For me, there are two reasons for this: 1) Taking care of my body so I can stick around and pester my kids for another fifty years, and 2) fueling myself in ways that don’t grossly overtax the ecosystems we humans rely on so that my boys won’t have to watch their grandkids scratch around in the dust for food that isn’t there.
The primary way to eat like less of a shit is to consume less meat—red especially—which has been the quintessential sustenance of manliness for so long that it’s weird to conceive another route.
Unfortunately, breeding edible animals requires feeding those animals food that could just as easily feed people, creating an unnecessary extra strata of consumption and waste.
Less than a week ago I devoured a 16-ounce American “Kobe” New York Strip at the Chicago Chop House as if it were trying to escape my plate, so I don’t think I’ll ever fully eradicate meat from my diet. Still, I’ve found many ways to keep full and nourished on plants, many of them just as manly in their own right as a bloody cut.
Because it’s in most beers and a lot of whiskeys, barley seems like good place to start. This is a hearty grain that was one of the first cultivated by man.
It’s a great source of fiber (which is good for your heart) and will make your poop float. According to a too-informative post at whfoods.com, barley also bulks up your waste and decreases “the transit time of fecal matter,” lessening your risk of colon cancer and hemorrhoids.
If you really fall in love with this wispy wonder, rejoice in knowing that it’s very easy to grow (assuming you have a small field to yourself, and the means to process it). I like cooking barley in a mixture of water and coconut milk and serving the vaguely sweet, fluffy, chewy results in place of rice as a side. I pile it on our heaviest plates, which I lob at the diner table like a jaded short-order cook.
My 2-year-old son, Elias, responds in kind, eating his lot like a wild animal, while his younger brother, Arius, looks on, drooling.
Speaking of brothers and transit time, I knew a gruff trio in high school who referred to poop exclusively as “shard”—a tribute to the magical shard that is the missing piece of the titular stone in the Henson/Oz fantasy epic, The Dark Crystal. There was the shard that came to rest in the toilet (or on one oft-remembered occasion, the bathroom floor) and then there was the act of shardding—as in, “I’ve got to shard.”
Even though I think of this every time I wash a piece of chard, I encourage you to forget about these fecal-fond brothers as you ponder the many varieties of chard that greet you in any bountiful produce section.
Chard is a many splendored thing. All of it has hearty green leaves, but different varieties boast stalks and veins in pale white, electric yellow and sanguine. It tastes a bit bitter raw, but when sliced thin and mixed with other greens and a tangy dressing in a salad, its bitterness is an asset.
The stalks can be drizzled with olive oil, salted, peppered and roasted on foil, though I recommend chopping them before serving, unless you like chewing long fibers at eight-minute intervals. The greens are fantastic sautéed in a pan, which pulls from the vegetable a deliciously creamy flavor.
Like most dark leafy greens, chard is a good source of vitamins A, C and K (strong bones), as well as iron and B vitamins.
I’ve got some of this powerhouse shit growing in my garden right now. Four nights last week, I went outside with some shears and trimmed the large bottom leaves off for salads. I also sautéed some for a Sunday-morning fritatta. Next to my rows of Swiss chard I’m growing some butter lettuce (which is tastier than it is healthy), and some carrots.
Nearby, a pumpkin patch, some zucchini vines, and a yellowing Japanese eggplant. I’ve got pots of hearty herbs that Elias ravages on a daily basis. Out of his reach are some pepper, tomato and tomatillo plants. You don’t need me to tell you how hot urban gardening is right now, but what’s often overlooked is how manly it is.
In a very basic way, it’s as close to hunting our food that those of us who don’t hunt can actually get. If you subscribe to the idea that back when we were all scared of the sun (not just Fox News devotees), and men went hunting while women tended cave, procuring food for your family is a base manly activity.
In that sense, a full garden is manlier than a slab of long-dead meat peeled off of a piece of pink Styrofoam. Gardening also puts you into a deeper relationship with your territory (manly), be it a windowsill or a sprawling backyard with a sun-hog tree.
I have one such maple, and it has forces me to try new arrangements of my favorite vegetables every year, which led me to the fascinating discovery that if you bury a potato in the fall, there will be many potatoes come spring.
