Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The World of Illusion

Princess Hello Kitty, with calculator and side of beef. Heed her words and obey.

We see the world through filtering lenses, created to protect us from thoughts we cannot bear. Our minds veer away from anything that threatens our illusions; we deny the truth and make up elaborate scenarios to account for this denial of reality. Those scenarios are fake worlds in which we are right and the truth is wrong, and everyone praises us for our suffering under the hands of all those wrong people. Existence is no longer painful, it is pleasurable and just feels--right.

Sometimes these delusions are dangerous, and bring economic ruin and war and great suffering. But Imaginary God is merciful, and sometimes they are freaking hysterical.

Mrs. Megan McArdle lives in an imaginary world in which she is a knowledgeable pundit on matters of economics, politics, and culture. She is one of the best educated, most well-bred, most moral elite or any elite in history, whose superiority is reinforced every time she shares her thoughts, which are the accumulation of thousands of years of cultural wisdom. And when reality rears its ugly head, demanding that its presence be acknowledged, Megan McArdle fights to protect her illusion with every half-remembered bit of common wisdom she can dredge out of the corners of her self-obsessed mind.

The backstory is unimportant; McArdle takes an opportunity to preach against eating meat, although she is no longer a vegetarian. The offense against McArdle's version of reality is in the comments, when one brave soul takes up his pen to disagree with Princess Hello Kitty, who has stated that game meat is lean.

K Aretae 1 day ago
Megan, I think you're working on old-paleo news (Cordain), not the newer stuff. Check out Kurt Harris's PaNu and his discussion of fats in wild animals.

McMegan 1 day ago in reply to K Aretae
He acknowledges that even tucking the fat trimmings into his deerburger makes it only 25% fat by weight--or about standard for fatty chuck. The other cuts would be much leaner. Cows are bred to be basically huge sacks of fat and muscle; they would never survive in the wild because they require too much pasture, and they're super slow. I'm not making silly arguments about how game has no fat, but everyone I know who has butchered both western game (where there are no unnatural suburban gardens to live off), and even grass fed steers, has told me the same thing: the steers are clearly designed for eating, not survival.

"Everyone I know." How many people could she possibly know who butcher game? McArdle must create a scenario in which she is the expert in everything and everyone else is not, a scenario guaranteed to lead to disaster. There is always someone who knows more than you on the internet and you risk looking like an utter fool.

Kurt Harris 1 day ago in reply to McMegan
@Ms McArdle

You are perhaps missing some of the information. The point is that aboriginal peoples didn't eat supermarket cuts preferentially, so comparing the fat content of the center of a 20th or 21st century lean steak tells us nothing about how much fat aboriginal people, who could and did exploit the whole animal, ate.

In fact, they exploited the fattiest parts of the animal preferentially, and the point of my posts is not that the steaks were fat in the center of the cut, but that that the center of a steak is not the relevant metric of what we evolved eating, any more than the fat in a skinless chicken breast would represent what hunter-gathers would get from a wild fowl.

And of course 25% fat by weight is about 60% fat by calories, due to the high energy density of long chain fatty acids. And that is wild deerburger with none of the omental or mesenteric or bone marrow or brain fat thrown in, which would elevate the fat calories in a whitetail to well over 60%.

My other examples, the hamburger made from grass fed lamb and steers, were over 30% fat by weight and therefore over 70% by calories, and this was artificially low as in the case of one steer, there was over 50lbs of suet left over, and none of the brains, marrow or mesenteric fat was counted. I know it was over 50lbs of extra fat because I had the container and I weighed it. This was a 100% grass finished organically raised steer.

The images of the bison on my website ( hardly "bred to be fat" given the recent history of domestication) and the anthropological data in "Imagining Head Smashed in" as well as other extensive data on hunting behavior before the modern fear of saturated fat, make it clear that animal fat was the most available and most exploited nutrient in game for most of hominin history.

The current preference for lean meats is a misguided cultural artifact of bad science and dietary superstition that is only about 50 years old.
Bad science? But McArdle had the most expensive science teachers! Superstition? That's for the poor and ignorant! That's not McArdle. Therefor McArdle reaches for the defense mechanism known in medical journals as "piling on the stupid."

