Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Nutrition Debate #113: What are We, Chopped Liver?

I have adopted this blog title from the Jewish mother-in-law who asks, “What Am I, Chopped Liver?” If you are unfamiliar with the question, the Ask the Rabbi website opines, “As far as I know, the origins of the phrase are not Yiddish; I believe the phrase was originally coined in America. Being that chopped liver was always considered a side dish and not a main course, the phrase is used to express hurt and amazement when a person feels he has been overlooked and treated just like a ‘side dish.’”

I have appropriated the phrase for my purposes at The Nutrition Debate to make the point that WE, THE TYPE 2 DIABETIC PATIENT, are left out of the discussion, and the treatment plan, by the medical community. We are treated like a “side dish.” And it’s our own fault. We have left our health care to “the professionals.” After all, they’re the experts. They went to school to become our health care professionals. They go to annual conventions to get continuing education from doctors paid by the pharmaceutical industry to tout their newest products (and play a round or two of golf). They get visits at the office from pretty young things who give them free samples of BIG PHARMA’s latest FDA-approved drugs. Get the picture?

We are also impressed with how, when they speak, they speak with such authority on every subject related to our health. If you’re lucky, that is. Some doctors play it very close to the vest. They say very little. They’ve got so little time. But, as far as I’m concerned, the big problem is that they’ve got the wrong message, at least with respect to diet. But they’re got their backs covered. The USDA, representing BIG AGRIBUSINESS, tells them it is okay for us to eat 50% to 60% of our diet in the form of highly processed carbohydrates and sugars. And NOT to eat dietary cholesterol and fat, at least not saturated (solid) fats. Well, they’ve got it exactly backwards, haven’t they? It’s the liquid fats (oils) such as corn oil and soy bean oil – the damaged, oxidized Omega-6 industrial oils - that are killing us. See the USDA/BIG AGRIBUSINESS connection?

My latest favorite quote, discovered on Beth Mazur’s blog, Weight Maven, is from Wendell Berry:

“People are fed by the FOOD industry, which pays no attention to HEALTH…and are treated by the HEALTH industry, which pays no attention to FOOD.”

The disconnect here really resonates with me. I’ve re-read it many times, but only today did I see a syntactical thread that makes these opposites the same: Both clauses use the passive voice. They both use a form of the helper verb “to be” (“are”) with a past participle (”fed” and “treated”). The passive rather than active voice is used where the emphasis is meant to be placed on the subject. The recipient of the action (“People”), rather than the “agent” (performer) of the action, is the subject of the sentence. Wikipedia has a good explanation of the use of the passive vs. the active voice in English.

“The principal criticism against the passive voice is its potential for evasion of responsibility. This is because a passive clause may omit the agent even where it is important… However, the passive can also be used to emphasize the agent, and it may be better for that role than the active voice, because the end of a clause is the ideal place to put something you wish to emphasize, or a long noun phrase, as in the examples given in the previous section.”


“Don't you see? The patient was murdered by his own doctor!” (Wikipedia’s emphasis)


Don’t you love it? You can’t make this stuff up, folks. That’s really the Wikipedia example for good use of the passive voice.

So, putting these two things – dichotomy and passive voice – you get both the mutual exclusivity and contradiction required for dichotomy with the emphasis on the agent of the action in UPPERCASE at the end of each long phrase. It takes good writing skills to make memorable quotes, and Berry has them. Thanks, Beth, for bringing him to my attention.

I’m afraid the “fix” for the problem that Berry points out so eloquently is out of reach. The relationship between the FOOD and HEALTH industries, and the central and terribly misguided role of government in both, is beyond redemption.

The only “fix” that I see that will affect our personal health and wellbeing is to extricate ourselves from the passive voice. We can do that by not “being fed” and not “being treated.” We can take the active role. We can feed and treat ourselves. When we reverse these positions, we no longer are beholden to the FOOD and HEALTH industries to tell us what to eat and how to take care of ourselves.  We will no longer be “a person (who) feels he has been overlooked and treated just like a ‘side dish.’” We will no longer be “chopped liver.”

Liver as a food, on the other hand, is a highly recommended food. It is a staple of the Perfect Health Diet, as are other organ meats. Chicken liver, beef liver, or original goose liver (pate or chopped) are all perfect foods to be enjoyed once a week.

Does anybody have a favorite liver recipe that they would like to share? Comments are open.


  1. Jacque Pepin has some great liver recipes. Ignore the baguettes of course.

    1. Thanks, Anon. I bought a calves liver at the local farmers' market on Saturday, and will check out what Jacque has to say. I usually have veal kidneys for Sunday morning breakfast, but I'm ready to try something different. The liver looks big enough for breakfast for one with leftovers for a supper for two.

  2. My mum's liver dish in the UK when I was growing up was liver and onions (calves liver) in gravy. I really can't do the gravy and onions anymore. I really enjoy grilled pigs kidneys and roasted stuffed lambs hearts though. The stuffed hearts were one of my mum's specialities.

    1. hi JP. Thanks for commenting. I haven't seen pig's kidneys in the market, but I have to admit I have not looked in the swine section for offal. I have seen pigs feet, of course.

      I have prepared lamb's hearts, in a recipe I called Lamb's Hearts Fricassee, but I have never heard of stuffed lamb's hearts. Do you have, and would you be willing to share, your mum's recipe? I can get Lamb's Hearts at a farmers's market I attend in Florida in the winter.