Monday, May 21, 2012

Afraid of butter? Use cream...

HALLIE EPHRON: Once again, science triumphs. After being advised for years to shun transfats in favor of "good cholesterol" (HDL) to lower the risk of heart disease, the New York Times reported a new study finds, lo and behold, raising HDL levels makes no difference. To which I say, estrogen supplement anyone?

Never mind HDLs and transfats -- for me there are definitely good fats and bad fats. Bad fats taste bad and they leave a greasy aftertaste. Think margarine, some brands of potato chips that shall go unnamed, and most store bought donuts. I can easily imagine their fat coating my arteries just like they coat the roof of my mouth.

Good fats taste rich and yum-shish, to use the technical term. Think butter, olive oil, and beignets from Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans. Also chicken fat. Really. If you don't like chopped liver, it's probably because you've never had it made with freshly rendered chicken fat.

I never needed an excuse to eat avocados or shrimp or salmon which were, until recently, supposedly brimming with good-for-you fats. And despite the bad-for-you label, there's simply no better tasting pie crust than one made with lard.

So here we all are, once again bewildered in the supermarket, trying to make healthy choices and foiled at every turn. As in all things, I turn to Julia Child for wisdom: "Everything in moderation, including moderation."

Another of her quotes which I find often comes in handy: "Every woman should have a blowtorch."

So Reds, where are you on the fat question? Have you shifted to "good fats," and where does this latest bit of wisdom from the medical community leave you?

LUCY BURDETTE: Well, when I'm cooking I go through organic olive oil like crazy. Although, if you read all the buzz about what's really EVOO, you could get frozen on that subject too. And we eat butter in moderation--mostly organic unless the prices are way out of this world. And cheese. I'm a cheese fanatic and I figure I can make up for that by hardly eating red meat. And trying to eat local veggies and fruit.

I think Julia was right about moderation, though I suspect her idea of moderation wasn't much like mine. And I don't care for chicken livers Hallie, but I'll try your pate one day. The thing that's got me going in circles these days is being fair to the animals we eat. Sigh. The old farming days were so simple, weren't they? And they didn't write blogs about their meals either :).

RHYS BOWEN: We've always eaten butter and cheese, although in moderation. Always cook with olive oil these days and eat very little red meat. But I'm becoming more and more concerned about the antibiotics fed to animals and chickens, since we're reading so much about resistant super bugs. And like Lucy, I'm going through a moral crisis about eating animals at all. But I do adore pate, Hallie. And lamb chops. Sigh.

HALLIE: I so agree, Rhys. IMHO, fat on a lamb chop is in its own category: sublime fat.

RHYS: If you decide on no meat because of steroids and antibiotics
No fish because of mercury
No plants because of pesticides
There isn't much left. Now we read that all organics are not truly organic. Buy a small farm and raise my own everything, I suppose.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: We actually have friends who have, if not a small farm, free-range chickens and turkeys. We get the most wonderful eggs for them. I'd love to go organic, etc, but frankly, with my food budget including two teens, one eleven-year-old who's starting to eat like a teen, and whichever of their friends who happen to be around at dinner time, I just can't afford it. Now the Smithie is home, we went through FOUR GALLONS OF MILK IN ONE WEEK. 

My solution to eating healthy on a budget has always been to use meat in a Mediterranean way - as an accent to the rest of the dish. So we have pasta with a little chicken, rice with a little beef, stew with a little pork. Always the real stuff - butter, olive oil, real cheese. As someone smarter than me pointed out, we've been eating "fat-free" for the past thirty years - so why are Americans fatter than ever?

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I've always been an "unprocessed food" nut. I use butter, unsalted organic, usually, on my toast and the few other things that MUST have butter. Bake about twice a year, but use butter when I do. Cook with EVOO--actually it's more like "everything tastes better with olive oil on it"--but who knows if it's really EVOO unless you've grown the olives? I don't use cream much since I don't tend to cook many saucey things and I put milk in my tea, but I usually keep some organic half and half in the fridge just in case something needs a splash.

I'm with everyone else on the meat issue.  We have been eating more red meat simply because we have a local organic meat market that raises and processes their own cows, so we know the animals were treated humanely and not fed horrible stuff.  Tough choices these days.  I'd go with Julia, except like Lucy, I suspect her idea of moderation was not mine:-)

Do you all remember "Julie and Julia" from a couple of years ago, where the woman cooked all four hundred some odd recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year? Talk about butter overload!

JAN BROGAN:  If you just wait long enough everything that was determined bad for you will be declared health food.  Or its low-fat non-fat substitute will be declared much worse. I'm holding out for the study that says bacon adds years to your life.

DEBS: I'm with Jan on the bacon. I just wish it wasn't so damned much trouble to clean up after you cook it!