I like potatoes, but I’m even more fond of sweet potatoes. Packed with so-called superfood tendencies, sweet potatoes are easily confused with yams—a manlier sounding word; especially if you say it with a Scandinavian nasal chortle—Heyam!
Still, it’s the sweet potato you want. Lately, I’ve come across lots of white sweet potatoes at the supermarket (I’m eating some as I type this). These are great because they aren’t as fibrous as their reddish kinfolk and can be mashed easily with the back of a fork.
Wrap these tubers in foil, poke a few holes, and set them on the grill for thirty to forty-five minutes. When you can pierce them easily with a Bowie knife, remove them from the heat and foil and slice them lengthwise.
This brings me to my next manly food, miso. Like most of history’s most bold and interesting men, miso is fermented, and goes well beyond what you get diluted in cups of hot water in sushi restaurants.
It is a paste made from fermented rice, soybeans and/or barley that is protein and mineral rich. According to an old Japanese saying, it will make your balls percolate if you close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing. (This is not true.)
Miso is a keystone ingredient in the Japanese diet—at least it was before McDonalds soiled a centuries-old streak of incredibly healthy eating. Part of me wants to move to Japan just so I can find more miso-based foods to ingest. It’s that good, plus it’s full of probiotic bacteria which will help keep you trim at best or maybe just relieve bloating and constipation—that all depends on which study you want to believe.
Anyway, add a heaping tablespoon of miso to a stick or so of melted butter (or better yet, Earth Balance) and pour liberally over your grilled sweet potato. Then cram some more miso-butter into the cavity of the potato.
Chopped green onions look nice on top, but the real fascination here is that the combination of butter (or fine margarine), miso, and sweet potato tastes like King crab legs. It will score you all sorts of points with your wife/partner/kids/friends/family because it tastes like it should be utterly horrible for you when, in fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Pretty much all of the foods I’ve surveyed so far have a decent amount of protein, and even though eating the right combinations of vegetables and grains can give you the complete proteins you need, men like eating a protein with their meals. Something distinct that can build, you know, muscle-mass. Enter seitan.
There’s the obvious Ronny James Dio connection with the pronunciation of this malleable hunk of wheat gluten, which is now immortally metal, and thus manly. You can do all sorts of amazing shit with seitan—most impressive to me are the hot wings my brother makes.
Leif’s hot wings seem to get better every time he hands me a platter, but the biggest allure is that you can just pick one up and put it in your mouth without having to navigate around the bones and tendons central to a chicken wing. This is ironic, I suppose, as he helped me come up with this idea: Wait until (for a limited time only) McDonald’s is offering a McRib sandwich, purchase (or better, retrieve from a dumpster) one of the patties, and create a mold from it to make your own seitan McRib sandwiches.
I think the easiest way to do this would be to rinse off all the excess sauce and submerge the patty in plaster of Paris. Once dry, cut the plaster in half and remove the meat. Use this mold to create a wax version of the McRib which can in-turn be used to build a reusable plastic mold that can crank out a whole fleet of seitan McRibs.
I really have no idea if or how that would work, but this celebration of the misguided but ultimately beloved concept of a meat patty shaped like a rack of ribs—bones included—also makes a profound artistic statement. So much so that my head hurts.
So to put a cap on all this, I recommend a psyllium husk chaser. A container of ground husks from this hearty plant will cost you about $8 and might change your life.
Once or twice a week, I mix a couple of heaping spoonfulls into a glass of water and drink it down. It’s best to swallow this as quickly as possible because the husks become very tacky once they sponge up water and will cling to the side of your throat for hours. In your colon, the husks soak up moisture, expand and scrub the walls.
In the past, I’ve described what comes out the other end as a “meat cloud,” but in this context “pillow shit” makes more sense. Husk movements are brisk and, though usually with a decent circumference, light.
They crackle merrily while exiting, and float in a happy little huddle, which is a good indicator that you have a high-fiber diet, which is in turn a good indicator that you’ve been eating like a good man. I say unto you, Good Man: May your shards enjoy a breezy transit and float like scheming crocodiles, and may your days be long.