Archive | December, 2011

Cocktailing for the non-sugar-addled

30 Dec

There’s a lot of alcohol being consumed out there under the paleo banner. Not beer, of course, but there’s cider, which is close enough. And plenty of red wine (which apparently you don’t need a wine cellar to drink). And rumor has it that liquor is still OK, too — well, if we leave questions about wheat and distillation to the side. But let’s face it: even if you’re a paleo/ancestral/human eater, you’re probably still an alcohol drinker. Maybe not all the time, maybe just some of the time, but, either way, you do it. (By the way, I’m not judging you; I am currently inebriated.)

But I’ve left something out: what about cocktails? What is the world of cocktails like for the evolutionarily savvy drinker? Is it all just miniature umbrellas, and slushy piles of sugar, and bloody mary mix with questionable ingredients? A respectable quantity of nastiness to guarantee a little extra edge for your hangover? It can be that way, but it can be better. We know that already. There’s a fellow out there by the name of Robb Wolf who popularized a little something called the “NorCal Margarita,” and now paleo/ancestral/human eaters all over the world are downing glasses of tequila mixed with seltzer and lime before dinner. There’s nothing wrong with this phenomenon, of course, because the drink is delicious. It can even be modified to suit your tastes if you happen not to like tequila: just take that citrus and seltzer and mix it with some other clear liquor. It won’t be as good, Robb Wolf informs us, but hey, we all make sacrifices sometimes.

Can that be the extent of it for paleo cocktailing though? Do we risk certain revulsion if we step outside the charmed circle of the NorCal Margarita? I’m here to tell you that the answer is a happy no. With a little extra work on your home bar, or a little extra irritation/flirtation on your local bartender, you can experience the joys of a well-made cocktail while consuming a minimum of the nasty neolithic garbage.

You know you want this.

• • •

The central challenge for a non-fructose-junkie cocktail drinker will be finding a way to “cut” the alcohol without sugar. Now I say “cut” as if alcohol is something that tastes bad. It certainly can. Sometimes all you have is a plastic bottle of Popov in the freezer, and you feel like a drink, but you don’t want to insult your tongue with something that tastes like crap. But crappy alcohol will in general yield crappy cocktails, so I won’t bother with that here. When I say “cut,” then, what I really mean is just “mix.” Good alcohol tastes good by itself, yes, but it can taste even better mixed. It’s more than just a matter of taste, even, because the effects of the consumption of alcohol will differ depending on how it is presented. Much as a pile of potatoes with butter in it will have a different effect on your blood glucose than a pile of potatoes without butter (please don’t argue with me), a shot of gin in a cocktail will have a different effect than a shot of gin by itself. There is a feeling of well-being that comes from a well-made cocktail that is more than just an appreciation of its flavor. Something chemical is going on. I do think that a lot of it is about blunting the nasty effects that alcohol can have on blood glucose, but beyond that I’ll leave it to others to speculate about this.

And one more disclaimer: I’m not a professional mixologist, just a mixolo-hobbyist. So if you are a professional mixologist some of what I say might sound a little “off” to you (though I daresay not wildly incorrect) and you might have a lot to add. By all means, pile on. What you’ll get from me is not the final word (though I can give you the Final Ward (3/4 oz rye, 3/4 oz green Chartreuse, 3/4 oz lemon juice, 3/4 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur)). What you’ll get from me is the encapsulated experience of just one ancestral cocktailian. A man, by the way, whose gut flora and improved body composition might be more similar to yours than to that of the average SAD eater, but who might differ from you in any number of other ways. Now that I’ve said what is on both of our minds, I can get to my categorization.

The first mixing strategy I’ll call the sour. This is headed in the same direction as Robb’s NorCal Margarita: it’s all about adding citrus. But instead of seltzer as the third ingredient you have something sweet. So the basic formula is: base alcohol + something sweet + citrus. A classic example of a sour, of course, would be a margarita — a margarita margarita, not a NorCal margarita. Tequila + triple sec (or cointreau) + lime juice. If you order this in a bar you’ll probably get some sugar or simple syrup thrown in there also (simple syrup is water with sugar dissolved in it). Of course, the sugar might be the least of your worries if there’s some kind of kooky margarita mix being used instead of fresh-squeezed lime juice, but that’s another problem for another day.

ASIDE: Wikipedia is a good place to look for the “official” IBA recipes. Check out the margarita, for example. There is, mercifully, no sugar in the official recipe. You can also check out the list of official cocktails on the IBA (International Bartenders Association) webpage.

Now it might look like I am hopelessly disorganized because I said I was going to talk about how to avoid sugar, and here I am adding something sweet. But there was a point to this: the idea is to tinker with the standard sour recipes in order to create something that better suits your paleo-ized palate. Take a Sidecar, for example, another standard sour. Cognac + cointreau + lemon juice. Normally you would see a fair amount of cointreau in this drink, maybe a ratio of 2:1:1, brandy to cointreau to lemon juice. But if you let yourself mess with the proportions you can find something much better for you. When I was making these all the time I settled on a ratio of about 6:2:3 or 8:2:3 — a fair amount of lemon juice and booze, much less cointreau.

