I’d rather not have my meals spiced with bullshit, thank you very much


I rather like cooking. I make no claims to being a great cook, but I can enjoy throwing together something tasty, and I can appreciate a good recipe and fresh ingredients and all that basic stuff. I do not like fad cookbooks, which are usually about some agenda other than enjoying good food, and are often coupled to some weird new pop mania that will change next year. Give me healthy and flavorful food first — telling me that it’s diet food to make you lose weight is like telling me that here’s a recipe for food you’ll want to eat in very small portions and that you probably won’t want to eat at all, which is contrary to the spirit of good cooking. Portion control and variety and exercise are fine ideas for losing weight, but don’t try to live on a diet of cardboard.

I have found a kindred spirit in The Angry Chef, who reviews a recent set of cook books.

All I want to see is a book about eating well, getting some variety, and making food that warms the soul. Where nothing is demonised, there are no strict rules, and there is no need for guilt and shame. I would love to see simple accessible recipes that appreciate how not everyone can afford three avocados a day, or grass-fed organic beef each evening. Something that considers how damaging the demonisation of foods can be for people’s mental health, and understands that telling people they can lose weight if they just try harder, actually does more harm than good.

Most of all, next January, I would like to see a book on the shelves that cares only about how healthy we are, instead of how much we weigh.

That’s what I want, too!

Unfortunately, at the same time I found my guiding angel, I also found his antithesis. It’s Amanda Chantal Bacon, “founder and owner of Moon Juice—the Los Angeles destination that serves beautifying herbal powder blends, tonics, and treats to A-list fans like Gwyneth Paltrow and Shailene Woodley”. You will be disappointed to learn that in spite of her name, she doesn’t start her day with a side of bacon. No, she has listed her eating habits for a typical day, and it sounds…unpleasant.

At 8am, I had a warm, morning chi drink on my way to the school drop off, drunk in the car! It contains more than 25 grams of plant protein, thanks to vanilla mushroom protein and stone ground almond butter, and also has the super endocrine, brain, immunity, and libido- boosting powers of Brain Dust, cordyceps, reishi, maca, and Shilajit resin. I throw ho shou wu and pearl in as part of my beauty regime. I chase it with three quinton shots for mineralization and two lipospheric vitamin B-complex packets for energy.

At 9:30am, I drink 16 ounces of unsweetened, strong green juice, which is my alkalizer, hydrator, energizer, source of protein and calcium, and overall mood balancer. It’s also my easy, ‘lazy,’ and delicious skin regime. I also take three tablespoons of bee pollen. I love Moon Juice’s soft and chewy bee pollen—it’s a creamy, candy-like treat that gives me my daily B-vitamin blast, and also helps feed my skin and aids hormone production. I’ll also grab a handful of activated cashews. I try to get these in every day for their brain chemistry magic. I chase this with a shot of pressed turmeric root in freshly squeezed grapefruit juice.

Maybe that snootful of dried fungus is utterly delicious — I don’t know. But she’s not saying she’s eating it because it tastes good, but because it has “super endocrine, brain, immunity, and libido- boosting powers”, which is bullshit. You don’t need “alkalizers”. Everything does “brain chemistry magic” — a cup of coffee does things to your brain and energy and doesn’t cost $60 for a four ounce jar. Everything she’s nibbling on sounds awful, and like she’s just eating it because of bizarre notions about its medicinal virtues.

No thank you. Moderation and simple local foods, fresh and well-prepared with an eye towards good flavor, would be my ideal. Exotic ingredients selected for imaginary magical effects is precisely the opposite of what I want.

Comments

  1. Crys T says

    I too was initially overjoyed to find the Angry Chef. However, with vegans & vegetarians he’s repeatedly done that thing of presenting the most bizarre, stupid and fringe beliefs as if they represented the mainstream.

    This is especially annoying considering there is no shortage of stupid, uninformed ideas floating round omni circles. Yet, for reasons he doesn’t seem to be able to explain, stupid omni ideas don’t discredit the very concept of an omnivore diet the way stupid veg*n ideas discredit the entirety of veg*n diets.