McMegan 1 day ago in reply to Kurt Harris
Sort of. Without refrigeration (or in the case of plains tribes, much of any means of storage), aboriginals did not only slaughter meat when it was fattest and most succulent (and preservation techniques, for obvious reasons, frequently cut down on the fat content). We tend to confuse buying half-a-steer with what our ancestors did, but it's not true AFAIK. They ate fresh, deliciously fatty meat mostly in the fall on the farm and prairie, not all year round.

Again, I am not arguing that our ancestors ate no fat! But that you cannot reason from what your deliciously fatty grass fed bison looks like in September, to what the Sioux ate the other 11 months out of the year. I've seen what the animals look like after a Wyoming winter, and they're pretty damn skinny unless someone's been bringing them fodder. Furry, yes, but they've used up a lot of their fat stores. In other places, it's the dry season instead of the cold season, but the effects are similar.

A truly intelligent person would hesitate here. A glance at Dr. Harris' use of terminology and dept of knowledge indicates that he might just know what he is talking about. At the very least he might know more than someone who bases her knowledge of the history of the American West on The Little House On The Prairie.

Kurt Harris 1 day ago in reply to McMegan
Sorry, wrong again.

Animals were butchered preferentially when fattest, and pemmican eaten in the depths of winter.

Pemmican is mostly fat. Here is a nutritional breakdown from US Wellness Meats, where they make it the old-fashioned way:

Est. Percent of Calories from: Fat 78.8% Carbs 0.0% Protein 20.0% I know folks who make their own according to traditional recipes and the fat percentage is similar. Berries can be added for carbohydrate, but all pemmican was high in fat traditionally.

So native americans of the plains were definitely not on low fat diets for "11 months out of the year". They knew how to preserve game meat and they loaded it with fat. They were smart. You can stay alive indefinitely on 80/20 fat/protein (% by calories) but will die quickly on the reverse ratio due to protein toxicity

And even a western animal that looks skinny has plenty of fatty bits that are not steak. Like the tongue for instance. The lean meat meme is a modern cultural prejudice derived from the flawed diet/heart hypothesis. Aboriginals around the world ate as much fat as they could, and if the animals were always fat they always ate it. Think zebras in Africa.

You might wish to read this recent scholarly book, which backs my admittedly anecdotal personal experiences, and my conclusions, rather more than yours:

The Paleoanthropology and Archaeology of Big-Game Hunting

Protein, Fat, or Politics?

By John D. Speth

A truly wise person would stop right here, thank Dr. Harris for setting her straight, and move on with her life. But Princess Hello Kitty didn't spend 38 years clawing her way into the world of elite tv pundits to be shown up by some person who Kitty has never seen interviewed in The New York Times.

McMegan 1 day ago in reply to Kurt Harris
Yes, of course animals were butchered preferentially when fattest, as they are in every society. And I know what's in pemmican. But they did not put up a year's supply of pemmican every September.

Kurt Harris 1 day ago in reply to McMegan
They ate a lot of fat whenever they could - they certainly preserved fatty meat to eat for many months into the winter, which you initially denied. It is impossible to eat enough protein to live on without fat or carbohydrate and they certainly were not maintaining greenhouses or shopping at whole foods for carbohydrate in the winter. So they would not have survived at all without plenty of fat, unless you disagree with the metabolic fact that one cannot live on nothing but protein for months on end. Google "rabbit starvation".

Disagreeing with facts is a lifestyle with McArdle. She can do it six times before breakfast.

McMegan 1 day ago in reply to Kurt Harris
You're refuting claims I haven't made--that people weren't eating fat. I'm saying that the idea that they had these hugely high fat diets year round isn't true. There were periods of high fat good eating, and periods of lean. But the year round, super awesome high fat meat diet is not how anyone ever lived outside of the Amazon. If you're refrigerating meat to eat later, you're already eating very different from your paleo ancestors.

When in doubt, condescend. It will frighten off insecure people and intimidate a few others with its prep school sneering. Unfortunately for McArdle, Dr. Harris appears to be an adult, and immune to such techniques.

Kurt Harris 1 day ago in reply to McMegan
"The meat our ancestors ate in the wild was not mostly fat-rich steak--game animals don't have that much body fat, and their muscles are a lot less tender. We've selectively bred our domesticated animals for considerably more succulence than our ancestors enjoyed."

You made this claim implying that modern diets are richer in animal fats than what our ancestors ate when they ate animals. I am refuting it with what I have presented. You are claiming that our ancestors ate less fat when they ate animals. That is not true, no matter what you prefer to believe.