The cocktail that is best made for you will strike a balance between all its elements. In the case of a sour, you’re balancing booziness, sweetness, and acidity. But no matter what the elements are, you will go through a process: as you experiment, one element will come out too much, another not enough; you try it again and something is still off; then again; and then, finally — boom, it snaps into place. You don’t taste elements x, y, and z. You taste something that is all of x, y, and z; and yet is also neither x, nor y, nor z. It is greater than the sum of its parts. (Yes, I am aware that I’m going a little overboard. Let’s move on.)

All Hail the Queen

The second strategy is using more bitter liqueurs. Now by this I don’t mean bitters, as in aromatic bitters like Angostura, although I will get to those. I mean bitter liqueurs, things you might sip. Amari, basically, if that makes sense to you. So things like Campari, Aperol, Averna, Ramazzotti, and Fernet Branca (the queen among bitter liqueurs). Campari is an oldie and a goodie. I am shocked again and again that there are people who find Campari too bitter to drink; I find it, if anything, a little too sweet. There’s that “savory palate” of mine again. I like to put a splash (bigger than a dash?) of Campari into champagne on the rocks — add some bitter to some dry. Or mix Campari with seltzer and Meyer lemon (superior to normal lemon, for complex reasons: namely, complexity; see my blog post on the “double contrast”). But the choicest use for Campari is of course as one element of … the Negroni. The basic formula for this one is gin + Campari + sweet vermouth. The classic ratio is 1:1:1 — equal parts of everything. But as with all other cocktails, a lot of benefit is to be had by messing with those proportions. These days I like going with 6:5:4, gin:Campari:vermouth. This ratio respects the fact that the base liquor, gin, is indeed the base liquor. And it keeps the Campari higher than the sweet vermouth, which — you guessed it — is sweet. (I never said this blog post wasn’t going to be monomaniacal. Death to fructose! And again, no arguing allowed.)

ASIDE: A few notes on the Negroni. Don’t forget that vermouth is made of grapes, and will go bad in your liquor cabinet. I only just learned this recently, but, alas, I think it is true, and our parents were wrong. Vermouth should keep for about two weeks in the refrigerator. Also, don’t forget the twist of orange at the end (you can use lemon if in dire straits, or if listening to Dire Straits). You might think a twist of citrus is unnecessarily precious, but it’s not. When that whiff of essential oil hits your nose you’re going to flip out, trust me. Just take a knife to the orange peel, get a nice business-card-sized chunk (go big!) and then twist it over the drink. You’ll see the oils spread over the surface of the alcohol. After that you can drop the rind in there.

And so I don’t forget. Mixing and so on. I shake everything, unapologetically. Even — especially? — Manhattans and Martinis. Only fructose stirs its Manhattans. You don’t want to be fructose, do you? So throw some ice in that shaker, shake your Negroni components, then strain out the alcohol into a nice rocks glass, preferably with some big ice cubes in it. (The Sidecar, by the way, is also a shake-and-strain. Serve it in a martini glass. No garnish.) (And the most erudite among bartenders usually stir their Manhattans, so you know — I was just being difficult.)

Well I needed another picture. If you're ever in Chicago, they make a great Negroni at Bar DeVille (I don't work there and never have). Ask for Punt e Mes as your vermouth.

You can take the basic Negroni recipe and play around with it, which is a game bartenders play all the time. There’s a drink called the Trident — you will be greeted by blank stares if you order this anywhere but a fancy mixology bar — whose recipe is arrived at by subbing out each of the three Negroni ingredients for something similar to it. (Here‘s the source for this one, by the way.) You swap out the gin for aquavit; swap out the Campari for Cynar (an artichoke-themed bitter liqueur); and swap out the sweet vermouth for a dry sherry. And then (why?) you add peach bitters. The result is a terrific, and terrificly dry, cocktail. Similar things can happen when you mess around with the basic Negroni formula in other ways.

Alright, there are a whole lot of other ways to paleo-ize in the land of cocktails. One that I am trying to learn more about is making flips — drinks with egg yolk (or an entire egg). Egg white has been a common ingredient in cocktails for a while, but egg yolk is just so deliciously ancestral that I have set it as a goal for myself to become a master of the yolk-based cocktail. What does our deep-orange, yolky future hold for us? I’m dying to know. One thing I do know is that if I can eat while drinking that’s a step in the right direction. (I’ve also seen people adding bacon, and bone marrow, to cocktails. This might go too far.)

But because I am a mere novice in the world of egg yolks, I’ll close with something else. My third strategy for you will be the use of bitters. And this time I do mean bitters. The most famous are Angostura and Peychaud’s, but you see “craft” bitters popping up all over the place these days. Normally bitters are something you add to a drink for a finishing touch: a Manhattan, for example. Bitters are to cocktails what salt is to food; something that brings out all the other flavors and binds them together. But someone not too long ago had the great idea of resurrecting an idea from a little longer ago and made the bitters not just an addition to the drink, but the basis of the drink itself. The idea is admittedly wacky. If you have ever poured a few dashes of Angostura bitters into a glass and drunk it straight you would be justified in being a little upset right now. Who would want to drink a cocktail made out of Angostura bitters? But I assure you this one — the Trinidad Sour — is one of the best cocktails I have ever tasted.