    I get enough of that from anti-feminists, racists and other assorted right-wingers, I don’t need it in yet another sphere of my life.

  2. whywhywhy says

    PZ, your thoughts are lacking in one key aspect: How are you planning on getting rich from reasonable advice?

  3. llyris says

    @ 3 sirsamvimes
    I don’t know, bit they clearly aren’t working. Her brain is still full of crap.

  4. says

    I bought my fave cookbook in 1979, Cookery for 1 or 2, by Barbara Swain, and I still have it. I appreciated it so much back then, because all cookbooks focused on families, and everything was for 4 to 8 people. The recipes are fabulous, some of them have stayed on the menu all this time, they’re tasty, healthy, and quite varied. They don’t cost a fortune to put together, either.

    I won’t even go near a cooking section in a bookstore now, it’s as bad as the religion section, all bullshit and nonsense.

  5. says

    sirsamvimes:

    “Activated” nuts are raw nuts which are soaked in salt brine overnight, then roasted dry in an oven or dehydrator. The reasons for it are stupid, just do a search for ‘activated nuts’.

  6. says

    8 am: two lipospheric vitamin B-complex packets for energy.

    9:30 am: I also take three tablespoons of bee pollen. I love Moon Juice’s soft and chewy bee pollen—it’s a creamy, candy-like treat that gives me my daily B-vitamin blast

    Yeah, you need that because you aren’t getting those vitamins from your food. Christ, the stupid.

  7. ajbjasus says

    There are many poeople struggling to feed themselves, whilst somewhere else there are other who have so much wealth and headroom in their lives that they can dick about with nonsense like this.

    I hope they are meticulous about sourcing their bee pollen though …

    “Nonetheless there seems to remain the potential risks of consuming bee pollen that include contamination by fungal mycotoxins, pesticides or toxic metals”

  8. Raucous Indignation says

    I, unfortunately, have had some of that stuff and it all tastes awful.

  9. says

    CORDYCEPS? Are they trying to make the fungus-zombie video game The Last of Us come true? No no no no no no no no

    (I have a fungus phobia and that is just about the worst thing I’ve seen in a year) Ew ick no no no

  10. rietpluim says

    As a side note, do you know James Fell? He’s like the Angry Chef of fitness.

    Oh, and MRA’s hate him. Always a plus.

  11. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    Gotta say, this sounds pretty good (assuming she’s sauteing the zucchini):

    “For lunch, I had zucchini ribbons with basil, pine nuts, sun-cured olives, and lemon, with green tea on the side.”

    Probably needs some salt.

  12. says

    If you feed me something with ingredients like

    Brain Dust, cordyceps, reishi, maca, and Shilajit resin

    I better get the high of my life.
    And considering that cordyceps are a parasitic brain fungus in insects and nobody knows if Shilajit is of geo- or biological origin, it better be not the last high of my life. But what would scare me the most is Brain Dust, which, as far as google told me, is a concoction brewed by these scammers them self. *shudder*

  13. MattP (must mock his crappy brain) says

    I am a very lazy cook, so much of what I eat is bought canned or dried then just tossed together in a pot with seasonings to simmer until tender. Couscous, noodles, rices, beans, tomatoes, etc. Pretty much the only perishables I buy are eggs, veggie butter/spread, dairy products, peanut butter, bread, potatoes, onions, peppers, and occasionally squashes (usually for zucchini nut bread).

    I have been on a bit of a pumpkin bread/muffin bender since mid-October:
    – 3 bread pans oiled and floured
    – 3 cups flour, 3 cups sugar, 1.5 tsp salt, 2 tsp baking soda, 1+ tsp nutmeg, 1+ tsp cinnamon
    – 4 eggs, 1 cup oil, <2/3 cup water added into the well-mixed dry ingredients
    – 1 can pumpkin added into the well-mixed dough before splitting into pans (high moisture content of pumpkin turns it from sticky dough into a thin paste)
    – bake at ~350F for ~45 minutes or until properly springy for a bread

  14. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    She’s deliberately consuming cordyceps for its supposed effects on the brain.