I have no idea what a "year round super-awesome high fat diet is". I've eaten about 60% of calories as animal fats (about 25% saturated fat) and 20% as carbohydrate for the last 4 years and my BMI is 21.5 and waist is 30". Maybe that is what you mean.

I have claimed that ancestral peoples that hunted animals had access to plenty of fat and exploited it as much as they could. You've presented nothing but assertions that they could not have eaten much fat, and I have refuted them.

"game animals don't have much body fat" is factually completely incorrect, as I have shown, unless you think skeletal muscles are the only constituents of the animal's body. I think more than 60% fat by calories cannot reasonably said to be "not much fat" -

An entire animal eaten head to tail would be at least 50% calories as fat no matter how "lean" the muscles are once you count mesentery, omentum, brains, marrow, subcutaneous fat and solid viscera. Every single cell in an animals body has fats in the cell membrane.

Whether eating an animal killed at the end of winter, the fattest, the leanest, or the pemmican which is 80% fat, there was plenty of fat available and eaten year round. I know that is not what you want to believe because you have been taught to fear animal fats, but that is the truth.

The amazon? Not sure what that would have to do with anything.

And FWIW, I don't blame the obesity epidemic on carbohydrates in general. I blame it on wheat, sugar (including HFCS) and linoleic acid. Not potatoes..

But definitely not fat - consumption figures and the arguments I have just used all refute that animal fat or fatty steaks has anything to do with the obesity epidemic.

Surely McArdle will give up now? Just how thick and impenetrable is that wall of delusion anyway?

McMegan 1 day ago in reply to Kurt Harris
Sigh. No, I am not arguing that our ancestors were on the Dean Ornish diet. I claimed that people who think that they are eating a paleolithic diet by giving up bread and ordering half a steer are fooling themselves. A steer is not an animal that our ancestors would have had access to. It has been bred by us to be more tender, and to provide relatively more of desireable cuts from large muscle groups, and it is not just preferentially slaughtered when it is fattest, but only slaughtered when it is fattest. Our paleolithic ancestors did not eat as if every day were high summer. And they ate a lot more organ meat. You are "refuting" me by arguing that the hamburger in your fridge sure is high fat. I was arguing that what the "paleo" folks seem to argue is closer to nature is no more natural than a pound cake.

I happen to agree that the low-fat obsession seems, in retrospect, to have been fairly silly, and that sweeteners seem to be objectively worse for you. But a modern paleo, unless he's spending several months a year living entirely on beef jerky, rendered tallow, and dried berries, is not eating anything remotely close to a paleo diet. You *couldn't*--it's only legal to hunt when the animals are fattest.

cateruli 22 hours ago in reply to McMegan
With due respect, you're either overthinking it or falling for the facile argument of reenactment. No one wants to forgo the advantages of modernity or is going out spear in hand to hunt over the hills. It's about a frame of reference, utilizing the observation that hunter-gatherers or traditional societies seem free of many of the maladies of modernity, the so-called diseases of civilization, and seeing that once they become "infected" so to speak by our typical western diet, then magically they acquire also our typical western maladies. Why is it? what can we observe and learn? Well lookey, they eat no or hardly any grains (too much effort for little nutritional reward), they have no vegetable oils (need heavy processing), and whatever fructose they get comes from fruit during a small window of time every year. Hm...

That the some animals are fatter or leaner than others? Who cares? It's not like we can even have the same animals depending on geography, yet Hunter-Gatherer populations occur around the world. If the Inuits eat a lot of fat, or the Kitavans a lot of carbs, or the Tokelauans tons of coconut, they're so different, yet only acquire our diseases when they adopt our diet. Wink, wink...

Kurt Harris 22 hours ago in reply to McMegan
Your still perseverating on how much fat could or could not have been eaten. I think I've addressed that adequately and shown that you are wrong. The only reason it matters is that you claim animal fat content as being different from the ancestral on a "paleo" diet. The point is that saturated and animal fat are harmless and you can eat a lot of it or not very much and be healthy, and you cannot claim as evidence that ancestral populations could not have eaten the amount of animal fat in a modern fatty steak because it was not available to them. That I have refuted, you cannot make that argument because it is not true as indicated by all the actual evidence.

