The Longreads Blog

Is Butter the Future?

A freshly cut wheel of swiss cheese sits at the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest in Green Bay, Wis. The contest organizer, Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, says the number of cheeses, yogurts and butters competing at this year's event is at an all-time high. They say it's because cheesemakers are seeing what a win does for sales. Judging was set for Tuesday and Wednesday, with winners announced Thursday. (AP Photo/Carrie Antlfinger)

In the April issue of Elle magazine, Molly Langmuir questions the societal and dietary norms that preach ‘fat is bad.’ Langmuir spoke with Sally Fallon, who, for two decades, has preached  the health benefits of enjoying animal proteins, organ meats, and raw milk and yogurt (while avoiding all things processed), and reveals that food—like all else—isn’t binary. Enjoying fatty foods doesn’t have to just be a cheat day indulgence.

Raised in Palos Verdes, California, by parents she calls “the original foodies,” Fallon got an English degree at Stanford in 1970 and settled in Washington, DC, with her then husband (they later divorced), who worked in the aerospace industry. “I knew in my bones this low-fat thing was wrong,” she said. But she didn’t have evidence until she read Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, published in 1939 by an intrepid dentist named Weston A. Price, which documented his world travels studying diets and health. His conclusion? Various diseases, cavities, even “personality disturbances,” were rare among groups who ate like their ancestors— lots of meats or seafood, plenty of fat, and, if they ate carbs, whole grains—but rampant among those who’d adopted a modern diet, with heaps of white flour and sugar.

Fallon eventually had four kids and fed them foods like liver and raw milk—she credits this with their continued good health and in 1995 she put Price’s beliefs into practical form in the self-published Nourishing Traditions. At first, Fallon stored the books in her garage and shipped out a few copies a month, but “it started to grow and grow,” she said. Even Atkins blurbed her book, gushing that the first chapter “is so right on target that I feel a little guilty for taking her ideas.” There are now 740,000 copies in print.

Over lunch—a tomato soup into which she’d stirred an entire container of crème fraîche and a dip made from cheese, butter, and cream—she said that at her farm, she does things “the old-fashioned way,” meaning it’s a multispecies realm with pigs that eat the leftover whey, cows that eat the grass, chickens that eat anything they scratch out of the ground, and cats that eat the mice. The living-history–museum vibe carries over into the 150-year-old main house, a precisely decorated three-story affair filled with antique china and Oriental rugs. (There are a few incongruous nods to the present: a swimming pool, a wine fridge.) Fallon does her writing at an enormous antique desk, on which sits a glass paperweight I mistook for a crystal ball. “I don’t see the future,” she said. Then she laughed. “Yes, I do! And it’s butter!”

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“In France, I’m a Star”

a man in an orange knit hat lights a cigarette
Barkley creator Gary Cantrell lighting the cigarette that signals the start of the race. (Photo by Michael Hodge via Flickr, CC BY 2.0).

Tennesseean Sara Estes profiles the man behind her state’s strangest sporting event: Lazarus Lake, aka Gary Cantrell, the creator of the punishing Barkley Marathons. Estes’ piece is a fascinating profile of both the man, the land — “trees like steel bars, thickets like razor wire” — and the community where the Barkley takes place.

When I arrive at Hardee’s, the sun still hasn’t risen, and the air is chilled and dew-damp. Inside, a group of white-haired men — retired, church-going, grandpa types — are seated around a large table in the middle of the restaurant. They’ve been eating breakfast here, every morning, at this very table, since the dawn of fucking time. They can remember all the various phases of branding and décor Hardee’s has cycled through over the decades; they can recount what year the restaurant got new booths, new light fixtures, new flooring. They know the Barkley well, and can always tell its arrival by all the strange new people who flood into the small town around April Fool’s Day, the day on which Laz purposefully chose to host the race, or as near to it as possible.

When Laz arrives, he orders sausage and eggs and joins the men at their roost. Media crews from France and New York are slowly trickling in. They look like aliens from a distant land with their hi-tech AV equipment and tight-fitting athletic wear. Laz ignores them. His particular brand of grungy, mountain-man fame is generally underwhelming to locals, yet ceaselessly exhilarating to clean-cut city dwellers near and far.

“In France, I’m a star,” he tells me. “In America, I’m thought of more as a homeless person.”