    That’s…so appropriate.

  15. anbheal says

    For you scientifically oriented, Kenji Lopez-Alt (MIT chemist turned chef) at The Food Lab is always entertaining and informative. For a quick 4-minute vid, I’d recommend Chef John at Food Wishes (and Allrecipes)….my daughter can’t stand his bad puns, but he can whip up a mean sauce.

  16. johnmarley says

    @Strewth (#13)

    CORDYCEPS? Are they trying to make the fungus-zombie video game The Last of Us come true? No no no no no no no no

    You beat me to it. Although I was going to reference the novel “The Girl with All the Gifts”, not the video game “The Last of Us”

  17. says

    Although the focus is on practicalities rather than any particular diet pattern, I recommend Mark Bittman’s “How To Cook Everything” books. I have “The Basics” and it’s… perfect. Explains all the techniques and jargon, covers basically all common Western foods, every single thing I’ve done with it has worked beautifully and also taught me some culinary trick that applies to unrelated recipes.

    And not ONE recipe uses zombie brain fungus as an ingredient.

  18. garnetstar says

    I also wondered how you activate a cashew, and about cordyceps, and bee pollen, but the one that brought me up short was….pearl?

    She’s drinking pearl? Does she really mean the very, very expensive form of cacium carbonate, sourced from her mother’s jewelry?

    For the masses who can’t afford that, news flash: Tums cost a lot less and dissolve in your stomach a lot better.

  19. shikko says

    For anyone that’s looking for an interesting cookbook, check out “Good and Cheap” by Leanne Brown:

    https://cookbooks.leannebrown.com/good-and-cheap.pdf (free PDF, but I think there are ways you can pay for a hard copy).

    She made it as part of her masters in Food Studies at NYU. The purpose is to eat well on $4/person/day, which is roughly the limit for people on SNAP (fka “food stamps”). I’ve made a few of the recipes, and they worked well, are cheap, and enjoyable.

  20. blf says

    She’s drinking pearl? Does she really mean the very, very expensive form of cacium carbonate, sourced from her mother’s jewelry?

    Cleopatra supposedly did that to win a bet with Mark Antony.
    And if memory serves me correct, in Hamlet, Claudius also does that, shortly before drinking the poisoned chalice.

    The later is obviously fiction (and maybe a retelling of the former?), but the former apparently is possible — which isn’t saying she actually did so.

    More to the point, this fairly recent Vogue article (June-2016) suggests it’s a real bit of current-ish woo-woo, Could Pearl Powder Save Your Skin? Introducing the Strangest Beauty Superfood Yet (Vogue edits in {curly braces}):

    […] Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine have long advocated ingesting the marine treasures in pulverized form — not only for better looks (a remedy favored by empress Wu Zetian in the 7th century) but as a tonic for everything from tuberculosis to eye disease to sexual dysfunction.

    Strap on your helmets and earplugs, the Extreme Woo-Woo sirens are woo-wooing, WOO WOO WOO WOO WOO

    […] Moon Juice, the Los Angeles beauty emporium and celebrity favorite that’s often the first to champion obscure healing tonics, sells jars of the substance, which is also the key ingredient in its popular Beauty Dust supplement. And like any superfood worth its salt, pearl powder has received the seal of approval from Goop.

    WOO! WOO! WOO!!! WOO!!!! WOOO!!!!! (Additional earplugs advised. Also moar pillows.)

    […]
    According to Moon Juice’s Amanda Chantal Bacon — who puts a pinch of the stuff in her smoothies several times a week — pearl powder is effective beyond the surface, too. “Many people don’t know of it as a mood food,” she says. “It has a calming effect, and it’s a tool I use when I feel weak or depleted. If you haven’t been eating very well or you’ve been traveling or it’s around your period, at that moment where you’re like, ‘I want a bloody steak,’ {it’s time to consider taking it}.”

    That’s the fruitcake in the OP, so the answer — presuming this “Beauty Dust” rubbish actually does contain pearl dust — is “Yes”.

