The Bookshelf: Jennifer McLagan Chews the Fat
January 21, 2010
At yesterday’s Beard on Books, author and self-labeled “fat lady” Jennifer McLagan delighted the crowd with her honest talk on fat, the most misunderstood block in the food pyramid. The discussion was largely based on her latest book, Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes, which took home the medal for Cookbook of the Year at last year’s JBF Awards. Raised in Australia, McLagan recalls how she “ate fat with pleasure,” always opening the refrigerator to find three different types: butter, lard, and drippings. Fat was used in everything and no one she knew was overweight, a far-fetched world for Americans who subscribe to a religion of low fat or no fat. McLagan also focused on health benefits of fat, specifically the nutrients in high-quality animal fat that keep us happy and healthy. She swiftly debunked that “fat makes you fat” and “goes from your lips to your hips,” insisting that it actually satisfies our appetites and curbs mindless snacking. Fat is essential to functioning bodies, including brain health, robust immunity, and hormonal responses. (Fortunately, nutrition science is starting to catch on to this.) Echoing Michael Pollan, Jennifer insisted that the only way Americans can improve their relationship with fat is to learn how to cook and cook real food, even suggesting that cooking be reintroduced in schools as a “basic building block of civilization.” "We need to slow down, worry less, and enjoy food," she concluded. That’s a mantra we’re happy to eat by every day.