Monthly Archives: July 2014

They Eat Lard

What a great title for a horror movie!

What a great title for a horror movie!

I am working on something a lot less snarky but it’s not ready for publication, so since I rendered some lard yesterday morning I thought I’d take a few minutes to run down the procedure in case any of the unsuspecting victims who stumble on this blog might not know how to make it. It’s quite easy, and since we know now that lard is actually good for you, there’s not much reason not to use it. It also tastes wonderful.

Of course, I’m not talking about the hydrogenated glarp you buy in the store, usually in the “ethnic” section.

Real lard is just pork fat which has been melted and the remaining solids removed. Most people make it from pork fatback, which you can think of as uncured bacon with no meaty part in it – it’s just fat. I used a pound of fatback, which cost me $3.50 from a butcher that supplies very good, hazelnut-finished animals. (If you happen to be in Portland, I really recommend these guys. And they don’t know me from Adam so there’s no quid pro quo going on here.) The pound of fatback will make enough lard to just about fill a 16 ounce tub.

1. Cut the lard into small pieces, put it in a kettle and add enough water to come up about even with the top of the lard. The water is there to keep the lard from burning at the beginning of the process. At first, you can use a pretty high heat, but this first step is just to boil off the water and get the lard started. Once most of the water is gone you must turn the heat down. Here’s my lard after it’s started to boil, with some water still in the pot:


2. Turn the heat down and let the lard bubble, stirring occasionally. As the lard liquifies, the solid bits will get smaller and more and more liquid will surround them. The bubbles will get smaller and smaller, and eventually the small pieces of solid matter will start to turn brown – at this point I pour off the liquid into a metal bowl:


3. While the liquid cools I finish rendering the cracklings, which is what those solid bits are called. I do this away from the liquid so that if I mess up and overdo it I won’t give the rendered lard a browned taste. You can still use it if you do, but you probably wouldn’t want it in anything that isn’t a savory dish. I don’t eat grains so pastry is not on my menu, but if you want to you can make the best tasting, most flaky pastry you ever had with this stuff. This is what our great-grandparents’ pies were made with.

Lard cooling; it will be entirely ivory when done.

Lard cooling; it will be entirely ivory when done.

4. That’s it. Put the rendered lard in the refrigerator, where the lard will turn white (unless you really overcooked the cracklings first, LOL), salt the cracklings and taste ‘em; they hit the “french fry spot” better than anything else I’ve found since I stopped eating starchy carbs. Or put them directly on something and have a snack:

My usual patented, mismatched lighting for eating

My usual patented, mismatched lighting for eating

You can, of course, render other types of fat too. Here’s how you can make tallow if you have some beef heart handy. I realize that’s not too likely, but some might find it interesting, although the basic technique is the same as that used here for lard. In the absence of beef hearts (which usually have quite a bit of fat on the outside) you can do the same thing with suet, which you could get from a decent butcher.

Stay young and monstrous.


Posted by on July 31, 2014 in Health, Recipes & ingredients


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Sullivan Ballou’s Letter

This is a break from all the snark, but I think it’s worthwhile. Sullivan Ballou was a Union soldier in the Civil War. If you’ve never heard of him, take the time to read this letter he wrote to his wife; it is one of the most moving things I’ve ever read, and the man’s feeling cuts like steel as he speaks to her. Better yet, slow down and read it aloud.

July the 14th, 1861

Washington D.C.

My very dear Sarah:

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days—perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.

Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure—and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine O God, be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing—perfectly willing—to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.

But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows—when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children—is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country.

Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me—perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar—that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.

Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have often been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the brightest day and in the darkest night—amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours—always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.

Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for me, for we shall meet again.

As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father’s love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue-eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters. Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God’s blessing upon them. O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.


Sullivan Ballou died in the first battle of Bull Run a week later. I wonder how many of us today would write so eloquently. My guess: none.


