Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Letters From The Barn: Fat And Healthy

Letters From The Barn: Fat And Healthy

I like to strike a balance. Healthy and fat all at once. I admit to thinking of a fat animal or a fat person as happier than a thin one. Don't ask me how this idea has kept in my brain in this culture, but it has.

My little dog is tiny. To keep her at four pounds, I feed her more than you might think. She gets meat and anything else I can think of. If I had to encrust her kibble in diamonds, I might do it. Okay, on my budget, rhinestones. She used to have a step-sister who weighed twice her weight on half as much food. So, I don't think a self-help diet book on emotional eating problems would have done either of them any good.

Sometimes, weight is really just in the body. I can have a fat chicken that barely eats at all and a skinny chicken that eats up all the good nuggets first, plus begs scraps later. And, against what you might expect, that skinny chicken lays the biggest egg of them all. Do not ask me where she kept it. Perhaps she has a rather large purse stashed somewhere nearby or a kangaroo pouch.

Me, I weigh in at a comfortable 250 and I've been eating brown rice and soy milk for the majority of my life. I have a friend whose main diet is fast food who shivers anytime it's under seventy degrees she's so thin. And, I'm active, too. I walk dogs, chase goats, haul water, rebuild falling down fences, and figure out how to get a four hundred pound bale of hay out of my pick up by myself.

I have one goat who's hard to keep at the right weight. She's a freak of nature. Though she hasn't been freshened (given birth) in years, she still gives milk. This is both good and bad. Good in that you get milk, sure. But, bad, in that any carbohydrates in her diet at all (grain, potatoes, etc.) brings her into milk. So, whereas another goat can be fed a bit of grain just to keep them at fighting weight and more if they're milking, the tiniest bit brings her into milk. It's like her milk gene is permanently turned on.

This is one of those "impossible" feats (and problems) that anyone who has four toes, six fingers or a child who learned both to play Brahms and dial 911 at age two can tell you is all too true. Keeping her at a good weight (with all the grazing or hay she wants) but without grain is quite hard. But, with grain, she bags up easily, getting too full of milk despite not having had a kid in quite sometime.

This is hard, too, as it's good for a goat to be dried off for a while, both for the goat and the owner. To let the goat save up their nutrients for themselves and not put them all into the milk, most are dried off regularly. It's also necessary for the owner who, for some crazy reason, may not want to milk on -15 degree winter days.

With her,though, the weight issue is an obvious problem and one with no simple answer. Unlike me, who's happy being fat and my dog who's happy being skinny, I've never found the perfect thing for her. There is no method I know of (or ever heard of from the many folks I've asked) to dry her up while still keeping weight on her. It's one or the other with this one, all milk and healthy looking or skin and bones.

I've even had folks tell me she HAS to have had a baby recently in order to be still giving milk. Also, that it's impossible she's been dried off and then still milks later with no kid in between. Well, unless this goat is the blessed virgin goat and they're going to be building a whole new religion around her, I'd have to say not. Though, if she is, I'd be happy to put a collection plate out and you're all welcome to come light a candle and ask her for any blessings you like.

Truly, she does have a special smile each time she sees me which is a blessing all its own. But, I kind of figure you'd expect something of a bit more in the miracle department from her. Call ahead first if you do want to visit her shrine. I'll need to build it first.

As this winter approaches and she looks so shiny and healthy from all her grain, I'm realizing I'll be out there milking her. Even if that means not needing to add any ice to my iced coffee as it'll all be dripping off my nose or already in the milk itself by the time I get it back inside.

This brings us to my favorite drink besides, the obvious, ice tea. Homemade coffee with smiling goat's milk. I know, goat milk sounds blechy. If you offered it to me, I'd say no, too. But once you've tasted it, it shames the poor cows so bad they just put up a closed for business sign.

First off, fresh goats milk is best. I mean, so fresh the goat's still looking at you sideways cause she's not sure she likes being milked straight into a coffee cup if you aren't going to offer her at least dinner and a movie first. If you do need to go with storebought because you don't have a goat tethered up on your apartment roof in the city, then that's okay, too.

But, try for the freshest possible. I know that goat milk is renowned for its tang, but I'm not a fan. I prefer to leave the Tang to the astronauts, thank you very much.

So, make your favorite coffee (I mix mine half caf/half decaf), then set it in a pot on the stove with a few strips of orange peel, a bit of vanilla, some sugar and then goat's milk to taste. To my taste, that's about half milk, half coffee. But, you may want less. Or, more. (This can also be made with soy or rice milk and it comes out nicely, too. Cow's milk, as well, but I imagine you're snappy enough to figure that one out for yourself.)

Let it steam for a while. If it boils by accident, it's not that big of a deal. It won't curdle the way cow's milk does. Something complicated about fat globules I've never quite understood. You can drink it warm like that, which I love, or ice it down, too.

Using ice cubes made from coffee is great as it keeps the ice from watering down your drink. I tend to drink the first cup warm then put the rest in the fridge for a colder version later in the day.

If it's almost right iced, but not quite, try adding a tiny bit of salt. Most prepared drinks you've had commercially have it added, so that might be just the touch you need. Most days I don't add any, but on hot, sweaty days, it tastes better that way. Then, I use sea salt.

If this drink doesn't convert you to goat's milk, contact the website for your money back. You paid a lot of money to read this column, didn't you? And you deserve your money's worth. Every penny.


Author: Meriwether O'Connor