Friday, December 13, 2013

Eat Like You’re Going Extinct

I have a health magazine that came with my gym membership, and it has a ton of articles about the paleo diet.  The articles claim that you’ll be healthier if you eat like a caveman or a dinosaur.  That statement confuses me because dinosaurs are extinct, and the average Neanderthal had a lifespan of less than 30 years.  That doesn’t seem very healthy to me.  I don’t want to go extinct, and I’d like to live to see my 30th birthday.  However, the diet was interesting enough that I bought a cookbook called Paleo Comfort Foods: Homestyle Cooking for a Gluten-Free Kitchen by Julie and Charles Mayfield.

According to the internet, there are a few different definitions of “paleo diet.”  This book’s introduction says, “What is our definition of paleo?  We eat meats (predominantly grass-fed), poultry (pastured), game (Charles is an avid hunter), fresh seafood, and any other high-quality proteins we can get our hands on.  We eat vegetables of all colors of the rainbow.  We eat little bits of fruit here and there—especially when in season, and picked fresh from our garden.  We consume fat without the fear of fat making us fat” (page 31-32).  Later in the introduction, the authors say, “These recipes are filled with ingredients and foods (for the most part) that your grandmother would recognize.  However, here’s what you won’t find in these recipes: grains or gluten, legumes (with the exception of two recipes using green beans, in which you’re eating mostly the bean pod, and they don’t have near the lectin load as dry beans), and the only bit of diary is with a few recipes that really do need the milk solids in non-clarified, but still grass-fed butter” (page 34).

Overall, Paleo Comfort Foods is a really nice book.  I love the giant pictures.  The book is durable and fairly easy to clean if you spill stuff on it while cooking.  I haven’t made all of the recipes, but most of the ones that I have made turned out well.  My favorites were jambalaya (even though I made it too spicy for most people), fried chicken (it’s actually more like baked chicken), and farmer’s pie.

This probably isn’t the best book for beginner cooks.  I’m a horrible and impatient cook.  Most of my food comes out of a box and goes into a microwave.  I sometimes get annoyed if I’m required to stir the food halfway through microwaving.  Cooking the recipes in this book was a big change for me.  A lot of the recipes took hours to make, and there were a few times that I had to call my mom because I didn’t understand something.  The book did help me start to get over my fear of touching raw meat.  This diet has a lot of meat in it.

There are two things that irritated me about this book.  The first is the font size in the foreword, acknowledgements, preface, introduction, kitchen foods, and cooking tools sections.  These sections take up approximately 50 pages, and the font is huge.  Huge font = higher page count = more expensive book.  I would have liked to have a smaller font or fewer sections at the beginning of the book so that the price would have been lower.  The price is $29.95, which isn’t horrible for a book with huge color pictures, but it might have been lower without 50 pages of monster font.  

The other annoyance was the index.  It’s sparse and not very useful.  For example, you need 1 teaspoon of filé powder to make jambalaya.  I had never heard of filé powder, and I wanted to know if I just needed it for this recipe or if it’s a common ingredient in a lot of recipes.  I looked it up in the index.  It wasn’t in there.  That makes it difficult to know if you should buy a lot of an ingredient or just enough for one recipe.  Some of the ingredients in this book are very expensive, so it would be nice to know how much to stock up on when they go on sale.

Even though there were a few annoying things about Paleo Comfort Foods, I’d still recommend the book to anyone who likes to cook and wants to try the paleo diet.  I don’t eat paleo often enough to know if it has any impact on my health, but it’s yummier than a microwaved Lean Cuisine.