Wednesday, February 27, 2013

I Cooked a Rabbit!

New Zealand White Rabbit, photo courtesy of laugh45

For a couple of years I have considered raising meat chickens, ducks, or rabbits for a protein food supply. I don't have enough flatish land for larger livestock like a cow or a pig. Rabbits, of course, require the smallest amount of space so they are high on the list.

However, I hadn't any recollection of ever eating rabbit, although I'm fairly sure I must have when I was a young kid. Finding a domestic rabbit and cooking it to check the list became important, and finally I found frozen rabbit about 3 weeks ago in a grocery store in a nearby town.

This was a VERY small rabbit, just a tad under 1.5 pounds, whereas an average young fryer dresses out at 3 pounds or more. Still, I thought it would be enough meat to give it a try, and not much wasted expense in the event I didn't like the taste.

Top of the photo are the belly pieces and the rib cage, which went into the freezer for stock later. Lower on the photo are the skinny forelegs, fatter back legs, and the backbone cut into 2 pieces.

First, I needed to cut up the rabbit, and found several photo tutorials online. There is very little meat anywhere but the hind legs, although I cooked the backbone section and the front legs as well. I'm sure a larger sized rabbit would have more meat on the backbone and front quarters. The "belly" was very thin, and it went into a freezer bag with the rib cage to make stock when I have enough bones, using a mix of rabbit and chicken.

I'm told rabbit fat is as un-palatable as venison fat, so it got trimmed away. (There wasn't much of it anyway.) Most of the outer silverskin had already been trimmed before it was frozen, but after my disjointing there was still a little more to trim.

It actually does taste a lot like chicken, although I thought it had a bit more flavor than commercial chicken. I fried it without any seasoning except salt and pepper so that any added herbs or spices wouldn't mask the rabbit flavor. I just dipped it in milk and rolled it in flour with a little salt and pepper.

My neighbor / friend Buster used to raise meat rabbits and I'm sure he will offer advice and help when I'm ready. If I decide to try raising rabbits, it will only be on a small scale. Timing depends on my health over the next few months, and whether I can stomach the butchering process. (I think I can, but I have to do it to be sure.)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Feeling a Tad Better, and 2013 Garden

For those friends concerned about my health, I think I'm finally starting to improve. It's been 3-1/2 weeks since the GI bleed was repaired. I'm down from 3 to 2 long naps per day (plus a somewhat decent night's sleep despite bathroom calls), and the naps are getting a little shorter.

I won't know if my red and white blood cell counts and hematocrit have actually improved until I go back to Wake Forest Baptist Hospital 2 weeks from Monday and they do more blood work. I really hope the counts have increased, not just because of low energy, but also because my body sure doesn't like the iron supplements! (I tolerate the other meds fairly well.)

I've lost 27 pounds (a lot of which was fluid build-up), and some of my appetite is returning. My energy is slower in returning, and my mind plans too many small projects that are still only fantasy. I still get distracted easily, and lose my train of thought between breaths, but overall I'm focusing better than I was 3 weeks ago.

In the last month I have planned and re-planned my 2013 garden several times over, and ordered or traded for a bunch of seeds in addition to the heirloom seeds I saved from last year. I will probably do a smaller garden since there's a good possibility I may need surgical repair on this aneurysm before the garden is in full swing.

I still need to order leek starts, and a friend will be sharing cipollini onion starts with me in April. I want to pickle some cipollinis in balsamic vinegar since I've fallen in love with them, and they are SO expensive on the grocery store's olive bar.

I am certain the Belgian endive I had growing in the dark root cellar over this winter is probably history, due to a month of neglect. I'm afraid to even go out there to check on them. I did learn a lot from the experience and will do it again.

Hope Springs Eternal.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

More Fake Ingredients in Popular Foods

ABC News reports:
"A new scientific examination by the non-profit food fraud detectives, The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP), discovered rising numbers of fake ingredients in products from olive oil to spices to fruit juice.

"Food products are not always what they purport to be," Markus Lipp, senior director for Food Standards for the independent lab in Maryland, told ABC News.

In a new database to be released Wednesday (2/20/2013), and obtained exclusively by ABC News today, USP warns consumers, the FDA and manufacturers that the amount of food fraud they found is up by 60 percent this year.

Among the most popular targets for unscrupulous food suppliers? Pomegranate juice, which is often diluted with grape or pear juice. Most recently the FDA issued an alert for pomegranate juice mislabeled as 100 percent pomegranate juice, as well as one for the adulteration of honey.

