My low-waste kitchen: *&^%! Out of butter

In the 1970s, there was an annoyingly accurate saying, “It takes money to make money.”

It also takes resources to save resources, so while I write about decreasing waste I am highly aware that I am lucky to have a fully equipped kitchen, lots of Tupperware, a good freezer, and cooking theory in my little brain.

When I was a teenager, I remember my mother once lamenting that we were eating leftovers. I said, “It wasn’t too long ago that we couldn’t AFFORD leftovers.”  So at that, we were both grateful.  For a long time we were hungry, then we had JUST ENOUGH food, then we had extra food, and now, as an adult, I have extra food, and usually it is food I actually feel like eating, and more than I need. This still seems miraculous to me, most of the time.

My mother never used margarine. She grew up right after WWII and margarine was, for her, a symbol of food coupons and of rationing and of want. No matter how poor we were, she always made sure we used butter. If she ran out of it, there were substitutes. Just never never the hated margarine.

I am not a nutritionist; how much fat of any kind to consume is between you and your doctor. But if you are out of butter, here’s what you can do:

Baking: Butter provides a luscious kind of moisture, so it can be replaced by something moist—that part is easy to figure out. If you want the luxury of fat, you can sub just about one to one with mayonnaise or sour cream (cream is what butter is made of, in case we forget this). Vegetable oil, being runnier, usually should be in a smaller amount than butter. Olive oil can work but it is costly, so if I were you I’d run out and get some butter.

What about animal fats? If you are the type to save bacon or ham fat, it is usually pretty yummy in baking—especially nowadays when “salted” (chocolate, caramel, whatever) is in vogue. Chicken fat will work but not add as much flavor.

If you are on a low fat diet, you can use a veg or fruit puree for at least part of butter or oil, but it will change the texture. Applesauce, puree of carrot, stewed pumpkin, can all be substituted for butter in baking but it will not fool anyone.

If you are out of butter for bread, that is a good time to break out the olive oil. Plain olive oil is dull—that’s what it is prized for, not adding much flavor—so if you don’t have flavored or specialty olive oil that’s when you get to grind in pepper, garlic, or other seasonings and dab your bread, rather than spreading something on it.


Frying: You probably shouldn’t be frying things in butter anyway, because it burns too easily, but you knew that, right?  If you are sauteeing and are low on butter, you can actually work in some water after the butter has melted. You must move the food around quickly if you choose to do this, but it is a lower fat way to sautee.

There are times you can cook with mayonnaise; it makes great grilled cheese. I rarely do this, though. It tastes great but it feels odd to me.



I have to laugh but I just realized: I am out of butter.


My low waste kitchen: muffins

Whether it is the result of growing up poor or being culturally Scottish, my family has always hated waste. My mother used to say, “Don’t throw away anything you are about to buy, or buy anything you are about to throw away.”


So instead of buying “bread crumbs” while composting stale bread, we make one from the other.

Have you noticed that good restaurants are beginning to serve meat loaf and banana bread and crab cakes? These are foods which, in my childhood, represented frugal use of leftovers. Maybe because more of us watch the food shows than actually cook, leftovers are now on menus, but I just can’t bring myself to pay restaurant prices for a crab cake.

Banana bread is, of course, what you do with over ripe bananas. Did you know that almost any fruit and many veg can be made into quick breads? To be on the safe side, I usually make muffins. With the differing chemical properties and water content of various fruits, I find muffins less likely to “fall,” more likely to be successful, than quick breads.

Small fruits, such as blueberries and raspberries, can be mixed in without much prep.  Larger fruits, such as commercial strawberries or grapes or peaches or apples, should be chopped fine. Do not peel the apples. The skin, when chopped very small, has a nice texture and adds color to the muffins.

Oranges and lemons–all citrus–should be whirled in the blender.

You can use any fruit that is squishy but not moldy.  (By the way, to ward off mold and squishiness, wash your fresh fruit in a bath of vinegar and water before putting it in the fridge. You don’t even need a lot of vinegar, just enough to have the scent of it in the water is fine.)  If you have even a quarter cup of squishy fruit you can put it in the freezer for later use if that use is baking. You don’t have to add sugar, or blanche it, or prepare it in any way but washing, as long as you intend to bake with it.

