Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Book review: Well Fed 2 by Melissa Joulwan

Paleo cookbooks and I have a funny relationship. I am a pretty strict paleo eater, and I do most (but not all) of the cooking around here. I *really* like to cook. It's positively *soothing* -- damn-near a Zen experience for me.

But I am fundamentally lazy about it too. Plus, both my wife and I have a rather storied history, pre-paleo and currently, of eating the same basic six or seven meals almost all the time, and being pretty happy with them.

So... "easy" is pretty critical for me when it comes to meal prep. And if I can meld easy and delicious with paleo, honestly, I go with it pretty often, and, as a result, I hardly ever crack most cookbooks open.

Oh, I *own* plenty of them, but there are very few that I actually use on any kind of regular basis.

The glaring exception to the rule: Well Fed by Melissa Joulwan.

Ever since that first volume came out in 2011, I've made delicious grilled chicken thighs with Melissa's Moroccan dipping sauce many more times than you would expect for a guy who routinely says things like: "Chicken is pretty stupid." I've prepared her Czech meatballs with pork (whoa) and then upped the ante and subbed in lamb (double whoa). I've adapted her recipe for Rogan Josh (not actually an action-hero who rivals MacGyver for awesomeness, but a curry dish from Kashmir) to fit my wife's paleo autoimmune protocol, and even done a decently credible crockpot version of it.

And I have been to parties that feature her Bora Bora fireballs more times than I can count.

I think the reason the original Well Fed keeps me coming back, when other cookbooks sit around looking pretty but collecting dust, is that, somehow, it strikes the perfect balance between being interesting -- read: I never would have thought of these recipes -- and yet easy enough that either I can make all of the recipes as-is or bastardize/adapt them to fit my lazy-self needs.

(A digression: you might think, as enthralled as I am with the first Well Fed, that, when I finally got a chance to meet Melissa at a book-signing event, I might have told her how much I love the recipes, how great they are, or how I love to adapt them as needed. Nah. We talked about Social Distortion. She's cool that way too).

So... When I first cracked open my copy of the brand-new Well Fed 2, I did so with a pretty high level of certainty that I was going to dig it immensely. But seriously... Melissa Joulwan outdid herself here.

And I guess I should have expected something like this from an author who struck the aforementioned interesting-but-easy balance so, well, easily, but... somehow -- and I'll be damned if I know how -- she has written a Volume 2 of an awesome cookbook that works perfectly for: (1) the person who already owns Volume 1 of said awesomeness, *and* (2) the person who only wants to ever buy *one* paleo cookbook, ever.

What that means is that the early "chapters" of Well Fed 2 bear a striking facial resemblance to much of the early parts of the first volume. You can learn all about the basics of paleo, and how and why Melissa went paleo, but there is also a hell of a lot more detail this time around about doing a Whole 30 food challenge, tips on being "a paleo social butterfly," and a particularly great piece on "emotional" eating and why you need to ditch that shizz in favor of eating to address "true hunger."

And no chapter of a cookbook was ever better-titled than "Burgers, Balls and Bangers." It's all about how to turn out 15 different kinds (e.g., Lebanese, Chorizo, Turkey and Cranberry, Thai Green Curry and one called Turkish Doner Kebab that, if there is a misspelling involved, either implicates one of Santa's better-known reindeer or something much, um, more prominent; let's just say that I hope the editor/proofreader got it right) of (your choice) burgers, meatballs or bangers. It's not just clever. It's freaking genius. If you were, say, me, and a devoted fan of all things grassfed ruminant (y'know... beef or lamb), you could spend a very very long time in just this chapter and not exhaust the possibilities.

In the ensuing 150-ish pages *after* she has already given you a gazillion sauce recipes and the many burger/ball/banger options, Ms. Joulwan then launches into recipe after recipe of main courses and veggie sides that range from: (1) so mouthwateringly tantalizing that I currently have a complicated ranking system of how to begin preparing, well, almost all of them, to (2) just a couple that are so wonderfully weird that I may actually make *those* first. A small hint is all you get regarding the latter category: there's an "Elvis" adaptation listed for one of them.

*Now* I have you thinking. Heh. (Buy the book!)

Anyway, I think I am going to start my cooking from the new volume with Plantain Nachos, and then maybe Moo Shu Pork, then Thyme-Braised Short Ribs, and then Beef Stew Proven├žal. Thai Pink Grapefruit Salad sounds insanely delicious, as does Sweet Potato Soup with Bacon. And that list barely scratches the surface of the many recipes of a book that is nearly 100 pages longer than its predecessor, just as gorgeously laid-out, and, well, pretty damn perfect. There is even a special section on adapting all the recipes to an autoimmune protocol. Yes, really.

Hell, these recipes are so well put together that Melissa even gives you special warnings about longer/more-involved prep on the few that require it.

You simply cannot do better than this cookbook, whether you already own the first one or not. Two words: Get it.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


  1. STEVE! So glad you like Well Fed 2. Thank you for the awesome review! I know how much you like the Czech Meatballs from WF1 made with lamb, so you will definitely want to try the Moorish meatballs in WF2. Seriously -- I think you'll love them.

    Happy cooking. Thanks for being a badass.

    I need Mike Ness to get his act together and give us some new Social D music. Don't you?!

  2. Omg, I can't wait! I ordered it so long ago that I almost ordered it again!

  3. Melissa, I have learned not to expect high quantity from Mr. Ness. Quality will have to do with 6-8 years between albums.

  4. Oh, you nailed it on your review of Well Fed. Every recipe looks like it's going to be freakin' deliciously flavorful, yet mostly quick and easy to do! I preordered and the wait is KILLIN ME!