute meaningfully towards educating anyone.

A couple years ago, when I still had time to engage in squirrelly [weird: LJ doesn't like either spelling of squirrely] nutritional experimentation, I noticed the Problem of Fat. If you're not trying to eat vegetarian, you can just use the fat from the animal you are eating to cook it and other things in (yum, pork belly fat, aka, bacon grease). What is a vegetarian to do? MoJo brings up the hexane in processing issue with soy oil. Corn oil is _really_ problematic from nearly every perspective. Canola oil has some nice nutritional aspects, but from a processing cost seems dismal and that's ignoring the GMO issues. Really, at times it feels like it's olive or nothing, and then you're running smack up against food-mile issues (unless you live on the Mediterranean or in California or somewhere similar).

There are several strategies for dealing with the fat/oil cost: just look at what poor people do. When you aren't living in the Land of Plenty (aka the US), oils and fats have a pricing that more closely resembles its cost to produce. When you pay a lot for oil and fat, you use less of it (Meet the Wok: how to cook more food in less fat) when you do use it, and a lot of the time you don't cook with it at all (boil, roast/bake, etc.). Another approach is to _not_ fully extract the fat/oil.

In the course of dealing with my milk allergy and reducing sodium (yeah, you try to track down a low-sodium completely milk-free margarine with a reasonable fat profile. And tell me when you succeed. I know about the Spectrum shortening, btw.), I switched the technique on all my baked goods. Rather than cream the shortening with the sugars and add eggs, I started emulsifying the eggs with the oil and adding the sugar. The result is quite tasty, the sodium drops dramatically and the trans fat and/or saturated fat issue is entirely eliminated. If you're going for savory, you can use olive. If you want neutral, you can use canola. But the more I thought about the extractive and food-mile costs of oil, the more I wanted to tinker with reducing the extracted oil entirely.

Lots of people before me have figured out that you can replace (some of) the fat in baked goodies with nut butters and replace (some of) the sugars in baked goodies with fruit in various forms (applesauce is an old-time favorite). These all have issues: they raise the cost, introduce spoilage problems (but dropping the sodium does that anyway), increase the potential for allergic reactions (nuts in _everything_!) and modify the flavor profile. But it's fun. I was buying bags of walnuts and pecans and I forget what all else, running them through the grinder (a coffee grinder repurposed to use exclusively for nuts and seeds -- it's one thing for your walnut paste to taste like tahini; you don't really want your pecan paste to taste like your Colombian or vice versa) in the amounts I needed, and then using the resulting nut paste/butter as the fat/oil base for baked goodies.

Then A. was born. So much for that project. Maybe I'll revive it again. Some of those things were way, way, way tasty and extremely satisfying.
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