Since carrot cake, zucchini bread, and tomato cake are pretty yummy, I tried to made cucumber bread once. DO NOT DO THIS. Baked cucumbers taste like clams. I like clams fine, but not for dessert.

Depending on the water content of the fruit, you may need to add more flour and/or more leavening.  The rule for baking soda and baking powder is use twice as much soda as powder.

If you are hesitant to make your own muffins, you can just add fruit to an instant cake mix. You’ll want to start your experiment with at least one half cup but no more than a cup of fruit to a box of cake mix; make sure to drain off excess juice.


EDIT: Oh dear, I forgot to mention breakfast cereal.

I am not a fan of it, it being more expensive, per pound, than a fine steak, but I do buy it sometimes because it allows my young child the independence of getting her own breakfast without using the stove (a 1950s gas number you have to light with a match).

You can substitute many cereals, cup for cup, for flour. Since I usually get a whole grain, this increases the nutrition of the muffins when substituting for white flour. Flakes, crisped rice, or granola you can just pour in with no prep. Puffed rice or cheerio things need to be made into a flour; you can either use the blender or put it in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin. I like that latter option because it is very gratifying to crush things.


Next week, butter substitutes!









My other superpower

My other superpower



My other superpower, besides nonexistence, is baking bread.

I have not used a recipe for years. I do it by the feel. Give me liquid, flour, yeast, an oven, and something to put the dough in and you’ll have bread by and by. I usually add a fat as well, generally butter but maybe not. If you don’t add a fat the crust will be lovely and crackly but the bread will not cut very easily. Think of a day old baguette (no fat), and how that falls apart compared with a croissant (lotsa fat, still falls apart but in a pattern).


I often feel sorry for my mother in teaching me to cook. She was, by nature, a throw-open-the-cupboards-what-are-we-almost-out-of innovator. But, she felt it was her duty to teach me to measure and to follow a recipe in order, and before you even do that read it all the way through.


Today, I usually just throw open the cupboards.


In leftover articles, they tend to focus on stews and casseroles, but bread baking is also a good way to use up that thing that is not enough for another meal but too much to discard.


The tricks are to not overwhelm the flour, and to know the properties of the leftovers.

Don’t panic, this is really easy.

In general, you want to replace no more than half the flour with leftover whatever. What qualifies as whatever?

These can be substituted for the bulk of flour:

Pumpkin puree

Mashed potatoes (or sweet potatoes or turnips)

Oatmeal (or any leftover breakfast cereal)

COOKED rice from your take out (increase yeast a bit if you use rice)


These can replace the fat of butter

Sour cream

That great dip you made too much of (quacamole, onion dip, cheese dip) (NOT salsa, has to be a fat based dip)


These can be rolled in:

Leftover chopped veg

Leftover chopped meats

Seeds or nuts (add grated cheese)

Rolled in breads should be consumed right away, as chopped veg or meat are only yummy on day 1.

Oh, I nearly forgot: The principal worry I hear from people hesitant to make their own bread is that is takes too much time. It DOES take time, but it need not take YOUR time. Most of the time is rising, and you are not directly involved in that.

A really light and luscious bread will have two risings (you can do one, but two are better). So depending on when you are home, you can have it rise overnight, or while you are at work, in the fridge. Really.

It evens out, the cold of the fridge makes the yeast work more slowly, but you are away for at least eight hours (probably) if you let it rise while you work or sleep. If you do it this way, just let the rise happen with HALF the flour the recipe calls for.  That way, you can add warm (room temp) flour for the second rising and the rising will not take too long.

I get up early, so I start the bread before going to bed, let the second rising take place while I shower and dress the next moring, and read while it bakes.  (PS If you are in a hurry, make rolls instead of loaves because they both rise and bake faster. There’s a reason those awesome cans of premade things tend to be a dozen single servings.)




So that’s my low-waste, high nutrition bread.

It’s not their job

They rarely mean to be cruel.


I hope, anyway.


When I was newly widowed, an old friend traveled across five states to help me with the post funeral stuff.


He cleaned, and did yard work, and helped sort through the pity lasagna.


I love the phrase “pity lasagna.” I read it in a book. It fits perfectly. Why is it that death attracts pasta, of all the easily frozen foods? No one ever sends meat loaf.


And I am in a position to know, because, in a two year period, my mother, husband, favorite sister in law, father in law, and another sister in law all died, of unrelated things.


That’s a lot of pity lasagna. And house plants. Lots and lots of house plants.


