After years of hearing how great grains are for health and how awful red meat is, I see that the diet mythologists are busy discovering and deciphering a new Dead Sea Scrolls of holy food. Grain is a culprit now, sending us to early graves. Two popular recent books proclaim the gluten-free road to immortality: Wheat Belly and Grain Brain. Both suggest that we are eating too many carbohydrates— too much bread, pasta, and potatoes. What flabbergasted me was the advice in Grain Brain: eat more high fat foods like meat and less grain. The brain needs more cholesterol and fewer carbohydrates.
If so, why am I not a genius? I have been eating a diet high in fats for 80 years now. Evidently the only reason my brilliance doesn’t rise to the surface for all to appreciate is because I cancelled out the good effects of butter and meat with tons of high-carbohydrate potatoes, pasta and bread. The only thing that saved me from sinking into total insanity was that I drenched the carbohydrates in gallons of greasy fat meat gravy.
But I should not make fun of these anti-grain books. I know of a guy who overdosed on bread and it wasn’t funny. In our boarding school cafeteria, we could always get second, third, and fourth helpings of white bread after we gulped down the main meal. We always thought we were close to starvation and so we filled up on Wonder bread. If a teacher pointed out the possible dangers of hogging down all that dough, our answer was “better bread than dead.” One of the guys began stowing away half a loaf or more for dessert after every meal, smearing the slices with jelly or when that ran out, with mustard or ketchup which were also always available for some reason known only to the gods of boarding schools. Finally the dough balled up in his stomach so badly that he ended up in the hospital. Wonders of Wonder, he lived to be 80.
The things I should not eat, or eat only a little of, have been accumulating since the 1950s. If you are as old as I am, you remember it all started with cranberries. Why cranberries were thought to cause cancer I can’t remember. Then came the big outburst against eggs: they’d kill us with high cholesterol. Along about that same time, cream and butter became food porn. Then the guns of food mythology trained their sights on meat. From eating fat red meat, we would all die of plugged arteries long before we could retire and die of trying to live on Social Security and zero interest on our savings. Switching to fish might not help because it could be soaked in mercury. With grains and potatoes now added to the list of poisons, not to mention refined sugar and corn syrup, only fruits and green vegetables remain sacrosanct, if you can find some not infected with salmonella. But my doctor once advised me not to eat grocery greens because they might be sprayed with something that makes them glisten on the shelf as if dewy fresh. That fake dew might be why I was suffering from irritated bowel syndrome, he said. Actually I think my bowel problems were coming from worrying about eating meat, sea food, cream, candy, bread, butter, and pasta, or becoming an alcoholic because red wine was the only healthful liquid left. Even water was dangerous.
Now it appears that our heavenly homemade bread is verboten because it comes from modern wheat varieties that we get from our neighbors. I say phooey. Better dead than giving up Carol’s bread.
Sorry to butcher your last name, Bill!; that would be ‘Buron’, not “Burton”.
I know many elders who have thrived on eating a very simple diet of bread, meat, fruit and vegetables. As a matter of fact, they are healthier than I am so this should be considered a ‘litmus test’ to the veracity of eating natural wheat products; they live!
Let us keep baking warm loaves of bread, Bill Burton, to break with kith and kin for they bring us closer together in heart and hearth.
I agree wilth you so much on this issue. My wife cooks real food made with items from our garden and those bought from farmers that we know. I make real bread at least once a week. I see no reason to stop eating what we truly enjoy because someone says that bread/wheat is bad for us now. They seem to have been wrong before
EXCELLENT Blog! I am so tired of reading shallow, if not idiotic, bloggers who jump on the mainstream mantra bandwagon, attesting to the horrors of eating organic bread, pancakes, waffles, or crepes, yet, allow for adverts from companies that pimp processed products MADE from genetically modified wheat and corn! The Cognitive Dissonance is louder than a sonic boom.
Almost everyone I talk to these days is told that they are “gluten intolerant” and now must be placed on a special diet of non-gluten products ( wonder who has bought stock in the companies who manufacture gluten free products? ). I am the very miserable recipient of Pancreatitis due to the proliferation of HFCS strategically placed in every processed product on your local grocers shelf yet not ONE doctor has told me to go on a HFCS free diet…….odd.