USP tells ABC News that liquids and ground foods in general are the easiest to tamper with:
    Olive oil: often diluted with cheaper oils
    Lemon juice: cheapened with water and sugar
    Tea: diluted with fillers like lawn grass or fern leaves
    Spices: like paprika or saffron adulterated with dangerous food colorings that mimic the colors

Milk, honey, coffee and syrup are also listed by the USP as being highly adulterated products.

Also high on the list: seafood. The number one fake being escolar, an oily fish that can cause stomach problems, being mislabeled as white tuna or albacore, frequently found on sushi menus.

National Consumers League did its own testing on lemon juice just this past year and found four different products labeled 100 percent lemon juice were far from pure.

"One had 10% lemon juice, it said it had 100%, another had 15% lemon juice, another...had 25%, and the last one had 35% lemon juice," Sally Greenberg, Executive Director for the National Consumers League said. "And they were all labeled 100% lemon juice.

Straight from the Horses' Mouth
  In addition, 70% of all ground beef was found to contain "pink slime".

Butchers use "meat glue" to create "bigger" cuts of beef, chicken, lamb and fish, even though it leads to much higher levels of food poisoning.

British hamburgers were found to contain horse meat and pork ... and it could happen in the U.S. as well. (says Forbes)

Indeed, modern red meat is arguably not really meat at all.


And selling genetically modified food without labeling them as such is arguably food fraud as well, since a large majority of Americans want genetically modified foods to be labeled. Genetically engineered foods have been linked to obesity, cancer, liver failure, infertility and all sorts of other diseases, and the Food and Drug Administration doesn't even test the safety of such foods.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

FDA approves GMO flu vaccine

"A new vaccine for influenza has hit the market, and it is the first ever to contain genetically-modified (GM) proteins derived from insect cells. According to reports, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved the vaccine, known as Flublok, which contains recombinant DNA technology and an insect virus known as baculovirus that is purported to help facilitate the more rapid production of vaccines.

According to Flublok's package insert, the vaccine is trivalent, which means it contains GM proteins from three different flu strains. The vaccine's manufacturer, Protein Sciences Corporation (PSC), explains that Flublok is produced by extracting cells from the fall armyworm, a type of caterpillar, and genetically altering them to produce large amounts of hemagglutinin, a flu virus protein that enables the flu virus itself to enter the body quickly.

So rather than have to produce vaccines the "traditional" way using egg cultures, vaccine manufacturers will now have the ability to rapidly produce large batches of flu virus protein using GMOs, which is sure to increase profits for the vaccine industry. But it is also sure to lead to all sorts of serious side effects, including the deadly nerve disease Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GSB), which is listed on the shot as a potential side effect.

FDA also approved flu vaccine containing dog kidney cells
Back in November, the FDA also approved a new flu vaccine known as Flucelvax that is actually made using dog kidney cells. A product of pharmaceutical giant Novartis, Flucelvax also does away with the egg cultures, and can similarly be produced much more rapidly than traditional flu vaccines, which means vaccine companies can have it ready and waiting should the federal government declare a pandemic.

Like Flublok, Flucelvax was made possible because of a $1 billion, taxpayer-funded grant given in 2006 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
in contracts to six manufacturers to develop cell-based flu vaccine technology in the United States. Although its use in flu vaccines is new, cell-based vaccine technology has been around for years, offering a faster, more reliable alternative to egg culture.

In 2009, spurred by difficulties in growing vaccine for the H1N1 swine flu pandemic, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provided Novartis with nearly $500 million to build the first U.S. facility capable of producing cell-based vaccine for seasonal and pandemic flu in the United States. Novartis picked up the rest of the estimated $1 billion price tag."
Source: Reuters

(My cousin's daughter got Guillain-Barre Syndrome as a child from vaccinations required to attend public school. She is now an adult but still has the nerve damage.)

I don't like vaccines much anyway because the carrier is usually mercury, although I've had most of them as a child... and agree they have saved many lives worldwide. Now that at least one (two more are in the wings, nearing FDA approval) is GMO gives me more reason for caution and hesitation.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Forensic Nutritionist?

I always thought Forensics were just used to solve crimes, but several years ago I met a man who called himself a "Forensic accountant" (the study and interpretation of accounting evidence). 

Now on television, I see Forensic anthropologists (the application of physical anthropology in a legal setting, usually for the recovery and identification of skeletonized human remains), and on the History 2 channel I see Forensic botany (the study of plant life in order to gain information), Forensic geology (deals with trace evidence in the form of soils, minerals and petroleum). There's also Forensic archaeology and Forensic seismology. They all seem to be searching for the Truth about something.

