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Book Review: ‘Well Fed’ By Melissa Joulwan

When we look back on the year 2011, it will remembered by those of us who closely follow nutrition and health as the year of the Paleo cookbooks. Here is just a small sampling of the most amazing and best recipe books that have released this year highlighting the virtues of healthy low-carb, Paleo-friendly dishes for you to nourish the bodies of your health-conscious family:

- The Paleo Diet Cookbook by Dr. Loren Cordain
- Paleo Comfort Foods by Charles and Julie Mayfield
- Make It Paleo by Bill Staley and Hayley Mason
- Primal Blueprint Quick and Easy Meals by Mark Sisson

It’s an impressive assortment of books that absolutely must be on the bookshelf of anyone and everyone who makes this way of eating their preferred plan of choice. And the good news is there are MANY more to come in 2012 and beyond as people start becoming more and more familiar with the benefits of going grain-free, sugar-free, legume-free, and dairy-free to attain optimal health. Whether you are new to the Paleo, primal, ancestral or low-carb lifestyle or if you’re a long-time seasoned veteran at it, we all need help sometimes sprucing up our diet and keeping it from becoming the drab, boring and undesirable lifestyle that it is stereotyped as being.

That’s why I’m happy to share with you one more truly amazing cookbook gem that released in 2011 that I’m sure will become a go-to resource in health-focused kitchens across the United States and around the world. It’s called Well Fed: Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat by Melissa Joulwan from “The Clothes Make The Girl” blog (NOTE: There’s also an e-book version of the book and special sneak peek of the book available at Melissa’s web site).

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Melissa’s blog and story about how she came to the Paleo diet, I highly encourage you to check out her blog and learn more about the woman behind this book. Of course, she divulges much of her life’s story at the beginning of Well Fed which will give you an appreciation for who she is now and why a cookbook was a logical choice for her to write. The “Dina-Chow” that’s sprinkled throughout this book is simply awesome and there’s no other way to describe it. The photos of the food accompanying each recipe is the actual finished recipe right before it was devoured by the Joulwan clan. Your mouth can’t help but become a waterfall in anticipation of what is sure to be some of the most interesting food you’ve ever eaten. Where else can you get Paleo low-carb versions of a wide variety of ethnic-based foods like “Chocolate Chili,” “BBQ Fork Fried Rice” (made without rice), “Shepherd’s Pie,” and so much more in these 174 pages of absolute decadence? Flipping through the pages of this book, I honestly wanted to try EVERY SINGLE RECIPE–it’s THAT good!

I could appreciate that Melissa made a convenient one-page called “The ‘No’ List” on page 3 followed immediately by another quickie one-page called “The ‘Yes’ List.” I HIGHLY encourage you newbies to this way of eating to photocopy these pages and post them on your refrigerator door, kitchen cabinets, bathroom mirrors…wherever you’ll look at them on a daily basis! Absorb what is shared on these pages and you will quickly become smarter on nutrition than about 99% of the population, including most doctors, dietitians and those who pretend to know what the heck they’re talking about regarding nutritional health on television (*cough* Dr. Oz *cough*). These really are the bare knuckles basics to Paleo eating spelled out more succinctly than anything else I’ve ever seen. And that’s saying a lot because I’ve seen it all. The bottom line: just eat real food! This is a MAJOR theme of what it actually means to be “well fed.”

While this book will likely be placed in the “diet” or “health” section of bookstores or on places like Amazon, Melissa is quick to point out that she considers this book as neither. It could more accurately be called an “inspirational” book that will tickle your taste buds with recipes that will as she puts it “make you want to smash in your face with joy.” Now that’s an image I won’t soon forget! It’s part and parcel of the magic that Melissa Joulwan brings to the table as an ever-enthusiastic and unapologetic defender of her simple philosophy of “Just Eat” and everything else will fall into place and take care of itself.

Since much of the book includes recipes that you won’t likely see anywhere else, I recommend that you pay close attention to the “About The Recipes” where you can get a lesson on the most common ingredients and cooking tools/methods you’ll be using and how they work to produce these recipes. You’ll save yourself a lot of headaches later if you heed this advice from someone who’s been there, done that already. And Melissa also reminds you that the presentation of the food is an important element in being Well Fed as well. You’ll rarely eat out in a restaurant again if you apply what she teaches on page 13.

The nitty gritty of how to make this book work well for you is on page 16 when she describes “The Weekly Cookup” that includes shopping lists, meal planning, and how to construct a meal that will knock the socks off of the people you are serving (yes, even your kids will think you’re a culinary rock star after eating these meals!). Making sure you have the right amount and kind of foods on hand at all times that you can grab and start cooking with is the key. Then it’s just a matter of opening up “Your Paleo Pantry” and pulling out your choice of some of the most remarkable spices and seasonings that will awaken the foods you are about to consume. Melissa also tells you what “Essential Kitchen Tools” to use to be the best darn cook in your neighborhood. Sound impossible? I guess you gotta get Well Fed to find out!

I’m always curious about how the recipes in cookbooks like this one are displayed. But Melissa made it a lot more fun than I’ve ever seen before. She gives you the title of the recipe, adds a cutesy yet descriptive subtitle (i.e. for the “Olive Oil Mayo” recipe, she included the subtitle “You’ll Never Consider Store-Bought Again”), tells you the serving size, how long it takes to prepare and cook the recipe, a brief commentary on the recipe itself, the ingredients to use, the directions, an empty “Notes” section for you to add your own variations to the cookbook for your personal use, a “How You Could Do That” section for suggested variations, as well as “Tasty Ideas” about what you could make to complement this particular recipe. It’s this kind of practical, real-world advice that sets this cookbook apart from the ones I’ve seen a million times before.

If you wanna know what being Well Fed is really all about, then all you gotta do is gaze your eyes at the photo used on the back cover:

‘Nuff said! Isn’t it time you became Well Fed?

  • http://profiles.google.com/mjoulwan Melissa Joulwan

    Thank you so much for this beautiful review! I’m so thrilled that you enjoyed your first pass through Well Fed, and I’m excited for you to cook up some of the recipes. You named some of my favorites — in fact, I wish I had a pot of Chocolate Chili bubbling right now.

    You’ve made my day!

    • Anonymous

      Melissa, you did an OUTSTANDING job with this book…could you tell I thought that from my review? ;) Glad you liked it and I wish you well with your book. CONGRATULATIONS!!!

  • John Koenig

    I’m anxious to get my hands on this puppy; it’s sounded great from the first time I’ve heard about it!

    • Anonymous

      You’re gonna LOVE it!

  • Anonymous

    You’re gonna love it…getting Melissa on my podcast soon too.

  • Carrie @ Gingerlemongirl.com

    you forgot Sarah Fragoso’s book, “Everyday Paleo!” a really great book as well! I LOVE Melissa’s book though! Her hot plates are my favorite part of the book!! I can’t wait to try more of her recipes!!

    • Anonymous

      Love Sarah Fragoso…yet another example of the explosion. ;)