What To Expect from Nina Planck When You’re Expecting

Nina Planck is the wife of Murray’s Cheese proprietor Rob Kaufelt. Nina is a food writer and activist, who has written two books about the benefits of eating “real” or traditional food.  Real Food for Mother and Baby focuses on the kinds of food that expecting or new mothers and their children should be eating. Join Nina for a special class at Murray’s, on Sunday, May 19th, at 4pm. 

Real Food for Mother and Baby // Sun May 19 4:00-5:30 pm

“The modern pregnant woman cannot be blissfully happy,” writes obstetrician, surgeon, and midwifery muse, Dr. Michel Odent.  “All of them have a least one reason to be worried.”  Blood pressure too high or too low, weight gain too rapid or slow, anemia, gestational diabetes, too old, too young, too active, too sedentary.  Plus the long shopping lists for the new, unnecessary nursery, the bedding, the bouncy seats, the dishes, and most of all, the toys to “entertain.”  The true message of the ad copy serving the Pregnancy Industry is two-fold: First, “What to Worry About When You’re Expecting” and second, “How to Spend All Your Time and Money Easing Your Brand New Worries.”

The woman carrying a new life has some decisions to make, yes, and now is not the time to pick up a heroin habit, but her time would be better spent in wonder at her wonderful and maddening years before children, because she has no idea how wonderful and maddening will be the years with children.  No idea whatever.  The pregnant woman is one of those rare creatures: an innocent one. I include the woman who is pregnant for the second or third time, because she has no idea that the next baby she meets will be quite unlike her last.

Still, a woman has to eat, and as Ashley Montague wrote in 1962, “Were they called upon to name the most important factor in contributing to the healthy development of the human conceptus, most authorities would unhesitatingly declare for the good nutrition status of the mother.” I agree. There are many ways to serve your baby, but the chief one, now, is via your physical health.

You’re in luck. You live in a world of ample food and likely have the means to buy it.  Starvation and glaring deficiencies will not plague you.  Still you might wonder what’s best to eat, and why.  Most women, it seems, bend their ears to experts more than to their own mothers, sisters, and other sources of traditional wisdom, if such a thing exists in (say) New York City, where I live, in the 21st century.

So I’ll be your expert advisor, if you must have one, but here’s the bad news: I have no expertise other than a basically scientific mind, wide reading on food and babies, a farming background, twenty years in the kitchen, common sense, two pregnancies, and three children.

Much of what you’ve read about nutrition in pregnancy and baby’s first foods is bunkum.   You can eat raw milk cheese; in well-made aged cheeses there is very little risk.  You can eat fish – and should.  Avoiding salt will not reduce swelling and will diminish your ability to raise your blood levels, a vital condition of pregnancy. You can have the occasional cocktail, beer, or glass of wine.  No, there is not too much caffeine in a piece of dark chocolate for your little one.  Even a cup of coffee is okay.  In other words, you can eat like a normal person.

Of course, it’s wise follow some general rules of good eating.  Practice moderate omnivory.  Eat whole foods, including plenty of fruits and vegetables.  Eat traditional fats (butter, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, lard) rather than modern oils (canola, soy, corn) and manmade fats (all trans fats). When you eat high up on the food chain, take more care that the food is clean. Grass-fed meat is preferable to feedlot beef; organic or pasture-raised milk preferable to powdered skim milk reconstituted with water.

In pregnancy, protein is of prime importance.  Protein deficiency is the main cause of swelling, and swelling is a precursor to preeclampsia.  Eat as much chicken, fish, salmon, beef, eggs, and cheese as you like. (I could almost write, “as much as you can,” but it’s not a macho thing, merely an exhortation.  Only a woman carrying twins really has to pile on the protein.)  Know that no vegetable protein, even in combination, has the power of these foods.   As Kaayla Daniel explains in The Whole Soy Story, industrial soy foods – which includes most soy “health” foods, such as bars and drinks and cookies – are not wise.  The soy protein isolate in these foods contains high doses plant estrogens; lacks adequate methionine; and damages the thyroid. (Buy the book or see www.TheWholeSoyStory.com.)

Meanwhile, salt your meat and fish to taste.  Using unrefined sea salt in your home cooking and at the table is good for you and the baby.  As Dr. Thomas Brewer established decades ago in What Every Pregnant Woman Should Know, the lack of protein, not an excess of whole salt, is the culprit in swelling. (Buy the updated book or see www.DrBrewerPregnancyDiet.com.)

