Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Startling Statistics or Give Fried Food a Chance!

Jeff and I had dinner in Joyuda for our 12th anniversary on June 30th. It is difficult to know where to go around here since we really don't care for fried stuff and I don't really like meat all that much (fish I love, chicken ok and the rest kind of yuck). We had gone to Joyuda before and spent too much money on lobster and fish swimming in a pool of artery hardening aceite. This time we went to the southern most place, Bahia something or other, and had grouper and snapper simply grilled with tostones and boiled name. It was very good and fairly reasonable and we sat in the warm night air chucking bits of stuff down to the tarpon that were swimming back and forth below us! Pretty neat. But back to the topic.

When talking to our friend David about fried food he brought up the idea that Puerto Ricans have a longer life span than those in the U.S. How could this be? Fried everything, sugar everywhere. That got me thinking about the whole fried thing. I admit I love potato chips - tostones have less surface area, are thicker and probably have less fat. So what is fried in the US? All the same fast food restaurants. Chips. French fries. What about the really good restaurants....butter, frois gras (not an organ eater), bread and butter, meat in general and all their tasty sauces. I am not saying we eat like most people...we prefer "clean" food like sushi, BBQ fish, potatoes, zucchini (unfortunately brushed with real butter that Jeff thinks "cooks off"). But we also like lots of cheesy things like zucchini-sour cream-cheddar cheese bake, enchiladas, eggplant or regular lasagna, brie and pear quesadillas, homemade pizza - hello fat (just not of the fried variety).

So what is the statistic? For men: U.S. 75.15 and PR 74.6 (pretty close) and for women: US 75.15 and PR 80.97 (glad to be a woman ). So now I am thinking of fried things in a different way. It is just a different fat delivery system. The Barrigas de vieja (little fried pumpkin balls) are a favorite of mine and have flour and calabaza puree and canela in them - that's it, no sugar. How can something with so few ingredients and such a soft, warm, delightful taste be bad? How about tostones - I've had plantano and pan tostones (prefer the pan ones)? Any worse than chips?

Much of the diet here I am starting to like. I love habichuelas y arroz but need to see Amparo make the sofrito to get the flavors right. Today she brought over white beans and green guineos (we just gave her some green guineos) and the guineos were made into little dumpling-like things. Yummy. I think a large part of the diet isn't fried, it is viandas. The problem I do have is that almost everything is white - white yucca, name, yautia, batatas, rice, guineos, platanos, breadfruit, bread. I have a difficult time with all white. When things are fried they are usually double fried. But most everything else you can eat with no or little oil depending on how you make it. Sometimes fat is good. Sobado bread is a little softer than the pan de agua. I like both. So anyway, I have low bad cholesterol and super high good cholesterol. Body weight isn't bad. Blood pressure is low. My ass slumps but I'm not 40 anymore so I don't care. I say give fat a chance. If you can, go ahead and eat the crispy-on-the-outside-soft-on-the-inside treats of your choice (Mr. Pretzel). Just add some colorful organic goods from the yard and enjoy!


Anonymous said...

Ah Katrina, welcome to the dark side.... Seriously, you are right on about fats. You can't get away from that in PR. I'm troubled by everything being white too. The key must be moderation, one of the tenets in French Women Don't Get Fat. My abuela lived to 95. She ate mostly viandas, arroz con habichuelas, and very little meat of any kind. But she ate tiny portions. I remember her frying up tostones for everyone and only eating ONE herself. She stayed skinny and everyone else got fat!--Fran

Cassie said...

When we were down in PR, I was so surprised by the amount of fried foods. I wonder if it has anything to do with keeping foods from spoiling? Here we have a lot of Mexican food and so when I saw a sign for tacos in PR, I was expecting a "taco" but there they are more like triple fried sopapillas, with no tomatoes or fresh lettuce.

This is a good post about moderation. I think it also matters what kind of oil it's fried in. Do you know what they use there? Coconut or palm oil would make sense as it is local. I think fast food is so dangerous not just because it is fried but because it's fried in transfat partially or fully hydrogenated oils (chemically manufactured).

Anonymous said...

"Good" oils (safflower, canola, olive) are readily available in big jugs in the stores so I assume most people are using those types. I think some foods are based on the inavailability of "fresh" food - canned meats, boxed milk, dried beans, etc. There are some mysteries - why mayo-ketchup? Velveeta? Why cabbage instead of lettuce (both are cold weather crops). Interesting to think about. ps. coconuts are evil - totally saturated fat Great on cereal, the milk is super in curries, and who can resist a coco frio? Especially when they are growing in the yard! katrina

We are understanding some of these things as we think about preparation for hurricanes. Boxed and dry milk seem like good supplies to have along with things in cans and dried things.

Cassie said...

I am still not totally convinced that coconut oil could be all that bad for you. I know it is saturated, but compared to trans fat or the saturated fat of a feedlot cow-there seems to be no comparison. Fresh, plant-based, healthy coconut or sick, absessed liver, corn-fed, standing in their own waste marbled meat and fat. Believe me, those cows are nasty; I live in one of the biggest "beef producing" cities. Greeley even made it into the book Fast Food Nation (not in a good way!)

Here's an interesting blog about coconut oil...

I say, enjoy your coco frio! I can't wait to make smoothies with fresh agua de coco, bananas, fresh orange juice and strawberries. Do strawberries grow well there?


Anonymous said...

The US used to provide the poor people of PR with basic staples such as cans of butter, vienna sausages, canned corned beef, bacalao, and yes, Velveeta. They were good for storing for hurricanes, too. Even if you weren't "poor", you learned to eat and love these foods. (Like Spam in Hawaii.) To this day, I always keep a supply of (chicken) Vienna sausages, which even my gringo husband has come to enjoy. My dad used to say "The richest people in the world are the poor people of Puerto Rico".
BTW, virgin coconut oil is great for you (and a little pricey). However, it does leave your food with a coconut taste.-- Fran

Vicious Summer said...

If you are an active person, you can eat anything you desire, in moderation. I will eat a few french fries on occasion, but I can honestly say I would prefer to eat fresh produce if given the choice.

I agree with you 1000% on your view on meat: "fish I love, chicken ok and the rest kind of yuck". I could happily live on sushi, but unfortunately good sushi is not available in PR (until we start making our own!).

Foie gras is the most disgusting thing. If people really new that they were eating a goose liver from a goose that was force fed until it exploded, would they really want to eat it? Ew.

Minerva said...

Lol, I believe most people who eat foie gras know exactly what they are eating, but they indulge anyway, when the opportunity presents utself.