Recent breaking news has shown that the sugar industry, back in the 60s, worked really hard to shift blame from sugars to fats when it came to the negative health impacts of weight and cardiovascular disease, which were beginning their rise in prevalence to the epidemic levels we face today. This breaking news was a surprise to exactly zero people here at the co-op, but was yet another example of the food industry trying to manipulate people’s perceptions to maximize profits.
With this recent news in mind, we set out to write a thorough article explaining exactly why fats (yes, even saturated fats!) are healthy and an important part of any diet. The problem is, the cat is out of the bag. People already know that saturated fats are healthy, and they have been shouting this info from the rooftops. Don’t believe me? Check out this doctor’s scientific analysis. Or this podcast, from a wonderful series that focuses on many health-related issues in both food and exercise. Heck, you don’t even need to leave our region to find one of our favorite skin-care vendors going deep into the science behind fats. One of the reasons we love sharing all this hard work people have put into explaining and understanding diet is that they do their research: the Weston A. Price Foundation cites a whopping 73 scientific articles in their in-depth look at fats!
So, with all the heavy lifting already being done by such great people, what’s left for us to talk about? Well, if you take the time to read (and listen!) to these sources of information, you will know everything you need to know about saturated fats, and you can saunter over to the co-op and pick up some pastured goose fat, because you now know what a magical cooking fat that is. You can take it home, admire it on your counter, maybe open it up and smell it, but what the heck do you actually do with goose fat?
Well, that’s where we really get our chance to shine: eating healthy is only worth it if you’re having fun and know what you’re doing, so let’s look at some of the healthy saturated fats we encourage people to experiment with!
We have Fatworks chicken, duck, and goose fat – all pastured, kettle rendered, and sourced from small family farms. Chicken fat, sometimes better known as schmaltz, has been a staple of traditional Jewish food for centuries, and is essential to making great latkes or matzo balls. It is my favorite secret ingredient in roasted Brussels sprouts, and adds a wonderful buttery savory flavor to most roasted or sautéed vegetables – try some rutabaga fries. It is even wonderful spread on a hearty slice of whole-grain toast!
Duck fat is similar to chicken fat, and is famed for its transformation of potatoes. Sliced, cubed, fried, roasted, or even mixed in with mashed potatoes, duck fat and some good old spuds are a match made in heaven. For something a little more unusual, try drizzling it melted on popcorn, or even bake some cookies with it. (No, really, it’s amazing, and you don’t know what you’re missing.)
Goose fat is considered the tippy top of the fancy culinary fats, and is exceptional for sautéing any vegetables for soup, pairs with cabbage in a Russian-style sauté, and is exceptional as a substitution for butter or oil in a pie crust (traditionally, lard and animal fats were the choicest of fats for baking and frying – even McDonald’s got famous for their French fries when they cooked them in beef tallow.)
Cooking with animal fats can be intimidating to start, but is well worth the investment for flavor, health, and continuing a chain of kitchen traditions older than the invention of paper. Check out Fatworks’ own recipe index for a mouthwatering taste of what’s in store. You might find something just for you, like, Basil Nectarine Paleo Pie, or Duck Fat Caramels, or a Stuffed Squash Blossom Frittatta.
Of course, the most popular of the animal fats is BUTTER! We hardly need to teach anyone how to use butter, but it’s a great place to share this infographic showing the steady decline of butter consumption in the past century, which coincides with the rise in cardiovascular disease at the same time. Looks like everyone’s favorite dietary villain from the 50s might actually turn out to be a hero after all…
And for those of you who don’t want to partake in the animal fat movement? Avocado oil and coconut oil are some of the best sources of healthy fats, along with extra virgin olive oil. Be careful with olive oil and avocado oil – you want unrefined oils to maintain maximum health benefits, so don’t cook them at too high a temperature. Coconut oil is a super versatile oil, good for everything from cooking eggs to making some great paleo baked goods, and has a flavor that contributes particularly well to Thai cooking (try some curries cooked with coconut oil and you will be hooked.) Dipping bread in olive oil is a tradition worth getting a high quality olive oil for – like Organic Roots or Chacewater Mills– adding pepper to olive oil is not necessary with an extra virgin olive oil that has plenty of peppery flavor on its own, the way it should be.
Fats, as we are finally beginning to understand, are a vital and healthy part to anybody’s diet, and the good news is that the healthiest fats also taste the best. They are also a part of our collective cultural heritage, from every corner of the world, and cooking fresh foods in high-quality fats is one of the simplest ways you can connect with the people who matter to you.