January 11, 2012

Bloody Goldfish on toast for supper again.

My dad was an Antarctic adventurer.  Unsure quite what to do in life, not yet ready to settle into teaching after his University studies in maths and a diploma in education, and following a career so far speckled with odd and interesting jobs he answered an ad in the paper seeking people to join an Antarctic Expedition crew for a year.  He did a crash course in meteorology, Antarctic survival stuff, and sailed for the icebound continent in 1956 or thereabouts as a 'weather guesser'.  They were primitive times back then, he was only the second crew to man their station at Davis, so they inherited a one-room hut and took with them the makings of the rest of the station on board the ship, which they had to build as soon as they got there.  Small crew, all men, with very limited contact via dodgy radio with the outside world for a year or more.

And of course they had to take all their own food with them.  Though there could also be trying moments when one gets (for example) stuck in a blizzard that lasts 14 days with only a week's supply of food (which is how much you take for a 2-day field trip in Antarctica, just in case).  Certain unpalatable truths about seal meat, dog flesh, and so on are learned too.

Huskies (the dogs they used to use for getting around back then) can live off a diet very high in seal meat, so long as you don't then eat the dogs, especially the dog's livers.  Certain vitamins get concentrated to toxic levels.  Fun But Obvious Fact - dead seal freezes, so the best way to cut it up is like a log; in rounds, with a chainsaw.  Glad you know that now? :-) This is the Antarctic Leopard seal. They are notoriously unfriendly.  Do not try to pat one.

Luckily, my father's expedition had a Frenchman in the crew who just happened to be an excellent cook.  He didn't just bake bread, he plaited loaves specially, and gave them some actual variety and joy when it was his turn to cook.  But of course, nearly everything that went down with them was tinned.  And you can imagine the boredom of the same tinned diet over and over and over for months and interminable months in a small building with 6 or 7 others.

Which brings me to the Bloody Goldfish.  That's the typically Aussie name they gave the detested Sardines in Tomato Sauce - detested not for any reason other than because there were so bloody many of the bloody little things, meaning they were a most frequent dietary item.

I've never eaten a tinned sardine in my life, and we certainly never had them in our house when I was growing up.  Dad would make shuddery comic-disgust faces whenever someone said the word 'sardine' and mutter "uuurrgh Bloody Goldfish" under his breath.

One erstwhile tubie momma (her boy has successfully weaned and eats like a champ now) had a standard super-food blend she'd make involving sardines, avocado and olive oil.  Yes, heavy on the fats but they're all good fats and when you have a look at the breakdown of nutrients it's an amazingly full and power-packed blend.  She'd add other stuff around this but this was a very regular blend backbone.

Recently, in the course of research for my book and through life in general I've been prompted to think about including some more animal-sourced foods in my diet.  I am typically a lacto-vegetarian blender you see, relying mainly on legumes, nuts, seeds and dairy for my proteins.  Very very rarely I'd blend egg if it had been baked in something or if we had egg leftover from a meal for guests.  Just easier when you have a vegetarian household - no meat-handling issues in the fridge or sink etc.  Still, Meeta's fine with my consuming whatever as long as I'm 'clean' about it and eventually I decided I would.  I'd start with these little oily fish that are so calorie-dense and so good for you.

I've spoken of it before, the advantage I have of being my own blender, and able to communicate; I can 'listen' to my own body, and in fact removing the distractions of taste and smell and all that joyous stuff around eating has made me even more keenly aware of how food feels and how my body responds to it.  And it was saying it wanted sardines.  Also, maybe some emu, kangaroo, and some bone broth-type stuff, probably from a cow.  Emu is my favourite meat of all; if you're a carnivore and you've never tried it, seriously do yourself a favour.

Of course, I wouldn't buy the Bloody Goldfish.  Apart from anything, it's hard enough finding good sustainably-fished sardines from local waters let alone ones with organic extras so good ol' spring water it was for my little tinned guys.  I have eaten sardines before, but fresh luscious ones caught earlier that day, not the tinned ones, as I mentioned.  They do go with tomato really well.  And it's tomato season in my garden right now:  here's what I blended:

Tins sardines in springwater x 2
Light rye sourdough bread w caraway seeds (org, baked by me that morning),  large chunk.
Lettuce, various types, from the garden
Tomatoes, cherry pear variety, from the garden
Capsicum (bell pepper) from the garden
Basil and marjoram, from the garden
Garlic cloves, locally grown
Organic tomato paste
EVOO, organic, from just down the road.

I had an avocado in the fridge but it turned out to be what lots of chefs I know call a 'hand grenade' so its grey mooshiness is now happily feeding worms.  I added a splash more oil because of this.