    According to the scam artist’s site, the ingredients are:

    Lycium (Goji) Berry Powder°, Schisandra Berry Powder°, Rehmannia Root Extract, Ashwagandha Root and Leaf Extract°, Amla Berry Extract°, Pearl Extract, Stevia Leaf Extract (Reb A)°

    °organic

    I have no fecking idea what any of those are, most notably the mysterious “Pearl Extract”, which could be anything from ground-up pearl to the water used to rinse off a pearl to entirely fictional. And it’s probably gluten-free.

  21. The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge says

    Lycium (Goji) Berry Powder°, Schisandra Berry Powder°, Rehmannia Root Extract, Ashwagandha Root and Leaf Extract°, Amla Berry Extract°, Pearl Extract, Stevia Leaf Extract (Reb A)°

    °organic

    All of the health food fanatics I know are death on Stevia. Their whole philosophy is absolute puritanism. Anything that adds flavor to food like salt, sugar–worse yet a sweetener like Stevia that doesn’t punish you by adding lots of calories–is evil in and of itself. If you enjoy eating something, it’s obviously harming you.

    Plus, if anybody should avoid some ingredient like salt (say your blood pressure is high and you’re in the half of the population whose blood pressure is sensitive to salt in the first place), then everybody must avoid salt like the plague. If some people are diabetic, then nobody must eat sugar.

    It’s Food Calvinism, pure and simple.

  22. unclefrogy says

    I do like fungus of various kinds you can find in the supper market and have tried “shrums” and can say that they seemed to do a lot for the brain for a while any way(yes I was there back in the day) never tried any of those others
    do they make you “high” for to fucking long too? or just give you the “s****s”.
    uncle frogy

  23. rietpluim says

    It’s Food Calvinism, pure and simple.

    My observation too. Everything humans do is Bad. Processing food is Bad. Vaccines are Bad. Nature is good and pure and healthy as long as it is untouched by man. It is original sin in a secular package, but it’s religious as hell.

  24. rietpluim says

    Besides, few substances are as processed as Stevia is. Did you know it has an E-number? The Food Calvinists aren’t even being consistent. Just wait till they hear Stevia is a chemical!

  25. blf says

    It’s Food Calvinism, pure and simple.

    That could explain why I’ve never actually seen anything I’d call “food” in a so-called “health foods” shop.

    (Pedantically, probably not true, I vaguely recall seeing stuff like tofu and yogurt.)

  26. garnetstar says

    @28, that’s hilarious!

    Calcium carbonate does dissolve in acid solutions, so Cleopatra must have been drinking some pretty vinegary wine. She did it to show what a powerful queen she was, though, not because she thought, by some version of the law of similars, that if she ingested pearls she’d get pearly skin.

    I’ll bet that “pearl extract” = “crushed up Tums.”

  27. The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge says

    @34:

    Isn’t that how you test if a pearl is real? Drop it in acid and if it melts, it was real. Also, hold an emerald in a Bunsen burner flame and if it melts, it was real. Very useful tests….

  28. JP says

    I won’t even go near a cooking section in a bookstore now, it’s as bad as the religion section, all bullshit and nonsense.

    I like the cookbook section at the library, but I mainly stick to various ethnic cookbooks. Keeps things interesting.

  29. indianajones says

    A few things occur to me
    1) She HAS to be taking the piss
    2) This is impossible to satirize
    3) I enjoyed the idea of a 3 year old having a favorite restaurant at all, let alone one that doesn’t give away toys.
    4) It’s a pity they didn’t have comments allowed. That would be carnage…….

  30. methuseus says

    AS far as I remember, a few things mentioned actually taste good. I don’t know if they taste good in the combinations used, though. And I never bought any of the woo side effects of them. I do know adding protein can keep you full longer, B vitamins can help improve your energy (somewhat similarly to caffeine, with the same transient effect), and sugar sources can give you a boost of energy fats and proteins don’t
    @Caine #7:

    “Activated” nuts are raw nuts which are soaked in salt brine overnight, then roasted dry in an oven or dehydrator. The reasons for it are stupid, just do a search for ‘activated nuts’.

