We were recently introduced to the cookbook Well Fed: Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat by Melissa Joulwan, which follows the rules of the caveman, or cavewoman. Shes an original Texas Roller Girl, Cross Fit aficionado, part time yogi, all meat lover.
If you're wanting to go Paleo full boar or not, Well Fed is a charming cookbook with lots of delicious recipes for the caveman in all of us. We sat down with her for a little Q&A about her new cookbook:
Gastronomista: Why Paleo?
Melissa Joulwan: It should be obvious: big hunks of meat and leopard-print loincloths!
|Leopard Print Lion-Cloths, Duh.|
I joke because I love. There are a handful of reasons I believe paleo is the best way for just about everyone to eat. Paleo eliminates grains, dairy, legumes, junky seed oils, and added sugar, all of which means our bodies enjoy much more stable insulin responses and reduced inflammation. We’re used to seeing, say, a scratch get puffy and red, but we don’t usually think about the inside of our bodies experiencing that kind of inflammation. That’s exactly what happens when we eat foods that contain anti-nutrients or spike our blood sugar.
The paleo diet focuses on lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, animal protein, and naturally-occurring fats — all in reasonable proportions. Once you get used to it, it feels like a natural, sane way to eat. And that sanity is a gift for anyone who’s had weight issues or been an emotional eater. By breaking the cycle of sugar spikes — and in their evil little hearts, grains are really just sugar — I learned how to “just eat” for the first time in life. It’s enormously liberating.
G: Why and When did you decide to go Paleo? In your opinion, what is the difference?
MJ: Honestly, I started eating paleo for the girliest, most cliché reason: I wanted to lose 15 pounds and my traditionally “healthy” diet wasn’t doing it. I’d already given up grains on my own, but then I started working with Melissa Hartwig (founder of Whole9) on my nutrition, and she suggested I fully commit to paleo by giving up dairy and legumes, too. There was never such a hissy fit as the one I threw when I was asked to stop eating blueberries and milk for breakfast. But she challenged me to try it for a week to see how I felt. In just two days, I had no bloating and my sleep quality improved. I was sold.
That was three years ago, and I’ve eaten 90% paleo ever since — minus two 3-week trips to Prague during which I consumed a metric ton of schnitzel and dumplings. But the kickass thing about paleo is that when I returned home from the debauchery, I immediately started eating clean again and within four days, I felt like myself again.
Thanks to a thyroidectomy, I don’t have a thyroid gland which presents all kinds of challenges because the thyroid controls metabolism and is really affected by inflammation. Eating paleo helps me manage my thyroid issues, including my energy, mood, and sleep.
G: What's the difference between the Atkins diet and Paleo?
MJ: As I understand it, Atkins is mostly about restricting carbohydrates, so it includes junk like artificial sweeteners, seed and vegetable oils, and low-carb grains and flours, as well as the processed foods made from them. Eating paleo means eating real food in as natural a state as possible: meat, vegetables, fruits, fats. There are very few paleo “products” because processing is not kind to nutrients. The “no processed foods” thing is also one of the biggest differentiators between paleo and gluten-free eating plans, too. Paleo eschews (yay, eschews!) grains not just because of the gluten, but also because of the anti-nutrients found in grains. Gluten-free cakes, breads, cookies, and other treats, especially the kind found in a supermarket, are not really healthy choices. If it’s made in a factory, you probably don’t want to eat it.
G: One thing that I like about the book is that you emphasize eating real food - what are some of your go-to cooking ingredients?
MJ: I always say that I like peasant food... there are a few kinda fancy restaurants I like to go to once in a while, but mostly like to eat international food that’s like what you would get if you went to a normal person’s house for dinner in, say, Morocco or Turkey or Prague or Korea. So my favorite ingredients are simple, high-quality things — grass-fed ground beef, pastured eggs, organic collard greens, cabbage, spaghetti squash — jazzed up with sexy spices and slinky fats. One of my favorite things to eat is spaghetti squash, cabbage, and ground beef sautéed with coconut oil and a spice blend called Tsardust Memories. It’s sweet, spicy, earthy... totally comforting. Having said that, I’m also madly in love with truffle salt. (Eat it on a fried egg and feel your eyes roll back in your head.) And homemade mayo. I plop it on everything in a way that’s pretty indulgent.
G: You mention Middle Eastern Cooking in your book - what recipes in Well Fed are based on this cookbook? What is your favorite recipe from this classic?
MJ: The Middle Eastern recipes in Well Fed are either recipes I learned from my dad or ones I concocted myself, but I was able to do that because I’ve read Middle Eastern Cooking from cover to cover so many times. There are two recipes on my blog that are adapted from that book: fancy spiced olives (which I make every Christmas, without fail) and a grain-free Chicken Bastila, which is a savory-sweet Moroccan pie made with chicken and almonds. I’d made the original — with phyllo dough and powdered sugar — a few times and just got a bee in my bonnet one day to make a grain-free version. It came out great, and I actually got a Tweet from a restaurant manager in San Francisco who said he liked my paleo version more than the original.