A batch of my own orgeat; such a nice color

Bitters are bitter. So just as we need to “cut” alcohol in a normal cocktail we need to “cut” Angostura bitters in the Trinidad. The primary agent is orgeat. Essentially an almond syrup, this classic from the pre-1900 world of punches and the 1950’s world of Tiki manages to pair perfectly with the red-bark flavor of Angostura bitters. Look for a recipe online and use it as your guide: you will be soaking almonds, you will be adding about 1/4 to 1/3 of the sugar the recipe tells you to add (for real), and you will be indulging in a smidgeon of bitter almond extract. Normally orgeat takes rose water and orange flower water as well, but I actually think these are distractions in the Trinidad Sour. Whatever you do, though, make your orgeat yourself. It will be worth your while, partly because it is a key ingredient in a killer cocktail, but also because almonds, as we all know, are totally paleo, and you can just guzzle orgeat all day long and remain orthodox paleo.

Will be nice and frothy on top

The other ingredients in the Trinidad Sour are lemon juice and a high-proof rye, usually Rittenhouse 100. The proportions are these (I stray only slightly from them): 1 oz Angostura + 1 oz orgeat + 3/4 oz lemon juice + 1/2 oz rye. Throw all this in the shaker with ice, shake it up, and strain it into a coupe. No garnish. (The garnish would be a distraction, and the fresh lemon juice will make the drink taste fresh. Credit goes to Giuseppe Gonzalez, by the way.) Make this cocktail and people will tell you it’s the best thing they’ve ever tasted. That has its downsides, of course: I normally drink the Trinidad Sour in about 90 seconds. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

• • •

Thus was it blogged. There are plenty of books out there on cocktails, and some of them are quite good. My very limited goal was to offer you a few things that are friendly to my palate — under the hopeful assumption that your palate will be similar to mine. (Remember? We are buddies because of our gut flora? No?) So bring a little citrus into your life, bring on the bitter liqueurs, bring on the cocktail bitters. Their power is fast, furious, bold, and strong.

The new year calls you. Get those glutathione-supporting nutrients and that quercetin. Buy yourself a bottle of Campari and a shaker. Then enjoy the lovely time.

Wishing you and yours the best for the upcoming year,

WCC Paul.

Bacon & Onions, with Liver

27 Dec

This post can also be seen at Queen of the Stoneage and Chowstalker!

I worked through some childhood trauma last week; I’ve had a grassfed beef liver in my freezer for… a year or so. Haunted by memories of “that nasty liver smell,” it took awhile to get the nerve to cook the damn thing, but I finally did it. I want to love liver, really I do, but I think I’ll have to settle for tolerating it; I pulled every trick out of my sleeve that I could, but I still can’t say this was an enjoyable experience. Some of you actually enjoy liver though, so I will share my method. Meh…


1/2 a liver (mine was a little under 1.5lbs., and I knew I wouldn’t eat it all, so I just made half. I’m no scientist, but I’m not down with eating the filtering organs of sick animals; get a good grassfed one, it should still be pretty inexpensive)

1/2 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled, grease reserved

1 large onion

a few TBS of clarified butter

2 TBS arrowroot


Cauliflower Puree

1 head cauliflower, chopped into large chunks

1/3 cup broth

a few TBS heavy cream (optional)

a few TBS butter

Salt, pepper, & herbs to taste (I used herbes de provence)

A few hours before cooking time, slice liver into 1/2″ slices, and soak in milk or lemon juice; they say this will diminish some of the liver flavor. Slice onion and cook in clarified butter on medium-low heat for about half an hour until the onions get a bit caramelized; add bacon and set aside.

At this point, heat broth in a saucepan over medium high heat, and add cauliflower; steam for about 6 or 7 minutes until you can easily poke with a fork. Once it is tender, add butter, cream and seasonings, and puree (great job for a stick blender if you have one.) While cauliflower is cooking, add bacon to the pan that the onions were cooking in, and heat up to medium-high. Dry off liver slices, and place in a baggie with arrowroot, toss to coat. Once pan is hot, add slices of liver, and cook for about a minute on each side; it will be brown on the outside, and pretty rare on the inside.

I was amazed that there was NO SMELL! My mom is a great cook, but we have some, uhh, different ideas about how long to cook things; if you don’t cook the hell out of the thing, you may be spare your loved ones from the liver-stank. Serve with plenty of bacon & onions, and choke it down!

Mmm bacon! Eww liver! So conflicted...

The Highbrow Paleo Guide To Binge Drinking: Mitigating the deleterious effects of ethanol on health (or, How To Get Shitfaced With Impunity)

26 Dec

Part two can be found here (seriously consider reading it, the percentage of people who read the second one is low and it is important)

Disclaimer: If you are a recovering alcoholic/recovering from a health issue or are a modern puritan, this blog post may not be suitable for you. In the case of 1. Good luck. In the case of 2. Get ye gone! I’m sure even reading this blog is sinful in some way. Are you still here? Get! Shoo!

