“Food & Wine”, I thought you were better than this…

Food & Wine is the only magazine to which I subscribe.  Well, that and Wisconsin Trails. And I get the F**d Network Magazine (to which I am not going to link.  I received a gift subscription to it and if I ever write about that, it will be a completely separate post.)  Anyway, the March 2010 issue showed up in my mail about a week ago.  The biggest words on the cover are “40 healthy recipes”.   Really?  In March?  I might have understood if it was January when Americans feel guilty about the indulgences of the holidays and we’re all collectively supposed to diet until our short memories and weak will fail us.   It’s not that I’m opposed to healthy food, quite the contrary, but several things that the editors did with this issue of the magazine do not impress me.  At all.  The thing that I like about Food and Wine is that their recipes involve almost exclusively good ingredients, whole foods, which are prepared well.  The other things that I like about it are the interesting travel articles and they’ve never steered me wrong when it comes to wine.

Food & Wine seems to have jumped on the “Eat This Not That” bandwagon.  They suggest that for 1500 calories, we could have a wagyu cheeseburger or a gourmet meal.  Either way, this would be 3/4 of the 2000 calories recommended by the USDA for a woman’s daily intake.  I have not much use for the USDA guidelines, but these numbers seem useful.  Really, I want neither of these meals.  The burger they feature has 8 ounces of beef.  Yes, half a pound of beef.  I’m pretty sure I couldn’t finish that if I tried.  Maybe if I was wearing my fat pants.  But I digress.  Their gourmet meal starts with cheese and crackers and while I am no stranger to good cheese and good crackers, with all due respect, I’d rather have a green salad to start my meal.  Their main course includes a very reasonable cup of some kind of fancy rice and a very reasonable 4 ounce filet mignon.  They allow mercifully for a glass of wine to wash it down and then a whopping 405 calories from three mini whoopie pies (whatever those are) and a cup of wild chicory.  Besides my issues with the excessively caloric starter and dessert, where the hell are the vegetables?  I want salad and I want another vegetable.  Their online content this month also includes some “Eat This, Not That” substitutions with a plug for the book.  Of course the “nots” are some of the most ridiculously caloric foods from regionally if not nationally known chain restaurants where the portions are easily enough for two people to eat juxtaposed with recipes for foods that incorporate some of the elements of the verboten foods, probably also in more reasonable portions.  Seriously, I thought there was a magazine for this and I thought that magazine was C**king Light. I used to subscribe to that, but I let that subscription lapse about a year before I started taking Food & Wine.

Next they pose the question, “Should You Eat Like an Icelander”.  In respect to the seafood, their practices of animal husbandry with land animals and dairy, I’d say absolutely yes.  But more farms in the USA could be grazing animals on their natural diets rather than stuffing the animals full of government-subsidized GMO corn and hormones.  We probably don’t need to import Icelandic meats during the twelve weeks of the year that they are available.  I was also amused with the restaurant review sidebar where the reviewer was impressed by many of the dishes, but described said “the whale blubber looked like a block of Crisco and was a tasteless, greasy mess”.  I doubt I’d like whale blubber, but that seems awfully judgmental.  Who knows, maybe one needs to grow up eating it to like it.   Maybe it is an acquired taste.  Maybe it is one of those odd food items trotted out to shock foreigners.  I’d suspect it is not the latter.

