Good Medicine and Digestion

Often in the depths of winter I get hit with a serious humdinger of a flu and this year was no exception. I returned home from a lovely holiday with my family and after a few days I had the distinct feeling of being pulled down by a heavy weight that has kept me in bed for three days now. Being sick is not all bad. It seems to be part of a ritual of renewal  that happens for me at this time of year, usually around the Celtic festival of Imbolc.  Having some time to rest and think about ones life and ones health can create an odd sort of inspiration- just the thought of walking around and feeling good seems a true blessing and it makes you want to continue to realize that blessing and take good care of the carriage. I have (along with a stack of long neglected New Yorkers, Harpers, and Atlantics) been re-reading Green for Life, Nourishing Traditions and some other oldies but goodies that encourage balanced, sustainable good health. I also cut out a page from an old NYTimes Magazine by Mark Bittman about going mostly vegan as a way Ozuke Shirtto boost your energy and improve the state of the planet. I have been reading about pH balance in the body and as it turns out food protein, which is vital for maintaining your health, can also create an acidic condition in your body’s pH balance.  An acidic body pH condition facilitates accelerated aging, system degeneration and increased susceptibility to sickness and disease.

What else affects pH and causes it to become unbalanced? A mild acidosis condition (an overabundance of acid in the blood) can be caused by improper diet, but also by poor lifestyle habits or toxic emotional states. The amount of acid in the body can increase through ingestion of acid-forming foods, but it can also be affected by an abnormal metabolism or kidney malfunction. As we age, our body’s systematic removal of excess acid has begun to slow down which is why you sometimes feel like you need a new carburetor.
Although it seems a bit illogical, our bodies metabolize acid foods as alkaline and metabolize alkaline foods as acid. Acid foods (citrus fruits, vegetables, vinegar and other fermented foods- zuké!) all become alkaline when consumed and metabolized and so are called “Alkaline-forming foods”.On the other hand, alkaline foods (meats, flour, sugar, soft drinks, alcohol, aspirin and various medications) are metabolized by the body into “acid-forming foods.” That’s why the average American diet of hamburgers and processed food can and usually does contribute to a condition called “mild acidosis.” Although eating some acid-forming foods is okay, it is best if we consume 60-80% alkaline-forming foods for optimum health.

So, there you have it- along with a new found addiction to Downton Abbey  and a pile of used handkerchiefs I have a renewed resolve for revitalizing with more simple pH balanced foods, plenty of deep breaths and a healthy dose of gratitude.

Clarifying Butter

In honor of simplicity I chose to make my own Ghee this week. I’ve often bought ghee from the store before and even though I have a middling tolerance for dairy products I seem to have no problem digesting butter or ghee.  The smell of ghee on the frying pan is simply delightful and I’ve recently enjoyed using rendered fats in my cooking, saving chicken fat from the last roast that we did inspired a round of excellent chopped liver (onions cooking in chicken fat illicit an awe inspiring drool worthy smell), and saving lard from a recent pork roast made some of the most beautifully textured oven roast potatoes.  One of these days I want to do some lard and flour baking.  That is what they would use when I was a kid to make Dan Tarts (chinese style puff pastry with egg custard), the smell of warm lard is a sure fire flashback to my youth, I am quite sure that pork fat is one of the cornerstones of traditional Cantonese cooking. There’s been much written recently on the undue vilification of saturated animal fats. All I can really add to that conversation is that I was extremely relieved to hear that fat free milk is bad for you.  I have always been drawn to fats, seared fish sends happy shivers down my spine, avocados make me smile and along with strawberries they were a very rare childhood treat (berries and avocados were very hard to find in Hong Kong in the eighties). As long as I can remember I had a deep love affair with fat.  I’m the weirdo that will cut a slab of fat off my steak and eat it first before diving into the lean meat and one time age ten when I got in trouble for fighting with my mom I went to the store and I bought her a gorgeous rib eye steak to express my deep remorse and future good will.  As far as minimally processed foods, fats and rendered fats are perfect…  butter is made of the following emulsion:  the two dissimilar substances are butterfat (roughly 80%) and water (roughly 17%) along with about 3% milk solids. The emulsion breaks on being heated and the components separate. Clarified butter is nothing more than pure butterfat. Fats will keep you full for longer, they help to balance moods, provide essential fatty acids for cell development and body processes and we cannot generate these fatty acids ourselves, they must be received from an external source.

So now that I have prayed for a sufficient amount of time at the temple of tummy I’ll post that recipe 🙂 Clarified butter is so simple to make and a superior tool to cook with as it resists high heat sauteeing and has a mellow and comforting flavour.


1lb Unsalted Butter


Melt butter on medium heat until it comes to a boil.  Skim off the first foam that forms on the butter’s surface.  Reduce heat and continue to let butter simmer.  You will see the liquids separate from the butterfat as the butter boils.  Its quite pretty – roiling and rolling globules of golden emulsified liquid. After the butter has bubbled away for about seven to ten minutes a second foam will form.  Take butter off heat and let it cool for fifteen minutes.  Strain through a fine mesh strainer with cheese cloth.  Make sure to stop before straining liquids at the bottom of the pan. Note, you will see those three distinct parts in separation: milk solids you skim off the top, butterfat in the middle and water settles to the bottom.

Store in a sealed glass jar.  You can keep it at room temperature for up to a month.



Art meets Process


Andrew Plotsky’s film on pork butchery. Caution: Some images may be graphic for some viewers.

“His favorite cut of a pig? The trotter, or the foot. “If you have a trotter on a plate, you should feel blessed and not say ‘Ew,'” he says. “They’re kind of everything a chicken wing dreams of being.”

I simply had to share this film.  I found the following article this morning on NPR.  This work is inspired and inspiring.  Connect, create and feed the future.  Thank you Andrew Plotsky.

NPR: How One Former Vegan Learned to Embrace Butchering