Whereas some foods are considered healthy when they are anything but, others have acquired the most heinous of reputations, quite unjustifiably. Black pudding has a repute as black as its name, and in a gross miscarriage of justice, currently occupies one of the lower circles of health food hell. Let’s put the record straight: black pudding is a healthy, delicious and traditional British food that deserves to be formerly recognised as such. If it’s made properly, that is.
We may think of black pudding as quintessentially British but in fact most countries where pork is produced have their own version of this thrifty dish. Here in Britain quality black pudding is usually made with onions, pork fat, pork rind, pig’s blood, oatmeal, herbs and pepper, with a few slight variations thereof. If you can get over any initial but frankly irrational revulsion at the thought of consuming pig’s blood you have to admit that the finished product is indeed rather tasty. Think of all those indelicate body parts that go in to producing cheap sausages and you’ll soon recover from any aversion you may feel. Buy fresh red meat and there is plenty of blood running through it. What’s the problem?
My only concern with black pudding is the provenance of the blood. I always want to know where my food comes from, and animal welfare is of paramount importance. Buy black pudding from any given supermarket and, unless it is organic (and it won’t be), the dried blood it contains will be imported – from who knows where. I don’t like the thought of that, and for that reason won’t buy it. Indeed, I hadn’t eaten this food in years. However, for the purposes of ongoing research, I felt it incumbent upon me to give it a go. A quick Google led me to Laverstoke Park Farm, so I gave them a ring. They confirmed what I wanted to hear: their organic black pudding is made from the blood of their own, organically reared pigs. Phew.
Blood, as you’d expect, is highly nutritious, full of pre-digested nutrients, especially iron, protein, calcium and vitamin A. There is nothing new about humans consuming blood. It was, until fairly recently, a regular part of the diet of the Maasai of East Africa, along with meat, milk and yogurt. In fact they ate very little else, other than herbs, resulting in a diet consisting of a whopping 66 per cent fat. As recently as the 1970s their diet was considered something of a mystery. Despite all the blood and fat they consumed they were found to have consistently low blood cholesterol and fat levels. Post-mortem examinations reveal an absence of atherosclerosis – plaques on artery walls which are a sign of heart disease. That comes as no surprise – for more on the role of animal based foods in health and cardiovascular disease, see previous posts (here and here).
What about flavour? It was food heaven, after such a long period of abstinence. Smooth and nicely spiced it went down especially well with the nitrate-free bacon which accompanied it – more of which later.
Biss, K., Ho, K-J., Mikkelson, B. et al (1971). ‘Some unique biologic characteristics of the Masai of East Africa’, New England Journal of Medicine 284:694-699