Thursday, March 17, 2011

not a lot of solid evidence

It’s Sunday morning, so I’m trying to decide what to do instead of writing Tuesday’s column. I think I’ll wipe the kitchen down, even mop the floor.  Make some chicken soup – good for what ails you in February or any other time. And maybe I’ll clean out the fridge.

There is a commonality in opening the fridge and seeing it stuffed full with forgotten leftovers and other mysteries and realizing that it needs a good cleaning.  Nora Ephron has to take care of her own leftovers, probably, clean her own fridge. No one escapes that chore unless they have full-time housekeeping, or a wife, or a partner who does it. There is not a job I like less, except, apparently, writing a column.

Ah! I’d forgotten those Brussels sprouts I made on Wednesday. I was looking for recipes for the Co-op and asked around and Lindsay Arbuckle, of Alchemy Gardens and  Pierce’s Store, suggested Brussels sprouts steamed with dried cranberries, leeks and pecans. I formulated that into a recipe that I trust approximates the preparation she had in mind.

They’re delicious now, cold, salted and peppered. The sweetness of the pecans and the cranberries with the savory greenness of the sprouts is the perfect brunch snack.

Hmm, wonder how the Vermont Peanut Butter got pushed back behind the seldom-used jars of miso? I take a teaspoon full of it – it’s the chunky variety – and add a scraping of butter before taking it to my computer and staring at this screen. It’s an adult lollypop. Well, it’s a peanut butter lollypop, adult or not. And it reminds me of an article about  food allergies in children that I read in the Feb 7 New Yorker. 

The practice of anti-intuitively advising pregnant women and babies to avoid all kinds of foods, from peanuts to shellfish for varying amounts of time up to two years old in order to AVOID food allergies in children, seems to have backfired, and the number of food allergies has exploded!

My favorite quote is by a medical doctor/professor who said, “We in medicine are making a lot of decisions and recommendations based on not a lot of solid evidence.”
Read that again. “... on NOT a lot of solid evidence.” 

So the NEW thought on allergies is that “a child becomes tolerant to a variety of food proteins through exposure in the first six months of life.” You will notice that’s the exact opposite of what they have been advising the poor allergic dears all this time.

Nowhere in this article – The Peanut Puzzle, by Jerome Groopman – does anyone wonder if allergies might be due to the altered chemistry of the food because of the way it is now grown. Is it not reasonable to think  that the reason such an increasing number of people have ‘intolerances’ to so many foods – milk, wheat, soy, nuts –  is that their bodies do not recognize the food as food. It’s been genetically altered. It’s been grown or produced with a variety of chemical helpers that our bodies do not recognize as food. 

But they do note that in developing countries, where allergies are scarce, children “often consume solids, initially chewed by their parents, at two or three months.”  It’s the quickest and most convenient, and even, perhaps, the healthiest way of feeding babies solid food.  “Saliva is a rich source of enzymes that can help break down solid foods and of antibodies that might coat food proteins...” to make them less allergenic.  Don’t you just love it?

You know all those pronouncements about when to feed your baby rice cereal, and phase in this and that food?  It has NO basis in scientific evidence! And that’s according to a specialist in newborn nutrition quoted in the article. NO basis in scientific evidence. Who’da thunk?

This reminds me of a quote by Gary Taubes. In his book, Good Calories, Bad Calories,  he wrote, “The institutionalized vigilance, ‘this unending exchange of critical judgment,’ is nowhere to be found in the study of nutrition, chronic disease, and obesity...”  He adds, “(practitioners) certainly borrow the authority of science to communicate their beliefs to the general public.” In other words, it SOUNDS like science, but it is far from it.

How about that low-fat milk we’re advised to feed our kids? Who says? Well, for one, the new USDA guidelines say to. On what scientific basis are we advised? There is none. And to my mind, when in doubt follow Michael Pollan’s advice – Don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize. Why take apart a perfectly good food and recombine it to some know-nothing’s specifications? Eat the whole food. Drink the whole milk. Our cells need saturated animal fats. They don’t oxidize like vegetable oils do, and go rancid and create the dreaded free radicals. Cholesterol is an antioxidant.  It rushes to repair arteries and heal infections. It’s good for our brains, our nerves, and our adrenal glands. Forget the Kool-Aid! Drink the milk!

Oh my goodness, look what I’ve done! It seems I’ve written a column! Whether or not it’s readable remains to be seen. And just to be sure that it’s edible, I’ll include a recipe for Lindsay’s

Glorified Brussels Sprouts

•    1 pound Brussels Sprouts, trimmed and cleaned
•    Salt and pepper to taste
•    1/2 cup dried cranberries (or other dried fruit)
•    1 tablespoon butter
•    1 tablespoon olive oil
•    1 large leek
•    1/2 cup pecans
•    Optional: Sherry or Marsala  wine

Steam the Brussels sprouts until they begin to soften, sprinkle with salt and pepper and steam until fork tender. Meanwhile, melt the butter and olive oil in a skillet. Clean the leeks and slice lengthwise into thin strands about 2 inches long. Add the leeks to the butter and sauté over low heat until golden and tender. Add the cranberries or other fruit (shredded dried apricots are very good) and pecans and sauté a few moments more. A splash of sherry is nice here.
When the sprouts are done add them to the pan and combine. Correct the seasonings. Add more butter, to taste, just before serving.

published as a Twice Bitten Column in the Rutland (Vermont) Herald 15 February, 2011

1 comment:

Penny said...

How true about feeding babies. My friend's daughter was advised by her Dr. not to introduce any solids until after 6 months for fear of allergies. Your brussel sprouts sound fabulous. Now I have to go clean out the fridge.