JULIA: As far as I'm concerned, better sixty-five years with bacon than eighty-five with toasted kasha.

ROSEMARY HARRIS: There really isn't anything that I will absolutely stay away from although I probably only eat meat once or twice a year. And it's hardly filet mignon - Once a year I must have pepperoni pizza.

I can't be trusted with a hunk of cheese (it will disappear in record time no matter how thin I shave the slices) so I try not buy it except for parties. But it's not the fat, it's the calories.

Bacon..haven't had it for years. Pate..used to love..I've had it once in the last 15 years.

What was the question again..? Butter? Love it. Scary how much of it I go through when I'm baking, but just to spread it on good bread..only if I've had so much wine that I'm no longer capable of making a good decision.

HALLIE: Latest news bulletin for Dr. Oz: Raspberry ketones are a miracle fat burner. No, you cannot get enough by eating raspberries -- you have to eat 90 pounds of raspberries to get the equivalent of a 100 mg capsule raspberry ketone. Apparently it's effective "especially when paired with regular exercise and a well-balanced diet of healthy foods." Hey, bacon is effective when paired it with a exercise and a diet, too.

So where are you with fat? Had you embraced HDLs? Given up butter? Or are you a lard-fried Twinkie die-hard?


  1. Debs: Mold aluminum foil into a salad dish, pour in the hot bacon grease, toss when fat gets cool & solid.

  2. Sheesh . . . every day someone changes their collective minds about what you should/should not eat to stay healthy. In defense of all that, I read labels . . . if it has more chemical stuff than real stuff, it stays in the store. So what does hit my table? Within my budget, things that I enjoy cooking: vegetables, vegetables, vegetables . . . some meats [liver, bacon, and caramelized onions makes for a really yummy meal; I love chicken liver] . . . some fish . . . always coffee . . . always chocolate . . . real butter rather than chemical-laden substitutes . . . real cheese. Yes to the bacon, no matter what the “experts” say. Bread is my downfall, but I can’t bring myself to eat the cardboard stuff that sits on store shelves for days, so I bake my own. Moderation is probably the key, so we really just try to use common sense about it.

  3. Of course I have to jump in here :-) Exercise raises your HDL....that's good because your cardiovascular risk factor comes from the ratio (dividing your total by your HDL) .... so if you don't give up bacon -- and I'm with Hallie, everything in moderation -- you can offset your risk with a higher HDL!

  4. But then do you cook with that bacon grease, Jack? We used to keep bacon grease in a can, growing up, and then use it to fry chicken.

  5. Nikki: I Believe you completely because I know you know this kind of thing. So after I take my morning exercise class, I'm stopping at the market for a pound of bacon. BLT's for a guilt-free lunch!

    Joan: YES to reading labels. So simple. Mmmm, bread. It's the one thing I've never learned to bake. Let's hear it for a fellow liver-lover! Calves Liver Veneziana? Fabulous.

  6. Thanks for this post. Bad fats taste bad and they leave a greasy aftertaste. Over consumption of anything is not good. It adversely affects health.

  7. Wow, what a topic today. I'm glad to know that so many of the Reds are sensible about eating, and it shows. None of you are in any way overweight. Clearly, you're doing the right things, for you.

    We had steak last night, a couple-times-a-year deal for us. My husband is a deer and turkey hunter, so we generally have venison in the freezer, a red meat, but one with a 20th of the fat, calories and cholesterol of beef. And I have to say that I didn't enjoy the steak much. It was just so fatty.

    Generally, I tend to avoid anything with chemicals in place of real food ingredients. My belief is that fake food, and overprocessed food, are a big part of the reason for the obesity problem in the US. Staying on the outer edges of the supermarket helps enormously; that's where the unprocessed, raw foods are: meats, eggs, dairy, fresh produce. And I've been baking my own bread about half the time. The only ingredients: whole wheat flour, yeast, water and salt.

    It's such a puzzle, though. This is how I deal with it. Hallie, I used to like liver, until I found out that all the body's toxins are filtered through that organ. Now? Not so much.

  8. Forgot to add that one of my daughters starting cooking with coconut oil, and I've started using it for some things, too. It takes very little, melts very quickly, and makes cooked-on-the-stove popcorn taste amazing.

  9. Butter on freshly baked bread. A must. Otherwise olive oil it is. And exercise! My kindhearted beau insists we buy meat only from the local farm, so we know the animals were treated well and it doesn't contain bad stuff. And then we treat it like Julia S-F - as almost a condiment.

  10. I don't like cheese, so in my mind, this means I can eat butter without guilt.

    Also, I am French, so in my mind, this means I am culturally obligated to eat bread without guilt.

    This is how my mind works and I don't think it's going to change.