So anyway, my friend, sorting the pasta and putting it in the chest freezer, said, “When the novelty wears off, you will still need help.”


Which has proven to be very true, and exponentially sad. Newly widowed, with a five year old, I had lots of pity lasagna. Two months later we had eaten the food but I was still widowed, and had no child care, no more yard help, no support of any kind. (PS Old friend went virtuously home to his wife.  Pass the popcorn.)


Two years later, the IRS decided I should have found a husband by now, and said I could no longer claim a tax status of “widowed.” I had to change to “head of household,” which is not much more expensive but still a slap in the face.


The overused but accurate phrase “perfect storm” is my social situation. I really don’t know anyone quite as isolated. I of course know some single mothers. But none with no parents or in laws. I know people whose parents died young. But none of them is also widowed.


I get left out of a lot of things that only couples get invited to. And I hope and pray that the only reason is that I am not in a couple. I hope that it is only that I am not in a couple, because I don’t want to face that people hate me that much to leave me out, knowingly.


My two best friends moved away shortly before the torrent of family deaths happened. And the phone, the internet, are not a substitute when you saw people every day. The perfect storm of isolation continues.


When I turned 50 the doctor told me I had to get a colonoscopy and told me to make sure my husband picked me up after.   So I didn’t get one.


You’d think I could find the bright spot of isolation—which would be privacy—but society or fate or something laughs at my trying to find that. For example, since I am the only adult in the house, I repeatedly tell doctor’s offices or stores where I have placed orders that they can go ahead and leave a detailed message on the answering machine.


They won’t. It is beyond conception that no one else hears the message. I have now told my pharmacist six times to just leave the message when the order is ready, that no bad guy is going to break into my house and play with my answering machine. Nope. They waste my time by saying “call for information.” For fux sake. They keep telling me that “for my privacy” they won’t leave a message.


Believe me, assholes, I have privacy.


Isolation can be expensive. I was in my therapist’s office complaining of the financial stress. I am lucky enough to have a professional job and that sometimes means business trips. Normally a parent who must travel has the other parent to take care of children. When that is not practical there are usually two sets of grandparents. Because none of those people is available, when I go out of town I have to hire someone to move in to my house to care for my child. I was complaining to my therapist about the extra expense, and how I can’t refuse a business trip because I need that job, being the sole support of two people, and she said, “Oh, that is so sad.”


My god. I know it is sad. No one knows how sad it is as I do. But it is also an expensive pain in the ass.


The year after my husband died, no one remembered my birthday. Of course they didn’t. There weren’t a lot of people alive to remember, and, in the previously mentioned storm, my two best friends, and my boss, whom I had known half my life, also forgot.   Since my husband had died two weeks after my birthday that previous year I had a good memory of a house full of cards and food—everyone was sad that he had died, but a year later no one was happy I was alive.


I idiotically—I was so sad I had to tell someone—mentioned this to a friend from High School, that I saw at my work. She said, so puzzled, “Oh. You handled all you got with such grace I had no idea you were hurting.”


It is not, of course, anyone’s job to fill the voids for me. No one will come and be my mother or father or husband now that they are dead. No one will, and I admit no one should, fill those voids just because the voids exist.


I am well aware that if my only problem is loneliness I am streets ahead of those in poverty, or those facing deadly diseases, or gang violence. I maintain that I am allowed to own my feelings: Isolation stings. I hate it. I am allowed to.

(If you are interested in why I don’t have a partner, I have several entries. Briefly, for some reason it is true: Men seek women twenty or even thirty years younger than themselves. I didn’t believe this until I experienced it. And not only will I not date a man twenty years my senior because it is sexist bullshit, I have already been widowed. Once is quite enough for this.)


But you’d think someone would bear in mind, when planning things, that I have no one. Other people who get snubbed at party invitations can weep with their partners or parents or in laws. All of mine are gone. Does anyone ever think that leaving me out hurts many many times more than it would for someone who HAS people?


Therapists pretty much tell me it sucks to be me, that there is no way to FORCE the world to give me the support that so many people take for granted. There is no fix to it. I will continue to be alone, because I am alone.


It goes the other way, too. I mean, being isolated in joy also has its sting. I received an honor, one I worked for, and received it in front of three hundred people.


And I went home realizing I had no one to call.


I had no one to call.

