Boiled Kidneys

Boiled Kidneys for breakfast! I sure do love me some boiled kidneys! Frankly I had never tasted kidneys and I was illuminated to hear there was such a course for the waking hours. While watching “Christmas in Connecticut”, a black and white film from 1945, I was intrigued by the breakfast of choice, boiled kidneys. Never in my life had a heard of such a meal…BUT all the more reason to experience the dish.

I am quite fascinated by foods that characters eat in movies and books. One of my favorite childhood books, “Bread and Jam for Francis”, illustrates wonderfully a soft-boiled egg served in a pedestal dish with a delicate, petite spoon along side toast and jam. This was a delightful image and a taste-bud exciting, memory for me. I never had my egg served with such a presentation. Well the thought of eating boiled kidneys brought on a similar child like curiosity of what imaginary characters eat. Off to the store I went to purchase some kidneys, 3 lamb kidneys sourced from a local farm in Oregon.

According to the USDA nutrition database, braised lamb kidney is a remarkable source of  B3 (Niacin), B6, Folate,  B1 (Thiamine), B2 (Riboflavin), B5, B12, Vitamin, A, and C. The mineral content is quite expansive and includes magnesium,  potassium, copper, iron, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, zinc and calcium. The total cost was $2.30.

Julia Child would have a recipe for such a dish, after all she loved offals from ruminant  animals. “The Art of French Cooking” had 6 recipes. I chose one with mustard, butter, and parsley, well actually my husband chose this version. I asked him to pick his favorite…I needed a to have a partner in crime.

The results were remarkable! The organ meat tasted of minerals and grass combined with a well aged steak with a metallic hint. I served the dish with butter braised Yukon gold potatoes and onions. Topped the whole plate off with fresh lemon juice and parsley. My husband said he prefered it to steak!!

I would like to give thanks to all of the wonderful authors of screen plays and books for celebrating food’s role in the imaginary characters of your stories. And thank you Julia Child for using so much butter. And thank you dear cow for eating the grass that produced the butter and for the farmer that raised you on grass and for the lamb that grazed on grass under the care of his farmer. Oh and the potato farmer for continuing to nourish his soil and create a lovely tuber. I cherish all of the mammals that contributed to this meal!


Ancient Knowledge Modern Application

Cookbooks have many surprises in them…little spills and bits of food from their last use, hidden notes about recipe adjustments, and splendid sidebars to read while you wait for your milk to cool down when making yogurt. One such cookbook of mine has really great sidebars next to all of the recipes. Upon my most recent sauerkraut experiment I came across a couple quotes from Cluade Aubert in Dis-Moi Comment Tue Cuisines. I do not speak french but Sally Fallon translated the excerpt from Cluade’s book in her cookbook Nourishing Traditions. I found the following tidbits to be timeless…

“One striking observation of ethnic cuisines is that rarely are meals eaten without at least one fermented food, often a drink. In France, if one took away bread, cheese, ham, sausage, wine and beer, all produced through fermentation, our meals would be much impoverished. In colder countries sauerkraut, cucumbers, cornichons (always fermented in the old days), other vegetables and many types of fish preserved by fermentation are always served. In Japan, it’s not a meal without miso, soy sauce and pickles, all fermented products. In india, they drink soured milk every day, practically at every meal, In Indonesia they eat tempeh, in Korea kimchi ( a kink of sauerkraut) and in Africa porridge of fermented millet or cereal beers, In Moslem countries these fermented drinks are forbidden but they eat bread, dished made with fermented pulses and milk products. Without being indispensable, a small amount of some raw fermented food (preferably lacto-fermented) helps with digestion. This is especially true when the meal is a bit heavy. It isn’t by chance, nor merely for the pleasure of taste, that we eat cornichons with charcuterie.”