Posted by on July 30, 2014 in Uncategorized



San Francisco


Washington, DC – In a mixed decision a Federal court decided yesterday that a person can have the same rights as a corporation, setting up likely conflicts for years to come. The ruling “attempts to right the imbalance of power created by the US Government’s decision in the 1800’s to consider corporations as ‘persons’ in the eyes of the law,” said Phelan Wayside, the lead attorney for the plaintiff in the case.

The court went beyond simple recognition of corporate status for individuals, however; the ruling also holds that the individual may trademark himself, requires that anyone who refers to his trademarked identity pay him a royalty, and in what is likely to be the most controversial section of the decision, states that individuals may trademark other people so long as they are not already trademarked. The precedent for this was the legal practice employed by genetic researchers of patenting genes in existing lifeforms, a practice made legal by the case of Diamond v. Chakrabarty in 1980 and extended in the next decade with pharmaceutical companies acquiring the rights to huge quantities of plant matter via trademark.

Yesterday’s ruling extends to the incorporation and trademarking of deceased persons as well, a process the court referred to as “incorpseration”.

The plaintiff in the case, Fred Wellington™, was exultant*. “It’s about time! We’ve been saying for years that corporations have no empathy, accept no responsibility for their actions, are concerned only with their own well-being, are not accountable, and lie like a mattress. Why shouldn’t I have those rights, too?” Immediately acting on the court’s ruling by incorporating himself, he has also managed to snag several unwary and slow-moving identities as well; Bill Gates™ and Oprah Winfrey™ refused to comment when asked about their own legal plans. Abraham Lincoln™ could not be reached for comment but crowds visiting Lincoln™’s tomb claimed to see something spinning above the structure. “The rush to incorpserate has just begun,” said Fred Wellington™.

Financial speculation on corpserations is a new aspect Wall Street is only beginning to come to grips with as some traders believe they can be traded like commodities. Unincorpserated human corporations (formerly referred to as “the living”) are entering the market as well and as one trader asked in 2007, “Who wouldn’t want to sell George Bush™ short right now?”

*Each use of the ™ symbol in this article required us to pay $0.47 to Fred Wellington™. Oops – there’s another one.


Posted by on July 29, 2014 in Corporations





New York – The McDonald’s and Monsanto corporations announced today that they have reached agreement on terms leading to a merger of the two industry leaders. The new entity, to be called “McSanto’s”, will be a “complete top-to-bottom market-streaming food payload delivery system of unparalleled depth covering a full spectrum age demographic”, according to analyst Jeffrey Spottiswode of Scientists Helping Industrial Litigation Licensing. “We have been examining the proposed merger for some time and I am satisfied that the real beneficiary of the deal will be the consumer, who will have better access to food choices than she has ever had at any time in history.”

Both companies’ stock prices rose slightly on the announcement.

The news couldn’t have come at a better time; there have been problems in the past. On May 3, 2007 Monsanto was dealt a judicial setback when a court in San Francisco ruled that the USDA’s 2005 approval of its genetically engineered “Roundup Ready” alfalfa was illegal, the first time the company has been handed such a reversal. McDonald’s has recently been in the news because of adverse public reactions to one of its new kids’ meal items; the genetically engineered Smorgasbird (the ads’ tagline is “Every part is edible”) has proved a difficult sell, in part due to the footage of projectile diarrhea featured in the sixteen now famous YouTube videos.

McSanto’s has bold plans for future movement: the introduction of Roundup Ready Fries, which will blend a friendly western image with the ability to resist the world’s most common herbicide; Harpy Meals, the reformulated (“safer than ever”) version of the Smorgasbird-derived food product system; Malted Meatballs, the first actual meat product synthesized from petroleum; rBeST sHakes, the new line of bovine growth hormone dairy drinks, and most intriguing of all, the retirement of an old friend, Ronald McDonald.

The beloved ad mascot will be making way for a pair of fun loving logotypes; McSanto Claus will take over much of Ronald’s current duties vis-à-vis food marketing and children’s PR functions, while the Happy Pharmer is being introduced “as a way to help them to trust the brand at a younger age while still communicating solid information to adults”, according to company spokesperson Shirleen Inkerton. “With McSanto Claus the kids will know it’s Christmas all year round”, while the Happy Pharmer will be giving PowerPoint presentations on free DVDs which accompany the meals. “We got the idea from Al Gore, and just look what it did for him!” said Shirleen.

