You Do The Math: Should You Stop Eating Bacon Because of Increased Cancer Risk?

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you undoubtedly heard the media blast on Monday that consuming processed meats – and “probably” red meat itself – causes an increased risk or cancer.  Talking heads, newspapers, and the Internet were breathless with the news.  Here’s an example from The Washington Post:

The WHO findings were drafted by a panel of 22 international experts who reviewed decades of research on the link between red meat, processed meats and cancer. The panel reviewed animal experiments, studies of human diet and health, and cell processes that could explain how red meat might cause cancer.

And this from Yahoo News:

Each 50-gram (1.8-ounce) portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent, the agency estimated.

A 50-gram portion would be the equivalent of eating one hot dog or two slices of bacon. Americans eat about 21.7 grams of processed pork per day, according to a 2011 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The news reports are referring to a World Health Organization study that was drafted by a panel of 22 international experts who reviewed decades of research on the link between red meat, processed meats and cancer. The panel reviewed animal experiments, studies of human diet and health, and cell processes that could explain how red meat might cause cancer.

So what does that mean – an 18 percent increase in colorectal cancer risk?  Sounds scary, right?  Blogger Da Tech Guy is skeptical:

Right now a lot of lawyers are licking their chops and a lot of members of the food Gestapo are preparing to demand changes in school heath programs, school diets etc etc and I can feel the sheer panic among shoppers at Whole Foods from here.

And the reason why this is coming? Well there are two:

  • Americans are really ignorant about math
  • What are the actual odds of getting colorectal cancer?

The American Cancer Society, on its website, calculates the lifetime risk of developing or dying from cancer.  The lifetime risk of developing or dying from cancer refers to the chance a person has, over the course of his or her lifetime (from birth to death), of being diagnosed with or dying from cancer.  The risk is expressed both in terms of a percentage and as odds.

The risk for men of developing colorectal cancer during their lifetime is 4.84 percent.  Put another way, 1 out of every 26 men in the United States will develop this type of cancer during his lifetime.  The risk for men of dying as a result of colorectal cancer is 2.04 percent or 1 out of every 49.

What if he eats a hot dog or two slices of bacon every day?  Most people (including journalists, apparently) would say his risk of contracting colorectal cancer would increase by 18 percentage points from 4.84 percent to 22.84 percent.  Right?

Wrong.  My Lincoln Elementary School math teacher Mrs. Buckley would write the words “of” and “by” on the chalkboard, then write a giant “X” over them.  “Multiplication!” she would tell us.  “These words in a math problem mean multiplication!”

A risk of 4.84% increased by 18% is 5.71%, a difference of only 0.87%.  This makes headlines?

Back to Da Tech Guy:

In other words, if this study is absolutely positively spot on correct, eating that hot dog every single day for your entire life raises your odds of catching colorectal cancer by nearly, but not quite….1%.

Now when you put it that way, if you told a guy that giving up bacon decreases your odds of getting cancer by less that 1% most people would decide those odds aren’t worth panicking over and would rightly consider such panic as idiotic.

To be fair, there is absolutely nothing wrong if person decides that 1% increase warrants decreasing one’s intake of processed meats, if an individual thinks the increased risk isn’t worth it it’s their life and their choice to make.

But if you do make that choice do so on the actual evidence not due to panic and deception.

I think I’ll keep eating – and enjoying – my bacon.


Further Reading:

  • The Washington Post – “Hot Dogs, Bacon and other Processed Meats Cause Cancer, World Health Organization Declares”
  • Yahoo News – Bacon and other Processed Meats Can Cause Cancer, Experts Say
  • World Health Organization – Q&A on the Carcinogenicity of the Consumption of Red Meat and Processed Meat
  • Da Tech Guy – Bacon Panic + Poor Math Skills = Easy Money
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The Rule Against Refreezing is a Myth

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Refreeze foodsFrom The New York Times:

The notion that you cannot refreeze thawed foods “is a myth,” said Tina Hanes, a registered dietitian with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.  Any raw or cooked food that has been thawed can be refrozen.

There’s an important caveat, though:

As long as it was thawed properly — in the refrigerator, not on the counter — and hasn’t spoiled. That includes raw meat, poultry, fish and seafood, Ms. Hanes said.

You should never thaw frozen meat, poultry, fish or seafood by placing it on the counter at room temperature or by running it under warm tap water, she said, “because bacteria like it warm, like we do, and multiply rapidly at room temperature. Thawing on the counter is not safe, period. You should never do that.”

I think a lot of people thaw frozen food on the kitchen counter.  It’s a no no.

In a 2013 household germ study, NSF International found salmonella, E. coli, yeast and mold hidden in blender gaskets.