One overstated worry concerns mercury in fish.  Mercury is dangerous for the fetal brain, but it turns out that not eating fish during pregnancy is more dangerous.  The babies of women who eat fish – even fish containing mercury – are better off than the babies of women who do not. The answer is to eat plenty of fish, ideally fish low in mercury.  In general, smaller, oily fish such as herring and sardines are lower in mercury than larger fish, such as tuna. I recommend wild Pacific salmon in any form. If you buy canned salmon, eat the bones for calcium.

Eat traditional fats to taste. All the traditional fats, especially fish and butter, will serve your baby well. The old-fashioned farm fats (butter, lard, beef) are rich in fat-soluble vitamins, and the fish oil is vital for the baby’s brain and eye, as well as for your healthy (DHA-rich) breast milk and your new-baby mental health.

Get calcium from traditional, full-fat dairy foods (especially cultured and fermented foods, such as cheese and sour cream) and from bone broths made from chicken, beef, veal, and fish.  There’s more calcium in these foods than in (say) kale, and it’s more readily available to the body.

Avoid low-fat foods altogether. I don’t mean foods naturally low in fat, such as peaches and lettuce.  I mean foods engineered to be low in fat, like skim milk and chicken breasts without the skin.  They lack the good fats themselves (chicken skin is the Jewish penicillin) and the fat-soluble vitamins (especially A and D). Often these stripped-down foods reduce the total nutrition available. For example, saturated fat aids in the absorption of calcium, so pasteurized orange juice with added calcium is inferior to a piece of good cheddar.

It should be clear from the foregoing menu that a healthy pregnant woman can eat very well indeed. Lay the table with the finest foods and savor them all.  An omnivorous diet rich in nutrient-dense whole foods, including fermented and cultured foods, such as the proverbial pickles and luscious crème fraiche, is the right diet for a pregnant woman, her baby, and indeed the rest of her family.  It’s also the right diet for a nursing mother and a baby starting to eat real food. But that’s another column – or two.



Curd to your Mother!

Mother’s Day is just a few days away, and I have been thinking about all the things you can do with cheese to make Mom feel super special. I also am pretty lazy, and spend most of my time selling cheese, so I needed to come up with some ideas that don’t take up too much of my time (Not that my mother isn’t worth all the time in the world – Love you, Mom!). Here are some simple ways to make your mother’s special day a little bit cheesier.

For Breakfast in Bed

This barely takes five minutes, and you can finish it before you’ve had your first cup of coffee.  Slice a baguette, and top it with a dollop of fresh ricotta. Drizzle honey on top and sprinkle with walnuts. Rush it to Mom’s room before she is out of bed (don’t forget the coffee, which will actually pair really nicely). Guaranteed to win you some serious brownie points.

Want to get a bit more intricate?

Go for an omelet.  Eggs are pretty easy, but even easier to jazz up. A good alpine cheese will bring any omelet to a whole new level. Try Challerhocker which will add a mild nuttiness, and spice. Want even more depth? Try Etivaz. This cheese is essentially a super-charged  Gruyere. Throw some fresh spring vegetables in there and call it a day! Mother’s Day!

Moms Love Chocolate

Roquefort and chocolate. Seriously. The nutty and astringent qualities of this sheep’s milk blue goes perfectly with the complex flavors of a dark chocolate. The textural experience is pretty amazing too. Chocolate and cheese, a win for sure.

No matter what you do for Mom this Sunday, we hope her day is extra special!

The Make Our Melt Finalists!

How has your grilled cheese month been? As the gooey goodness keeps coming, the thought of this blessed month ending brings tears to my eyes. With one more week to go, it’s time to

The Guido

announce the three finalists in the “Make Our Melt” contest! We had some great entries, and choosing was not easy. Our process was thorough, and the three finalists have been selected!

The Guido
–  Cheddar and Pancetta, sounds pretty good right? Supper melty cheddar with an intense porky-ness. But it gets 
better… Slathered with tomato pesto and basil aioli, this guy brings grilled cheese to a new level. Thanks, Allyson Taylor!