“Paleo diet? But I like booze!”

Is this you on New Year's Eve?

And I like it too. Hi I’m Stabby and I love the sauce, but I also like to be healthy. It is sometimes assumed that these things are mutually exclusive, and that anything more than an ever so modest consumption of alcohol is a deal-breaker when it comes to our health. The notion that excessive drinking is damaging to health permeates the culture, and unlike some common beliefs about health, there is much truth to it. The list of maladies caused by excessive alcohol consumption is quite long, and excessive drinking is no laughing matter. However, some of us have social lives that may occasionally lead us into situations of being passed out on a bathroom floor with clever sharpie artistry augmenting the beauty of our visages. Shit happens, and that is the point of this blog post. In this post I’m not encouraging binge-drinking, just suggesting ways of ameliorating the damage when shit happens. Hot tub parties happen, and judgmental parents in law happen. Some of us have a love affair with booze that isn’t going to go away, but it is my belief that as long as we exercise a little bit of restraint and take some precautionary measures we can have our booze and drink it, too.

But the thing is that various nutritional interventions, particularly nutritional supplements, have a licensing effect on people leading them to feel invulnerable to unhealthy practices like smoking, eating junk food, and drinking, and they take a healthy practice as a license to do more of those unhealthy things. It is a tempting response to the promises of damage reduction, but no matter what we do, we will never completely eliminate alcohol’s effects. “I’m 50% protected against the ill-effects of alcohol, so I can drink 50% more!” is bad reasoning, and it is easy to succumb to it. We want to make drinking less damaging, but we don’t want to use that as a reason to be reckless. Just because you have a helmet doesn’t mean you should run into a wall.

Whew, okay then. I really hate moralizing, so that’s the last of it you’ll hear from me!

Apparently this blog is called Highbrow Paleo, so I’m going to quickly address the Paleotude of alcohol. Our gut flora produce a small amount of ethanol, about 3g, every day. So it isn’t like ethanol is this completely foreign substance that we don’t know how to handle like synthetic trans fats; far from it. Drinking alcohol provides a lot more alcohol than we would have seen during the bulk of evolution, but if the metabolic pathways exist already then there isn’t as much reason to think that alcohol is something that we can’t metabolize. There is definite reason to think that it is problematic, but the degree to which it is depends upon the body’s response to it, and that’s what I intend to investigate in this post. Alcohol doesn’t belong in the same category as trans fats, and while it has been tied to many diseases it is my belief that a generally unhealthy lifestyle deficient in nourishment and high in unhealthy foods, combined with a lifestyle that is at odds with our biology, is the driving factor that determines alcohol’s toxicity. It is still toxic no matter what, but less toxic when we hack our biology with nutrition and other tools. This is a guide on how to do so.

Too much ethanol is toxic, but why? There are many reasons, but the main reason cited has to do with its metabolism inside the liver. Ethanol is metabolized to acetaldehyde, and then hopefully to acetate, because acetaldehyde  is very toxic; it is highly reactive and is the main reason why alcohol produces liver damage. When metabolism of acetaldehyde is sluggish, meaning that the aldehyde dehydrogenase enzyme is downregulated, it is a very slow conversion and we see acetaldehyde accumulate all over the place. In the liver of course, in the blood, the heart, and the brain. We all know that feeling and it isn’t a pleasant one. We want to reduce the amount of acetaldehyde that gets produced, and detoxify the acetaldahyde that does get produced while preventing the damage it does while it’s on the loose. Our bodies are well equipped to do this, but if they aren’t properly nourished or if the immune system is sloppy and sluggish, then repairs will turn into demolition and we won’t be built up again but torn down.

So we need to upregulate the aldahyde dehydrogenase enzyme first and foremost. This will clean up acetaldehyde and reduce the toxicity of alcohol by converting it into a more benign molecule. By far the most effective way I know how to do it is to take pantethine. Pantethine is the precursor of coenzyme A, which is needed for various metabolic conversions. One of them is the Acetaldehyde –> Acetate –> Acetyl CoA pathway, and its effects on reducing acetaldehyde in the blood are quite pronounced (1). Unfortunately, it is only effective in some people; for those who have significant facial flushing from alcohol consumption, pantethine won’t do much to reduce acetaldehyde after drinking. But for everyone else it is excellent for reducing the toxic acetaldehyde load. Those who get very flushy are out of luck here, and aren’t the best candidates to be drinking to the extreme in the first place, but then again there is much that can be done to make drinking healthier for these people, which takes us to the heart of the topic.

Even if we can find biohacks to reduce the amount of acetaldehyde we have to deal with, we can’t eliminate its production entirely, so we must protect against it and detoxify it. The best way to do this is by supporting the body’s natural defenses, the sulfur-containing antioxidant enzymes, namely glutathione, one of our best antioxidants and detoxifiers which works in tandem with the rest of our antioxidant team.

Much of the work in the field of alcohol research is done in rodents, because apparently it is unethical to try to kill people with booze. The evidence that can be garnered from rat studies isn’t a perfect reflection of what would happen in humans, but it can give us good grounds to experiment for ourselves, and usually the mechanisms are  the same in humans and rats and I’m confident that supporting the same defenses in humans will produce the same results in the major aspects discussed.