And this is why our society is slowly (or quickly) going mad. When nothing is truth, there are no facts, reason is impossible, we have no frame of reference. Everthing is continually shifting, never sure, always frought with potential danger. So authoritarians look to their leaders to tell them what is true or false, and questioning that authority is questioning Truth. Dr. Harris actually has to point out to McArdle that she cannot make an argument that is verifiably false. It is unacceptable as a method of argumentation. You do not get to ignore the truth.

This is heresy!

Back to Dr. Harris:

"I was arguing that what the "paleo" folks seem to argue is closer to nature is no more natural than a pound cake."

Now that you've chosen to re-emphasize it, I will address this claim, which is even sillier than the one about fat.

A typical "paleo" meal, consisting of either a fat or lean steak, a green salad and a sweet potato, is not only healthy but is indeed closer to ancestral diets than pound cake. No because of what it contains, but because of what it does not contain.

Processed white flour, a concentrated source of gluten and wheat germ agglutinin, sugar in the form of sucrose or high fructose corn syrup, and especially, industrial vegetable oils heavy in n-6 linoleic acid - such as corn, soy, canola, peanut, etc...

This last, linoleic acid, is required in the diet in tiny amounts, but in the modern diet is up to 15% of caloric intake, versus 3% in aboriginal diets and most human diets more than 100 years ago. And none of these agents was present in large amounts in diets 15,000 years ago.

The paleolithic diet was not a single diet and was not constant, but it did have things that were consistently MISSING from it.

Animal fat, whatever vegans may fantasize, is not one of the missing elements. Animal and saturated fats are not neolithic agents of disease.

And by the way, I am only bothering with this because I highly respect the Atlantic - I'm a subscriber - and I've enjoyed your own market liberal oriented writings therein. But this is a topic I've been interested in as a Doctor for 4 years and I've more than a passing acquaintance with these issues.

read more here:

And it's too late, but you might enjoy this one in particular:

Yes, it's much, much too late.

McArdle also had two other discussions with Dr. Harris, in which she continued to press her authority.

xp84 said...
Does what our ancestors ate matter this much, though, given that they had a very short life expectancy? I certainly believe that they were free from obesity--but weren't they mostly dead by 40? They didn't have to worry about heart disease, high blood pressure, or cancer, because they would be dead before it became an issue!

So even if we could conquer obesity by emulating the ancient eating habits and eating loads of fat, I think we'd probably be sacrificing our health later in life.

Not to say that we can't learn anything from this discussion, but life expectancy needs to be taken into account.

Kurt Harris 1 day ago in reply to xp84
Homicide, trauma, exposure, infant mortality and infectious disease. These affect mortality and average age at death. Modern hunter gatherers and pre-contact aboriginal populations have been described who, once they make it to early adulthood, live just as long as modern humans but have essentially zero diabetes, heart disease, stroke and epithelial cancers. This is very well documented. Google Lindeberg, Taubes, Weston Price, TL Cleave and Burkitt.

The paleoanthropological record shows decreases in many indices of health and earlier shorter average lifespan with the transition from HG to sedentary and agricultural lifestyle.

McMegan 1 day ago in reply to Kurt Harris
There's more than a bit of the observer effect going on. Anyone we're documenting has access to things like antibiotics.

Kurt Harris 1 day ago in reply to McMegan
And this biases the results in which direction?

McMegan 1 day ago in reply to Kurt Harris
In 1600? It killed them. In the modern era, when we don't come loaded with tuberculosis and smallpox, but do bring antibiotics?

Well, if you doubt that antibiotics extend human lifespans, I invite you to swear off them.

Kurt Harris 1 day ago in reply to McMegan
My point, which I assumed is obvious, is that the paleoanthroplogical record may show lower life expectancy than would otherwise be the case - as there were no antibiotics - the same is true of modern hunter gatherers living in primitive conditions. Ceteris paribus, people will live longer with access to antibiotics. I am sure you agree with this. So the bias makes modern humans with acceess to ABX look healthier than they really are.

Kurt Harris 1 day ago in reply to McMegan
"The paleoanthropological record shows decreases in many indices of health and earlier shorter average lifespan with the transition from HG to sedentary and agricultural lifestyle."