With that said the importance of the breaking down of food was clearly observed by ancient cultures and is still applicable today. I look at ancient food practices in the same way that I look at houses; If you have a good foundation but the walls are bad or the widows leak fix the structure but leave the foundation. This is the way to eat build on the foundation of our ancestors and utilize the modern convinces that make the process less time-consuming. We do not have to build underground storage areas for out food stuffs anymore because we have refrigeration but the practice of eating fermented foods is clearly meant to stay. The fun little bugs provide a great foundation for out digestive tract. Reading on from Nourishing traditions;

“The digestive process has two distinct features: one is the breaking down of ingested foods; the other is the building up of nutrients needed by the body. If the breaking down is incomplete, the building up cannot proceed correctly. In reality we nourish ourselves not by what we eat but by what we are capable of breaking down and transforming into nutrients the body can use. Of great importance in this process is the role played by the aromatic substance that are formed during lacto-fermentation….What is astonishing is that lactic acid contributes to both processes-that of decomposition and that of reconstruction. On the one hand it supplies digestive juices in the form of organic acids that help break down the foods we eat, and on the other it activates the metabolic processes  whereby these foods are transformed into new living substances…..

There is often the tendency to look for exterior infectious agents as the cause of illness. We forget that the intestine that is functioning poorly leads to serious consequences fo the whole body. THis is why, since most ancient times, lactic acid was used to clean the intestine. Different types of lacto-fermented juices were used as preferred remedies against typhus and other illnesses of this type. The most recent research has confirmed this beneficial action of lactic-acid-producing bacteria…

The mucus membranes of the intestinal tract are protected by bacteria which create an acid environment in which the pathogenic bacteria cannot multiply. The whole digestive tract harbors  a complex bacteriological flora that varies from one part to the next. The lacti-acid producing bacteria  are characterized by the fact that they survive the transition from the stomach to the small intestine and they are still active when they reach the large intestine. Lactic-acid-production bacteria can prevent the growth of coliform bacteria and agents of cholera from establishing themselves in the intestine. Even certain carcinogenic substances are inhibited and inactivated….

In effect, the state of our intestinal flora contributes not only to the absorption of nutrients and the functioning of the intestine but also to our ability to resist infections!”

One of my favorite phrases…80% of your immune system lies in your gut.

How many apples in a cup of apple juice?

My husband and I decided to take the apples from our 4 apple trees and make hard apple cider. Why not? Oh but WHY??? Five hours of cutting, pressing, and juicing the apples produced 5 gallons of juice. We started with almost 90 lbs of apples. This process of pressing the apple juice out of the apples and leaving all of the skin, fiber and pulp behind catalyzed my thought process on the actual health of fruit juice.

It took roughly 20 of our apples to make 1 cup of juice…..I could never eat 20 small apples in one sitting but I could drink a cup of juice. Could consuming the sugars (mainly fructose and some glucose) in 20 apples be good for the human metabolism, liver, and regulation of blood sugar?

I dug out my Nutrition 500 series graduate notebooks and looked up various research references and refreshed my memory on fructose metabolism. Fructose is mainly metabolised by the liver and actually depletes the cells of their main source of energy called  ATP. ATP looses it’s phosphate and is eventually reduced down to uric acid. Uric acid is the main contributor to a disease called gout. In addition uric acid causes high blood pressure.

I listened to a lecture called the Bitter Truth by Dr Lustig. He gives detailed biochemical reactions that describe how fructose metabolism in the body can lead to not only high blood pressure (via high uric acid) but increased insulin resistance, increased leptin resistance, and decreased energy (via reduction in ATP).

Dr Lustig provides some history regarding the increase in fructose consumption in the US since the introduction of high fructose corn syrup in the late 1960’s. In the 1950’s Americans consumed about 15 grams of fructose daily (equal to 3 servings of fruit). Americans today, on average intake 75 grams of fructose daily. Dr Lustig presents recent studies that showed fructose (in the form of juice) was linked to higher BMI’s in todlers, and increased risk of type 2 diabetes in adults. apparently fructose metabolism is similar to alcohol metabolism in the liver and leads to increased VLDL (the bad type of cholesterol).