Not one doctor has told me the horrors of consuming nutrient deficient, processed foods, crammed full of artificial ingredients that alters not only our DNA but, also, brain and organ function…..odd. I actually had a doctor tell me that there was not enough “scientific” proof that HFCS, Aspartame and MSG cause health problems. ( *******blinking rapidly here*******)
They have neglected to tell us that “irritable bowel syndrome” is the direct consequence of eating HFCS and GMO’s that cause leaky gut syndrome……..odd.
I think “food porn” is a perfect description of the modern, artificially processed diet.
So, knowing that “allopathic practitioners” are motivated by profit, and, know little to nothing of nutrition, I would say that consuming organic wheat products are not only safe but in the best interest of our health and well being! Anyone who has NEVER made a homemade loaf of bread and slathered copious amounts of freshly made butter ( from pasture raised dairy cows ) on a warm slice of that homemade loaf has truly missed out on one of the most intoxicating pleasures of a simple life. Tragic….
Thank you for speaking truth to the idiocy of powerful “interests”! I will definitely be back for more inspiration.
Welcome, Paul Scott. Seems to me, at least here in the U.S. that the higher the land price goes, the more contrary farmers raise their obstinate heads. Gene
Very interesting to arrive at your blog site.
I am a New Zealander and I am reading a book on the great famine in China under Mao 1958+. Mao instituted deep ploughing, on no known scientific basis.
The Chinese peasants had to deep plough with primitive tools, even their hands down to nearly a metre.
All the food was collectivized to export. Tens of millions of Chinese died from starvation 1958 to 1962.
So I looked up deep ploughing in google and up your site came.
I realized that I have never been hungry in my life other than a few hours.
I am enjoying reading about your farm and life.
New Zealand is practically one big dairy farm now [ grass feed ] and we send most of our dairy exports to China.
Yes there is so much rot talked about food. Just now we are having a mental crisis in New Zealand because grains are considered high glycaemic.
We do have increasing and alarming diabetes.
I do not think we have the same tendency to self diagnose food conditions as you, but we are well on our way.
I got on an Emirates flight to come to Bangkok. The air hostess said ‘ do you have any dietary requirements’
I said ‘ yes please give me two feeds ‘
Haha just joking, my calorie problem was the wine . I could take out a litre a day, 840 calories but the weight gain after I reached 60 just too much. So I had to give up wine.
I will read you other entries now, good going, you are quite an inspiration.
We don’t really have contrary farmers so much in New Zealand, the price of land is very high
I can’t help thinking that all this “eat this / don’t eat that” advice is more directed at people who buy food rather than grow and make it themselves. If you’re growing your own food, I’m pretty sure most dieticians will be happy for you to eat whatever you want of it.
I suspect early humans also ate a fair amount of insects,did little cooking,were happy to scavanage off kills of large predators most of which few humans do today. Exotic foods from far off places might not be the best thing for humans either much research has been done on moving cattle from one area to another that has different forages and the new comers never do as well as the ones that were raised there eating the forage they were raised on.
Also humans up until the 20th Century when refrigeration came along were seasonal eaters eating whatever was available at certain times of the year and then not having it again until the next year rolled around.
Of course the contary argument is we all live longer but that has alot ot do with being protected from the elements of weather and being affluent enough to be able to look out for someone other than onesself.
One of my dreams is to meet two of my heroes: Gene Logsdon and Wes Jackson while they’re both still this side of the grass. Meeting Joel Salatin also would just be low carb frosting on the low carb cake. In the interim internet will have to do.
Or, as Robert Heinlein put it: “Everything in excess! To enjoy the flavor of life, take big bites. Moderation is for monks!”