I see now you misunderstood this quote - I am talking about skeletal evidence from 10,000 years ago documenting the deterioration in health indices with transition to agriculture no antibiotics either 12,000 or 8,000 years ago. paleo- anthropology

One of McArdle's commenters jumps into the fray, eager to fight reality head-on.

anonprof 1 day ago in reply to Kurt Harris
I don't see how the opinions of the doctors and journalists you name are helpful here. The question is one for an anthropologist. What do we know about the adult mortality in hunter/gatherer societies. A cursory review of the abstracts in Google Scholar indicates that this is an open question that is still being sorted out by the experts. Here's a link to one paper that suggests an alternative to your view:

Perhaps it is true that we would all be healthier if we adopted a diet based on what our pre-ag ancestors ate. But the argument from human evolution is far more complicated than the advocates trying to sell books admit.

Kurt Harris 1 day ago in reply to anonprof
You can always quote a single article. Why not go to pubmed and look at Stefan Lindeberg's studies of the Kitavans. These are real live extant people without agriculture, studied over years by Lindeberg's team. They have vanishingly small western diseases as diagnosed with modern methods, including tests for diabetes, previous heart attacks, and insulin sensitivity.

If you want to take your cursory view of abstracts over my 4 years of reading the medical and scientific literature, be my guest. Keep eating bread and sugar and canola oil. It's your life.

"Opinions" of doctors and journalists? Are you serious? These are all scholarly works that are quite serious representing years of effort. Lindeberg and Price and Cleave and Burkitt WERE anthropologists, in addition to being medical professionals.

Sadly, the commenter is serious. His authority says Dr. Harris is wrong and that's all he needs. Facts are not facts, they are opinions and can be safely ignored. Bolstered by the support, McArdle joins in.

McMegan 1 day ago in reply to Kurt Harris
As far as I know, it's pretty settled by the paleoanthropologists that the life expectancy of our actual paleo ancestors was in the thirties, and around 43 if you toss out infant mortality. If you're making an argument from evolution, you'd want to look at them, no? If the argument is that hunter-gatherers with access to modern antibiotics live about as long as we do, okay, but that's a pretty underwhelming claim.

Megan McArdle is one of the elite and knows stuff, more stuff than 90% of the people out there. As far as she knows, which she always does because she knows a lot of people who know a lot of things, her facts are real and your facts are not.

Kurt Harris 1 day ago in reply to McMegan
without access - not with - they are not gathering penicllin


Kurt Harris 1 day ago in reply to McMegan
see my previous remarks about actuarial life expectancy and infant mortality, homicide, exposure, predation, warfare, and infectious disease.

Eric Listern 17 hours ago in reply to McMegan
Life expectancy is a mean. You are disregarding variance. You can have everybody live till 35 and drop dead, or you can have half die in infancy and half die at 70. Immense difference that is ignored by the term "life expectancy."

But don't worry about McArdle. She's doing just fine in her lovely Victorian rowhouse, planting its rose gardens and muttering "off with their heads!" every time she carelessly lets herself think of her critics.

Let's let one of those critics have the last word, because it's a good one.

Daniel Kirsner 18 hours ago in reply to Kurt Harris
Kurt--with Megan, the concept of triage becomes important. I'd focus on the ones who are gonna live.


digamma said...

Oh dear God, Megan McCardle and creepy Kurt Harris? The survivors will envy the dead.

Maybe an image conscious teenage girl notices an adult male who from the neck down looks fitter than all the boys at her school who don’t play sports, and some of the ones that do. Maybe she hears you talk about your lack of hunger and maybe, being a teenager, after all, she is attracted to the transgressive notions you hint at – carnivory, saturated fat -that obviously horrify her parents.

Tommykey said...

Well, from reading that, it seems McArdle is in her own way a conduit for the truth because people who know better end up responding to the nonsense she puts out there, thereby potentially enlightening anyone who might consider taking her at her word.

Susan of Texas said...

Food is intensely personal to a lot of people. I enjoy watching the battle but am happy to stay out of the war.

Kathy said...

Someone should tell ArgleBargle that the inability to admit error of any kind is a sign of a very weak, insecure ego (as well as ignorance).

She'd probably go on and on for a half-dozen mind-numbing pages saying "no it isn't!"

Dillon said...

McArdle is in her own way a conduit for the truth

This is the modified Underpants Gnome model of econoblogging:

Step 1: Megan writes a blog post that shows she is unaware of a common marketing strategy.
Step 2: A commenter politely explains this basic marketing strategy (and others) to the painfully thickheaded Megan.
Step 3: Profit !!! (Megan turns the comment into a post over her own, for which she is paid handsomely.)

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I'd like to see McMeegan write a post about quality control and modern blogging.