Each personality will also be sold as Nag-ems, edible plastic action figures carefully researched for their so-called “nag factor”, or the ability to get kids to pester on demand. Nag-ems are the fastest growing item in the current McSanto hierarchy of action figures.

The move comes at a time when the industry faces more competition than ever before, especially as the organic movement takes off. Targeted niche marketers such as Burger Queen (organic choices for gays and lesbians) and Rat-In-The-Box (from Disney’s GenX-to-slacker marketing arm) have made inroads on fast food profits, while truly specialized venues such as Hank’s Booze & Shoots chain (tavern and firing range separated by the bar) have also siphoned off revenue.

McSanto’s also revealed today that it has acquired the infant formula brand Babes In Soyland as well as the chain of Leafy Rest assisted living communities and its subsidiary, Cenotaph, Incorporated – the second-largest mortuary concern in the state of California.

“Now they’ve got you,” laughs Spottiswode, the analyst. “Cradle to grave.”



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Posted by on July 28, 2014 in Corporations, Health



The Wamni Omni*


This was probably someone’s pet. I found it on the lawn in front of a house I walk by early every morning when I walk my dogs. (I live in a fairly big city; I’m not in rural Americana.) My first thought was that a coyote had caught this cat, although a Fish & Wildlife person I spoke with offered up the idea that some owls are also capable of this – I have to say, that one had not occurred to me. I rule out dogs for the simple reason that very few of them will actually eat what they kill unless they are truly feral. I suppose it’s not impossible, but I’ve never seen one in the neighborhood, while I’ve run into coyotes many times, some of them rather large (45 pounds or so).

The coyotes don’t bother me or my dogs because the coyotes are too smart to mess with me. If they caught the dogs it might be a different story, but coyotes are not stupid and it would take something pretty dramatic to get one to take on a full grown human. But it’s been interesting to see them because one of my dogs looks a lot like a coyote in some ways and so far, my dogs and the coyotes have simply looked at each other. One big coyote stopped and stared at us so we did the same thing. I found it interesting to watch him from 30 feet; he wasn’t frightened and I wasn’t disturbed because if I had to, I could kill him. My dog must have picked up on my lack of worry because she just watched him, too. Eventually we all got tired of this and just went our own ways.

People who let their cats go out on their own are opening the door to this pictured outcome, of course, but most cat owners simply don’t want to think about it. It never seems to bother most of them when the cat brings home a bird or a mouse, though. Cats are carnivores, they are not omnivores like we are; while we can subsist on a meatless diet, we don’t do well on it (sorry to offend any vegans dropping by, but I doubt there are any) but cats can’t do that, and they like to hunt. But turnabout is fair play; coyotes, too, are carnivores, just as are owls.

It’s all a circle.


And we are part of the circle too, even the vegans, LOL. Although they are responsible for more animal deaths than most of us who actually bother to find out anything about how our food is sourced and try to do something about it. Lierre Keith’s book The Vegetarian Myth has probably been the biggest stumbling block for the vegans and vegetarians of the world, although most can’t get past the fact that the title calls their lifestyle a myth so they tend to dismiss it out of hand reflexively. Too bad, because Keith is the poster child for veganism and what it can do for you; that’s why she wrote the book. I would think that vegetarians would want to read it if for no other reason than to familiarize themselves with some of the arguments that can be used against them, many of which are devastating. That the vegetable people have somehow taken on for themselves the moral high ground is both understandable and preposterous; it shows how people want to do good but are unwilling to think through the consequences of their actions. Thus, without thinking very deeply about the subject, a lot of people tend to agree that “not eating animals” is the best thing to do, and if not eating them meant that animals would not die than I’d agree with them, too. But it doesn’t. Keith phrases all of this better than I could do it, so if you want to disagree with me I’d suggest you go to the source and find out what she says and then disagree with her directly and not by proxy.