James M. Thomas, you are probably aware of Wes Jackson’s Land Institute in Kansas where he has had considerable success in developing perennial grains that require little cultivation and cause zero erosion. I love that quote, whoever said it. All things in moderation including moderation. Gene
Ah, the joys of reductionist science! it’s so hard for so many people to get the concept that it’s not just one thing but many little things, all acting in synergy. If your genetic background is northern European, you can probably do just fine with milk, but if G-G-G-G-G-grandpa came from Asia or Africa, odds are you’ll have some degree of lactose intolerance. If you have celiac disease, grains are definitely a no-no, and if you’re slightly gluten intolerant (as I seem to have become in the aging process) you might have to limit even the old-fashioned, well-soaked grains or suffer the consequences. Probably the one thing we can say with certainty (maybe;-) is that a diet high in processed foods and a lifestyle low in exercise is not a good thing for most people.
Great post Gene; now if we could just figure out a way to grow grains sustainably without erosion, or adding to global warming, or nutrient runoff killing sea life, or grain fields displacing native ecosystems so even our respective grandchildren could enjoy the smell of fresh baked bread guilt free, for long into the future, what a wonderful world this could be.
I’ve done the low-carb diet several times (refer to next paragraph for results) and still need to watch the carbs inasmuch as Type II Diabetes will flare up if I don’t and scare me real good in the process; with high pulse rate, high blood sugar, heart just a-pounding and face really flushed, and feel really weak. I’ve found that to counter such effects when I eat carbs I need to be really active shortly thereafter such as: doing my facsimile of running, or better yet, forking the manure pack onto the garden or a compost pile, or working on the woodpile, or stacking hay into the loft, or pulling weeds etc. Carbs are fuel and hence need to be burned.
I did the Atkins thing a few times and lost weight like crazy, ( a pound a day) but I also ended up in the hospital two or three times (It’s all kind of blurry now how many times it was) with diverticulitis, which could easily have killed me.and was quite painful and expensive to treat. So I still indulge in bread and whole grain cereal to help keep diverticulitis at bay. Besides, I’m just not ready to give up entirely on bread just freshly baked or fresh hot cereal and potato foods. Yes, eating carbs makes it harder to lose weight in my experience, but I haven’t had to return to the hospital with diverticulitis if I eat a little bit of bread and cooked cereal along with the meat, fish and vegetables, I once saw a coffee mug which stated: ” exercise, eat fiber and vegetables; get hit by a bus, die anyway” which pretty well sums up life for me.
I’m told a pig’s digestive system and metabolism is similar to ours, so I report this just for discussion purposes. I fed a grown sow I bought for breeding purposes with two to three ears of corn per day, plus all the alfalfa hay she wanted and no more than a handful of protein supplement that contained (Heaven forbid– animal meal, fish meal and probably some soy protein as well) Within three to five months she, shall we say, bloomed, and yet did not conceive, although exposed to an amorous boar several times. So when she was approaching 700# I butchered her. I was rather astounded to actually measure between 2 1/2 to three inches of nice white fat covering nearly her entire body beneath the skin, except for the portion of the legs that are nearest the ground. The internal organs were well coated in fat as well. There was a lot of lard rendered as a result.
In contrast, hogs which I fed on mostly alfalfa and grass without some grain didn’t gain nearly as fast but their tissues, when butchered, were mostly lean, firm, healthy looking meat. I learned from a long- time, old-school farmer to do this mainly alfalfa diet for hogs if you were planning to breed them, but don’t neglect a daily bite of the protein supplement. Morrison’s: ” Feeds and Feeding” book ( essentially the old time Stockman’s Bible ) states pretty much the same concept : to go easy on high carbohydrate foods such as grain and potato products for breeding stock, especially hogs. Although, just as an observation, I’ve noticed similar results with other livestock such as sheep, goats, or cattle. Morrison’s also recommends using the carbohydrate rich livestock foods such as corn, potato etc to increase daily weight gain for market animals to get them to market weight faster. The book also notes that corn fed hogs have much firmer fat than hogs fattened on a mostly acorn diet.
I’m not saying the same concept applies to humans, but it’s food for thought anyway (pardon the pun). I don’t know how feasible it would be to carry out a similar dietary test on humans anyway because finding humans that eat a lot of alfalfa and not much else except a bit of protein could be difficult. (although with all the food faddists today there might be a few such subjects.)