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The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

44 Magnum. (AP Photo/Kai-Uwe Knoth)

This week we’re sharing stories by Jason Fagone, Betty Ann Adam, Christian H. Cooper, Clarissa Wei, and Robert Kolker.

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The Best Longreads From Trump’s First 100 Days

Illustration by Kjell Reigstad

Michelle Legro | Longreads | April 2017 | 7 minutes (1,773 words)

 

Day 100 is a Saturday, which is good because Donald Trump should probably get some rest. Saturdays are usually fairly easy for the president—he took the first one off right after his own inauguration—a day he can kick back and enjoy some quality time with a piece of chocolate cake at Mar-a-Lago.

The Trump Administration introduced the American people to a new kind of time, one that moves with a glacial tick of the clock, but with the drama of a high school lunch period. To look back on the early days—yes, that was three months ago—is to find reporters breathlessly navigating the events of a single day in a flurry of tweets, with little time for a proper write-up before the next dramatic turn of events. We found ourselves asking what the fuck just happened today? as it became harder and harder to remember what happened an hour ago, let alone a day. However, it quickly became clear that journalists were digging in for the long fight. And while the best reporting has often been short, spry, and effective in these first crucial days, these were some of the longreads that stood out.

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Hit Eject

Micrograph of a uterus with Adenomyosis by Nephron, via Wikimedia Commons

Sari Botton | Longreads | April 2017 | 9 minutes (2,349 words)

 

Happy Adenomyosis Awareness Month! Never heard of it? Allow me to enlighten you about this painful affliction, which is similar to endometriosis, and something of a mystery to modern medicine. I know about it because it wreaked havoc on my life for 25 years before a hysterectomy at 43 — an operation I had to fight for, and almost didn’t receive — gave me the relief I needed.

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The 2017 James Beard Award Winners: A Reading List

Fluke Crudo with Cucumber, Radish & Nasturtium at the kick-off event for the James Beard Foundation’s Taste America® 10-city national tour, held Wednesday, August 3, 2016 at the James Beard House in New York City. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision for James Beard Foundation/AP Images)

The growth of food writing has evolved with the explosion of all the food-watching that accompanied programs like Top Chef and Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, and we’re way past the days of Craig Claiborne or Ruth Reichl reveling about an up-and-coming chef in an out-of-the-way corner of a yet-to-be-gentrified-neighborhood somewhere.

The James Beard awards—otherwise known as the Oscars of food—were announced earlier this week, and befitting the honor’s nearly 30-year history, let’s toast sparkling rosé and caviar-topped amuse-bouches to the best food writing published in 2016 (here is the full list of winners).

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How the Canadian Government Tried to “Remove the Indian From the Child”

Residential school survivor Lorna Standingready is comforted by a fellow survivor in the audience during the closing ceremony of the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission, at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Wednesday, June 3, 2015. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP)

Betty Ann Adam was three years old when she was taken from her mother in what is known as the “’60s Scoop,” a period spanning 30 years in which indigenous children in Canada were removed from their homes to be placed with white families as church-run residential schools were closing. “The government’s stated intention with the residential schools was to ‘remove the Indian from the child,’ by removing them from their parents and having them educated by white Christians” — another horrific, government-endorsed attempt at cultural genocide.

At the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Betty Ann Adam recounts her abduction, her trials fitting into white society, and her trepidation — and eventual joy — at being reunited with her blood relatives.

I’m in a police car. It’s a hot summer day and the seat is burning my legs. The woman puts me on her lap. Next, I’m in an airplane looking down at tiny cars on the road. Finally, I’m at the farm where I find myself, without knowing why, living a new life.

I was part of the Sixties Scoop. I’m an indigenous woman who was raised as a foster child in a non-native home. My birth mother, Mary Jane Adam, attended Holy Angels Indian Residential School in Fort Chipewyan, Alta. She left the school in her teens but never returned to the reserve to live.

I realized my indigenous identity had felt like a shadow that followed me and that I had feared all my life. When I stopped running and turned to meet it, I saw a friend. I saw my family. I saw myself.

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American Media is Still Getting Chinese Food All Wrong

Chinatown window by Pam Mandel
Chinatown window by Pam Mandel

Of the 263 entries under the “Chinese” recipe filter on the New York Times food section, almost 90 percent have a white person listed as author in the byline. Only 10 percent of the recipes are authored by Chinese writers.