When I was younger I hunted, so I’m not squeamish about the fact that animals must die for me to eat. I’m too old for that now, but we buy our beef and lamb from a farmer we know and we see the animals grow up in their pasture and we see the lives they lead. I don’t think there’s any comparison to the life of a feedlot steer at all and the animals’ food does not require huge amounts of oil to grow; once again, it’s a circle. Likewise, while we don’t have chickens ourselves, we do the best we can to get eggs from birds that do not live in battery farms, and who (we hope) actually eat insects. I saw a posting on a paleo blog the other day by a reader who said “chickens that eat bugs? What a peculiar thought!” Yet this commenter presumably has done at least some thinking about the subject; obviously a ways to go yet. It’s harder to get pork that comes from a good source, but there are ways to do it without buying half a pig; it takes some effort to find the sources, but you can do it if you really want to. Most of us don’t really want to, I think. It’s just easier to get in line for the shrink-wrapped packages that grow on pork trees somewhere. Damn, we are a thoughtless people!

Here in Oregon it is easier to do a so-called “green burial” than it is in some other states, something that pleases me because that’s what I would want. And maybe those bugs can get a little payback. Like I said, turnabout is fair play. Circles, you know?

It’s all a circle.


*Wamni omni is the Lakota word for whirlwind. It’s pronounced (very approximately) “wah-many oh-many”, a nice piece of onomatopoeia.

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Posted by on July 27, 2014 in Dogs, Uncategorized


The Earth Is Still Flat


We received this letter from our HMO the other day and I was interested (but not surprised) to see that they are still stuck in the Great Cholesterol Fear campaign. There is so much information available now about all the problems with this simplistic approach that nothing that I can say is going to convince anybody in any new fashion that Kaiser is completely wrong here. But I like a good rant as much as the next pirate (even if I don’t rant quite as well as Pirate Ben’s grandmother) so I’ve posted this as a companion piece to the tribute to Kaiser Permanente which I ran when I started this blog.

The problem with Kaiser is that it is completely governed by committee thought, and that does not make for good medicine. The use of medical guidelines to determine health care treatments is, in my opinion, one of the worst things that has happened to us – what are you supposed to do when you know the guidelines are wrong? This puts you in a terrible position, because you can no longer trust your doctor. That the staff at Kaiser is overworked and overbooked only adds to the difficulty; you get about 15 minutes with somebody…if you are lucky. And of that 15 minutes, how much of it is actual face-to-face conversation? And since the doctor is so pressed for time now, she has to spend the entire visit typing on her keyboard, which means she can’t even look at you beyond the initial greeting. Tell me that the visual aspect of a doctor visit is not important.

I think western medicine is great if you have a trauma issue or an infection. But the number one problem in our society now (speaking in medical terms) is not infectious diseases like it was 100 years ago, it’s chronic conditions. And most of those are caused by lifestyle choices we make or which, unbeknownst to us, are made for us. Diabetes, obesity, arthritis, I don’t know where to begin – an entire list would be enormous. As Sarah Ballantyne points out, you can start with these as having inflammatory causes which are strongly related to what you eat:

Alzheimer’s disease
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS; aka Lou Gehrig’s disease)
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Dercum’s disease (aka Adiposis dolorosa)
Hidradenitis suppurativa
Opsoclonus myoclonus syndrome
Parkinson’s disease
Progressive inflammatory neuropathy
Some forms of cancer

Ballantyne lists several pages of such conditions in her book The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease, Heal Your Body. Friends, this is the book to have handy if you need biochemistry to back up your arguments! (Mini review: great book for dealing with autoimmune conditions or just understanding how your body reacts to various inputs, very tech heavy through the first section, somewhat spoiled by almost complete reliance on boring stock photographs; except for the occasional headshot of a quoted person all the photos are generic images from stock agencies and they could go in any medically related book at all. Too bad, because otherwise it is a good book.)