Our ancient ancestors ate low-carb by hunting and gathering, (and I suspect that carrying the harvested grain collected after a day of gathering was calorie neutral compared to the effort expended), but often their lives were ended early by the same animals they were hunting. Being trampled and gored by a mammoth or bison can really ruin one’s day, which the paleo-diet folks seem to forget.
Therefore, today I’m covering the food bases by grinding the meat from a free-range-grass-fed goose which I cooked in a pressure cooker because otherwise it is too tough for me to chew, and it is stringy, although very tasty, meat unless it’s ground) while I’m also enjoying some limited carbohydrates by eating a baked apple and a potato and making some fresh whole grain bread and cereal. As Mark Twain reportedly stated, : All things in moderation; including moderation”.
I think you are right….so hard to supply food for all the phobias/allergies/special diets. Just recently I had a “vegan” guest. Big smile as she thought one dish of food with a chicken broth base would be fine? And my house did get cleaned! Refined foods are the real problem, in my estimation.
Yes, Eumaeus, I have heard of this Paleo movement but like so many things these days, my memory is dim. One of my favorite boyhood pastimes if I was in town was to stand outside the bakery on bake day and smell. Thanks to all of the people who responded to this post. You are all very wonderful and special and make writing this blog so much fun. Gene
According to the latest study, grits ain’t groceries, eggs ain’t poultry and Mona Lisa was a man! Great photo and love the weekly thoughts.
Great saying that! Must write it down somewhere
I got this from my 74 year old mom:
The intertubes have given the food faddists a greater platform than ever. These are the kinds of things that used to be typed in multiple carbon copies — later, photocopied — and passed around at women’s meetings or discussed on radio call-in recipe exchanges and such.
Right up there with the P&G satanist symbol and suchlike.
Nowadays a popular “health care” journalist or blogger can make a surmise that some food or food additive might be dangerous if ingested in excess, and within 24 hours every media outlet trots out experts of various stripes to comment on this “important warning,” and manufacturers and government inspectors trot out experts to counter those warnings, then “special reports” fill the air with more experts, doctors, physical therapists. Some state legislatures ban the item and manufacturers adjust their processes for that, so then Congress appoints a special committee to hold hearings from the entire spectrum of those involved. Homeopathy practitioners develop remedies or colon cleanses for those who may be suffering from the effects of the things that might have been added to their food secretly by greedy Chinese producers. Mothers Against This Substance have 5K runs or walks to support advertising against this evil. Children are not allowed to eat school lunches because Michelle Obama has mandated that the substance be included in school lunches. Food manufacturers have big labels proclaiming “bad-substance free,” and charge more for the food.
Gene, first and foremost thank you for sharing such a wonderful and personal picture of Carol and yourself. I can only hope my wife and I look half as good and are half as happy in the future as you two are in your picture. I think your boarding school story proves that grain is not the culprit. Wonder bread is about as far from real bread and any grain as one can get. Again as many have previously stated all we need to do is eat real food (unprocessed as homemade as possible from local non chemical drenched food as possible). Thank you again for the wonderful post and picture. They both made my week!
Processed foods…… I offered my neighbors free eggs from my free ranged, outside in the fresh air, dust bathing, fed produce, seeds, meat, raw milk, grass and tender morsels they scratched up on the 4 acres they lived. But noooooo they refused eggs from my birds and bought those LOW CHOLESTEROL eggs from the store. They eat lots of processed packaged already prepared food. They have MANY health issues. I however eat little store already prepared food and other then being fat I suffer no illnesses.
What a great photo! You’re a very lucky couple.
Having spent the last 20 + years in public education as my day job, I have seen many bow at the altar of “the most recent research shows……”. It would be amusing to observe the infinite recycling of the same ideas dressed up in the latest buzz words if the ivory tower types didn’t take themselves and their DATA so seriously. The classroom can be a wonderfully magic place and a pit of despair several times in the same day. The bureaucratic approach to evaluate it from afar is to create more paperwork to prove that you are doing everything possible to assure that everyone is above average. All of that to say that diet fads and cycles seem very similar. There are only so many food groups and if you want peoples’ money or attention then you have to publish something different than what the last guy said. You also need some DATA and the ability to sound like you really believe it. As long as you have DATA, it must be true. Just ask the USDA and FDA about the data that Big Ag collects to support their self-funded studies to prove that everything they try to sell will only make the world a better place. I think I just felt a tear of joy slip down my cheek————————–never mind, it was just some spray drift from the local mega-farmer feeding the world.
