by Arsy Vartarian
Race Point Publishing, 2013
Hard Cover, 255 pages $27
Meat The Flintstones
One of the newer diets, or should I say diet philosophies, is known as the Paleo Diet. The genesis of this particular chapter in the wide world of diets is posited on the theory that if we ate like our (very ancient) ancestors we would be a lot healthier. Adherents surmise that the decline of human health traces its roots to the agricultural revolution some 10,000 years ago with the consequence that mankind then eschewed his original hunter/gatherer dietetics to his inadvertent demise.
The benefits of a paleo diet are said to include weight loss, reduction of systemic inflammation that causes a variety of maladies and diseases, mood stabilization and increased energy. This is accomplished by elimination of whole grains, legumes, and dairy from the diet and utilizing fresh vegetables, herbs and protein, especially from fat and red meat. Some of the basic tenets of this approach to diet seem counter-intuitive and at odds with what medical science tells us today, such as the elimination of whole grains and encouraging the consumption of red meat and its attendant saturated fats. Others are merely contradictory; dairy is eliminated but go ahead with butter and eggs.
Like all diet regimens, the paleo diet purports to have the backing of some kind of science, automatically providing the imprimatur of scientific credibility. Whether or not one accepts the science, it is now 10,000 years later and the real questions are: does the food taste good and will it improve your health? Since this is a cookbook we will concern ourselves to the former question.
Obviously beef brisket and chicken aren’t exactly the same thing as the pterodactyl burgers and bronto ribs one might envision from 10,000 years ago. Yet again, this isn’t bugs and tree bark either. I’m pretty sure our ancient ancestors didn’t have slow cookers or even electric outlets in their cave dwellings but let’s not quibble, they had fire and knew how to adjust the flames. All of which thusly brings us to the chow.
I tried several of the recipes in the book, particularly the beef and chicken recipes which are big favorites in our one-story, ranch-style cave. The beef brisket in espresso bean barbecue sauce was exquisite with deeply rich beef flavors accented by the unusual barbecue sauce companion. The chili Colorado was also quite good and the chicken adobo was ridiculously easy as well as good. I loved the slow cooker stuffing recipe and plan to serve it at Thanksgiving dinner this year. For dessert, the baked apples were terrific.
Author Arsy Bartanian is of Middle Eastern descent and provides recipes from that area of the world as well as a variety of other ethnic sources such as Asian, Mexican, and curries. This offers a nice variety of foods and styles.
Some of the ingredients called for such as ghee, tamari, avocado oil, etc. are likely to be unfamiliar and difficult to find. In that regard the book does require something of a commitment. All these items are available but it will require an exploration of the ethnic stores in your area which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in itself.
The Paleo Slow Cooker is organized in the standard divisions: appetizers, beef, pork, lamb, chicken, vegetables and right down the line in individual chapters. The introduction and forward give a thumbnail sketch of the Paleo Diet and the basic ground rules of the diet.
Whether or not you plan to adopt the paleo philosophy, remain assured the recipes in the book are simple, and yield tender, succulent dishes, as any slow cooker dish should. The recipes are almost all very appealing, usually quite simple to prepare. If you are a slow cooker type, without doubt you will enjoy adding this book to your cookbook shelf.
--Reviewed by Michael Eady