The format of these studies usually goes something like this: A big mean scary scientist guy tries to kill some rats with toxic doses of booze, oh sure it’s fun at first and every rat gets lucky, but sooner or later the alcohol takes its toll and the rats in the control group get diseases. The rats in the intervention group get the protective nutrients, and we compare the difference in health between them. Science, bitchez, it, like, works!

Significant improvements in health after alcohol feeding have been seen with basic combinations of nutrients that you can get at a supplement store. The scientists in reference (2) had this to say in their summary:

“Greatest protection against anesthesia and lethality was obtained at 2 mM/kg with each of the following:l-cysteine N-acetyl-l-cysteine, thiamin HCl, sodium metabisulfite, andl-cysteic acid. A combination of l-ascorbic acid with l-cysteine, and thiamin·HCl at reduced dose levels (2.0, 1.0 and 0.3 mM/kg, respectively) gave virtually complete protection.”

Lucky rats, take that Mr. Reaper! L-cystine and n-acetyl-l-cysteine are precursors to glutathione, and ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) is important for glutathione’s redox. Thiamin, vitamin B1, appears to be important in protecting against acetaldehyde toxicity, and is greatly reduced by consumption of large amounts of alcohol. Sulfur (MSM in supplement form) improves glutathione status as well, acting as a rate-limiting factor for its synthesis from amino acids. We want to be supporting the synthesis of glutathione and our other antioxidant enzymes daily with a healthy diet and reasonable supplementation. But if we’re drinking frequently,  supplementation is going to be a boon. Physical activity prior to drinking is also very protective as it increases production of antioxidant enzymes and protects against ethanol toxicity in the liver and the brain. (3) (4) (5)

The active component of milk thistle, silymarin, has a pronounced protective effect on the liver when it is under stress from alcohol. It too works to preserve the health of the liver and its antioxidant enzymes (6), so do consider it.

Alcohol is intimately tied to another aspect of the cirrhosis spectrum diseases called fatty liver disease. Some of you may have heard about non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which some believe sugar to play a role in. It is by far the less fun fatty liver disease to give yourself. The gist of it is that fat accumulates in the liver (steatosis) where it impairs its functioning, the liver becomes inflamed (steatohepatitis) as all of the damage needs to be repaired, but the dysfunctional immune system ends up being the nail in the coffin of the liver. There is fibrosis, an abnormal growth of  fibrous connective tissue, and our liver becomes very insulin resistant, creating problems elsewhere.  If we’re going to be abusing our livers, we should at least be sure that our immune system is on our side and we are doing everything we can to control inflammation. We’re degenerates, not imbeciles, thank you very much!

Possibly the biggest part of that is avoiding excessive amounts of omega-6 fatty acids, particularly the ones that have been oxidized and come from seed oils. Mice fed a diet high in omega-6 fatty acids develop the final stage of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (and were lucky to not get any alcohol or it would have been worse) but conversely, when they are fed coconut oil or other saturated fatty acids it is actually protective due to the generation of adiponectin, a protective hormone that prevents insulin resistance and is a powerful anti-inflammatory signaler (7) (8). Adiponectin is lower in people with a lot of visceral fat, people eating low fat diets, low fiber intake, low activity level,  excessive inflammation, and other generally unhealthy practices (9) (10). But I’m assuming  that you’re health-conscious, probably following the paleo diet, and don’t need to be told to do any of these things. Regardless, you absolutely can’t be low in choline or your liver won’t be able to metabolize fat (11), so eat your eggs or else! Keeping the liver in good shape allows it to deal with a toxic load when it happens.

The list of maladies associated with excessive consumption of alcohol also includes brain damage and damage to the mucosal barrier of the gut, leading to a permeable or “leaky” gut. Reducing and detoxifying acetaldahyde will play a big role in preventing this, but we also want to enhance cellular defenses as much as we can. We already touched on glutathione, and it has also been found that polyphenols in strawberries protect the mucosa through stimulating production of defenses (12), and zinc has also been shown to be protective (13) (14). Various amino acids like glycine and glutamine will help to repair the mucosa, as well as Vitamin A. Carnosine, found in red meat, is an excellent protector of the brain (15) As are all sorts of berries. These things are all prevalent in the paleo diet for most, but it may be wise to ensure an especially high intake around the time of drinking or afterwards. Bone broth and gelatin have significant amounts of glycine, glutamine, and arginine which protect the gut and liver from alcohol as well (16) (17). It would be a great next-morning breakfast along with coffee or tea.

There are many nutrients that can curtail the inflammatory cascade that occurs when the liver is damaged, and while the paleo diet is generally strongly anti-inflammatory, extra ammunition will help nearly anyone. Ginger tea, quercetin, curcumin, resveratrol, and various herbs and spices protect the liver against ethanol toxicity and are helpful prior to or after a night of drinking (10) (18) (19) (20) (21). Red wine and quercetin are apparently a match made in heaven as red wine facilitates the absorption of quercetin (22). Score one more for booze! How’s that for healthy pills in your drink? Bound to confuse somebody, but not you.