As food, I imagine having roasted the little tomatoes and peppers in some oil, and mushed them into the sardines on to fresh hot toasted crusty rye sourdough, with the herbs roughly chopped through and some salad leaves.  Mm.

I didn't weigh or measure, and got 2 litres of pretty thick but rich and smooth not-too-fishy-smelling ochre-coloured blend that I had roughly estimate at about 35-40 cal/oz.  Not too fatty, and a good spread of nice nutrients. Very 'crunchy' in the green/locavore/organic/hippy sense too if you're not hung up on the whole animal death thing.  And I have to say, a couple of hours after a feed, it feels really very good.

I plan to honour the demise of a few more animals by consuming their flesh thoughtfully and respectfully in as friendly a way to them and our planet as I can in the near future.  I'll keep you all appraised of any interesting developments. :-)

This is Davis station in the summer after my dad lived there.  The Vestfold Hills area of Antarctica remains relatively ice-free, especially in summer.  Nice climate too.  On mid-summer days the temperature may even get up to freezing point - t-shirt weather.  40 below was more typical though.


January 5, 2012

Mini (ONE) Step At A Time


This might mark a little watershed moment.  Although I'll admit to a slight dose of skepticism, just for now.  What has happened to make this watershed?  In brief, that a large corporate market player has stepped out from under the wing of pharmaceutical company protectionism and made a bold statement in support of food.

The skeptic asks me how long this might remain the case; whether some backpedalling may occur, and wonders at exactly the motivations, but no matter - for now, this is a Good Thing.

For those outside the little loop world of we tubies, enteral feeding devices come in two types - tubes and 'buttons'.  Most people, especially for children with tubes, opt for buttons, as they don't dangle about the place.  Most buttons are retained by internal water-filled balloons which make them simple to replace at home.  The 'button' has now effectively lionized the market.  The market is controlled by just two companies, with different varieties of their own products.

AMT, makers of the rather popular MiniONE button amongst other enteral devices and one of the two main players has just said this on their website page, under the heading section of Are You New To Enteral Feeding?:

"Wherever possible, real food is still the best thing for feeding people, whether they eat the regular way or through a tube."

This is a BIG call.  I have seen device manufacturers' literature saying that their devices are suitable for enteral formula and blenderized foods before, but never have I seen a corporation, one of the Big Medicine Corps, effectively say to the entire marketplace that food is better than formula if you can do it.  Can they get away with it for long, do you think, before someone at Big Pharma takes countermeasures?  

Of course, such countermeasures have long been in place against using food for tube feeding, ever since a reliable and sanitary product that could be shown on paper to provide a spectrum of nutrients suitable for theoretical human life that could be profitably sold was created.  It's called education.  Doctors and dietitians are busy, time-poor people, who often feel under-rewarded for the long and arduous hours they put in at humanity's service, and despite the canniness of many of them, they are vulnerable to slick messaging from the only people with deep enough pockets to provide most of their free, ongoing postgraduate education - the Pharma Corps.  I do not mean to completely belittle the value of such education - of course they need to keep up with developments and changes in science and best practice, and for the most part it is pharmaceutical company funding that drives the research and innovation.  They also put on very nice dinners (I should know, I've hosted enough of them).  

But food has no such champion.  Big Food certainly throws it weight around the mass market and leans heavily on governments around the world to get their bidding done, but the tubie market is too small.  But we're a VERY lucrative market for Big Pharma.  Also, for AMT and their competition.  Naturally, they want the goodwill of the fastest-growing market segment of the fast-growing tubie market.

Still, I congratulate those at AMT with the stones to make this call, even if for now it is just on one part of their website.  They kindly link directly to our sister site (where many of this bog's posts are reproduced and I am a co-administrator also), blenderizeddiet.net.  

Here's to the notion that this might be a key moment in the opening up of the thinking of the medicalized world of tube feeding.  That one day, we might see food on an equally-respected footing with enteral formulae as an option, as well-supported and accepted if not more so, in the medico-industrial complex.

It's not too much to hope for, is it?

EDIT UPDATE: I have just been informed by AMT's marketing manager Lisa Szpak that they have amended their website, saying that "the wording on the website is what you requested to best describe blenderizeddiet.net".  I understand that Beverly Hanset-Burch, our co-admin there, previously provided them with some information they could use.  Lisa went on to say "AMT does not currently have a position regarding real food versus formula.  Nor are we aware of any movement by pharmaceutical companies or device manufacturers regarding real food versus formula.  I apologize for any confusion this may have caused.  We have modified our website to more accurately represent the subject matter of your website."

Sadly, my fears proved founded then.  They have bailed on us regards any endorsement.