Sunday, November 10, 2013

Review of “Against all Grain” and Two Chicken Dishes therein

After a long, long wait in the holds line at the library, a copy of Against All Grain: Delectable Paleo Recipes to Eat Well & Feel Great was finally available. I read it and made two dishes out of it and have thoughts. We tried “Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos”, which begins with chicken parts cooking all day in a diced tomato and spice sauce, then the chicken gets shredded and eaten on a butter crunch lettuce leaf with Pico de Gallo and avocado. I also made “Braised Chicken in Artichoke-Mushroom Sauce”.


Both of these dishes were tasty and neither was particularly difficult. Reading through the book, though, something was bothering me about it. I emailed back and forth with one of my sisters until she zoned in on it. I think the author, Danielle Walker, is just coming in under the wire with this cookbook. The first Paleo books were all about the theory with a few of the “my favorite recipe” sort of dishes thrown in. Then came the second wave of Paleo books, with some theory up front, but mostly cookbooks. I own and have spoken about some of these here, for example Make it Paleo , Well Fed: Paleo and Paleo Comfort Foods These cookbooks were very useful in the beginning when sitting down to make up a weekly menu. Flip through and a person doesn’t have to think too hard about what is Paleo and what is not.

Our first menus incorporating Paleo were made that way. I had three one-week menus from the above three books, a one-week menu made from recipes online, and as I became more comfortable with the principles, a one-week menu from my other cookbooks.

But the rub for Danielle Walker and everyone who comes after her is that too many of the recipes in these books are for dishes already intrinsically Paleo, like both of the chicken dishes listed above, or beef/pork/meat dishes, or vegetable recipes. Recipes for replacement-of-non-paleo-favorites, like say sweet potato fries, beanless chili, or coconut-flour-based baked goods, begin to get awfully repetitious after a few of these cookbooks. And quite honestly, there comes a point where I can get a better recipe for the same dish from “regular” cookbooks by amazing cooks. Rick Bayless is on my shelf for that taco dish and Aida Gabilondo is the matriarch of Pico de Gallo, thanks. Larousse Gastronomique has five different dishes by my count that feature chicken cooked with mushrooms and artichoke hearts.

I don’t mean to be grouchy about all of this. The recipes were not flops by any means. I just think that from here on out, Paleo cookbooks are going to be re-hash for the most part, just as so many gluten-free cookbooks have become. Late to the party.

My plan for the future, when someone is considering going Paleo, is to send them to Practical Paleo for the unsurpassed collection of 30-day menus but recommend that they hold off on other cookbooks until cooking Paleo has become second nature and they can see the “holes” in their repertoire. And possibly throw in a mention that Well Fed: Paleo has an interesting take on weekend cooking for a week of meals for busy folk.

Loading a few Paleo blogs into Feedly or whatever blog feed one uses means fresh inspiration. And there will be some fresh takes once in awhile – my sister has home from the library just now Bill Staley’s Gather which is a collection of Paleo menus for entertaining, and I still mean to check out Sarah Fragoso’s Italian book .

That’s my grumpy take on the whole issue! Hope to be proven wrong :-)

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