Beef & Spartan Men at Battle | Columnist Molly Hannon

I introduce to you Eating with Abs’ newest (hottest) columnist Molly Hannon, who is a US-born freelance writer based in Berlin. She holds a Master’s in Gastronomy and Communications from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy, where she will this fall lead a Master’s-level seminar about 20th-century food literature and its relationship to contemporary food writing. A contributor to the Newsweek’s Daily Beast and a food-and-arts correspondent for NPR, Molly’s writing focuses on food’s cultural influences, narratives and literary legacies—-how they shape civilization and bring us together. She also maintains a blog, LesGensFaims, which translates to “Hungry People.”

When the Spartan men would return from battle, the dedicated Spartan women would give them a glass of red wine with a rusty nail in it. After all of their blood, sweat, and toil on the battlefield, their men were low on iron. Yes, these almost-mythological warriors needed to refuel but they did it keeping their palate in mind. Again, the Greeks remind us of how to live, with from-the-vineyard libations at the center of it.

Iron is a crucial ingredient when it comes to the body’s well-being and overall health. Those who are low in iron (the dreaded anemic who is red blood cell-challenged) must battle with fatigue, among other ailments. However, the solution does not lie in a sleek and unassuming little pill or any other cheap, easy alternative like a hamburger with a fried egg on top. Quite the contrary, in fact; the cure-what-ails-you, however, does require a little imagination…and research into plant-based sources of iron.

I, myself, am anemic—-or at least was diagnosed as such about a month ago. The doctor’s prescription was to take iron supplements and increase my intake  of meat, eggs, and dairy…ho hum! A few days later, I received a long and worrisome email  from my Jewish-mother-of-a-father that listed the symptoms of anemia and encouraged me to eat more meat. He concluded his email with a slogan from perhaps the most-enduring meat-industry advertising campaign:  Molly, beef IS what’s for dinner.

I still had my doubts about my doctor’s proposed iron-enrichment measure and therefore consulted a nutritionist who has aligned her medical philosophy with the pleasures of gastronomy—-specifically, eating for pleasure rather than simply for health. It’s odd that the two are not unified, as if they were somehow separated since birth, running in opposite circles and occasionally scolding one another, when in reality they should align and reinforce one another’s higher attributes.

Yes, taking pleasure in what you eat does relate to your health. I am convinced of this and find guilt or paranoia in what you consume a waste of time, even if you have certain health conditions. There are iron-rich vegetarian solutions that leave your taste buds atingle and your iron quotient satisfied. The Spartan post-battle ritual is reminder of one of the key elements when it comes to a healthy body: pleasure. Their wine and rusty nail combo demonstrates they were aware of their deeper needs, both physically and mentally, aligning taste with a vital mineral that could in turn allow them to conquer the world all while throwing back a few.

The lesson here is to write your own prescription, seeking out ethical iron-rich foods while maintaining your gastronomical integrity. There does not have to be a quick-fix solution despite the 21st century’s industrious speed. Just don’t swallow that nail.

PS: Hey lovelies, it’s Abigail here, with some dope recommendations for iron-rich, plant-based foods. Scope out the list below, which also includes the iron content per-serving. It’s as easy as a hearty, black-bean and spinach stew ladled over a dish of hot quinoa. Dig:

  • Lentils (6.6 mg)
  • Quinoa (6.3 mg)
  • Black Beans (3.6 mg)
  • Pinto Beans (3.5 mg)
  • Blackstrap Molasses (7.2 mg)
  • Spinach (6.4 mg)
  • Swiss Chard (4.0 mg)
  • Turnip Greens (3.2 mg)

Images: Gordon M. Robertson, Jessica Spengler


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