So, I looked up the word.  It comes from the Latin forēnsis, meaning "of or before the forum." The two given meanings are:

1. Relating to, used in, or appropriate for courts of law or for public discussion or argumentation.
2. Of, relating to, or used in debate or argument.

Based on those descriptions, I think I could easily give myself the title of Forensic Nutritionist©, since I'm always seeking the truth about our foods vs. the fake foods manufactured and advertised as food... and this blog is certainly my Forum.

Since I'm now napping a lot during my slow recovery, I'm reading Taste, Memory... Forgotten Foods, Lost Flavors, and Why They Matter by David Buchanan. His descriptions of some of the lost foods he has hunted down and now has growing in his gardens make my mouth water, and I want to search of the similar foods that were widely grown 200 years ago in my region. His are not merely heirlooms, but 90% or more are lost heirloom foods that have taken a lot of time to track down. All are open-pollinated and many have regional growing requirements.

In the book, David Buchanan asked John Barker (the Maine apple guy, founder of Fedco Trees) why he thinks we have abandoned so many old foods. John answered that in his opinion, "we have forgotten how to think and act independently. We follow the rules, find jobs, settle down, and turn agricultural production over to others.

"Food today is a tradable commodity, and as such it must adapt to the market, which demands consistency and discourages variety. It's no accident we find limited selections in our grocery stores."  

That, however, does not mean we cannot track down and grow a few tasty old-timers in a small corner of our home garden or patio. We can be sure they aren't GMO, and they might have taste far surpassing our current homegrown heirlooms. The Ark of Taste is a good starting place, as are organizations like Seed Savers Exchange who put out a yearbook of over 20,000 listings of available but endangered seed, offered by members worldwide (seeds not commercially available nor ever listed online).

Meanwhile, Monsanto is searching out lost and almost forgotten foods in foreign places like South America, Russia and the Middle East, and getting patents on them.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

GMO Valentine Kisses

Did your honey give you Hershey's chocolate kisses for Valentine's Day? If so, and you are in the USA, you received GMO kisses. Valentine's Day is also the day where once again giant corporations try to enrich themselves by encouraging Americans to consume endless amounts of sugary sweets.

All Hershey's chocolate products sold in the US contain GMO's, but they source organic and non-GMO ingredients in their chocolates sold in foreign countries. That’s right, Hershey’s went GMO free in Europe in 2010, but keeps peddling GMOs in America.

Hershey’s Top Chocolate Products: Hershey’s chocolate bars, Reese’s, Hershey Kisses, Nutrageous, 5th Avenue, Almond Joy, Caramello, Heath, Kit Kat, Mounds, Mr. Goodbar, Rolo, Symphony, Take5, Whatchamacallit, York and Dagoba.

While California voters were trying to support their basic right to label genetically engineered foods, the Hershey Company, the nation’s largest chocolate-maker, contributed $519,000 to defeat Prop 37 and your Right to Know what’s in your food, alongside Monsanto, the world's largest biotech seed company, who dumped in $8.1 million to stifle democracy and transparency.

In the past, many large U.S. food producers have argued that reformulating their products to exclude GMOs is not cost effective. But why it was worthwhile for Hershey's to change its product formulas for the European market, but not for the U.S. market, so far remains a question without an answer.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Soil Tests and Land-Grant Universities

The Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890 established Land-Grant Universities to focus on the teaching of practical agriculture and science in contrast to the historic practice of higher education focusing on an abstract liberal arts curriculum.

Today, there are 76 Land-Grant Universities in the US, with primary support and research funding from BigAg (like Monsanto, Dow, BASF, Bayer and Syngenta). All our Extension Agents are educated at Land-Grant Universities, and are biased in favor of BigAg, because that's what they have been taught.

Thus, it is with some trepidation that I'm sending soil samples to Virginia Tech. I did that 6 years ago, and although I no longer have the results copy, I recall it was heavy on synthetic NPK application. No mention of organic matter, or growing organically. 

To be fair, 99% of what the Extension Service offers is wonderful (and free) information, everything from raising rabbits to home canning safety.

Virginia Cooperative Extension is an educational outreach program of Virginia's land grant universities: Virginia Tech and Virginia State University are a part of the national Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Routine soil testing is free through Virginia Extension Service, plus an additional (optional) $6 per sample to test for soluble salts and organic matter. I don't remember if those additional tests were available 6 years ago, or I just didn't have the money. With 19 acres, I need soil tests in several areas.

