Food writer McLagan says fat gets bad rap

Tue Sep 23, 2008 8:08am EDT
 
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By Claire Sibonney

TORONTO (Reuters Life) - It takes a contrarian to defend the goodness of fat at a time when obesity has turned into a global epidemic.

In her new cookbook, "Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, With Recipes," chef, food stylist and writer Jennifer McLagan challenges medical studies that have linked diet to heart disease.

McLagan, whose first book "Bones" won a James Beard Award in 2006, said that up until the last few decades, fat has always had positive connotations, and that the more people deprived themselves of ingredients such as butter, lard and chicken skin, the fatter and sicker they have become.

McLagan insists animal fats are not only essential to cooking delicious food, but -- in moderation -- are more easily digested than the alternatives and have other health benefits, like boosting the immune system and lowering bad cholesterol.

McLagan, 54, who lives in Toronto but grew up in Melbourne, Australia, spoke to Reuters about debunking fat phobias.

Q: What inspired you to write a book about fat?

A: "After 'Bones,' someone said what are you going to write next and I said well I'm going to do the trilogy -- skin and fat. So I thought, skin, that's a little slim, that book. But I thought about fat and I thought about how I've never really stopped eating fat.

"I guess I escaped Australia in the '70s and ended up in France up to my armpits in pork fat and beef fat and duck fat, so I never got that margarine kind of scare thing and it never stopped me. But then when I started thinking about it, I thought, oh, I still had that thing, like I would have that reaction to a well marbled steak or a slice of pork belly thinking, ooh, there's a lot of fat there. I knew that's where the flavor was but I wanted to find out more about it."   Continued...

 
<p>The book cover of "Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, With Recipes" showing raw lamb ribs is seen in this undated handout photo. In her new cookbook, "Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, With Recipes," chef, food stylist and writer Jennifer McLagan challenges medical studies that have linked diet to heart disease. To match Reuters Life! FOOD-CHEFS/MCLAGAN REUTERS/Leigh Beisch/Handout</p>