My superpower is not existing

The superpower of not existing.


When I was in college, a discovery was made about my face. “You have classical features,” the guy said, not meaning it as a compliment. He meant that my face was neutral, everything in proportion, according to the stage makeup class.


We all got out tape measures and measured each other’s noses and mouths and the distances between our eyes, and found that it was simply not possible for a person to have a more neutral face than I did, and that no one present had a face even close to as neutral as mine.


This was a relief. It explained to my why people have always mistaken me for other people. No matter what country I go to, someone calls me by someone else’s name. There have been times when people actually get hostile when I try to explain they are mistaken. “Knock it OFF, Betsy, I know it’s you!”

Also, my neutral face means people THINK they are looking at me, but they are not. They can’t. My face is too bland. So that if I get a new haircut or wear a hat, people who have known my all my life will fail to recognize me. It is, or at least sometimes is, a relief to know that I don’t have to talk to people if I am feeling reserved on a particular day, because no one ever notices me unless I want them to.


I realized after being “recognized,” again, last winter, that this is sort of a superpower. Because, usually, the person I am taken for is a long lost person the speaker misses, and is glad to see. So, if the speaker is unlikely to see me ever again, I have learned it is smarter—and kinder—to pretend to be the person I resemble. The person who “recognizes” me gets that happy reunion, and no one is the wiser. My superpower is to help people not miss people they love and have lost touch with.


But recently I found some down sides to this weird superpower: Rarely is anyone as happy to see me, really me, as they are to see the people I resemble. And the other is: my superpower is not existing. My superpower is being mistake for other people, and not being myself, at all.

Chicken Little, a Cautionary Tale

Chicken Little and Planned Parenthood

Did you know that versions of “Chicken Little” have been around for 25 centuries? That’s a pretty cool fact. I was trying to think of a good Shakespeare example of a lie repeated until a bunch of people believed it when “Chicken Little” popped into my head, and in researching it, found a bunch of cool things.


Basically, humans across cultures and for many centuries have instinctively known what today’s psychologists wring their hands over: A repeated lie, no matter how stupid, starts to sound trustworthy.

Chicken Little, you will remember, believed the sky was falling because an acorn fell on her head. She repeated this “news” to everyone she met, and they all believed her until she got to Foxy Loxy, who either ate them all after laughing at their stupidity or was flouted because Turkey Lurky came to his senses.


I had hoped, before I looked it up again, that Owly Jowly stopped them and said, “What the HELL are you thinking?” but I have not found that variation. Yet.


It’s a kids’ tale, but ethically quite sophisticated: We, the audience, are expected to recognize that the sky is not falling, that the character Chicken Little isn’t a particularly reliable source, and that it is absurd that no one stops to think about whether the sky actually could fall. The audience is also expected to feel sorry for the characters who don’t think about what they are repeating, especially in the versions where their foolishness leads to disaster.

Attacks against Planned Parenthood are very much like the story of Chicken Little. An absurd claim is made and a lot of people believe it, with bad consequences.

I have recently learned that my own congressperson said, in a public event, that she doesn’t support Planned Parenthood because they sell fetal body parts.

Oh for heaven’s sake. What idiocy.

Never mind that the videos used to make the assertions were proved to be fake. The notion just doesn’t make any sense.


Acorns falling on your head, as it takes a minute to think about, are not the sky falling. But no one stopped to think.


The stupid is great with this one.


In order to make us horrified about Planned Parenthood, alarmists have several storylines going. One involves “babies” (because the people telling the story don’t know what fetuses are) being ripped limb from limb. The narrative goes on to talk about parts being sold.


Which, DUH, should have been a tip off for anyone who has ever made anything . . . from . . . anything. Or used anything, for anything.

If you want to construct something, the materials must be in good shape. Seriously, people. Crushed, ripped apart, or in any other way damaged materials can’t be used constructively. The same people who talk about fetuses being destroyed go on to say there are lists of parts for sale. It just doesn’t work that way. Anybody who wanted to run a business selling fetal parts would have to make sure that every harvest was done through caesarean section. And, if you don’t personally, have reason to know that c sections are fiendishly expensive and no one is likely to use them to make a profit on anything else, I hope you know how lucky you are.

But the anti Planned Parenthood folks, famously squeamish about female anatomy, don’t want to think about how small a cervix is or how unusable “parts” obtained that way would be.


