Fat Is Not Bad For You

All I can do right now is laugh. Well, laugh and write this post, I guess.

It has just come to my attention that mainstream media has caught up with the news that eating fat is not bad for us after all. The current TIME Magazine’s cover bears a succinct directive: Eat Butter. The cover story (which I have not read) is titled Ending the War on Fat. None of this particularly comes as a surprise to me since, just shy of two years ago, Tracie and I switched to a paleo-based philosophy of eating after her investigations convinced her it was a better approach than the high-carb/whole-grain/low-fat party line we’ve all been fed for decades. Since then, the evidence has only mounted that fat is not bad for us–in fact, it’s necessary and essential.

But anyway, I still can’t help but laugh. I’m thinking of my childhood, which was not at all shy about fat. My parents routinely cooked bacon first then fried eggs in the same pan, leaving all the fat in place. They poured the leftover fat into a glass jar which lived under the kitchen sink; the fat would congeal at room temperature and was used for other cooking. There was nothing wrong with butter back then. We put it on potatoes, rice, veggies, pancakes, waffles, whatever. Sometimes on weekends my father made popovers, a baked treat with a fair amount of fat in the recipe which we’d supplement at the table with enough butter than it ran down our fingers when it hit the hot dough. Christmas dinner always included a big roast beef, fat untrimmed, and Yorkshire pudding, a sort of giant popover cooked in beef fat and, yes, enhanced at the table with butter and gravy. (Remeber gravy? Remember how you had to stir it before pouring it because the fat separated?) In later years, when he got into making homemade pasta, a favorite dish was carbonara, a heavy dish full of eggs, cheese, and bacon.

Then, at some time I don’t clearly remember, that all changed. Suddenly, Fat Was Bad. Evil. Certain Death. Avoid at all costs. Some fat was maybe acceptable, like olive oil and margarine, but any animal fat was seen as the devil incarnate. (I remember my mother telling me about margarine during her childhood. Margarine was something which became popular during World War II because butter was in short supply.) Huge swaths of the household cuisine fell by the wayside.

(I think it was before the banishment of butter that salt became a forbidden pleasure. In case you missed that news last year or so, salt isn’t bad for you after all. It might even be good for you.)

When I struck out on my own I didn’t think too much about it for awhile. I was growing like crazy in my late teens and ate like a horse. (Realistically, a healthy post-adolescent male can pretty much eat whatever he wants and get away with it, at least for awhile.) I did, however, try to cook in a low-fat manner when I cooked, and knew that burgers, fries, pizza, croissants, ice cream, and anything else with a significant amount of fat was, at best, something to be enjoyed with a degree of regret and guilt. Tracie and I followed this dogma up until late 2012, but re-embracing fat has been just one of several difficult mind-shifts related to which foods are good for a body and which aren’t.

Now, in about 30 years, it’s come full circle, as @brianmacnamara said on Twitter this morning. Fat is good for us after all. Unfortunately lots of the things I used to put butter on are the real health threats, so the return of butter to good graces isn’t quite as glorious as it might have been.

But it still makes me laugh.

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