Of course we want to stress moderation if possible, but if you find yourself just a little too drunk, consuming sugar will eliminate the alcohol from your blood faster (23). I recommend fresh fruit, which also has other protective elements.


Prior to drinking

  • Exercise
  • Pantethine
  • Glutathione-supporting nutrients: n-acetyl cysteine 500mg, alpha-lipoic acid, 500mg, MSM powder or comparable amount of sulfur from food – 5g
  • Thiamin 100mg
  • Choline 500mg
  • Carnosine 500mg
  • Milk thistle 500mg
  • All kinds of spices
  • Berries
  • Gelatin
  • Vitamin E (gamma tocepherol and tocetrienols, not just alpha-tocepherol and definitely not the synthetic form)

During or just before drinking

  • Curcumin 500mg
  • Quercetin 500mg
  • Ginger tea
  • Resveratrol 200-500mg
  • Anything else that is anti-inflammatory
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E

The next day

  • Tea including ginger tea
  • Coffee
  • Gelatin/bone broth
  • All other nutrients that were consumed prior to drinking, because they will be low

This isn’t an exhaustive presentation of ways to protect yourself from alcohol’s ill-effects, and everyone should search further to find more remedies that work. There are other mechanisms that I haven’t touched upon, but the tips and tricks proposed within this article are likely to be protective in other ways that weren’t mentioned. If you have a particularly good remedy please share it, and have a happy holiday season, hopefully you will remember it! Cheers.



























What’s in a Cow?

21 Dec

One of our cows?

My husband is an unemployed economist (oh, irony!), and money is tight.  One of the major (and legitimate) criticisms of ancestral diets is the cost.  It’s a hard thing to do on a very tight budget.  I spend a lot of time cooking and freezing, doing as much processing as I can, seeking out local deals, scrounging free produce from the farmers market that I work at, food pantries, and stuff from cans.  There is a lot of effort involved in this.  Because I feel that food is my medicine that prevents my illness from developing, I do not consider it an option to return to the less expensive, more convenient vegetarian grain-based diet that I ate before.  I thought as an informational post, I could talk a bit about our experience buying half of a cow.  it’s an experience that not a lot of people have these days, particularly from an animal that you know personally, and we were fortunate to have the opportunity to do it.

Our friends E and J are farmers in Vermont.  J’s brother is a dairy farmer, and a couple of years ago gave them three of his male Jerseys to raise for meat.  These three little guys lived fully on pasture, happy as clams with their little donkey friends keeping them calm.  I knew them.  My kids knew them.  In November, E asked us if we could like half of one of the guys, that they were going to market the following week.  Five of the six halves he sold to us and our friends, and the other half he was still looking for a buyer for.

Since everything happened very quickly, we had to make room in our basement on short notice and with short cash.  We had a half-full 5 cubic foot freezer already, and we bought a second freezer of the same size for $169.  It was less expensive to do this than to trade in the one small freezer for a larger one, and this way we can eat our way though one freezer and shut the empty one off in order to save money.

The steers went to market the Friday before Thanksgiving, and were ready to be picked up the week after.  The sides hung between325 and 360 pounds. This should yield 60% to 65% take home beef. For the sake of figuring out what your price per pound cost will be E used 60%.  Our cost was $0.55 per pound for cutting and wrapping.

                 $1.50 per pound for the hanging carcass; this is a standard way for selling sides of beef and is on the very low-end of the spectrum. E also had the guys doing the slaughter remove some extra fat and kidneys that are usually left on to add to the weight.
                 $20.00 – Slaughter cost $40 per animal.

Our cow? Thats my daughter in the blue.

When figuring a 60% return on the hanging weight this will come out to a price of $3.50 per pound for what we took home. Since 60% is low, we made out a little better than this.   Our half was 325 pounds, and we got just over 200 pounds of beef.  What exactly does two-hundred pounds of beef look like?  Well, I wish I took a picture, because it was pretty impressive but I was in a great hurry to get it all catalogued and into the deep freeze.  My husband drove up to Vermont to pick it up at our friends farm and when he pulled in the driveway, the entire back of our SUV, seats folded down, every inch covered with another cooler.
When you get half of a cow, this is what you’re looking at:
~48 packages of ground beef wrapped in 1.5# packages
~9 large top round steaks
~18 packages of shanks, three shanks per package
~3 bottom round roasts
~11 porterhouse steaks
~15 rib eye steaks
~4 eye of round roasts
~4 rump roasts
~5 sirloin steaks
~3-3# packs of stew meat
~3 london broils
~2 brisket
~3 chuck roasts
~5 short ribs (3# each package)
~3 t-bone steaks
~2 tenderloin
~2 shin bones

These are the three steers! They are actually watching my daughter have a tantrum but she is out of the frame.

The roasts are all about four pounds, and the steaks about one inch thick.  I did ask for any bones or organs that they could give me, but only was able to get the two marrow bones that I will use for stock.  Next time we do this, I think I will try harder for the liver, more bones, and more of the nasty bits that no one but me would want.  I would love the tendons, heart, liver, tail, and for some reason I didn’t get a flank or skirt steak which is too bad because I was planning on a big old Rouladen.