Susan of Texas said...

Quality control is a myth, like fat in game animals.

Anonymous said...

It can't be easy having a national forum that requires you to always know more about everything than everyone, with the penalty that, if you should slip just once, your entire playhouse comes tumbling down.

I pity her.

Susan of Texas said...

Well,, she's not required to know more than anyone else. She's a business journalist; she's supposed to be figuring out what is going on in the financial world and report it to other people. If she thinks that it's her job to be right all the time because authorities are always right, that's her mistake.

Anonymous said...

My sarcasm must not have been coming through loud and clear. ;)

Susan of Texas said...

Heh, it's tricky sometimes.

fish said...

Yeah digamma, my first reaction to Harris was while correct on the fat content issues, his assertions beyond that are no more rooted in research and facts than McArdle's. It had the climate deniers or Paul Campos' anti-anti-fat faux science written all over it.

Susan of Texas said...

You go to war with McArdle with the troops you have, not the troops you want to have!

fish said...

It was pretty funny (even though routinely used) for Megan to go with the "I didn't say what I said" goalpost moving maneuver multiple times in the same thread. I think she really believes that readers can't actually scroll back to the top of the page and double check.

Anonymous said...


No, most rational people don't post there.

Anonymous said...

Oh god oh god oh god she is recipe blogging again.

Susan of Texas said...


Susan of Texas said...

Evidently evaporated milk is now dead to her.

Clever Pseudonym said...

What the hell is wrong with evaporated milk? It's just milk with less water. Every time she tries to come off like some snob foodie, she fails miserably. But thank heavens we have her around to tell us all that the steam from boiling water can burn us if we're not careful. Just when I think she couldn't be any more condescending...

atat said...

I love the cake post. She decides to make a German chocolate cake because her visiting brother in law likes it. But she doesn't like German chocolate cake, so she makes a bunch of substitutions and declares it good.

So did the brother in law like it? She doesn't say because who gives a shit? Why would you even ask that? I said it was good. Who cares about him? What does he know? Why are you even looking at him? Look at me.

Susan of Texas said...

Wait a second--her brother-in-law likes German Chocolate cake so she makes Devil's Food cake?-which is not the same animal--cocoa versus melted chocolate makes a big difference in taste and texture.

Then she decides to put a German Chocolate cake icing on it, which is made with evaporated milk, which is too declasse or something so she makes a caramel buttercream instead, with melted white sugar instead of brown sugar, which looks needlessly complicated.

I have seriously underestimated the comic potential of the McSuderman household. Everything is much harder than it need be because one heedlessly follows one's unerring instincts wherever they may go.

Anonymous said...

"year round super-awesome high fat diet"

Ms. Megan done lost the argument with that line. It challenges "he billowed past me across the courtroom" as the single worst bit of phraseology I have ever read.

How does one billow, I ask you? In the past or present tenses?

As someone who shoveled a fair amount of Holstein and Guernsey byproduct in my youth, and later a decent amount of the same created by thoroughbred horses on the breeding farm, I read this piece with tears streaming down my cheeks and a laughter so poignant and overpowering that I needed a large glass of water and a series of deep breaths.

Ms. Megan of the Upper West Side lecturing her readers on animal fat content. That's a bit like a penguin offering a breakdown on the value of conflict diamonds.

Although, in reading Ms. Megan's "whatever" line of...ummm...thought(?), I did recall the many poignant aromas of my youth.

You'd be surprised at how much the byproduct of Holsteins and Guernseys mirrors the less-than-salient points of the University of Chicago Daddy's Little Girl of the current D.C. landscape.

Anonymous said...

and a followup post correcting her

Anonymous said...

Couldn't post until now. Susan I read the interchange on Harris's website out loud to my husband yesterday and was dying to email the link to you but luckily you picked it up and delivered it to your faithful readers with a bow on top. My god it was fun. The really touching part is that of course, as a good little libertarian, he likes Megan and her site because it frequently agrees with his instincts on other topics. Its only on his personal pet project that she strikes a nerve--and even then he doesn't seem to get it, exactly, that she's really just this dense on all topics. He keeps coming back patiently to lecture and correct her as though she were anything but some kind of failed turing test.

One of the things I love about your take on Megan is that you reveal the underlying premises that produce such disparate posts and which always structure the way she thinks. It actually reminds me a bit of my first readings of french structuralist thought. They took topics of incredible complexity and variety--a set of myths, a set of cultural practices, a set of foods--and reduced them (as they thought) to the generative principles underlying them.