In a 2013 household germ study, NSF International found salmonella, E. coli, yeast and mold hidden in blender gaskets

Home kitchens are notoriously full of germs and bacteria.  Much more so than commercial kitchens, or even home bathrooms.   NSF International, a nonprofit organization based in Ann Arbor, Mich., that has been promoting proper cleaning of kitchen tools and appliances since the 1940s.  NSF International recently put out recommendations on kitchen hot spots based on studies done in 2011 and again in 2013:

  • Scary sponges
  • Ghastly gaskets
  • Creepy fridge compartments
  • Separate the spatulas and clean the can opener
  • Wash water dispensers and coffee reservoirs

Cleaning a few often-overlooked areas in the kitchen can offer additional protection from E. coli, salmonella, listeria, yeast and mold.

Further Reading:


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Taking Sabbatical: The Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa

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With the extensive construction of the new Taos Ski Valley hotel across the street, we decided last spring to close the Edelweiss Lodge and Spa – along with its two restaurants – for the summer. So with nothing to do this during this time, I reached out to friend and Executive Chef Cheryl Scantlebury of IMG_0073the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa. I know Chef Cheryl because we both procure our beef from the same New Mexico ranch – Four Daughters Land and Cattle. “Why don’t you hang out with us this summer?” she asked. Why not?

The resort resides on the beautiful Santa Ana Pueblo, located between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, along the banks of the Rio Grande River, with the majestic Sandia Mountains serving as backdrop. The Pueblo, named “Tamaya” in the native language, administers a total reservation land of 79,000 acres, of which 550 comprise the resort and the Twin Warriors Golf Course.

The Corn Maiden

The Corn Maiden

The Hyatt Regency Tamaya offers a creative dining scene with unique restaurants. These are some of the best restaurants in the Southwest and feature fresh, seasonal foods that are good for guests, good for the community, and good for the planet.

Santa Ana Café Patio

Santa Ana Café Patio

Guests can kick off their morning with a hearty breakfast at the Santa Ana Café and settle into a relaxing dinner on the patio after a day of golf or horseback riding. The Corn Maiden, serving regional inspired cuisine with a hint of international flavors, is a local favorite for special occasions. There is also the Rio Grande Lounge and the Atush Bar & Grille, where guests enjoy views of the ninth and eighteenth holes of Twin Warriors Golf Course.

View from the Atush Bar & Grille

View from the Atush Bar & Grille

Chef Cheryl Scantlebury

Chef Cheryl

The culinary program is under the quite capable auspices of Chef Cheryl, who has assembled an impressive leadership team: Executive Sous Chef Patrick; and Chefs Charity (Pastries), Eric (Corn Maiden), Jonathan (Santa Ana Café), Matthew (Banquets), and Noe (Garde Manger).

Most of my time has been spent between the Corn Maiden and the Santa Ana Café. At the Corn Maiden, I have focused on the grill and the restaurant’s signature rotisseries. The Santa Ana Café is really the workhorse restaurant of the resort, providing breakfast, lunch, and

Vegan Special

Vegan Special

dinner for guests. The Café also provides a daily vegan special, which is also dairy- and gluten-free. Design and preparation of the vegan special is typically part of my daily routine.

The culinary team has recently planted two large vegetable gardens on the property, along with new fruit trees and a beautiful herb garden. You can’t get any fresher than this. I have used vegetables and herbs from the gardens countless times to create the day’s vegan special.


Weeding in the Melon Patch

Chefs in the Garden

Chefs in the Garden

It’s been a wonderful experience for me.  Everyone at the resort has been friendly and helpful. It’s been a time to work on cooking fundamentals – culinary boot camp if you will – and I’m becoming a better professional because of it.

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?








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Ricette Classiche: Fritedda

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The change of season is always something seasonal cooks look forward to.  At Bellavitae, we would welcome spring with fresh asparagus, peas, fava beans, artichokes, and morels.

In springtime, we should celebrate freshness, whether fruits and vegetables and served cooked or raw.  A perfect illustration of this is the classic Sicilian dish fretedda (also called fritella – in Greece it’s koukia me anginares, in Rome it’s la vignarola and fresh peas are added).  It’s a much-loved Mediterranean stew that is made at the end of the artichoke season and beginning of the fava bean season.

Best of Sicily magazine writer Roberta Gangi provides her recipe here.  Clifford A. Wright offers his here.  Nancy Harmon Jenkins’ Greek version is here.  Note that while these recipes differ significantly, I would label them each authentic (my views on authenticity of classic recipes will be saved for another post when I have time for such a rant).

Reader Gida Ingrassia recently commented on my May 2010 post In Season: Asparagus and Fava Beans:

“I am looking for a recipe to make Sicilian “fritedda” with fava beans, asparagus, onions, peas and artichokes. Do you use regular artichokes and pare them down or are artichoke hearts necessary? Please advise.”

Well, I suppose I have already answered the question in the introduction!  To understand this dish you need to understand its purpose:  It is served in the Mediterranean when the artichoke and fava bean seasons cross.  It celebrates spring freshness.  So use fresh!

Gangi, Wright, and Jenkins give you specific instructions on how to cook the artichokes.  Buy the youngest available, boil the hearts and tender leaves until partially forgiving but not yet quite soft enough to eat.  Then add the other ingredients for further cooking.