The business of selling parts, even if you could obtain them, is just as silly as the parts themselves. Planned Parenthood is a not for profit. A 501 c 3 medical not for profit. If you are a recognized not for profit, you not only are not organized for the purpose of making a profit, you CAN’T make a profit. If you do, you lose your not for profit status, and cease to exist. I am on the board of three not for profits at this writing, and keeping that status is a vital part of what we do, and involves a lot of paperwork.



I truly do not understand why PP defenders don’t just say, “Look, folks, we can’t make a profit. We have a 100 year paper trail of not making a profit, so just shut up.” The only reason I can think of that they don’t say this is that maybe they think the American public is too stupid to understand that. I really don’t want to believe that.


Third, setting aside that it’s impractical to harvest fetal parts, and against the organizational model to sell them for profit—why would an organization that wanted to sell fetal parts hand out contraceptives? Planned Parenthood does so much of its work in distributing condoms, providing prescription birth control such as the pill or IUDs. It simply wouldn’t work for them to simultaneously be preventing pregnancy and depending on it. Unless of course they were the stupidest business ever run. But then how would they survive 100 years?


Oh, right, “Federal Funding.” I really hope you already know this, but Planned Parenthood doesn’t get a check from the government that it distributes whatever way the admins want. Planned Parenthood “funding” means that if you get care there, PP will be reimbursed. Pap smears will be reimbursed. Wellness checks will. (Abortions won’t because of the Hyde Amendment, but that’s another column.)


Where I live, there is only one health clinic downtown. It’s Planned Parenthood. There is an Urgent Care center, but that is not the same as a clinic. If PP loses reimbursement for health care, this town of 15,000 is, simply, without a clinic for poor people to get care. This is indefensible.


Yes, Planned Parenthood is a health clinic. The name should tip you off that they actually LIKE parenthood. The idea is for it to be on purpose, and healthy. I have been a Planned Parenthood patient for many years, off and on, according to how good my health insurance has been. I have received treatment for strep throat at this clinic. Prenatal care for my child. Antibiotics for infection. Vaccinations. Pap smears. And yes, contraceptives.


And, there is one last desperate gasp for Planned Parenthood haters: We can’t support PP because Margaret Sanger was a bad person.

What a weird idea. I won’t even get into what she was accused of, since it is at once complicated and baseless, but so what?

We do many many things that bad people started or championed. Shall we not drive cars because Ford was an anti-Semite? All leave the country because the founders mostly owned slaves?


Planned Parenthood opponents, like the animals in “Chicken Little,” take bad information and don’t bother to think about it before passing it on. Are they bad people?


Some are. Some are people who want power over women.  Some don’t like the idea of women having sex, and some of those even go so far as to come up with reasons they should have power over with whom and how women they don’t even know run their lives.

But some are not bad people. Some are, like Turkey Lurky and friends, just afraid. They pass on information because they are afraid of what happens if they don’t, and they don’t think hard enough about whether the situation is real.

It is interesting to me that although medieval times have a reputation for being when everyone was obedient to their church or other authorities, many of the most enduring folk tales and songs cautioned against believing things without thinking them through. And many of them encouraged us to laugh at fools who believe baseless things, or acted on them.


It is high time we stop being defensive about Planned Parenthood, time we stopped saying how great they are—which they are—and concentrate on the narrative.


There are many levels of silly in the opponents of good healthcare that is Planned Parenthood, and it’s time we laughed them way.

It ain’t necessarily


Remember Billy Beer? No? How about Roger Clinton’s band?


Future generations may believe that Jimmy Carter had a Brewery, and that Bill Clinton had a hit called, “Nothing Good Comes Easy.” Eh, maybe that’s not the best example.


I am heartsick at the current trend to paint Sally Hemings as the mistress of Thomas Jefferson—and for a lot of reasons. None of which has a lot to do with TJ.


People who hear me say, “No, that wasn’t proven,” may think I am defending TJ when that is not at all my goal.

But boy oh boy, am I bothered by the ignorance of facts. By the elevation of circumstantial evidence.


The first part of my distress is the misunderstanding of the word “mistress.” I don’t care whether TJ fathered every one of her children—and he certainly did not. The fact is that Hemings was a slave. She was unable to consent to a relationship with a white man. She was a slave. To elevate her being raped to a “relationship” makes me utterly sick.


