Friday, May 17, 2013

Lardo, Crossfit, and A Puppy

Yeah, it's a really strange title. But then, this is a really strange post, so hang tight folks; we're going to be covering a broad range of topics here!

First off, it's all Gyp's fault. That adorable, fluffy, Croc-eating barker. It's been a long time since I've had a puppy, and I had forgotten just how much energy these little things had! In an attempt to keep Gyp out of trouble (i.e. "too tired to do much else than sleep in his spare time"), I've started running with him. The first run is at 7:30am, and we usually go one mile. We're both famished by breakfast time. The second and third runs are in the afternoon and evening, and we do a 1/2 mile for those ones. When I first started running with Gyp, I thought I was going to die before I got back home. We're running in the 98 acres; all feral ground with winding paths, blackberries to jump, and a big hill to first go up, and then go down. It was brutal at first, and my legs and lungs did more than complain. But I did it every day for the sake of my rambunctious pup (or perhaps for the sake of the half eaten crocs that he somehow finds!?). I'm on day 11 now, and this morning I noticed that I was not only beating my pup back down to the house as we crashed through tall grasses and jumped bramble canes, but I was laughing out loud and enjoying myself. 

I'm slowly getting more physically fit, and I like it. It's taken some getting used to though. I've been quite content with my weight hovering at 120 lbs. and personally wouldn't have minded seeing those numbers drop a bit more to 115 lbs. Yeah, it's a girl thing; what can I say? ;) LOL. Over the last week I've had four different people randomly compliment me, saying I look like I've lost weight. I figured there had to be some truth in that, seeing I've had to fish out my belt for skirts/jeans that normally fit without it. I hopped onto the scale and was shocked to see that the exact opposite had happened: I've gained about 8 lbs.! Oy vey. Actually, this new weight is bang on the dot for someone my age and height, it's just -- taking some getting used to. Hehe. It really doesn't seem fair that muscle weighs more than fat. I haven't lost weight, I've lost fat; and instead gained some trim, new muscle. I guess cleaning out pig pens and running 2 miles a day will do that to a body... So I'm slowly learning to accept the fact that I'll probably never see the numbers 120 on the scale again, and meanwhile, I'm beginning to crave more physical exercise. 

Thus enters Crossfit. My big brother did this a year ago, and all I remember is him saying he thought he was going to keel over and die during the first few weeks. And he was already athletic and fit to begin with. So I mentally told myself to never consider doing such a thing, lest I die an early death from overexertion. (Me? Over-exaggerate? Where are you getting that?). But as it happens, I have two younger sisters who are fitness nuts and they both have their eye on starting Crossfit once one of us has out driver's license (and with all three of us behind the wheel these days, a license just might happen in the next few months), and they're determined to pull me into this crazy idea. I'm convinced that they're trying to kill me, but they're using the more subtle method of doing Crossfit to get the job done. 

After today's run though, I'm toying with the idea of at least trying this Crossfit thing. I have no desire to run a marathon, but I do know that fitness comes in handy when you're farming. Whether you're trying to catch an escaped animal, bucking hay, or spending half a day harvesting vegetables, it helps to be fit. I could even throw in the fact that it's handy for safety purposes; my sisters and I all know self-defense and enjoy it immensely, but if it came to needing to run from someone, I'd rather be the faster one who's not going to get winded after running two blocks. 

Handy thing about Crossfit, is that it also requires you to change your diet. I've been slowly working on this anyway, but I know I need to be better about it. Crossfit recommends a diet that is very, very similar to the Paleo diet, and I like that. It's taking food back to the beginning and you're eating lots of meat, fats/oils, fruits, vegetables, eggs, and *real* dairy (actually, true paleo diets don't allow dairy, but I don't like that. Anyway...). The main thing that is strictly monitored is grain. And of course all processed foods are entirely off limits. I know this diet isn't for everyone, but it's definitely my kind. I like to go heavy on meats and fats. One thing I've really noticed lately, since I started running, is that I'm beginning to seriously crave animal fats. Like, really crave it. And medium rare meat. That too. My guess is that these cravings are stemming from the fact that I'm using a lot of energy these days what with my usual barn/farm work and now I'm going crazy with new workout routines. My body is simply reacting by wanting to replace that burned energy with new energy found so generously in meat and fat. 

The biggest craving right now seems to be for lardo... Ever heard of that? Didn't think so. It's cured pork backfat. Yup, 100% pure fat that's been spiced, brined and then aged. No, don't wrinkle your nose up at it yet. I know this culture and era has been taught that anything with the word "fat" is horribly bad for you, but I believe the opposite. I think fats that come from grassfed, organically raised animals are amazingly good for you, and there's a lot of science to back that theory up. One favorite book of mine that explains and defends this seemingly "new" idea that fat is good for you would be Real Food (click the link to check it out!).

I know my explanation of lardo isn't very appetizing sounding, so allow me to quote a writer who does it better than I: 

"Of all the cured meats from Italy, for me, lardo is the most essential, primal, and pristine. It challenges our modern view of food down to one of its most fundamental and pervasive cores: fat is bad for you. But eaten as intended, sliced thin and consumed sparingly, this fat is good for you in every life-enhancing way imaginable."

Okay so maybe I'm just weird. But you know, it's not hugely different from bacon, which is very heavy on fat and only has a few slim streaks of meat in it. So there. LOL. ;) Having just had my two hogs butchered, it dawned on me a couple days ago (yes, I'm slow), that I could make my own lardo! Well now, hows about that!? Actually, I don't know if I can or not... When making lardo, you have to have pieces of backfat that are at least 1" thick, and my boys were incredibly lean. Phooey. At first I thought the leanness was a good thing, but now I'm realizing that it's not! I'm quickly falling in love with the old lard breeds of hogs like the Managlitsa, Large Black, Gloucestershire Old Spot, and American Guinea Hog. Lard is good. So if there's enough backfat from my boys, you can bet an acorn to an oak that this girl will be making herself some lardo. Period, exclamation point! My family and friends convinced me to give up the idea of blood sausage from my hogs for religious reasons (okay, some health reasons too; but the first reason is what I'm going by), and I have to admit that I'm still rather dissapointed that they managed to prick my conscience and convince me to give it up. But I ain't letting them take my lard away. Nope, not that. Or my medium rare meat; I'll keep that too. A girl can only go far where her protein and energy sources are concerned. 

 So if there is enough backfat, then I will make lardo, using THIS simple recipe, to snack on after my runs. 

And speaking of runs, the clock says it's getting close to 3:30pm; time for my afternoon run with Gyp! Whoohoo!

It really is all the dog's fault. I was doing just fine until he came along, and now look at me: running pell mell through woodlands, wanting to start Crossfit, and craving aged pork fat.

It's awesome. ;)


nancy said...

I played with the primal diet last summer and lost weight and gained a lot of energy. I did't like eating the regular meats since grass fed was out of my budget though...

Anonymous said...

That is awesome!! Gee, you're putting me to shame. I can barely run 1 mile on a flat treadmill in 13 minutes...I wish I had a dog! I totally know what you mean, craving food! There never seems to be MEAT in the house when I WANT it. Being hungry and craving different foods is the story of my life. :D

~Krista M. V.