On a much less cynical note, the picture of you and Carol reminds me of something we both knew. We may not be the sharpest cheese on the pizza, but we were both smart enough to marry our trophy wives the first time around so we didn’t have to make fools of ourselves later.
1. we had some really good friends, close for years, but then they fell in to ascribing any health woes to this or that in their diet. eventually we had to stop visiting them… we never knew which foods were currently on the forbidden list so we couldn’t bring anything with us.
funny thing is, our eat-everything family is twice as healthy as theirs!
2. americans are always looking for some silver bullet that will explain all their ills. diet is a frequent candidate for this description. Better advice would be to look in a totally different direction; as my doctor said – ‘get out of the darned chair and stay active! it will demolish stress and negate the effects of any food issues’
Wow! How did you end up with such a beautiful woman?? 🙂 Seriously though, she looks fantastic! And you both look happy. Keep doing what you’re doing, it’s working!
I really hate these diet fads that suddenly go against things that worked just fine for centuries, and that try to push generalizations that do not make sense: Gluten is perfectly fine by itself. It’s bad only if you consume too much of it, for instance when all the “bread” you eat is sandwich bread or burger buns or cookies, or when you somehow became allergic to it, probably from such a previous diet. A lot of people also condemn all carbs just because of gluten, when there are grains that do not contain gluten or very little, and the paradox is that gluten is a protein, not a carb.
Heck, gluten meat, AKA mock duck or seitan, is a better vegan protein than textured soy protein, which is usually made from soybean meal that was bathed in hexane, a crude oil refining product, to extract the vegetable oil, like all refined oils are. Not even mentioning that you can’t find organic TSP, or non-GMO TSP, if that’s a concern to you.
Here’s how to make and cook seitan: Grind whole wheat berries into flour, or use all-purpose white flour, make a big dough ball with water, cover it with water and let it soak for a few hours in a cool place. Then massage most of the starch (the milky water) away in a big bath of water, and rinse several times until you are left with only the gluten protein strands. You can also cheat and use pure gluten flour (not gluten-enriched bread flour) directly instead of wheat flour. Expel the water, mix in seasoning and flavorings, pack it into a compact block or make bite-sized chunks, and cook it in a vegetable broth. It’s ready to eat and will keep in the fridge for several days. Takes the taste of soy sauce, miso, or spices like dry curry or tandoori marinade very well, or onions if you pan-fry thin slices from the whole seitan block to get some gyro-like vegan meat for sandwiches, or all sorts of broths or spices like curry. It makes a great replacement for salami or ham pizzas, and great clear Asian soups too, since there is no starch to taint the broth, also great to add to a stir-fry in place of mushroom. Have fun!
Ah, but you are a genius Gene. Especially if you ignored the so-called experts and kept eating those home grown eggs all these years. Your grandmother knew what was good food.
I can only give you my personal perspective that switching to a high fat, low carbohydrate, moderate protein diet has done nothing but help me.
Also, if that home made bread is a fermented sourdough bread, that process is what takes out the anti-nutrients that make bread unwholesome, so, enjoy your bread.
“For the past decade of my farming career I have lived on snickers bars and coffee for 7 months of the year.”
Budd, two bad things make a right. Right? That’s why bread and butter or pork steak and gravy are so good for a fella’s health. Gravy or butter alone on a plate wouldn’t do you any good. It’s the coffee that makes the Snickers digestible.
It’s hard to have a dinner party anymore–all those self-prescribed allergies to peanuts, meat, dairy, honey, seafood, sugar, wheat. And none of them have had tests for verification. Oh well, if no dinner parties, then I don’t have to clean the house. And Gene, you found the prettiest girl in the state 50 years ago !
You can’t go wrong eating Carol’s cooking…it’s got love as an ingredient. Great picture of you two! Your kids can claim a healthy “Gene factor.”