Perhaps someday you will write the definitive analysis of Megan's work and call it "The Raw, the Cooked, and the Totally Inedible." Or "Analysis Paralysis in a thoroughly Modern Millie" or something.


John E. Williams said...

I wonder, I ponder... does Megan consciously know when she's wrong about something and think "crap, this commenter nailed me good... how do I get out of this?" and then chortles to herself as she comes up with the most outrageous bullshit she can think of in the hopes it will baffle her opponent and they will just go away? (Bet it drives her nuts when they don't.)

Susan of Texas said...

She's written an entire article for the magazine about kitchens and cooking! And there's a video! "The Atlantic presents: Cooking With Megan"! McArdle tells us how much easier it is to make a cake (using a mixer and cusinart to chop nuts) than her grandmother (who probably used a mixer and a knife to chop nuts).

I'm not sure of the point of the whole exercise, except to say Appliances Are Awesome!! And the point of the article seems to be that cooking is a leisure activity, an expensive hobby, more than a chores now. In other words, McArdle has written an article about herself, for herself.

Susan of Texas said...

Aimai, thanks. My theory is that everyone has reasons for their actions, and if we are very lucky they are funny reasons that will amuse us as we are being trodden into the dirt by the elite.

It's not the cheeriest of theories.

fish said...

Made me laugh. Not sure that is a good thing.

Kathy said...

MY Grandmother, who died in her mid-70's in 1974, left me 2 home-made (by my Dad) books filled with magazine & newspaper recipe clippings dating from the mid-1930's up to the late 50's. Even recipes from the 30's advise using appliances to chop nuts, do the ordinary "hard" stuff in food preparation.

She was a Navy Coast Guard Wife (my Grandfather an officer) who loved to cook, entertained a LOT, and traveled around the country quite a bit. Her most memorable living places Alaska, Figi Islands, Hawaii. I think Figi & Hawaii were during WWII, tho they could have been earlier. Grandfather served in both wars.

I've been thinking of scanning the pages of her recipe books- she'd grade the recipes with "X's", the more "X's" the better.

PS: Grandma was very well educated, better than Megan. Phi Betta Capa from an "Ivy League" school, belonged to an Old-and-Respected Maine (Booth Bay) family, etc. But she was quite happy to be a Mom & Navy Wife. She told me "housework isn't hard when you only have 2 kids- I had lots of time to garden, read, study and entertain!" She didn't find housewivery dull.

atat said...

If McArdle's mom didn't have a tool for chopping nuts, then they didn't exist.

Lurking Canadian said...

does Megan consciously know when she's wrong about something and think "crap, this commenter nailed me good

I don't think so. I think she's got an Orwellian ability to literally not see contradictory evidence. Thus, everybody disagreeing is wrong/malicious.

I sort of understand her, because I'm pretty sure I've fabricated some of the memories of my young childhood by telling white lies so often that I "remember" them as the truth. The thing is, it takes me decades to do it, but Megan can do the same thing in milliseconds.

Kathy said...

I don't think she's lying, she's rationalizing her assertions rather than actually proving them.

She doesn't know the difference between proof and inference.

Anonymous said...

I actually watched the cooking video.

I'll admit that creaming the butter and sugar is way easier with a mixer (which people had in 1950) I don't see how you save any time by whirring up the flour in the food processor instead of using the sifter. Even if you had somebody to wash the food processor for you afterwards, it still doesn't save any time or work.

And if your recipe calls from chopped nuts, just chop 'em with a knife. Don't use the food processor. (See above about washing the food processor.)


Another Luke said...

McCardle sounds like Grampa Simpson whenever she's arguing about the past (steaks, kitchen appliances, making cakes), but with even less plausibility.

“Now my story begins in 19-dickety-two. We had to say ‘dickety’ cause the Kaiser had stolen our word ‘twenty’. I chased that rascal to get it back, but gave up after dickety-six miles.”


"One trick is to tell 'em stories that don't go anywhere, like the time I caught the ferry over to Shelbyville. I needed a new heel for my shoe, so, I decided to go to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time. Now, to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on 'em. "Give me five bees for a quarter," you'd say. Now, where were we? Oh yeah, the important thing was I had an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time. They didn't have white onions because of the war. The only thing you could get was those big yellow ones."