Sugar – Just Say No
I do not subscribe to the low-fat, low-salt method of cooking, although I do agree with the nutrition experts that humans should limit sugar. Personally, I think the current dietary guidelines still allow way too much sugar, and I would cut that even more. And no, I don’t think it matters whether the sugar is raw, organic or any other kind of fancy, high-priced sugar. We eat very little sugar in this house. The average American eats about 130 pounds of sugar a year (which means lots of them eat a lot more than that). That works out to 38 teaspoons of empty calories, cavities, heart disease and diabetes every day. At our house we might go through 25 pounds a person in a year and that’s pushing it. Sugar is addictive and that’s a roller-coaster I’d just as soon avoid. I have also found that sugar winds me up to the point that if I eat or drink anything sweet within a few hours of bedtime, I can’t go to sleep. Most of the sugar I buy ends up in the hummingbird feeders. I do like a little honey – which does have some nutrients in it – in my morning cup of coffee. Occasionally I bake a special treat for hubby or a kid such as birthday cake, but I rarely eat more than a mouthful. By the way, for you dieters out there: if you make sure you eat at least three ounces of good quality protein and a tablespoon of fat at each meal, you’ll find that sugar and carb cravings will pretty much go away within a few weeks.
Fat is Good
Humans need fat – real fat, like the kind in raw butter, tallow, lard and whole milk from grass-fed cows or the marbling on a steak, also from grass-fed cattle. Little kids need it even more, as their brains will not develop properly without the essential fatty acids found in fats from real food. Cholesterol is so important to your body’s functions that it will manufacture the stuff if you don’t get enough in your diet. The notion that cholesterol causes heart disease is one of the biggest lies ever perpetrated on the public. In fact, people who eat the most saturated fat and have the highest cholesterol levels live the longest (proven in several large, long-running, high-quality studies), despite what medical experts in the US trumpet about how everyone should have statin medications to reduce cholesterol.
At my house, we add more salt to our food at the table than is considered politically correct. However, we use sea salt, which is very different stuff compared to table salt (less sodium, because it’s not highly purified, and lots of trace elements). Because we rarely eat commercially processed foods, we don’t get any added salt other than what we add ourselves.
Meat and Eggs
We eat eggs almost every day and most meals feature some sort of meat. We don’t free-range our chickens, as the bobcats, hawks and foxes would be the primary beneficiaries of that system. Our chickens have large pens in which they can scratch, take dust baths, find insects and get sunlight. In addition to the leaves from the shade trees, they have old hay and straw in the pens. We feed them some grain, but they also get food scraps of all sorts, clabbered milk and chicken cheese (a quick cottage cheese made with boiling milk and vinegar). They also get supplemental minerals, their own crushed eggshells and (very occasionally) a little oyster shell. I’m hedging my bets with the oyster shell, as I’m pretty sure it contains micronutrients that the chickens would not get otherwise. I toss in weeds and garden gleanings. The pigs get a similar diet. The sheep and cows graze our pastures and are fed hay in the winter. The hay may be grass, grass-alfalfa, or a mixed grain hay such as oats, wheat and barley. They also eat a wide variety of weeds, forbs and other pasture growth, as well as poison oak. In addition they nibble leaves from various trees and bushes. This sort of meat is light-years away from the stuff at the meat counter in your neighborhood grocery store.
The Grain Problem
By and large, I don’t eat many grains. I have learned the hard way that I have become wheat-sensitive as I have gotten older, so my wheat intake is minimal. I have also found, because I keep an eye on my blood pressure, that on days when I’ve indulged in pasta or other flour-based foods, my blood pressure will climb from its usual 120/70 (and often lower) to 150/85 or above. It’s pretty obvious that if I eat grains all the time, I’m going to be hypertensive. There’s also some research out there that indicates modern grains, especially wheat – which has been hybridized to within an inch of its life – is very different stuff from the grains we humans evolved with. If you’re going to eat grains, I highly recommend you grow or find old wheats like Emmer and Einkhorn, or more modern wheats grown at least 100 years ago. Heirloom dent and flour corns are a better choice than hybrids for the same reason. There are still older varieties of barley and oats out there, but it’s pretty hard to find older kinds of rice.
The Truth About Nutrition
I’m not going to get into a lot of detail about how misled most nutritionists and medical people are when it comes to the American diet; if you’re interested, read Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions, or check out the Weston A. Price Foundation website. Dr. Malcom Kendrick, Scottish author of The Great Cholesterol Con and Doctoring Data, is another good source for information about food, science, pharmaceuticals and health (especially as it relates to cholesterol and heart disease). Suffice it to say that if you get your nutrition information from the media or conventional sources, most of what you think you know about nutrition is wrong. If you choose to nourish your body with something that comes in a cardboard box or plastic bag, you will be sorry (and possibly dead at a much earlier age than would otherwise have been the case).
When you live on a ranch, there’s always more to do than there is time to do it in. Recipes that can take care of themselves, so to speak, or that can go from freezer to oven to table, are much more useful to the ranch wife than something that has to be watched carefully and stirred constantly. Recipes that can be assembled are another ranch wife favorite. I do have a few recipes that the cook must watch and fuss over, but they’re generally reserved for special occasions or winter cooking, when there are not quite so many demands on my time.
Ingredients in my cooking tend to be elastic, partly because you never know exactly what’s coming out of the garden on a given day or in what quantity. With the exception of cakes and a few other dishes, in which exact ingredients and careful measuring are important to the final outcome, feel free to play with these recipes to your heart’s content (and if you come up with a dynamite variation, please let me know!).
I also have a few recipes that I consider WTSHTF recipes; foods that don’t require modern ingredients or highly technical tools. These are the sort of thing you might cook over an open fire or on a wood stove when the power is out, for example. I’ve always been interested in how people lived in the “olden days,” and I figure the more I know about such cooking and preservation techniques, the more likely I and my offspring will be to survive a real calamity.
My recipes have come from Lord-knows-how-many sources. If I remember (or even know) where I got it, I will credit the source. After fifty-plus years of cooking, however, the origins of some recipes have been lost in the mists of time.
If you’re my kind of cook, you’ll probably find lots of familiar foods and techniques here. If you’re not my kind of cook, you might want to read along anyway, as you never know when you’ll learn something useful.
Welcome to the ranch wife’s garden and kitchen!