    I read what they are, sort of like sprouted grains, but less likely actually beneficial and much more dangerous due to risk of molds and other things. I know sprouted grains and legumes (like bean sprouts) taste different, sometimes better, and have a slightly different nutritional profile, but can’t find anything similar for “activated” nuts. The main difference being sprouted grains and legumes have been eaten for (I believe) thousands of years, whereas “activated” nuts are a pretty new woo thing.
    @indianajones #37:

    3) I enjoyed the idea of a 3 year old having a favorite restaurant at all, let alone one that doesn’t give away toys.

    Since my family doesn’t like much fast food, my kids have requested some interesting foods at young ages. Not going to restaurants often (twice a month?), my kids knew each of the names and would request different ones at different times. So I can definitely believe that restaurant is the only place that kid loves to eat, especially if they have something sweet they don’t get anywhere else when they go.

  31. Trickster Goddess says

    The cookbook that was well-used by my mother was the More-With-Less Cookbook. She gifted me a copy when I left home and I wore it ragged over the years. Very nutritious and down-to-earth recipes. Don’t let the fact that it was published by a Mennonite church organization put you off.

    Per the wikipedia description:

    The book advocates the consumption of more whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, the moderation of meat and dairy products and the avoidance of processed and convenience foods. The recipes, collected from Mennonite and other Christian families around the world, are intended to be affordable, nutritious and socially and ecologically responsible.

  32. methuseus says

    @shikko #27:

    For anyone that’s looking for an interesting cookbook, check out “Good and Cheap” by Leanne Brown:
    https://cookbooks.leannebrown.com/good-and-cheap.pdf (free PDF, but I think there are ways you can pay for a hard copy).

    You can get a hard copy here: https://www.leannebrown.com/cookbooks/
    It includes a link to buy copies in bulk, 36 copies for $187 (just barely over $5.19 per copy) if you wanted to donate them to a food pantry or something.

  33. jazzlet says

    I like the Angry Chef, there isn’t that much on his blog and it’s all worth reading. He works in the food industry and has a particular downer on people saying all processed food is rubbish. This is partly because he knows from the inside that not all processed food is rubbish as he creates it in his day job, but also because he hates time poor people (who are also likely to be cash poor people) being made to feel guilty about what they eat and feed their kids, when the reality is they often have little real choice about what they eat.

  34. garnetstar says

    @35, You’re right about the pearls dissolving: plastic, or resin, or whatever fake ones are made of, don’t dissolve in acid. But, a better quick test is to rub them gently against the front of your teeth: real pearls feel gritty (they’re microcrystalline) and fake stuff feels smooth.

    Just so you don’t have to dissolve your pearls!

    Never heard that about an emerald! But yeah, that method seems rather…impractical…to try. But, I’ve never been near a real emerald in my life, so no occasion.

  35. Onamission5 says

    @29 The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge:

    That amuses me to no end, as during the 90’s and early 00’s all of the anti-sugar bandwagon hoppers in my social circle were gaga over Stevia leaf extract. When they weren’t demanding everything be sweetened with agave syrup, that is.

    I also distinctly remember about ten years there when dairy products were poisoning everyone by causing everything from acne to obesity to bad moods to sluggishness.

  36. The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge says

    @ Onamission5:

    Oh, yeah, I forgot that one. Because some people–well, most people, worldwide–are lactose-intolerant, then no one must use dairy products.

    Never mind that yogurt, to name one product, was invented by lactose-intolerant people to get rid of the lactose.

  37. David Utidjian says

    The Angry Chef got me (re)started in cooking, but ti was a different angry chef. Mark Maron made a couple of videos in cooking in a small apartment kitchen. My first recipe of his that I made was the Winter Minestrone Soup (which can be easily converted to a completely vegan recipe.)
    I have the Food Lab cookbook by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. I like it.
    I also like Appetites by Anthony Bourdain. The dessert section of the book is “Fuck dessert!”, and then he recommends a some nice cheeses and good port instead. I highly recommend it.