Another problem is that of misunderstanding of what DNA can prove. DNA has proven that at least one of Hemings’ children was fathered by a Jefferson.

This information was gathered using DNA obtained from descendents of Thomas Jefferson’s uncle, Field Jefferson. It is a willful refusal to face facts when the DNA used in the sample was not even from Thomas. What people are refusing to face is that there is an awful lot of Jefferson DNA out there.


Let me repeat: Even the DNA used to prove Jefferson family involvement was not from Thomas Jefferson. To state that any Jefferson DNA in current Hemings descendents must be from Thomas is not only laughable, it shows a sad misunderstanding of science.


There were, as it happens, a great many Jeffersons arund when Sally Hemings was reproducing. There were also oral histories from that time saying that “Marse Randolph” frequented slave quarters.


Marse Randolph was not present during that famous stay in Paris. In fact, the only Jefferson in Paris at the time the famous movie depicts a “relationship” between Thomas and Sally was, you guessed, Thomas.

Even the most reluctant to admit TJ involvement would have to bow down when faced with Jefferson DNA in a Hemings descendent from that time period. But no.


The Woodson line (the Hemings family line from that time period has that surname) has been found to be no Jefferson of any kind.

That proves two things: TJ did not father Thomas Woodson. And someone else, some non Jefferson, DID.


If Jefferson DNA had been found in descendents from a time when only Thomas was around, that would prove pretty well that TJ had been the one.   Lack of Jefferson DNA when Hemings had a baby, when there is Jefferson DNA in at least one other Hemings line, proves that Hemings’ children had more than one father. And since she was not known to be in a marriage, this means that she was the rape victim of more than one man.


Can you see why it is so sad to come up with an imaginary “relationship” for a victim of more than one rape? Holy god, how can people DO this to her?


The Jefferson-in-Paris line not being Jefferson does not mean, of course, that TJ, conclusively, had no involvement in Hemings children.   But nothing so far has proven that of all the Jeffersons, he was the one. And DNA has also proved that of the fathers of Hemings children, he was certainly not the one from Paris.


Using Sally Hemings’ multiple rapes to make it look as though she had more agency than she had makes me utterly disgusted.  I’m not too surprised that if there is a Jefferson talk, they want to make it about Thomas, though. In my own family the legend was that we were descended from Maria Theresa of Austria.  Further scrutiny seems to say that we were descended from some minor brother of hers who raped a maid.  Way less painful to say we were related to the important one.  Who’d want to be descended from Billy Carter? I’d hitch my star  to Jimmy, if I had the chance.


When I was a new driver, the speed limit on the highway was 55.


But I was a new driver, and enjoyed speed. So I routinely went 20 or so miles over the speed limit. It was fun.


One day, happily going 75, I passed a State Trooper.


My heart sank. This was it.


But I got all the way home. The trooper never left the hiding place.


And I thought, “Not that I mind not getting a ticket, but if doing 75 in a 55 isn’t enough, what IS?”


Kellyanne Conway made up, totally made up, the Bowling Green Massacre.


She didn’t lose her job over it.


This is the point at which the Republican Party might say to itself, “Phew! Close one! Not that I mind my spokesperson not losing her job over an outright falsehood, but if lying about a terrorist attack doesn’t get you fired, what does? Better be more careful.”


If I had decided that since I didn’t get caught, I should just keep on speeding–no, speed more! Tell all my friends to speed! that would have been the same, ethically, as Last Night in Sweden.


Didn’t get caught speeding? Speed more! Speed more locations.


Didn’t get fired for imaginary terrorist attacks? Well, then, anybody can make them up.  Domestic terrorist attacks are not sufficiently interesting. Let’s make up one in a whole other country.


And if it gets noticed???

The trooper HAD to have seen me. But he didn’t care.


Similarly, let’s assume the United States citizenry DOESN’T care about alienating entire countries.


Seems legit.



Asking the right question


Asking the right question


Did you ever see a study and say to yourself, “Ohmygod! Of COURSE!”


It happens.


I remember an aha! Moment when reading a study about people who were gay. It was so Aha! That I didn’t write down the author, the journal, or the name of the study. It seemed so obvious to me that once this was public, everyone would agree and the author would be famous forever.


You see, normally when scientists go searching for why people are gay, the approach is “What makes this bad thing happen?” What makes this disability, this other-ness, this wrongness, occur?