  11. For sure, Hallie. I fry the bacon, the potatoes, onions, peppers, and the eggs in the same grease. Once a week is what I call moderation.

  12. Laughing here, Ramona - I have the same philosophy about chicken fat but for a different reason.

  13. I knew that about liver Karen... but just in case that had changed too I went to the always accurate Internet to research. Did you know...
    - Chicken liver has the highest cholesterol of just about any other food (more than double an equal amount of butter)
    - It's also loaded with Omega-6 fatty acids which may (or may not) be good for you.
    - The liver does filter toxins but it doesn't store them (I have no idea if this is glass-half-full or glass-half-empty)

  14. Love the coconut oil comment! My parents were manufacturer's reps from theater concessions, and they thought when it was decided (by whom?) that coconut oil was "unhealthy" and they stopped using it on movie popcorn, that it would ruin their business. It didn't, but coconut oil does still make the BEST popcorn!

    Love the "outer edges of the supermarket", too. I was shopping at my local supermarket (small not high-end store) and I noticed, as I often do, a very overweight family shopping. Their cart was piled to overflowing and it was ALL super-processed food. There wasn't a single thing I could recognize as "food." Very scary. And so expensive...

  15. Running in..pant pant. Maybe that will make up for the bacon I ate over the weekend at the Pennwriters conference? (whoo hoo. Hi everyone. And I got to meet and plot with the FABULOUS Ramona!)

    Anyway--Yes I've heard that edges of the grocery thing. I realized it on my own recently, when I had the revelation that I had no idea what was in the aisles!

    I must admit, I'm a protein girl. I eat red meat, ah, every week. Egg whites for breakfast. Turkey for lunch. Salmon.

    My food philosophy is this: you an have one bite of ANYTHING. The second bite is never as good, so why do it?

    As for cooking...seems like the best plan is to use whatever is going to taste the best,right? And your decision is made.

  16. One bite? I'm more of an "eat it until it's gone" kinda gal.

  17. Yeah, so interesting! The first bite is always the best always seems to me that you are trying to re-live that first-bite experience with every bite that follows.

    I can see--are you with us Roberta/Lucy?--that it may be that I don't allow myself enough pleasure. Perhaps that is another blog..xoxo

  18. Mmm, fahhht. (Homer Simpson voice.) Butter, lard, suet, chicken schmaltz, pork belly, lambchop frizzlefat. I clean bacon fat off the pan by frying a piece of bread in it and eating the bread with salt and pepper.

    If I was rich it might be a problem but the cost of pasture-raised organic meat, cheese, milk, yoghurt and butter keeps it within reason.

    I'm hungry now and it's fruit smoothie for breakfast.

  19. But - full disclosure - multi-national company, food miles, inhumane farming practices, chemicals and bad fats notwithstanding I absolutely adore Ikea meatballs.

  20. I'm definitely with Deborah on avoiding processed foods. And i recently heard, for what it's worth, that low-fat doesn't do you any good--they compensate for the removed fat with other carbs. As for coconut oil--I thought coconut was up there with liver for high cholesterol.
    Sometimee you have to eat what you want--but in moderation. I have a friend who lost 17 lbs. by portion control and no (or few) carbs.

  21. I've been reading everyone's comments while I drink a cup of warm almond milk because I'm off coffee--not MY choice. No disrespect to the fine people who make almond milk but it isn't even a distant cousin to a cup of hot, strong coffee which I can't drink because it's making my stomach miserable. And I loathe tea--no offense to the many tea drinkers out there.

    Any replacement ideas for my big cup of coffee that don't involve warm almond milk will be gratefully accepted. I'm thinking bacon might be a reasonable substitute.

  22. Oh, Darlene - I feel for you. I gave up coffee years ago when "research" was saying that it was related to breast cancer, and I'd had a lump. I gave up chocolate, too. Had headaches for weeks.

    Then, lo and behold, it's exonerated. Coffee and dark chocolate: right up there with red wine now as maybe a good thing.

    So I happily went back to drinking it -- with lot of milk. Not what you want to hear, I know.

    Wish I had a suggestion for what to substitute. I drank tea. I like the dark smoky ones and chai, too.

  23. Okay...emboldened by the rest of you I just had tomato soup with a piece of nice bread -and butter!- for lunch.

  24. Go Ro!

    I get the 'one bite is enough' thing, but only when it applies to dessert. One bite is ALWAYS enough for me except when it's pineapple upside down cake.

  25. It's impossible for coconut oil to have high cholesterol; plants contain it, but in very small (even "tiny") amounts. Cholesterol is found almost exclusively in animal products

    Once I heard Kathie Lee Gifford say that avocados weren't good for you because they are high in cholesterol. High in fat, yes. Cholesterol, no.

    Interesting about the liver, Hallie. But with my husband's cholesterol issues, we will no doubt still avoid it.

