The One Question You Should Ask Every Waiter
Last time I asked the questions, “Who was Weston Price?” and “Why does he have a conference named after him?” I hope you enjoyed it and learned about the exceptional research of Dr. Price and the foundation that produces his name.
Today and in the next several articles I want to bring you inside the Weston A. Price Wise Traditions annual conference and highlight some things about it that can perhaps change the way you look at food on a more functional, every day level.
So just like last time I’ll assumption this article with another two questions.
Question #1: When you go out to eat, do you know what oils are being used in the food?
Question #2: Why does this matter?
The reason I’m asking this is because one of the great things about the conference was the complete without of industrial oils in the food. And when you’re cooking for 1500 people this is nothing short of a exceptional accomplishment. Let me explain why.
Traditionally, cultures used animal fats in their cooking – tallow (beef fat), lard (pig fat), chicken fat, bacon grease, duck fat, etc. Other fats and oils traditionally used in cooking included palm and coconut oils and good old fashioned butter.
Those fats are saturated and when you’re cooking, contrary to popular belief, this is not only a good thing, it’s vitally important. The reason is because saturated fats are very stable at high heat, meaning they keep up their chemical structure. Without getting too technical this basically method they don’t form free radicals which are unstable molecules that promote disease and aging in your body.
Unsaturated fats from plant supplies also have health benefits, but not when heated. Their chemical bonds are not stable at high heat.
To see this course of action with the naked eye take an apple and cut it open. Turns brown pretty quickly, right? It’s a course of action called oxidation (free drastic formation). This is what happens to any fruit, nut or seed when you break it open and expose the inner contents.
To extract the oils, they are pressed in mechanical processes which creates friction and consequently heat, thereby increasing oxidation. However, done under the right conditions, the integrity of many oils can be maintained. Oils termed ‘cold-pressed’ are done so at temperatures that prevent damage. After pressing, these delicate oils should be stored away from light, heat and moisture. This is why you’ll see good quality oils stored in dark glass bottles.
Unfortunately, to the food industry cold-pressing oils is not profitable. So they press them at high heats and pressures to extract them quicker and in greater quantities. This damages the oils and in turn, damages your body.
These perfected oils have been a part of our food supply for over a hundred years! Crisco was introduced in 1911 and it was the first shortening made thoroughly of vegetable oil. This is the time when the rates of heart disease started to dramatically escalate in industrialized countries.
Right now, take a look at the products in your fridge and kitchen cabinets. Unless you’re aware of this I can almost guarantee you’ll see corn, cottonseed, canola and/or soybean oil in almost everything – your salad dressings, mayonnaise, cookies, potato chips, canned goods and already things like bread.
These four oils have risen dramatically in our food supply since World War II. I call these four the “Quadruple Bypass” not just for their association with heart disease but also because anytime you see these four oils in anything, bypass them!
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to avoid them because they’re in almost all packaged foods. That includes Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. To avoid them completely you have to cook! I mostly use coconut oil and butter in my cooking. And when I roast a chicken, I’ll save the chicken fat. I’ll also save some of the fat when I make a stock. And it’s not hard to render your own lard if you find a good source of pig fat. All these fats are traditional fats and permissible for cooking.
However, it’s virtually impossible to do this when you go out to eat. Go ahead and ask your waiter what oils are being used. I’d almost recommend you don’t. You’ll be horrified.
Having waited tables for many years in restaurants I can tell you that industrial oils are in just about everything you eat. I don’t care if your favorite restaurant is sourcing their food locally. That’s great. But they’re nevertheless not using good oils.
The reason is they can’t. It’s just not cost efficient because they use so much of them. They use these oils in all their sauces. They use them in their salad dressings. They use them on their grills, saute pans and sandwich presses to keep food from sticking. They usually coat their meats with them right before they put them on heating surfaces in addition. They usually do the same with the breads of hot sandwiches. Simply put, they use A LOT of these oils.
And be aware of the label of “O grams trans fat” with a noticeably small “per serving” underneath?
This method they have trans fats. That is not a misprint. Let me repeat it to be clear. If you see “0 grams trans fat per serving” on a label, it method it has trans fats.
Just look at the elements label. You’ll almost always see the information “hydrogenated” followed by one of the Quadruple Bypass. Hydrogenation is a course of action that creates trans fats. So how can they claim 0 grams trans fats per serving?
Due to intense lobbying by the food industry, companies are allowed by law to claim 0 grams trans fats per serving if the serving size is 0.49 grams or less. So companies raise the serving sizes so they can get under the 0.49. That’s why the words “per serving” are always in tiny print.
Are you shaking your head in disbelief however?
If not, you would be if you knew that the research connecting trans fats to chronic disease is about as substantial as the research connecting cigarette smoking to lung cancer. Fortunately, most people know today that trans fats are devastating to human health. Some places are already trying to ban them. New York City did so a few years ago. This of course is met with huge resistance by the food industry.
So what exactly are trans fats?
As I mentioned above, trans fats are formed in a high tech course of action called hydrogenation. This course of action turns liquid oils into substantial fats.
Hydrogenation does two things to food. Number one it increases shelf life. And two, it makes it useful in baking. Traditional fats like lard and butter give substance to things like cakes, pies and cookies. Try using soybean oil instead of butter when making cookies. You’ll get a flat, greasy cookie.
But if you use hydrogenated soybean oil, you now have a substantial fat. You can now mass-produce baked goods since hydrogenated oils are so much cheaper than real, traditional fats. Take a look at almost any Hostess product – Twinkies, Ding Dongs, etc. You’ll see them there. Take a look at the labels of most big name snack/junk food companies. You’ll see them there.
And finally, there’s another reason restaurants can’t use good quality oils. It’s because we’ve been collectively brainwashed into thinking saturated fats will clog our arteries. A chef or restaurant owner who wanted to use say, lard in the fryer instead of canola oil, would have to deal with the headache of continued complaints from his/her patrons on doctor-prescribed low-fat diets and statin drugs.
How many people do you know on low-fat diets and stating drugs? I’m guessing more than a few.
So what can you do?
Well, other than never eating out again, not much. But here are two tips. First, most restaurants have olive oil and balsamic vinegar you can use instead of their salad dressings.
Second, when you go out for breakfast, ask your waiter to make sure the chef cooks your eggs or pancakes in butter. Same goes for any hot sandwiches. They’ll give you a quizzical look for sure. In fact, once you start incorporating more traditional foods in your diet, you’ll get a lot of strange looks. Get used to it.
Some of my Nutritional Therapist friends already bring their own oils and politely ask the kitchen to use them. Most are happy to oblige. A disinctive waiter/waitress or already a disinctive cook might already ask you why. This is your chance to educate them!
And this is why cooking for 1500 people for 3 days in a commercial kitchen operation without the use of industrial oils is a truly incredible feat.
Not a speck of canola oil. Not a drip of soybean oil. No cottonseed oil. No Mazzola corn oil. No Wesson. No Pam cooking sprays.
This is not functional. It’s not efficient. And it’s not easy.
One of the more touching moments of the conference was during the Saturday night banquet when Sally Fallon brought out all the chefs who spent the weekend preparing and cooking the foods in traditional methods for 1500 people.
As they came out on stage they got a standing ovation.