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Friday, May 29, 2009

Butter Salad Anyone? 'Fat' Blasts Myths About Cholesterol and Other Phobias

Posted By on Fri, May 29, 2009 at 10:46 AM

click to enlarge rsz_fat.jpg
Remember the Woody Allen movie Sleeper, where a cryogenically frozen man wakes up 200 years later to find that junk food is good for you? In her James Beard Award-winning cookbook Fat: An Appreciation of A Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes (Ten Speed Press), Jennifer McLagan conjures the same kind of culinary-utopian fantasy. Only -- cover your eyes, fatphobes -- it's no fantasy. This book has hard-science cred.

Fat is an integral part of our diet, but its popularity tanked in the 1950s when it became associated with cholesterol, then fingered as a leading cause of heart disease. McLagan makes the case that such a cause-and-effect relationship was inherently flawed, since many cultures with diets high in saturated fat do not have correspondingly stratospheric rates of heart disease (see the butter-loving French and the blubber-loving Inuit).

McLagan explains the importance of cholesterol to human health, differences in quality between high-density lipoproteins (HDL, i.e., "good" cholesterol) and low-density high-density lipoproteins (LDL, i.e., "bad" cholesterol), and our need for various fatty acids. Turns out that natural trans fat is good for us. Who knew?

But the truly fun part of Fat is the recipes -- page after page of dishes calling for bone marrow, butter, pork fat, and so on. Make your own clarified butter, or head straight for the manteca colorada, Spanish-style pork rillettes, while getting an education in nutrition at the same time. There's even a recipe for double butter salad! Talk about waking up to an alien world.

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Kim Westerman


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