 My curiosity on the health of drinking juice led me to some very compelling conclusions: 

  • There are many endocrinologist who are researching the possible role that fructose may play in diabetes, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, and obesity.
  • Many baby formulas contain a high amount of fructose in some form or another. Could this be predisposing the metabolism of infants to a lifetime of health complications?
  • One 12 oz soda contains 20 grams of fructose.
  • We should stick to an intake of 15-25 grams of fructose a day, (equaling 3 servings of fruit, and including any fructose present in other food stuffs especially processed food).
  • Bottom line drinking juice and soda is like any other sweet pleasure enjoy in moderation as a treat. On a daily basis drink water, herbal tea, kumbucha, Keifer, kavass, organic whole milk (raw if tolerated), and, nut milks.

Your 100 Trillion Intimate Friends

I have been spending a lot of time researching the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and all of the amazing roles that it plays in the health of our whole body. Our GI tract starts in our mouth and ends at our rectum. So even the health of your mouth affects the way food is absorbed and assimulated for energy.

Rebecca Wood quotes in her book “The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia,” “No one has done an exact nose count, but your GI tract provides room and board to more enzymes, fungi, and bacteria (100 trillion) than there are people in the world. By the pound, that adds up to three and half pounds of intestinal flora in the healthy adult intestine. The questions : Are these critters doing their job of assimilating food and maintaining your vitality, or are they wreaking havoc?

If you’re in robust health, then your numerous colonies of various microorganisms dwell in a balanced, harmonious environment, If, however, you’ve taken antibiotics, which kill both the good and the bad bacteria, then the odds are that one or more communities of microorganisms is growing out of control. this creates a toxic internal environment.

To rebuild your population of digestive partners, use a quality fermented food daily (you may also wish to use a probiotic supplement). Living fermented foods repopulate the digestive system with healthful microorganisms essential to proper digestion; they thereby strengthen the immune system and inhibit cancer, bowel disease, and pathogens. They also aid in the digestion of protein, fats, and carbohydrates and the assimilation of vitamins.”

Wild Bread

I am reading this great resource for my sourdough experiments. The name of the book is “Wild Bread” by Lisa Rayner.  Lisa does a very nice job of presenting a wide variety of information on the benefits of cooking with ancient grains and using sourdough bacteria and yeast to make breads. Did you know that sourdough bread made with traditional techniques has better mineral absorption, due to the decrease in phytate content? After 48 hours of fermentation only 15% of the phytates remain in the dough. Phytates bind to key minerals in our gut and decrease their absorption and availability, hence decreasing phytates will increase mineral absorption.

Help for Gluten Sensitivities

Lisa states in her chapter on the ecology of sourdough: “Because gluten is a relatively new food, evolutionarily speaking, the human digestive system cannot fully digest it. The wide-spread appearance of gluten intolerance syndromes such as celiac disease over the last 100 years might be due to the fact that modern diets contain a lot of unmodified gluten.

Lactic acid bacteria breakdnown wheat gluten by inserting water molecules into the gluten proteins (hydrolyzation), creating forms that are less irritating to people with gluten sensitivities and allergies (Journal of Applied and Enviormental Microbiologly, February 2004 p. 1088-1096 Vol 70, No. 2 “Sourdough Bread Made from Wheat and Nontoxic Flours and Started with Selected Lacobacilli Is Tolerated in Celiac Spruce Patients).

Scienctist  are working with several strains of lactobacilli that are especially good at this process to produce wheat bread that celiac sprue suffers can tolerate.”

Lower Blood Sugar Levels

“Sourdough breads have a substantially lower glycemic index than non-sourdough breads because the lactic acid produced by sourdough bacteria slows starch digestion.  A lower rank means a lower rise in blood sugar. Consistently high blood sugar levels can lead to the development of diabetes, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, high blood triglycerides, low blood levels of HDL, heart disease and possibly some cancers.

Breads made with white flour and baker’s yeast gave the same glycemic index as table sugar-100. WHole grain bread made with baker’s yeast and sourdough breads made with refined white flour have a mid-range glycemic index. One hundred percent whole grain sourdough breads have alow glycemic index similar to whole grains and legumes.” Note glycemic index; The index (1-100) ranks foods according to how fast they raise blood sugar after a meal.