    The best liver I ever had was in Manhattan, in the mid-70's, at a fancy restaurant where I was taken for lunch. They served this thick, juicy calves' liver, grilled like a filet, along with frizzled onions. Ruined me for every other liver for the rest of my life.

  26. I think people say 'cholesterol' when they mean 'saturated fat' - which is what there's lots of in coconut and hearts of palm, just for example.

  27. We use meat much as Julia S-F does, as a condiment. We eat organic free-range chicken, turkey, beef, and buffalo. A number of buffalo ranches around here. Buffalo has about the fat of a boneless, skinless chicken breast or less. Its taste is magnificent.

    Most of all, we avoid trans-fats and partially hydrogenated fats, anything with fat that doesn't need refrigeration.

    I, too, am waiting for the day they tell us bacon is good for us. It's happened with so many things. Just the other day I read of a study showing that people who drink lots of coffee regularly live longer!

  28. One of the things you see regularly on good British restaurant menus is pork belly with crackling. (Hopefully organically raised, etc, etc.) Now I know this is probably not a good thing to eat on a regular basis, but OMG, as a treat, it's to die for. No pun intended.

    Darlene, the only way I can drink even a little bit of coffee is cafe au lait--at least half steamed milk.

    I feel the same about herbal teas as you do about black tea. I gave up "real" tea when I was pregnant, lo those many years ago, and now cannot stand the herbal ones.

  29. well, it's almost 5am and I just finished a dish of Raspberry sherbet - not the best Bfast out there, but, it has fruit and cream in it so tastes yummy.

    I crave a hamburger (not lean, when lean it's chewy and doesnt taste like a hamburger, needs fat in it) and a steak, good ribeye, about once a month.

    Other than that, I can survive on chicken or turkey. Usually chicken as it's easier to cook.

    Our market carries a no hormone, no antibiotic, no additive chicken (so the pkg says) I buy that in hopes that the pkg is not lying to me.

    I'll be the first to admit, my diet isnt the healthiest. I dont live on fast food, but I do eat it occassionally

    Hallie we had the silver bacon grease can on the stove growing up - none of us died from it back then, now if you kept one people would say you are flirting with death and will catch some awful disease - why is it we didnt back then? Maybe they didnt use the hormones, antibiotics and other crap that is in moocows and oinkers these days

    In the summer, we made potaoe and macaroni salads on Sat or Sun and ate off them ALL week, now articles threaten you are sure to die if you don't finish your salads in 2-3 days

    My Daddy died 5weeks shy of his 90th birthday - he grew up with cream on his cereal, real butter, things cooked in lard. He also ate a dish of icecream every night all his life.

    We ate beef growing up more than any other meat, it was cheaper, my parents got 1/2 a cow every year - the butcher cut it to your liking, they picked it up and the rest of that day was spent wrapping and marking the packages for the freezer.

    No meat on Fridays growing up Catholic, so it fish or Cheese Pizza, real cheese, grease on bottom of box attested to that, and fish, broiled with butter in pan and on fish

    I think a lot of todays dietary "problems" are due to the additives in all the food we eat, so many preservatives that were not in foods when I was growing up, yet they lasted just as long, if not longer - dont understand that one.

    I do try to cook healthy and eat "unhealthy" foods in moderation, but I do eat them

    Monday night at 11:30p, as we sat in ER with D's mom, they finally got all her test results back and said she could eat, of course nothing to eat in hosp so Donny went to Mcdonalds and the 3 of us were sitting in the ER eating mcdonald's for dinner at midnight. Only place open to get anything to eat at that hour in a smallish city was fastfood so that is what we had and after only having a Banana and Carnation Bfast in a bottle all day - it tasted darn good and I ate every bit of it!

    I could not eat that every day,but sadly a lot of people in this country do eat fast food everyday -some just dont like to cook, have too busy of a schedule, but many eat fast food because they have $1.00 menus where they can go get Bfast lunch and dinner for $1.00 if they drink water, so they are spending $21.00 a week for food, can't do that buying food in grocery or fruit markets. A box of mac n' cheese (the cheap ones) you can get probably 3 for $1 can't buy the box of pasta for $1 and cheese -$$$ so eating "healty" mac n cheese is not cheap.

    When I was young and single - boxed mac n cheese, pnut butter, bread were my staples - cheap food with some protein and filling.

    It is sad that eating healthy is more costly than eating unhealthy



  30. OMG - just clicked and looked at post - sorry wrote a book there!

  31. And Mar, in the poorer parts of most cities, where are "food deserts," places where there are no grocery stores that carry fresh fruits & veggies, where there are only liquor and convenience stores and fast food outlets available. Usually, these food deserts are also locations where the bulk of the populace have no reliable transportation, too.