In the most unlikely of places, in the most unlikely of men, I’ve met a coconut - the most recent “it” food – ambassador.
Dan Sweeney has taught chemistry at Newton North High School for thirty-five years, but on Cape Ann, specifically on a vacant lot along my daily run, he moves granite. He builds walls, towers, bridges, even what look like moats on an empty plot of land that makes up a corner of Woodbury and Granite Streets in Rockport. Dan’s Aimless Rock Love Corner, I call it. At least once I’ve stopped to ask him, “So what is this?”
To which I get a vague answer.
That said, last week when I stopped to say hi to Dan, he skipped rock talk all together.
“I’ve got a recipe for you!” he said, “- the best chicken I’ve ever made in my life!”
-which is saying a lot because the woman he lives with eats chicken for both lunch and dinner every single day. It sounds like a fable: Once upon a time there was a man who lived with a woman who ate chicken twice a day. He built castles on weekends.
But Dan’s recipe is interesting. He takes chicken thighs, pokes them with a fork, dips them first in beaten egg, and then dredges them in a mixture of one cup flour, one half cup sorghum flour, and one half cup coconut flour, and then fries them in hot, shallow oil.
Coconut is everywhere right now. Taylor Wells, owner of Prana Power Yoga and a raw food advocate, makes a delicious raw cacao pudding from young coconut meat and coconut butter. She feeds her twin one-year-olds tubs of pureed coconut meat, coconut butter, and dates.
For the record, “Coconut” is the word that 16th century Spanish and Portuguese explorers provided when they first stumbled – probably for real – on the husked orb. They were just calling it “Monkey Face” in their native language.
Coconut water, according to the web, has the same electrolytic balance as our blood. In the Pacific in WWII, both sides of the conflict gave coconut water to wounded soldiers as emergency plasma transfusions.
A bunch of sites on the web claim that coconut products make your hair shiny, your wrinkles disappear, your herpes go away along with the common cold and AIDS. It’s an antibacterial and an antiviral. It improves liver, kidney, and bladder function along with just about everything else.
In fact, along with manganese, of which coconut has a ton, lauric acid seems to be The Big Thing about coconuts. Lauric acid is a saturated fat, but before you get scared, listen: It’s a GOOD saturated fat. It’s made up of medium chain triglycerides. They’re made up of hydrogen atoms, but they’re shorter in length, so they act differently than all those bad saturated fats. I’m saying this in a whisper, really – the web says lauric acid actually helps you lose weight fast. Remember, I didn’t say that; some guy on an anti-inflammation diet site did. But, a whole bunch of other websites said the same thing. They also said that lauric acid, which is basically coconut oil, reduces the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and almost every other western disease process.
Lest you have any doubts about the health properties of coconut, or if you’re my husband and are still unconvinced about the whole saturated fat thing, know that the Sanskrit word for coconut palm is kalpa vriksha, “tree which gives all that is necessary for living.”
Getting back to Dan. I tried his recipe, although my thighs were boneless, and he was right. The coating was exceptionally delicate and crisp, and vaguely fragrant with coconut. Next time I might use a little more coconut flour.
By the way, Taylor Wells’ five children have coconut chocolate pudding for breakfast.