The Bear, the Cat and the Cow


After writing my guide to eating vegetarian, vegan and raw foods in Romania, I got a request to expand upon some of my dietary philosophies (and I thank you for your interest).

To begin with, let me state right up front so it is clear: I am not a “food Nazi”. I do not care what you eat, only what I myself put into my own body. The Woman not only eats meat, cheese and dairy but I myself have purchased it and cooked it for her at times.

Therefore my food choices do not come from some kind of narrow-minded, doctrinal approach of absolute righteousness – which, I shall not fail to mention, is exactly the attitude most meat eaters have.

If two vegetarians met and the first vegetarian said that she never ate avocados and detested them, the second vegetarian would shrug his shoulders and be on his merry way.

Meat eaters, on the other hand, usually vacillate one minute from railing on the importance of protein to turning up their nose in revulsion if the meat you choose to eat is “wrong” – a chicken is okay, a dog often is not. Just like milk from a cow is okay but perhaps goat is not and rat milk is somehow “never” okay.

There really are only two diets that people follow. The first is the diet of people who think and make a conscious choice about food. The second group are those people who don’t think and so just eat what is there, around them in their culture.

Therefore if you’re in the second group, if you are not consciously eating, the rest of what I am going to tell you will not make any sense.

The Story of the Bear, the Housecat and the Cow

Once upon a time in a magical land, there lived a bear, a house cat and a cow. Seeing it was a bright sunny day, the three of them decided to feast upon some lunch.

The cow wandered lazily out into the field, munching on the sweet, succulent grasses, which he chewed thoroughly and then swallowed, the materials churning through each of his four stomachs. “Come and join me,” said the Cow to the Cat, “it’s fine eating here.”

“No thanks,” said the Cat, his nose turning up in disgust. Instead he waited for a mouse to appear between the stalks and then pounced on it, breaking its back with a mighty swipe. The Cat began cracking open the mouse’s skull, consuming the brain and marrow with utter delight.

“Come and join me,” said the Cat to the Bear. “Hm, perhaps I will,” said the Bear.

“Come and join me,” said the Cow to the Bear. “Hm, perhaps I will,” said the Bear, “but the cellulose in those grasses is impossible for me to digest. These nearby berries and tree buds look quite delicious though.”

And so the three, the Cat, the Cow and the Bear all happily enjoyed their lunch.

All three characters in my little story are mammals – they give birth to live young and produce milk. Yet clearly what differentiates them in terms of diet is their digestive system.

A cow, left to its own devices, will eat entirely plant matter and has a very complex digestive system precisely for this reason.

A cat, left to its own device, will eat (almost) entirely the flesh of other animals. Although not generally recognized, a cat’s digestive system is also very complex, with a modified intestine and a far more acidic digestive tract precisely to break down animal flesh.

But what about the bear in our story? Doesn’t he eat both plant matter and animal flesh? Yes.

Roughly 85-90% of a bear’s diet though is plant matter, ranging from berries to tree buds to nuts and seeds. A very few bears do eat fish but the rest of the time, the only meat a bear consumes is preying on young mammals soon after their birth, usually just for a brief period of time in the spring. It is opportunistic hunting.

Certainly in a situation of true hunger, animal flesh can and will be eaten by humans and it will keep them alive. But equally certainly, the vast majority of what is eaten by humans (at least those with a choice) is plant matter.

Therefore I say, for me personally, if I’m already eating mostly plant matter, why not bump it up as close to 100% as possible? If for no other reason than to “see what can be seen”, I considered it worth doing.

I freely admit that throughout my life I’ve known vegetarians, vegans and (a few) raw food people. I’ve spoken to them, seen how they live and am familiar with their health (or lack of it). Some of these people have been following their diets for years.

What is incontestably false is any statement saying that people cannot survive solely on plant matter. Meanwhile the inverse is true, no human can survive for long solely on animal flesh.