One of these days I hope to get a full-blown professional soil test done by AgLabs. Their focus is on biological agriculture, not industrial agriculture.

Here's a List of Land-Grant Universities in the US.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Learning more about nutrition

Those of you who follow this blog know that I eat better (healthier) than the vast majority of Americans, so I have thought I had a good handle on nutrition.

With this latest hospitalization I was in Wake Forest Baptist hospital in NC, and they have a system that posts ALL lab results to MyWakeChart where I can review them online. There are over a hundred since I was admitted Jan. 30. I was discharged Monday Feb. 4th and went back for an Acute Care follow-up appointment on Friday Feb, 8th.

The lab results from Friday's blood draw were posted before I even got home! 

My hemoglobin, hematocrit, platelets, white and red blood cell count, phosphorus and iron are all still way below normal.
My potassium, magnesium, calcium, sodium, chloride, and protein levels are all barely in the low-low-normal range.
I eat pretty well, so why my body isn't processing/absorbing these things baffles me. The MyWakeChart merely posts lab results, not how and why I may have gotten there. 
I'll have a raft of questions for Digestive Health when I go on March 11, but the quest for more nutritional answers might be a long investigative haul down many avenues.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Institutional Food, Again

After being MIA for about 2 weeks, I'm starting to think about food and health again.

Recently I started throwing up blood (which I hadn't done for 6 years), and my sister called 911 for an ambulance. They took me to the local hospital (where they don't have an endoscopy team) so they transferred me to Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, NC, about a 2-1/2 hour drive. There they put me on a ventilator in order to do an EGD to stop the bleeding without possibly obstructing my airway, and I NEVER want to be on a ventilator again. To awaken and find my wrists and ankles tied down, and a balloon-feeling thing in my throat was frightening.

They repaired a Mallory-Weiss Tear (usually caused by forceful or long-term vomiting or coughing) and a small adjacent arterial bleeder in my stomach. I spent 2 days in ICU, and almost a week in a regular room. I have enough punctures from IV's and blood draws and blood sugar finger pricks that I look like I was fighting with a porcupine and lost. Both arms are black and blue from the armpit to my fingers. 

For 4 days I was only allowed a plain liquid diet, and that was unpleasant. Most liquid things available were high in HFCS or sugars, and high in sodium.
Institutional Food, BLECK! This hospital, part of a medical school, was better than most I've seen, and they even have a gluten-free section on the menu. That encourages me to think not ALL institutions are destined to serve swill.

I did have a decent slice of grilled salmon with a baked potato and broccoli once I was allowed solid food. 

When they discharged me, the hospital sent me back to Virginia via Greyhound, to the bus station downtown last night. Fortunately my neighbor had the day off and drove into town to fetch me. We have a foot of snow on the ground, and it was 10º here yesterday early in the morning, whereas it was a balmy 45º when I left Winston-Salem in the afternoon. I'm glad to be home, though.

They discovered I have a small aneurysm on the aortic arch, which we will watch and probably repair in 3 months unless it gets worse sooner.

In the meantime, my doctors said my recuperation will be slow. All the UTI-kidney problems I had back in November and December are part of the overall trauma that led up to this. I have zero energy, and I'm sleeping 15-20 hours a day. Some of that is due to the medications, which will not continue for very long (I hope). 

I go back in 2 days for a hospital follow-up, more blood work, and a full pulmonary function test. Then I have some appointments booked in March, and in May we may do the surgical repair of the aneurysm if I have healed enough. Thankfully, it's half the distance I was driving for medical care at UVA medical school and I really liked the medical team approach at Wake Forest. I'm cancelling the appointments already scheduled next week at UVa since the Wake Forest appointments are for the same things.

UVa and Wake Forest are ranked almost the same in Medical School Rankings. Of course, I worked many years for the #1 ranked medical school, Johns Hopkins, so I have a bias... but Hopkins is too far away for me to seek treatment there.

I have to draft and print a copy of the dietary protocol I follow for my digestive health doctor, and it may prove to be fodder for a post here. My docs spent a lot of time trying to get my electrolytes balanced, and my hemaglobin up. They seem to think the imbalance was from extended body trauma and not my diet, from what I could tell them I eat. This is the first time I've seen Residents, Fellows, and Doctors willing to discuss food/diet that's NOT the S.A.D. (Standard American Diet). Of course that wasn't ALL of them, but quite a few.