On Munchies (a Vice channel), Clarissa Wei shares what we’re missing when Chinese food is covered by writers with no personal connection to the cuisine. Many writers still use a colonial era style guide (the Wade-Giles guide). Some are stuck on the notion of Chinese food as cheap eats, with no sense of what it takes to make the food. Writing about Chinese food is also subject to a lot of “discovery,” as though a dish hadn’t been around for hundreds of years, influencing other cuisines we take for granted.

Prosciutto, in the Western world, is glorified, but people have rarely heard of Chinese ham. Marco Polo allegedly brought ham-making techniques from the Chinese city of Jinhua to Europe, and many of today’s processing technologies for dry-cured hams have evolved from the techniques from this modest Chinese city.

Clocking in at about 5,000 years, China is the longest continuous civilization in the world. The Chinese, after all, were master farmers and cooks. Though the country only has 10 percent of arable land worldwide, they produce food for 20 percent of the world’s population.

Yet, here in the West, we read and commission more stories about poop-themed restaurants, Communist hot pot eateries, and dog-eating festivals than deeply, thoughtfully researched pieces on Chinese pickling techniques and the art of Chinese lamb roasts.

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The Tears and Tenacity of the Mothers of the Disappeared

The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo still march every Thursday in Buenos Aires. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)

During the ’70s and early ’80s, 30,000 people “disappeared” during Argentina’s Dirty War — some of them pregnant women who gave birth in detention centers, had their babies stolen, and were then killed. Delia’s daughter Stella was one of those women. Aided by other mothers and grandmothers, Delia never stopped looking for her lost grandson. Bridget Huber tells the story of Delia’s search in California Sunday magazine.

Delia counted the days until Stella’s due date. Then she started looking for Martín, too. A neighbor whose own son was missing told her that searching mothers were meeting in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires. The first time Delia went, there were just a handful of mothers, but their numbers multiplied each week. The women made head scarves from cloth diapers they’d saved from their children’s infancy and embroidered them with their missing sons’ and daughters’ names; their white kerchiefs would come to symbolize the search. Public assemblies were forbidden, so the women would make counter­clockwise laps around the plaza, sometimes prodded along by soldiers’ gun barrels. (Within a year, three of the mothers would disappear.) In the plaza, Delia met other women who were looking for pregnant daughters or daughters-in-law. Soon they were meeting in parks and coffee shops. They’d bring props like knitting or birthday gifts to pass themselves off as harmless grandmothers on a social call. But really they were plotting investigations. The women made the rounds at candy stores and orphanages and spied on families that might have acquired a child under murky circumstances. They gathered evidence and stuck it in tin cans that they buried in their gardens.

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Carol Blevins: The Confidential Informant Who is Now A Target for Murder

Crystal Meth. Photo by: David-Wolfgang Ebener/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

In this epic, seven-part feature from the Dallas Morning News, Scott Farwell tells the story of Carol Blevins, a heroin addict and “Aryan Princess featherwood” (property of a gang member) who became the FBI’s most important confidential informant during a massive, six-year investigation into the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas — an organized crime syndicate responsible for over 100 murders and a huge drug trade. Blevins’ keen eye for detail helped take down 13 members of the gang. Not only does she suffer post-traumatic stress from her undercover work, the gang has signaled the “green light” on her assassination in a bid for revenge.

She lived with the ABT, gathering information the Cold War way – by sleuthing, connecting dots, memorizing detail.

Her spy work offered broad views (the ABT’s strategy for moving meth with Mexican cartels) and small insights (serial numbers on stolen guns).

In covert text messages, she pre-empted murders and interrupted robberies. She led police to drug drop houses, snapped photos connecting criminals to unsolved crimes, and prepped police when it came time to arrest men predisposed to violence.

Carol’s work sealed 13 convictions, contributed key information to at least 16 others, and juiced the careers of her government handlers.

The feds use most spies like matches – to strike fast, burn hot and flame out. Others fill disposable roles in sting operations, as drug buyers or middlemen who fence stolen property.

But agents say the most valuable CIs augur deep inside, where they learn to live in another skin, to lie and believe the lie, to infiltrate silently and investigate invisibly – like a colorless gas filling an empty vessel.

Carol was like that. She would do or say or risk anything to gain favor with the feds.

Then they cut her loose.

Medical records suggest Carol suffers from a range of mental illnesses — bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder — as a result of her work as a confidential informant.

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