The thing that irked me the most about this issue was an inset over the photograph of a recipe for a Thai Cornish hen stew in a section on “Thai Recipes for Health and Happiness”.    The stew contained green peppercorns, Cornish hens cut into pieces (with the skin on as can clearly be seen in the photograph of the finished dish), vegetable oil, dried red chilis, shallots and garlic.  They  proclaim “Thai genius Su-Mei Yu shares energizing stews, salads, stir-fries and more to get anyone through a cool, damp spring.”  The recipes do look fantastic.  I will definitely make some of them.  I might make all of them.  But they couldn’t leave the chef’s work alone.  What they plastered over an unimportant area of the picture was a little blurb that said “TAKE OFF THE SKIN—-That’ll make this hen stew even more healthy.” Really?  If they asserted that it would lower the fat and calories of the dish, I wouldn’t contest their statement, but healthier?  I’m not so sure.  To be sure, chicken skin contains fat.  But 49% of that fat is monounsaturated.  Like the “good” fat in olive oil that we are supposed to have according to the nutritionistas.  I really thought Food & Wine was above falling for low-fat concerns and that it was enough for them to be concerned with the integrity of the ingredients and good preparation.  That is why I liked Food & Wine.  Besides being rankled by the concern about the fat, it also annoys me that the selenium in the chicken skin is overlooked.  Perhaps the reason that a dish like this is good for us in late winter is because this protein should be eaten with the accompanying fat of its skin.  I wonder how Chef Yu feels about the suggestion to remove the chicken skin.  If her dish is balanced (which the lead of the article emphasizes) with the skin, perhaps she thinks their suggestion is not an improvement.  Besides the fact that they messed with Chef Yu’s recipe to make it conform to the conventional wisdom regarding fat.  The thing is, as long as dieticians insist on over-simplifying monounsaturated fat as “good fat” and saturated fat (as if it’s just one thing) as “bad fat”, I have no use for their advice.  Lipid research is advancing, despite the fact that it is difficult to get funding if you’re not going to agree with the spuriously reasoned conventional wisdom.  I realize I’m not  citing sources here, but if you want more information about this, consider reading Gary Taubes’ book “Good Calories, Bad Calories” or look up Mary Enig, PhD, one of the premier lipid researchers of the day.

Finally, there is the ridiculous article entitled, “An Overachieving Underchewer”.  In this article, A.J. Jacobs “learns to masticate like a master”.  Are you as impressed with the alliteration there as I am?  Ugh.  The author concludes “that the benefits of taking 50 chews per bit justify the extreme social awkwardness.”  If he’s still doing this (his “experiment” took place late last year), I’ll bet he’s a delightful dining companion.  Not.  I can see the point of putting one’s fork down between mouthfuls, but really, chewing each bite 50 times?  Doesn’t he have something better to think about?  For that matter, don’t I?  Of course he mentions Horace Fletcher, but  without any of the ridiculousness that the verb “fletcherizing” might suggest.  And without mentioning any of the other whack thoughts Fletcher had about food and digestion.  Anyway, I’m sure the Mr. Jacobs was so frustrated after his week of extra chewing (and less talking) that he found the need to bang out his frustrations on his computer keyboard and thus inflict this article on the reader.  Actually for that, I blame the F&W editors.  I don’t know why I finished that article.  Possibly because of my morbid fascination with everything food, regardless of how misguided.

That is all for now.  I realize this post was long.  I apologize if you actually made it to the end of it.

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3 Responses to “Food & Wine”, I thought you were better than this…

  1. David Brown says:

    Your post is a little long but I was interested in what you had to say about fat so skimmed through it until I got to your comments about fat.

    Since you have a “morbid fascination with everything food,” perhaps the Heart Attack Grill might interest you. Their quadruple bypass burger contains 2 pounds of meat and 8,000 calories. Their flat liner fries are fried in lard. Their waitresses wear scanty, tacky nurses uniforms. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbKRSYAuSNg&feature=fvw

    But seriously, the fats are what interest me, especially omega-6 fats. I’ve known for many years that saturated fats are not a problem. But until recently I didn’t fully appreciate how foolish it is to consume excessive omega-6. I’ve eaten peanut butter sandwiches for lunch more often than not since 1972. Had I realized how much omega-6 was in a 2 oz serving of peanut butter I would have moderated my intake and would have saved myself a lot of pain. You see, over the past decade my legs lost strength and flexibility to the point where it became painful to get up from a chair and impossible to run. I thought perhaps there was something missing from my diet or I wasn’t getting enough exercise. I tried various supplements and daily stretching with limited success. Then, one day last November I watched a videocast of a presentation by Dr. Bill Lands in which he said, “…there are some really interesting foods that have more omega-3 than omega-6; but not all. Did you know that peanuts have 4,000 milligrams per 28 gram, one ounce serving of peanuts? 4,000 milligrams of omega-6 and one milligram of omega-3. The United States is the land of peanut butter. Grow our kids. Make our kids healthy. Whoops.”

