The Low Down

The human body is a metabolic marvel comprised of dozens of little systems connecting to create one complex system. Food is the fuel, the input, for the systems. Our metabolic machinery evolved over hundreds of thousands of years to function optimally on select fuels. These fuels were the original, Primal foods of the human organism. Over these hundreds of thousands of years our Big Game Hunting, small prey capturing, scavenging, foraging, gathering, opportunistic ancestors accumulated experience and wisdom about nourishing themselves. The learned to preserve and predigest foods to maximize the quality of their metabolic fuel. Eventually they learned to cook foods without destroying the important nourishing properties of the food, and then they learned to heal the human body with food. Only recently in the human evolutionary experience, have we abandoned all these hundreds of thousands of years of accumulated epicurean genius. Now we fuel our marvelous, complex metabolic machinery with crap invented to create profits for agribusiness. We have become dumb eaters. As we regain our eating intelligence it doesn't make sense to move back to the savannah and put out our fires or climb into our cave and pretend there is a glacier next door. It makes sense to fuel our bodies with all the primal human foodstuffs, prepared and preserved with accumulated ancestral wisdom and served up for the undeniable desires of the human taste buds. Primal, paleolithic food choices, handled according to ancient food ways resulting in outrageously good food.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Potluck

I now remember how much I LOVE potluck dinners. For awhile my feeling about potlucks was "where will I find any meat amongst the pasta salads and rice pilafs?". I've always been blessed with incredible friends, many of whom are very good cooks, but many of them, alas, have been vegetarians. Last night I had the good fortune to attend a potluck at which the majority of the people are Paleo eaters. There was one, probably a little bit hungry vegetarian, and I would've cooked some of my vegetables separately from the meat for her had I remembered. I was reminded of what I love about potlucks too. Surprises. Getting a little bit of inside information on the other folks. Checking out what people bring to a potluck is kind of like finding out what kind of underwear they like. It is a piece of personal information that brings you closer to them. When you live your life surrounded by people who like to live well and eat Paleo they also have the ability to inspire you. I love to be humbled by the cooks around me. For example, I always stuff my mushrooms with ground nuts, herbs and garlic. Some time soon I will do it in honor of Summer's mushrooms. There was a meat cake (it was a belated birthday celebration) topped with roasted red peppers, a delicious Paleo chili, stuffed mushrooms with pine nuts and raisins, a huge bowl of guacamole (and no one at Paleo potlucks expects you to only take a little spoonful of guacamole, they expect you to take a huge glop), sliced apples and strawberries with chocolate/avocado and chocolate/almond dip, a crab-spinach dish, delicious varieties of peppers stuffed with meats, some Paleo sweets with shredded coconut, and a shredded pork with sage and butternut squash. The shredded pork and butternut squash with sage was my offering. Here you go:

Whether or not I am cooking for a potluck I make an enormous amount. It is very good leftover. Sage is a pretty magical herb. Don't ruin it by combining it with other things. It stands on its own.

About 6lbs of pork shoulder or butt (don't use something fancy like a pork roast or loin, you need the heavily marbled fat)
3-4T dried sage (not the finely powdered stuff)
8T lard (or if you are bereft of lard use clarified butter)
black pepper
1 head of garlic, separated into cloves, peeled and coarsely sliced
4c chicken stock
2 butternut squash (peel them with a carrot peeler and chop them into smallish bite-size pieces, you can either separate the seeds and toast them or eat them later or you can put them in the compost, discard the stringy stuff around the seeds into the compost)
4 medium yellow onions, peeled and finely chopped

Heat the oven to 275F. Cut the pork into large chunks (3-4" pieces). On the stovetop, melt half your lard in an oven proof pot that can be covered. Place the pork pieces in one layer with space between them (you might have to do two batches). Cover with the sage and lots of black pepper. Brown them on high heat on two sides. Once all your pieces of pork are browned on two sides, add 3 cups of the chicken stock to the pan, bring to a simmer. Add all the sliced garlic, cover and place in the oven. The stock should come about 1/3 or 1/2 way up the meat chunks, but should not cover them. The meat should stay in the oven for around five hours. As the five hour mark approaches, place another heavy skillet on the stovetop and melt the rest of the lard in it. Add the squash and onions. Saute on high heat 'til browned (about 12min). Then add your remaining 1c chicken stock, cover and turn to low). Take the meat out of the oven. Remove the meat pieces from the pan and place them on a cutting board that will catch the juices. Put the pan on a burner and turn it onto high. You are going to reduce the liquid in the pan to about half. Stir it every now and then. While the squash and onions are cooking and the meat juices are reducing you shred the pork. Just get two forks and pull the meat apart. It will shred easily. Throw out any big chunks of fat that are left (or your potluck guests and your children will be grossed out). Once all the meat is shredded, and the liquid in the meat pan has been reduced by half, return the meat to the pan and mix it well with the reduced sauce. As soon as the butternut squash is soft and tender to the bite (about 40min, don't undercook it) add it to the meat. Mix gently, add a pinch of sage while you give thanks for the pig you are about to eat. Also add some sea salt if you'd like.

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