My point here is that while western medicine is great if you break a leg and need it set, or if you need surgery for an acromial impingement (like I did), it is mostly ineffective when it comes to managing conditions which are food or lifestyle related. The discouraging thing is that most doctors don’t seem to think this is a problem, so maybe all it means is that I don’t know what I’m talking about and I should shut up and listen to them. After all, they are the experts with degrees, aren’t they?

Problem is, these same people are the ones who told me for thirty years that I either had imaginary problems, or that I was depressed, or that I had problems of idiopathic origin (which just means that they don’t know what the problem is but it sounds a lot more official, doesn’t it?), or that I should try an anti-dandruff shampoo (I’m not kidding). And *I* am the person who found out on my own what the real problem was; it was the damn wheat I had been eating all my life. So why in the world should I take these people seriously when they tell me now that elevated cholesterol can increase my risk of heart attack when this time I know it simply is not true? I’m not the totally uninformed patient I was a few years ago, guys. I’ve read enough comments by doctors on their own blogs about how patients are getting more involved in their care and I can see how, from the doctors’ point of view, this could be a problem when everybody is questioning their treatment, but in this case I think the doctors have nobody but themselves (as a profession) to blame. If they hadn’t been so enamored of fright-based messages like ELEVATED CHOLESTEROL CAN INCREASE YOUR RISK OF HEART ATTACK then perhaps we might have a bit more trust in their diagnoses and treatment.

So now I know that the Earth is still flat according to Kaiser, and I still stand by my original assessment of the organization:



Posted by on July 26, 2014 in Corporations, Health



A Politician Meets Its Match

Don't you hate it when this happens?

Don’t you hate it when this happens?


Note: this is a guest editorial by Pirate Ben, who we find somewhat bemused by his grandmother.

Th’other day me old grammer been a-watchin’ th’ movin’ image where the politicos their lies do spout like the blowfish they ape wi’ such shoutin’ out success. Belike she were listenin’ to our own local pile o’ color-changin’ ineptitude for she begun to steam about the ears and the imprecations come thick and fast. Have I not told ye she’s got a tongue on her? A smart man’d do well to steer clear when the fire be upon her but I’d not give warnin’ to this partickilar fish crotty, me not bein’ me brother’s kipper and all.

Harken to th’ conversation, only the one side o’ which I be givin’ ye:

“Feculous rat bait! Down, down into the bilge!

“Take yer teleprompter and [CRASH]

“Cheese farts! Naught but cheese farts, I tell ye! Ill-favored petomane!”

(mutterin’, mutterin’)

“Say that again and ye’ll be leakin’ rheumy snot out the backside o’ yer skellinton’s cracktured pate, ye four-pounds-in-a-sack-o-three mountain o’ steamin’ squid johnny!”

(more mutterin’)

“I’ll remind ye that the only difference ‘twixt guest and gust be the letter E, a component ye be sorely lackin’, so blow yer stinkin’ ass ashore, ye poxy fart of a gossoon!”

(more mutterin’ still)

“Ye be naught but a slack-knackered malcontent! A peculatin’ whoreson of a man! A louse-infested scab on the shinin’ face o’ Piratude! Go peddle yer wares to the French, for only a Froggy’d be assheaded enough to cock an open ear to the tune o’ yer stumpy clangorband! Why man, the juice’d be runnin’ sideways into his nose from the sheer gravity o’ the situation! Can ye not see the world laughin’ at the state o’ yer sheer ineptitude? Are ye not knowin’ they call ye squbtubbler, wiggletoper, squibberjibber and wuggletump to yer face and them keepin’ the nasty words for the pimply backside o’ ye? That be bound to change, and soon, I warrant! I call upon the nine syphilitic gods o’ the tarry Marianas Trench to send ye down to the lowest slit in the black ‘n’ loftless abyss o’ iniquity, ye bleatin’, sheepy pustule of a rotten peckertip! Alaunt, now move!”

Update: And he did, too, by God! Give you joy, mates!

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Posted by on July 25, 2014 in Uncategorized


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