G: What are your favorite recipes from Well Fed?
MJ: I have a soft spot in my heart for the Bora Bora Fireballs because I dreamt them one night. How dorky is that?! I woke up thinking about meatballs made with pineapple and rolled in coconut, and I was convinced I must have read about them somewhere online or in one of my old- school Tiki cookbooks. I spent all kinds of time doing Google searches and looking through my cookbooks, but didn’t find a recipe. I really did make it up in a dream. Nerd!
My other favorites are the ones that were big challenges to adapt, like Char Siu and the Paleo Pad Thai. Asian food tastes so good because it combines sweetness with spice and heat. It was fun to experiment and figure out how to recreate the experience of those dishes — that “takeout” feeling — without the eleventy million kinds of sugar found in both.
And Chocolate Chili. Because it’s chili. And it’s chocolate.
G: We've always considered Spaghetti Squash to be a magic vegetable - a squash that's spaghetti, what?!? What is the most surprising transformation recipe?
MJ: Cauliflower might be my favorite sneaky-deaky vegetable. You can turn it into rice, use it as a substitute for cracked wheat (in tabbouleh or kibbeh), mash it like creamy mashed potatoes, and roast it — and all of those versions taste amazing.
The other surprise was jicama. White potatoes are nutritionally worthless, so they get the thumbs-down from most paleo practitioners. But jicama is a pretty good substitute. Well Fed includes recipes for home fries and “potato” salad made with jicama, and they’re some of my most popular recipes. The texture of jicama isn’t quite as starchy, but especially in the salad, the other ingredients — bacon, hard-boiled eggs, homemade mayo — dress it up so much, you can’t even tell it’s not potato. Go, yam bean! (And for astute readers who know jicama is in the legume family, it’s paleo approved because the jicama itself is the root of the plant and doesn’t include the anti-nutrients of the seed, like beans do.)
G: Going Paleo must take a lot of discipline, how often do you cheat? What's your favorite cheat food?
MJ: When I’m living regular life, I cheat about once a week, but I call it “having a treat” because I don’t like to feel like I’m doing something wrong. My most frequent indulgences are popcorn (at the movies with butter), corn tortilla chips and salsa, or ice cream from this new shop in Austin called Lick that uses all local, organic ingredients to make flavors like Caramel Salt Lick and Strawberry Basil. I should also confess that a few times a year, I go totally off the rails. At Christmas, I eat Russian Teacake cookies until I look like a snake that ate a goat, and we really like Barley Swine in Austin. When we eat there, I eat everything they serve me and drink Prosecco with abandon.
G: Most Memorable Meal you've ever had
MJ: When I was about 8 years old, Pennsylvania was hit my a blizzard, so my dad picked us up early from school and took us to his restaurant/motel so we could all stay the night. The next morning, we got up and made doughnuts in the restaurant kitchen, then made snowmen in the parking lot.
As a grownup: a picnic on the grass at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. We ate this meringue (along with cheese and wine) and I swear, I have never tasted anything like it. It’s a chocolate cloud on the tongue.
G: Guilty Pleasure
MJ: Kid Rock, an undying devotion to Nacho Cheese Doritos, sticking Q-tips in my ears
G: Breakfast in Bed
MJ: Chicken Nanking (from the House of Nanking in San Francisco), ordered to go the night before, after eating dinner there and realizing that more Chicken Nanking for breakfast would totally rule. (My husband Dave and I did this once when we were dating, and it was the best thing ever.)
G: Pick your Poison
MJ: A shot of Becherovka, preferably in a gypsy bar in the Czech Republic. Jim Beam, neat, at a loud punk rock show. Ice cold Prosecco, but only if I’m dressed up and wearing winged eyeliner.
G: Last Meal
Sharing an extra-large pizza with pepperoni and extra cheese with my husband, in our pajamas, while watching Pretty in Pink, sighing over magic that can happen at a high school dance, followed by awesome making out.
Eat Like A Caveman
Well Fed: Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat
Signed by the Author
: : HOW TO ENTER : : :
1. Leave a comment on the post answering: your inspiration for going Paleo (loincloths, spears, etc).
2. Tweet #WellFedGiveaway @xxGastronomista
3. *Extra entry* “follow” Gastronomista and/or “like” us on Facebook.
The contest closes in one week (12 pm EST). Winner will be selected on Monday, August 20th, and will be emailed that day.
Good luck, and many thanks to Well Fed: Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat author, Melissa Joulwan!