So far the meat has been delicious.  We have had a few packages of the ground meat in a sweet potato shepherds pie, meatloaf and meatballs, and I made BBQ pulled pork from the bone-in chuck roast.  Unfortunately not many people have the opportunity to ever eat meat this fresh, from animals who they knew personally.  We feel very blessed to have this much healthy, ethically raised, local food to feed our family, and I look forward to giving steak instead of cookies for hostess gifts this holiday season.
Next up: “How the hell did I end up with a deer neck, and what in god’s name do I do with it?”

An Adventure Through the Odd Bits

5 Dec

“If you are going to knock an animal on the head, it’s only polite to eat the whole thing”.

Fergus Henderson, author of The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating

Now I know that offal is good for me, it’s good for all of us; but I have no idea what to do with most of it.  I would guess that most people in North America would have no idea what to do with most odd bits once confronted with them.  There must be tons of reasons why offal has come off the menu.  Price and availability of what is considered to be premium cuts could have been the initial driving force, but I suspect it has more to do with a large portion of the younger generations being grossed out.  I don’t really understand why though, what on earth is the difference between a heart and a loin?  For me it is less of an ‘ick factor’ and more of a ‘well what the hell am I supposed to do with it’.  I knew that there were membranes, valves, veins and outer layers that needed to be taken off but I needed to know where, and when in the process.  Most, if not all of the recipes that I had found did not make any mention of such things, so I was intimidated and just stayed away – until recently.  I had the enormous luck to get sent a link to an event at a local kitchen – an interactive cooking class with Jennifer McLagan, author of OddBits.   YIPEEEEEE!

***Caution there are photos of odd bits ahead***

So here is what I see as I arrive, a whole plate full of bits and bots, odds and sods!  How exciting.  The day started with introductions, and some very informal chat amongst the participants, the host chef and Jennifer.  I should add that there were only about ten participants, so it was very intimate!  We were given wine (BONUS!) upon arrival which really helped to set the mood.  Now pardon my patchiness with directions as we go, I did take notes and I did taste everything, but I was drinking the wine so these notes aren’t as thorough as my set of 3rd year chem. notes.

We were all encouraged to get up, help to cook and most importantly touch everything.

First on the menu was warm and cold poached cows tongue.  My notes on tongue say to brine overnight, poach for 2-3 hours with star anise and cinnamon, MAKE SURE TO PEEL THE SKIN OFF.  Both the warm and chilled tongue was sliced thin and served with salsa verde.  I preferred the chilled tongue (it was chilled in the fridge overnight), the texture was slightly different than the warm tongue; but both were incredibly delicious for such a disgusting looking cut of meat.  The salsa verde was a great accompaniment, as the dense nature of the tongue went nicely with the sharp acidity of the salsa verde.  I went back for seconds, thirds and fourths of this one.  I also ate a couple of pieces without the salsa verde to really see what it tasted like, and I did like it on its own.  The salsa verde was prepared in-front of me, but all I jotted down was anchovy, fresh mint, capers, mustard.  It didn’t look any more complex than that, but if anyone has a superior recipe for me I would appreciate it!

  The next culinary wonder was the pig’s ear – Ya, I know I thought that they were dog chews too!  And I was pretty sure this was the one that I wasn’t going to like.  To my horror, I really liked them.  These little matchsticks are definitely not a meal, not even an appetizer; they would be better suited as a salad topper or fun garnish.  To me they tasted like pork rinds, probably because they are pigs skin, fat and cartilageJ.  My notes on the pigs ears say to poach for 1.5 hours until the skin comes up slightly from the cartilage.  Slice thin, dress lightly with a vinaigrette.  Or can be used for broth.  Do it – try these little guys, I dare you!

On to the next delicious offering, the one thing that I had the most trepidation about, heart.  Heart to me was always a mystery, what was the texture, how would it taste, do you slow cook it, flash fry it, grill it.  Jennifer prepared heart two ways for us, and I liked them both very much.  First we ate heart panfried, sliced fairly thin (about a quarter of an inch) and fried quickly to a medium rare in hot oil or lard.  The heart was then plated and a pan sauce made with onions, sherry and cream.  This tasted like the best steak that I have ever had.  The flavour was out of this world, and the texture was a dream.  I really couldn’t believe that I liked it this much.  And then to realize that to feed the family a nice dinner sized portion of heart would cost roughly $2.50 for all three of us was a shock!  Needless to say, I had four helpings of this little wonder, and got my wine glass refilled.

Heart the second way – tartare! This is not for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach.  Chop heart, capres, shallots, cornichons (or pickles for you non-‘fancy chef’ types) add egg yolk, salt, Worchester, and mustard and mix.  There’s your recipe.  It was delish.  I would eat it again and again, the only problem is I don’t think I have enough people around me who would be adventurous enough to eat this, and it’s really a pity because this was yum yum yummy!  My other notes on heart say the Jennifer really recommends to cook (stew/braise) it whole and when its finished slice it up and re-heat it in it’s sauce the next day.  She said the taste and texture are great when chilled and re-heated.