Consider this – a “normal” diet containing meat, dairy products and eggs seems far removed from anything I would consider “natural” or even healthy. It of course can be but it rarely is. And usually it’s combined with a plethora of factory made products, laden with chemicals and doped with artificial scents to appear appetizing and nutritious.

Years ago, I worked in a laboratory at a hospital and we regularly got test tubes to be analyzed, filled with blood. We had a standing joke that you could always tell when someone had stopped for a hamburger before checking in (a very common occurrence) before a surgery because the fat content in their blood was very high.

You don’t need a microscope to see this – it’s visible to the naked eye looking at the test tube. Just as with a rich broth of chicken soup, you can see a layer of golden fat floating on top of the blood in the test tube when someone has recently consumed animal fat.

Certainly plant material has fat – all that oil we use to cook with is pure fat. But the magic difference is that plant fats (oils) are liquid at (human) body temperatures while animal fats are not. Slice the fat off a piece of meat and you can see for yourself it is solid until it is heated to a very high temperature.

Why does this matter? Well it turns out that bad cholesterol comes solely from animal fats. Literally. No animal fats, no bad cholesterol.

It is the build-up of this cholesterol which leads to arterial blockage, most severely around the heart. Considering that heart disease is the leading cause of death (in the USA) that right there is of shocking importance.

What else can I say? I’m no licensed medical practitioner nor do I wish to pass myself off as one. Do your own research.

But I do know that I used to eat meat and a lot of it. And I felt and looked much more poorly than I do now. This diet that I have now works for me. A few weeks ago I went on a spree of asking random strangers in a bar how old they thought I was. The statistical mean of their answers was far lower than the age I was when I quit eating animal products – and in those days I looked like a bloated, tired, old man.

Again, what you do is your own business and I wish you pofta mare in all of your meals. But let’s set aside such prejudicial words like “freaky”, because I think those kinds of labels could easily be applied to just about any diet, including yours ;)

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. irina sal says:

    i just found u today (tx facebook shares). been reading ur stuff for pretty much an hour now, not that this is helping my work in any way, but i actually find ur style quite fair and a bit ironic here and there. i left romania a while back and i could actually guess u might just be more romanian than me (despite passport and all), and ur way of seeing and presenting things not only brings a smile, but it also makes me realize that a lot of things i can’t stand in that country might be quite agreeable to some others, for whatever reason. i’m inclined usually not to listen to romanian arguments, because romanians can’t agree to disagree. u’ve found the patience and the angle! for that, i salute you, good sir. i will keep reading ur posts. thank you.
    p.s. i checked the second largest city in romania, because ur iasi totally confused me, who thought it was constanta. it’s cluj.
    p.s. 2: i loooove meat. apart from that, u’re pretty much right.

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  2. Ana says:

    Technically… there is no good/ bad cholesterol. Cholesterol itself is just that, cholesterol, no matter what source it comes from (you do get less cholesterol from plants than from animal sources, but that is a different issue); and it is not inherently bad. In fact, the body needs it. But everything is bad when in excess. And, due to the nature of their diet, a lot of people take in more than needed. And the excess cholesterol ends up in the blood. Not directly – here is where LDL (the so-called bad cholesterol) comes in. Cholesterol is mostly hydrophobic (it will dissolve into the bloodstream only in the case of very small concentrations) as one molecule contains only one oxygen (which gives it some solubility in water – you get hydrogen bonds). So, in order to transport it through the blood, cholesterol molecules, but much more often, cholesterol esters (= one cholesterol molecule + one fatty acid molecule) are packed inside some molecules (lipoproteins and LDL is one of them) that have a hydrophilic outer surface. Problems begin when there are too many LDL molecules in the bloodstream. To make a long story short, they get eaten by macrophages which turn into foam cells after that and the foam cells stick to the inner walls of the blood vessels, which makes the blood vessels narrower, which leads to high blood pressure and so on…

    You say that animal fats are bad in this case. Yet, the best dietary change that one can make to lower LDL levels is to start consuming oily fish such as salmon (that’s certainly an animal and not a plant).