Pianogrillo Farm Olive Oil

Here are some tips for success:

  • Make this dish as soon as fava beans come into season.  Nancy Harmon Jenkins wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal:  “It’s true that favas left to mature on their stalks too long will have a leathery skin that must be removed. Like peas, favas should be harvested and consumed when they are young.”
  • Don’t listen to the food snobs who insist you peel the beans after they’ve been shucked.  Again from Jenkins:  “How tiresome—and unnecessary. That’s not how it’s done in Italy. Or in Greece, Spain, Lebanon, Great Britain or anywhere else the beans are a spring staple. Only in France do they call for peeling the beans. Go figure.”
  • Use only the freshest ingredients.  Avoid dried favas, bottled artichoke hearts, or canned peas (in a pinch, I may use frozen peas).
  • Use Sicilian olive oil!  This tip will transform the dish from very good to phenomenal!  My favorite Sicilian olive oil is Pianogrillo Farm Extra Virgin Olive Oil available from Gustiamo or Amazon.

Thanks for the question, Gida.  Let us know how it turns out.




Further Reading:

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Huffington Post: Taos Ski Valley Should be on Your Bucket List

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So says Food Editor Allison Spiegel, on Monday’s Huffington Post post entitled “Bucket List Places You Need To See In The Next Decade“.

“The world will look very different in the next decade than it does today. For travelers, this means the time to explore is now. . .  Before our world’s landscape changes even more, here are the destinations that should go straight to the top of your bucket list in the next decade.”

Besides Taos Ski Valley, she recommends:

  • The Philippines
  • Macedonia
  • Elqui Valley, Chile
  • Great Barrier Reef
  • Malawi
  • Bolivia
  • Maldives
  • Mongolia
  • Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem, Thailand

Plus this:

“Taos Ski Valley in New Mexico is so much more than just a ski mountain. Rugged and remote, Taos is famous for its breathtaking scenery and the “legendary light” that has inspired artists like Georgia O’Keeffe. Taos has always had a sort of mystique about it. In 2013, billionaire Louis Bacon bought the mountain from its founders the Blake family, promising this lovably weathered mountain would get a “much-needed shot in the arm,” as The New York Times put it. This year, a chair lift opened to Kachina Peak, which had previously only been accessible by a hike. Thirty-five acres of new tree skiing opened, too, and the village’s ski lodge also got an upgrade. Ski Taos in the next 10 years to take advantage of these new developments, and also to experience the unique charm of the place while it lasts.”

Read the whole thing.



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Josh Ozersky has Died

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He was 47.  I began reading Josh’s writing when we opened Bellavitae.

In this photo released by the Yale University Press shows Josh Ozersky author of "The Hamburger".  (AP Photo/Yale University Press)

In this photo released by the Yale University Press shows Josh Ozersky author of “The Hamburger”. (AP Photo/Yale University Press)

Here’s what The Wall Street Journal reported today:

“Joshua Ozersky, who wrote prolifically on the subjects of dining and drinking for The Wall Street Journal and many other publications, was found dead in Chicago on Monday.  Mr. Ozersky was in Chicago to attend the annual chef and restaurant awards ceremony presented by the James Beard Foundation. He was a member of that organization’s advisory board as a well as a nominee and winner, in previous years, of its media awards.”

He was the founding editor of New York Magazine’s food blog Grub Street, a columnist for Time, an editor-at-large for Esquire and a frequent contributor to The Wall Street Journal.  The New York Times yesterday called him “one of the most forceful food writers in New York.”

The Wall Street Journal continues:  “Mr. Ozersky was particularly vocal and passionate on the subject of meat. Under the pseudonym Mr. Cutlets, he authored “Meat Me In Manhattan: A Carnivore’s Guide to New York” in 2003.  In his 2008 book “The Hamburger: A History,” he argued that his subject ‘isn’t just a sandwich; it is a social nexus.'”



New York magazine:  Platt Remembers Ozersky: A True Grub Street Intellectual

The New York Times:  Joshua Ozersky, Prolific Food Writer, Is Dead at 47




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The Biggest Thing Happening in Skiing This Year

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High above Kachina Peak (click to enlarge)

The Kachina Peak Lift, right here in Taos Ski Valley.

The new lift will expand the mountain’s advanced and expert lift-serviced terrain by 50 percent.  The five-minute ride will whisk skiers up some 1,100 feet on a triple-seated fixed grip lift to New Mexico’s second-highest peak to an altitude of 12,450 feet.

The lift is being manufactured and installed by Salt Lake City-based Skytrac.  A majority of the concrete was poured in April, and the crew was back last week to install the poles.  I’ve gotten to know some of the guys when they come in Café Naranja to eat breakfast or buy beer.

It’s tough work in tough terrain, but they seem to take it all in stride. Check out the video to see just how tough:


Here’s a report from Albuquerque television station KOAT that aired back in May:



The new lift is on schedule to be operational when ski season starts on Thanksgiving.




Are you ready?


Tower 3


Tower 2


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