Give Me A Beet

Give me a Beet– All that I can say is WOW. I had my doubts, but this sandwich really brings it. Mozzarella and Capri (a very fresh goat cheese) topped with Arugula and beets. I can’t think of a better way to welcome spring. Great job, Kristen Suzon Butler!

The Hammy Grammy– Cheddar and apples are a classic, but thrown in a grilled cheese, it’s a whole new level of goodness. It sounds simple, but the grassy, earthy flavors of Bandaged cheddar really come alive when melted. Good luck, Keith Roberts

The Hammy Grammy

Now that we have our finalist we need your help picking a winner. Through Saturday, all three sandwiches will be featured as specials on our melts menu for $6.99. On Sunday from 3PM-4PM we will be sampling all three melts in store, and collecting votes. You can also vote on facebook here. On Monday we will announce the winner, who will win a $50 gift card, and a spot on the menu. Good luck finalists!

Earthy Cheese

Like most industrialized food products, Cheese gets a bad rap for not being the most earth friendly. With Earth day imminently approaching, I find myself thinking about cheese, how it’s produced, and the effect its production has on our environment.

Ultimately the environmental issues that surround cheese are based on its very low yield ratio. It takes a lot of milk to produce cheese! (About 10 gallons of milk for one pound of cheese.) The current model for mass dairy production maximizes yield, with little concern for the environmental effects. I do think that it is important differentiate industrial cheese and what we have behind the case at Murray’s. Most of our cheese comes from smaller farmers, who take the time to care for their milk, and while profit is intended it is achieved with good farming practices in mind. In fact many cheese producers believe that what they are doing is not making cheese or milk, rather growing grass, after all it is the grass that ultimately becomes cheese. Farmers are also finding new ways to keep their systems more closed and efficient. This means turning waste into profit.

Jasper Hill Creamery, cheesemakers who we have worked with for years, are pioneers in the field of closed system dairy farms. They have implemented a waste treatment facility on their farm that they call the “Green Machine.” This converted barn allows the farm to process and reuse waste from both cows and cheese making. Whey, the liquid byproduct of cheese making, is treated and then used to irrigate land, while manure is processed for fertilizing, and methane is harvested for heating. By creating this closed system, and eliminating as much waste as possible, Jasper Hill can make great cheese, while reducing their negative impact to the environment.

These efforts aren’t just good for the planet, they’re good for your taste buds too! The truth is, the correlation between flavor and responsible farming is strong. When a cheese is well made and full of deep nuance, it is often the result of well-fed cows and well-farmed land. If you are looking for something earth friendly, the Mongers at Murray’s should have no problem pointing you in the right direction. In fact, these are probably their favorite cheeses!

Happy National Grilled Cheese Day!

Happy National Grilled Cheese day! This is the Holiest of Holy cheese holidays, naturally we take it very seriously at Murray’s.

The history of the modern grilled cheese sandwich is scattered through American, and global history. While we cannot pinpoint the first grilled cheese sandwich, incarnations have existed since at least the early 20th century. Often called “melted cheese” sandwiches, recipes proliferated the American cookbook scene, however it was not until mass produced pre sliced bread, and the development of Kraft sliced cheese that the grilled cheese sandwich really infiltrated the American food lexicon. The great depression, as well as the continued American desire for fast and easy food led for melted bread sandwiches to become increasingly popular, so much that in 1949 James Beard published a recipe for a Toasted Cheese Sandwich.

Thank god we have moved passed the days of rubbery cheese between flavorless bread. The latest incarnations of grilled cheese focus on quality and experimentation. With the wide variety of cheeses and accoutrements that we have at Murray’s, I rarely find myself eating the same sandwich twice. I take my sandwich diversity so seriously that I’ve developed a formula of sorts:

Melting Cheese + Meat + Accoutrement + Bread (2) = Gooey Goodness

And now we need your help creating the next big grilled cheese sensation. Murray’s Melts is working on a spring menu, and your recipe could be on it. Through April 14th (just 2 more days!) make sure to post your favorite grilled cheese recipe on our Facebook page, or email them to leo@murrayscheese.com. Full details can be found at www.Murrayscheese.com/makeourmelt.

Want to make a killer grilled cheese at home, but don’t have all of the supplies? Order one of our Murray’s Melts Packs, and get everything you need delivered right to your door!

Whatever you do, just make sure to celebrate Grilled Cheese Month in style.