    As for real age vs. age shown… I’m 26, I’ll be 27 in three months. I was asked for my ID card when I wanted to pay some frilly underwear with my card – they thought I had stolen my mother’s card. A girl rang my doorbell a while ago and when I opened the door, she asked “puiule, parintii sunt acasa?” (she was advertising some coffee). When I had a broken arm two years ago and I got to the hospital, they asked me whether I had turned 16 (I was 24 and a half) so that they would know whether it was the case to send me to the children’s hospital or keep me there. And excepting desserts (fruit or chocolaty stuff), I only eat animal products. It’s true that mostly means fish, especially salmon, but also mackerel, tuna, cod. Also eggs, quite often. Sometimes milk and chicken and almost never other kinds of meat. But I’ve never eaten vegetables in my life, I cannot even stand the smell. (So yes, I’ve always been classified as “freaky” :D )

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  3. clau2002 says:

    Sam,generaly you are expressing in your post the FDA popularized dogma on cholesterol.Every kid in Romania who payed attention in biology and anathomy class would tell you what is the deal with the cholesterol in the human body.In fact there is not such division into bad/good cholesterol.It is a product of the body and has a very clear and important role in the correct functioning of the system called the human body.Problems appear when abuse of all kinds of foods or malfunction of certain organs such pancreas or liver could create disorders and the capacity of the body to process the cholesterol is diminished.The unprocessed cholesterol that acumulate in time is called bad cholesterol.Depriving your body of animal fat does no good either.The solution is a balanced diet.Since you have spent a long time in Romania you should know that during the winter a peasant family in the countryside will eat mostly pork with alot of garlic and on the side conserved vegetables(pickled).As soon as spring arrives,they swich to mostly fresh green stuff that help clean the system.Now elementary chemistry say that if you mix an acid(HCl,in your stomach and alot of it due to hard to dygest meat)with salt(NaCl,pickled vegetable)the result will be a bazic substance wich is neutral.The point is that the harder to dygest a food is ,the more cholesterol for processing its nutrients will be needed so this mixed diet helps passing the winter mainly on animal fat&meat and poor suply of vegetables.In the end,our body instinctively knows better than the FDA,thats why we feel what is known as CRAVING.Whenever we crave for a certain food it means something contained in that food is needed in the system.Thats why pregnant women have cravings so often.The little guy growing inside knows better what is needed than mommy does.Think about it!!!!Extremes are no good…eating mostly vegetables is equaly wrong as eating mostly meat.

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    1. Sam R. says:

      I appreciate your input but I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree :D

      Like

  4. DudeImInRomania says:

    I’m becoming more vegetarian by the week as I live here. It’s just happening naturally, I’m eating less and less meat. I have no problem with that. The fruits and veggies here are so much better than what you buy in America, unless you go to Harris Teeter and pay a fortune for organic. And I’ve had fast food (McDonalds) only once, and that was only to try it. And to no surprise, the fast food here is just as gross as in America. :P

    My wife and I came up with a great recipe for smoked eggplant purée. Throw a few eggplant (coated in olive oil) on the grill and let the fire blacken the skin. If you cannot use a grill, just use the stovetop. Blacken those babies until the insides are soft and mushy. Then scrape out the insides into a dish. Mix with some minced onions, scallions and garlic. Even some crushed walnuts if you want. Whip it into a paste.

    We usually use it as a spread on sandwiches. We like to make “subs.” Take a loaf of unsliced bread cut down the middle longways, slather that baby up with some eggplant purée. Then fill that bad boy with sauteed mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, and a big fat slice of telemea. Throw some tomato slices on top for good measure, spice to your liking and you’re ready to eat.

    Poftă Bună!!!

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    1. daianara says:

      That eggplant purée you’re referring to is good old traditional salata de vinete. :)

      Like

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