The author of this study took a historical as well as a genetic or abnormality look at it. Knowing that there have been gay people throughout recorded history, and that gay people mostly are offspring of het people, and that the proportion of gay to het people tends to remain the same, what is the advantage to the species of this variation?

He reasoned that there must be a species advantage, since the trait didn’t depend wholly on genetics, nor was it communicable.


He found some advantages, too. I would encourage you to read the article but darn it! I can’t find it. It seemed so obvious to me, so it’s-about-time, to me that being gay is a normal variation that I didn’t think I’d have to write the name down.


Asking the right question is more likely than asking the common question to yield the right answer.


Somebody asked, “Why do we even HAVE fevers when we are sick?” rather than “How can we get this fever to go down?” and in my lifetime the attitude was changed from giving the kid aspirin (a bad idea, anyway) at the first sign of elevated temp to letting it do what it is supposed to do, kill the germs, unless the fever itself becomes life or brain-threatening.



A similar approach was taken in the book Survival of the Sickest. This author chose to look at diabetes, and similar problems—especially the kind particular to specific populations—and examine when there might be an advantage to something we commonly see as a disease.


Please read Survival of the Sickest. It is wonderful


I don’t remember the author tackling middle aged spread.


I think he should.


When, throughout history and across cultures, it is well known that as we reach middle age, both men and women tend to put on weight, it is time we asked: what might the advantage be to the species?


I will digress a minute and compare being large sized with levels of literacy.


I can accept that sometimes large sized people simply eat too much and exercise too little. But that isn’t everybody, same as not everyone who does not read well is unintelligent.


As a culture, we can accept that some people who don’t read well have dyslexia, some were never taught well, some might not enjoy it for a number of reasons, some may even have vision problems.


When we meet the person with dyslexia, we probably accept that this person will never read well. When we meet a person who is blind we easily understand that Braille will be a better solution than the printed word.


But with large sized people, we tend to assume the person is lazy, and that being smaller would improve his health.


We wouldn’t tell a blind person, “You’d do better in school if you would just pick up a book!”


But we do tell large people, “You’d be healthier if you lost weight.”


This is simply crazy.


Studies have shown that being what is thought of as “normal” has no longevity advantage over being “overweight;” it is not until one reaches morbid obesity that it matters.


In addition, we fail to separate the whys. It may be true that a large person who was large because of fast food is healthier when switching to a whole foods diet.


It may not be that a large person who is already on a whole foods diet will be healthier when fighting his body and starving it to stay smaller.


It turns out that calories in, calories out is bullshit for several reasons, and we have a good example of this folly, right now. The show Biggest Loser has the most successful dieters in history. Guess what: they all have artificially lowered metabolic rates following starving themselves for the show. They can not go back to the way a healthy, normal person would eat if they intend to stay small because their bodies now burn calories so slowly.

Here it is, for all of us to see: there are problems with the calories in, calories out model, because calories burn differently on different people, or even on the same people after different lifestyles.

The calories in, calories out model also stinks because it assumes the only thing to change if you starve yourself is to get smaller. Well, you might get smaller. But it might be that with less energy something else that takes energy will suffer. You may have lower mentation (means your brain is in a fog). You could have your hair fall out.


What are the advantages to the species of getting heavier as we age?


Nothing comes to mind at the moment.


Going grey has advantages to the species. It identifies the older, wiser, and less fertile of us.


Humans are unusual in the animal kingdom in that we live far after our fertility is gone.


And we tend to get “old and fat.” It is a common phrase.


So maybe there is a good reason for middle aged spread. Maybe we just don’t know what it is because we are so focused on the “wrongness.”


Anecdotally, everyone knows old timers who said in THEIR day, they had real winters, real cold, not this wimpy stuff. Collectively, we laughed at them, and then scientists confirmed Global Warming (and then renamed it Climate Change.) The old timers were right. The anecdotes told real stories we should have listened to.


Everyone knows an old woman who sighs that what she used to do to lose weight doesn’t work. We have laughed at her. She told us, but we laughed. She risked heart disease and decreased mentation and incurred great expenses to lose weight, and society laughed at her even as she tried to explain that, really, her body is as stubborn about holding on to the weight as the world is stubborn about providing warmer winters.


What if she is right? What if, not only is she right, but there’s an evolutionary reason for what’s going on?


It is high time we asked those questions.