    Whoops indeed! When I heard that I quit eating peanut butter. About a month ago my legs began to get stronger. At this point, the pain associated with muscle contractions and stretching has subsided. I am able to run again and I can stand up from a chair without thinking about it.

    Omega-6 is the anonymous, invisible fat in the food supply that promotes chronic inflammatory diseases of many sorts. The peculiar thing is that many people know this but few seem to appreciate the magnitude of the problem. Perhaps this is because there is so much excitement about the therapeutic benefits of omega-3s. “Balance omega-6s with omega-3 and the problem is solved,” they say. Well, not quite. Both omega-6s and omega-3s are highly reactive molecules. And the physiological requirement appears to be about one half of one percent of total caloric intake for each. But the American heart association recommends we consume 10 times that amount and more. http://omega-6-omega-3-balance.omegaoptimize.com/2009/01/30/the-american-heart-associations-agendait-sure-aint-science-or-public-health.aspx

    Really, maximum protection from chronic inflammatory disease isn’t possible at such high levels of polyunsaturated fat intake. Please listen to this videocast. http://videocast.nih.gov/summary.asp?live=8108 You can drag the timer button slightly to the right to the 12 minute mark where Dr. Lands begins speaking. If you are unable to play the videocast on your computer, there’s a transcript of the lecture at http://www.amazon.com/tag/health/forum/ref=cm_cd_tfp_ef_tft_tp?_encoding=UTF8&cdForum=Fx1EO24KZG65FCB&cdThread=Tx241KS54K89FO7&displayType=tagsDetail

  2. Aster says:

    David Brown–Thanks for commenting. I know of the Heart Attack Grill and I would NEVER eat there. I’ll have a look at the other links when I’m not at work. Interesting about the peanut butter too. Of course there is peanut butter and then there is “peanut butter” with a lot of extra ingredients that one wouldn’t think should be in there. We eat practically no processed foods. I also know the farmer who my meat comes from and because of this, I know what his animals are eating. That said, meat portions at our house are pretty small and not a daily occurrence either.

  3. David Brown says:

    Hi Aster,

    I remember my grandfather talking about hydrogenation back in the early 60s. My parents started buying all naturall peanut shortly thereafter, the kind you stir and refrigerate. I’ve eaten that ever since. The only ingredients are peanuts and salt. But two ounces of “healthy” peanut butter (in one sandwich) contains 8 grams of omega-6. And in my younger years I routinely ate two sandwiches for lunch.

    The International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids suggests an adequate intake of omega-6 would be 4.4 grams per day or about 2 percent of daily caloric intake. http://www.issfal.org.uk/ According to Dr. Bill Lands, animal experiments indicate that .5 percent of daily caloric intake may be optimum. At any rate, my intake was too high and I suffered for it. and who knows how much healthier I would have been all these years on a lower intake of omega-6.

    I might add that back in 1993 my omega-6 intake was even higher. I was consuming a lot of mayonnaise and cold pressed soy oil in my salad dressings. A skin ulcer on my shin developed after I bumped my leg on a saw horse. I eventually figured out that excessive omega-6 intake had trashed my immune system. Large doses of vitamin E helped restore my health and heal the ulcer. In retrospect, I thought I had my omega-6 issue under control. It’s interesting how one’s personal preferences can be either destructive or protective.

    In my opinion, anyone who doesn’t know about the omega-6 hazard is trusting to luck no matter how much he thinks he knows about nutrition.

    Thanks for your response.

    Oh yes. There’s a short history behind the introduction of omega-6 into the food supply at http://180degreehealth.blogspot.com/2010/01/david-brown-on-omega-6-fats.html

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