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Ask the Chef


Chef Boy Ari: Montana’s answer to Julia Child.

Dear Chef Boy Ari,

I very much appreciated your recent article on soy `“The sound of soy,” April 18-24`. I was especially interested in reading about how the isoflavanoids in soy can act like estrogen.

I’ve known for a long time that soy gives me hot flashes, but it wasn’t until I read about the link between soy and estrogen that I realized these hot flashes might be the result of hormonal reactions triggered by soy. Then, just the other day I ate a spoonful of peanut butter and I got a hot flash. I thought “What the … ” and I looked on the peanut butter label and sure enough, there was soy oil in it. Soy is in everything these days. Why is there soy in cocktail sauce? And it’s not only in the food, but it’s in the box the food comes in, the glue on the box, and the ink on the box. We’re surrounded by soy, and we don’t understand all of the medical consequences.

In Asia, soy is processed differently, and maybe that’s why they seem to get away with eating so much. But here, it’s the soy industry that’s driving the use of soy, and they’ll put it in anything they can.

— Steering clear of soy


Dear Steering Clear,

For a more in-depth discussion of how soy and corn, America’s two biggest (legal) cash crops, have infiltrated most of the nation’s food supply, check out The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan.

I think it’s particularly amazing how successful some soy-boosters have been at injecting soy into the so-called “health-foods” market. While there certainly are some healthy ways that soy can be processed and eaten, much of the soy that’s dumped into our food system isn’t.

If anyone else out there has some soy stories or concerns, lets hear them!


Dear Chef Boy Ari,

I was just reading the fellow’s question concerning puny rhubarb plants `Ask the Chef, May 23-29` — I, too, had the same problem until I mentioned it to my father one day. He advised me to bury any old rusty iron, such as hammer heads, axe blades, old chain, etc. around the roots. I did and it worked. I now too have large elephant-ear size leaves supported by big thick stalks!

— Rhubarb pie anyone?!!


Dear Rhubarb Pie,

I think you’re on to something. Maybe we should start sending out spam emails selling advice on how to enlarge other items — by shoving a rusty hammer up their butts!


Dear Chef Boy Ari,

I am seriously considering entering the poultry enterprise. In hand is my 1954 copy of The ABC’s of Poultry Raising and the landlady gave no objection. I’ve got a good pile of pine shavings from my winter woodworking, lots of scrap wood and fencing, and a few plans for a coop drawn up. It is too late to do chicks since my coop is still under construction, so I am planning on getting some ready-to-lay birds this summer. My goal is to produce some yummy eggs and meat, to generate manure, and give me some bargaining room with friends who make honey or wine.

I think I can build a pretty warm and dry structure with what I have around the house, and I can get pretty cheap pine shavings to use as litter once mine are used up.

What I am trying to sort out is a strategy for feeding a small laying flock of chickens (three to six) in a way that is practical. I want to know what I can feed them that will be cheap, local, nutritious (and that will make them delicious). Initially I thought I could grow all their food myself, plant some grain/protein in the garden. I am now ruling this out. The space available to grow human food already seems to be insufficiently small as is, and I doubt that squeezing in a few rows of grains and soybeans will be sufficient for yearlong feeding needs. Instead I figure I can …

— Pursuer of Poultry


Dear Pursuer,

I’m sorry I had to cut you off like that, but your letter was longer than the entire space I have allotted for both questions and answers. But I think I get the gist of your question.

First of all, it’s not too late to order some new chicks. I just ordered some from (they ship nationwide through October, including to Texas). They arrive as 2-day old chicks, so you’ll have two months to figure out how to build your coop. In the meantime, plant some pasture mix in the area you want to keep them. And I wouldn’t use pine shavings for bedding. Instead, use something that would do well on the garden after it’s served its purpose as bedding. I like to use straw, and then I use the manure-impregnated straw as mulch. If you mulch your garden with pine shavings it will screw up the soil’s pH.  

And you don’t have to grow food for them! They’re chickens, so they eat anything! Three to six birds will do fine on garden weeds and kitchen waste, supplemented with grain from time to time when times are lean. 

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