So my last picture on the list is one that I have been thinking about not adding on this post, but it was so delicious that I’m throwing caution to the wind and posting it with a picture of what I ate, and yes I ate it all – and I had seconds, and thirds and maybe even fourths.  Even looking at the picture now – two weeks later- my mouth waters with anticipation.  Pigs feet bruschetta.  These feet were covered in a salt rub overnight and then poached.  All the meat, fat and skin were then taken off and chopped up.  The bread was sliced thin and toasted, then spread with grainy mustard.  Then the pigs foot mixture spread generously on top, and then they were put under the broiler until all bubbly and toasty.  They were heaven.  I know it’s white bread, I feel slightly bad, and have been wracking my brain for a suitable substitution, and alas have thought of nothing that would provide the right crunch.  Oh well, guess I won’t be making these little treasures at home, but one can hope right??

We had one more dish, but I didn’t take a picture.  We had pan-fried beef liver.  I didn’t like it.  I’ve never been a fan of liver – I have tried it on multiple occasions and prepared a variety of ways, I just don’t like beef liver.  And you know what, after seeing what I ate above I think it’s ok that I don’t like beef liver.  I think it tastes like what licking a barn would taste like (yuck!).

Another note – spleen was in the first picture.  It is recommended to confit spleen rolled up (like pinwheels).  There is a funny membrane that is not easily removed when raw.  So I did not get to try the spleen; maybe for the best as it is extremely hard to obtain where I live, so better that I don’t develop a taste for it.

I feel as though after this wonderful afternoon that I am a much more polite eater of animals now, and will be introducing my family to some odd bits.


1 Dec
He soon would learn to think like me,
and bless his ravisht Sight to see
Such order from Confusion sprung,
Such gaudy Tulips rais’d from Dung.

Swift, from The Lady’s Dressing Room

Boy with the bucket,
If you didn’t like the job,
You shouldn’t a tuck it.

Brown, from “Licking Stick, Licking Stick”

People often ask me, “why do you eat a Paleo diet?” Actually, that’s not true. I can’t think of a single time anyone’s asked me that. I did get some nice comments on my tits the other night, after the soccer game. I mentioned something about not eating bread. The dude’s eyes looked away. What do you say to that? We went back to drinking.

Still, there is a story here. Back in October of  2007 I found myself with a broken collarbone and lots of vicodin. The stuff really stops you up. I had my first normal bowel movement in about 20 years. It was a revelation. The experience suggested my chronic shits might be reversible. I hadn’t considered that. Weeks of Internet research later—vicodin does not exactly fuel the fires of research—I started to notice that the celiacs sounded a lot like me. I got a doctor to order the test and, fancy that, I had a positive diagnosis.

Getting rid of wheat gluten is really no problem once you accept it as a life-or-death proposition. I lost 15 or 20 pounds right away. I can’t say I felt better though. Some of the gluten-free crowd are in the habit of eating gluten-replacement foods. I went through that and moved on. Fuck pancakes. Made of wheat or rice, it’s the same thing. I never liked them anyway. I hid pancakes and vegetables behind the stove when I was a little kid. My parents were always finding bits of my mummified food. I just wanted to eat hot dogs all day. Still do.

A long time ago, I was a beautiful boy. The meat man at my local supermarket told me so. He bopped me on the head with his meaty hand to punctuate this fact. My mom was there, so it was ok. Sort of. Actually, I was a bit traumatized. For years.

So, how do things get so messed up? Here’s what I mean. This is me in 2007:

I’m the one in the middle, with my little girl in San Diego. At the San DiegoZoo. I had just begun a strict gluten-free diet. This, by the way, was me looking better.

I knew there were other pieces of the puzzle that I had yet to solve. For one, I still could not take a proper crap. For another, my skin had red bumps and was itchy all the time. Also I was still kind of a fat fuck.

I eliminated certain sugars, along the lines of diets with acronyms like SCD, GAPS, and FODMAPS. I also eliminated soy, which had the benefit of clearing up my skin problems. Who would have known that eliminating such a healthy food additive could produce such a profoundly positive effect? This question prompted me to ask, what other crap is killing me that I don’t know about? And that’s when I discovered a bunch of Internet crazies who were engaged in Paleolithic human diet re-enactment.

Of course that’s not entirely true. The diet itself is whatever you want it to be, as long as you’re true to the ideal that avoiding the crap that’s killing you is important and serious. You can drink as much as you want. At least that’s my take on it. Wine, potato vodka, 100% agave tequila. These are on the list. Why? Because I say so. It’s my list. I’ve had at least two glasses of wine every day since going gluten-free. And I think that’s probably a low estimate. Really low, actually.

But the proof is in the pudding, as they say. If it weren’t so tacky, I’d go ahead and show you my tits, right here on this blog. But, again, I’m a man of sophistication and taste.

Why do I eat paleo? One day, the curious associate or colleague will ask the question. And I’ll be ready to set the record straight for the world. It was a vicodin-inspired autumn evening back in 2007 that showed me a vision. A vision of a world in which one’s turds behave themselves. And that has made all the difference.

daughter has outgrown face paint