In search of some Banting-bashing, I appreciated these two articles, albeit months after publication. Since I am a housewife with an unprofitable BA in a totally unrelated field, I would be too ‘lazy’ to go read up hard-core peer-related reviews. I am however proud to say that I was not too lazy to read through the whole January 2014 article, in which the author points out how unscientifically we express opinions. And the top few comments on that article just proved the author’s point: people are mostly too lazy to read extensively get their facts straight! Many people would be too lazy to even read through this opinion of mine – it is too long for the average attention-span. Which is EXACTLY why we are cannon fodder for the dietary industry.
My beef with Prof Noakes’s ‘revolutionary diet’ is not really whether it is consistently good or bad. It seems to contain some good principles. But as a housewife with a limited food budget for a family of six aged between 8 and 80, while also providing adequate workday meals for the three labourers on our weekend farm, I have serious issues regarding the economics of a high-protein low-carb diet, considering food prices in 2014.
An absolute ‘facepalm’ moment was when I stumbled across some of the Prof’s remarks in a lecture a month ago, about “revolutionising the diet of poor children in the Karoo.” I did not attend the lecture and didn’t find a transcript online but I would LOVE to hear more about his plan for them “eating more sheep intestines, a readily available source of affordable protein on Karoo farms”. I want to contend that, scientific or not, Prof Noakes is a little LAZY in his understanding of what ends up on the average labourer’s plate, and why.
I did not grow up in the Karoo but on a struggling Highveld farm, where my dad slaughtered one sheep every two weeks to feed his family of seven as well as for cooking up ‘sheba’ for the workers to have with their pap. Which yielded…let me count…one meal of afval every second Saturday: which the labourers’ kids unfortunately did not get. I say ‘unfortunately’ because it meant that we got it and I, as the eldest daughter, had to help with the preparation of it. Vile stuff to work with but quite tasty over samp, with a kerrie sousie. I remember us competing to dish up first so you could get one of the eyeballs, and Ma meticulously dividing the brain – tied up in the stomach lining prior to stewing with the rest – into seven equal parts. There would be war if one sibling appeared to have scored a disproportionate seventh.
The liver constituted a separate meal. One sheep’s liver does not fill seven stomachs so forgive her for bulking the meal up with white stuff like mielie-rice or pap. I will never forget the hiding I got because I made a remark about Ma’s ground liver on mashed potatoes. “Dit lyk soos mis…” (It looks like dung!) And lightning fast, as I was seized by the arm and hauled from the table: “Neeeee, Ma, ek bedoel dit lyk soos mis wat daar oor die berg aankom!” (Valiantly attempting semantics with the Afrikaans word for “dung” conveniently the same as that for the “fog” rolling in from the mountain. It didn’t work.)
Ah, the nostalgic memories of a “rich” white kid on a sheep farm…
For the record, I have eaten enough afval as well as mutton stew to last me a lifetime, thank you. But my son – who grew up on his Food-network junkie Mom’s versions of pantry-porn a la Nigella and Jamie, thinks the stews I cook up for the workers are the most wonderful culinary inventions since – well – sliced bread. I should publish a cookbook on those stews. “100 Recipes with Meaty Bones or IQF-30%-water-Chicken, and lots of Potatoes and Carrots and Cabbage.” O-kay, maybe “100” is a bit ambitious. At his point I can’t really think of 10, so I might have to include a section on sheep intestines.
I become incredibly sober every time I prepare these meals to freeze in portions for the workers on our farm. Very soon after we acquired the place I realised that expecting grown men to put in a day of work on bread and black coffee (even with four spoonfuls of sugar in it) was not an option. The next embarrassing revelation was that what I started spending on their modest lunches for a month was less the cost of just one week of eating for my middle-class family.
On the one hand, it was an expense which put strain on my already tight household budget. But on the other hand it was an indictment. I had to seriously evaluate our own weekly menus, and where I buy. Finding the solution, or even some balance, is a continuing exercise. One in which dietary arrogance has no place. It is also, unfortunately not one in which a Banting-type diet can be realistically sustained.