For the past decade of my farming career I have lived on snickers bars and coffee for 7 months of the year.
I have passed all my physicals with flying colors.
Other than going bald and being stalked by a duck that quacks at random and has terrible breath, (the nephews maintain that is NOT a duck and that I have a medical problem, but what do they know about medicine? They never watch Dr. Who) I am in perfect health.
So do I say that coffee makes you bald and snickers give you gas?
Or is life a random series of events that our brains attempt to make into a pattern?
I do love fresh bread, and home made cinnamon roles…
Those with good understanding and no financial axe to grind have said all along that the nutrient-dense foods eaten by populations around the planet for ages are healthful and that “refined” foods are not.
You must have read Dr. Weston A. Price’s priceless book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, and Sally Fallon’s followup Nourishing Traditions? (These should be required reading for all those who eat!) Both discuss the long-standing tradition of indigenous peoples of lactofermenting a lot of the grain-based foods they prepared. And of course those populations were not eating modern, hybridized, low-nutrient grains.
So get your bread-maker some ancient grains to grow, and teach her to make true sourdough and you won’t have to be dead of bread!
Grains I’m planting next year are Blue Tinge Ethiopian Wheat, Arabian Blue Barley and Purple Barley. There are far more phytonutrients in deeply colored foods. As is elucidated in Jo Robinson’s new book, Eating On The Wild Side.
I know you had your tongue in your cheek through most of the article, but it’s just not ethical to encourage folks to go on eating carbs that cause chronic inflammation, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
I personally think the problem is in the highly processed foods. My wife has a genetic disease of the colon as well as celiac disease so we are on a gluten free diet. Both of our cholesterol and triglycerides are rock bottom now.
My generation is the first to have a steady diet of processed food and we are now paying for it.
Gene I think your longevity is directly proportional to receiving the right genes not your diet.
I’m trying to think of something witty to say, but can’t come up with anything. Except we have SO much to eat that we can contemplate NOT eating this or that. I am grateful.
Eat real food with real pleasure. I’m pretty sure health and happiness follow.
Gene, you are my hero! I have been saying this (not as well, mind you) for a couple of decades myself. I, too, can’t keep up with all the things we are supposed to eat or not eat, and have told my husband until he’s tired of hearing it, that I will never follow the “fad” diet of the day. My memory (being a tad younger than you) started with the oat bran craze. There was also Pritikin who advocated zero fats in the diet, Atkins, South Beach etc. The latest my sister told me about was a book called “Eat Fat to Lose Fat”. My motto is a simple one “everything in moderation”. In other words, eat a balanced diet (my preference is for foods as unprocessed as possible) and don’t eat too much. My grandmother died 3 months shy of her 100th birthday, sharp as a tack until the day she died and didn’t even need glasses until after her 90th birthday. She loved bacon and butter, and sprinkled salt liberally over everything she ate.
You could probably survive on the smell of fresh baking bread alone. No need to eat it.
Ever heard of the Paleo-movement, Gene? Those crazy kids, right?
What ever you two are doing , keep it up. You both look like your in great shape.
I can only assume a slice or three of homemade bread slathered in butter at least cancels itself out? A pan-fried porkchop (leave the fat cap on, please) with a side of potatoes as well? No wonder I’m often hungry–it’s like I’m eating nothing at all! But I guess cream in coffee is a double whammy–but I like mine black, so that’s probably just a little unhealthy. I just might live to be 100.
ITs rubbish. Some expert somewhere will always find something wrong with every single thing we eat, drink or inhale. Yesterday’s poison is tomorrow’s health elixir. Wheat belly, the name just annoys me every time I see it. I grow wheat. Have eaten wheat flour products all my life and plan to continue.
Reblogged this on Fort Pelham Farm and commented:
Ahahahaha, this says it all.
I gave up on the carbs over 3 years ago. Went from 222 to 162 in about 6 months. I now hover around 170. I cut out pretty much all processed food (minus a can of Pepsi Throwback a week). My diet is veges, fruit, meat and good fats. To maintain my weight I use the 80/20 rule. This seems to work for me.
I still can’t resist a piece of my wife’s warm, homemade bread covered in butter. 🙂