Today, we’re featuring a fun interview with Charles and Julie Mayfield, authors of the gorgeous new cookbook, Paleo Comfort Foods. We asked them some serious (and not so serious) questions about comfort food, cooking, and why their cookbook is the perfect addition to your kitchen. We’ll let C & J’s thoughtful, intelligent and cheeky answers speak for themselves.
For those of us not from the south, what are “comfort foods?”
J: My perspective is actually quite different than Charles’, which allowed our book to take all kinds of interesting angles. Yes, we Yankees have “comfort foods” too. It ain’t just a Southern thang! As a girl who spent her first 18 years north of the Mason Dixon line, “comfort foods” were those meals cooked at home by mom, where we said a blessing around the table, and had a family meal that wasn’t a Hungry Man special. Pretty much every recipe here has some kind of story or memory associated with it for us, and we’ve tried to share those throughout the book. Perhaps the deeper meaning of the word comfort – especially to those on a paleo path – would be foods that make your insides feel comfortable vs. irritated, gassy, bloated, etc. (Ohhhhh, deep intestinal thoughts….)
C: They are those classic go-to meals that tend to get eaten when you are needing a pick me up, or wanting to celebrate big time. Southern food is typically associated with “comfort” for several reasons, in my opinion. The culture in the south is one of laid-back folks enjoying life. It only seems fitting that our recipes instill a sense of ease and comfort when eaten. Another reason is that the food is usually very rich, with lots of FAT (bacon, lard, butter). So the good news here is twofold: 1) get the bad stuff out (grains/legumes), and 2) use the right fats to keep that richness flowing.
What is more comforting – your recipe book or a Snuggie?
J: I refuse to comment on that S word. I think they are worse than the Jersey Shore (the TV show, not the actual place, where I have gone many a time).
C: our food is so good, about the only thing you’ll want to use the Snuggie for is an oversized napkin or an undersized tablecloth
What ONE recipe is the most representative of your concept?
J: I think it would have to be the fried chicken on the cover of our book. My family would eat fried chicken every 4th of July up at the community-wide picnic. I have vivid memories of the smell of oil and chicken frying at home in preparation for that. And what isn’t comforting about fried chicken?!?
What was the most challenging southern dish to recreate?
C: I would start with mac & cheese. There is NO way to do it – which is why it isn’t even in the book. That said, second place would probably be fried chicken. It is such a southern staple. That puts a ton of pressure on the chef if you are trying to compete with a recipe that uses flour. We nailed it. Our recipe tastes amazing and you don’t feel all that gut irritation when you’re done.
J: While biscuits weren’t particularly challenging, it did require a considerable reframing of expectations. You simply cannot make the lightweight, fluffy, flaky biscuits with almond and coconut flour like you can with real flour. However, for those people who just cannot tolerate gluten at all (like Robb Wolf, who wrote the foreword for our book), this is a decent substitute so that they can still have something. For those with kids, it’s also a good way to make breakfast sandwiches for the kids (with some eggs, maybe sausage).
What was your biggest Kitchen Fail?
C: It was our first photo session with Grizz and we were frantically putting meals together and getting photos done. I forgot I had spare ribs on the smoker and overcooked them a bit. We plated them anyway and took photos…then I spent the next two weeks having nightmares about my crappy ribs showing up in our cookbook. Needless to say, redemption came at our next photo session when I made Grizz shoot them again.
Let’s talk about your book’s food-porn. We mean, photos.
J: There’s this dude. His name is Mark “the Grizz” Adams, and he’s amazing. None of us are professional food stylists, but Grizz might have a new vocation as one. He has an artist’s eye, and was able to help make our food look almost as good on paper as it does in person. And yes, there is a picture for every single recipe! Grizz is also just an awesome dude to be around, and so much fun. We’re going to embarrass him now, and share a video clip that shows why we think he’s a pretty rocking dude and that he has way too much spare time on his hands. (PS – he shaved that ZZ top beard year before last, but it’s why we call him Grizz.)
C: I would say that one of the things we are MOST proud of is that if you were standing in the room when any of our pictures were shot…you could have eaten the food right off the plate. No tricks or gimmicks. We didn’t use hairspray, motor oil or a blow torch with any of our food (a common method in food photography).
What is your philosophy on “healthy eating”, and how is that reflected in your cookbook?
J: Specifically, we like proteins (from sources with a soul and a face) that come from farmers you know, who are raising their animals the way they should be raised (natural habitats), hormone free, etc. Vegetables and fruits that are in season, and local (when possible), and organic too (if you can). Fats – we aren’t fat phobic. We love fat. Fat makes us happy. Fat doesn’t make us fat.
In terms of the recipes in the book, we were cognizant that some people have really strict standards. Yes, we use some things that have an ingredient or two in them (gluten-free Worcestershire sauce, prepared mustard, etc.). But there is NO gluten in the book. The only dairy we use is bit of butter in a few recipes – grass-fed and clarified is preferable. The only added sugar is a bit of honey in a few recipes, though many times it’s optional. The only legume we use is green beans, though in the beef stew recipe they are optional. For the recipes that use alcohol for cooking, we give you ideas for substituting. Those recipes have a “disclosure” added that pertains to how strict you want to be.
C: I also think precaution should be taken when putting recipes out to the masses. Yes, we have dessert recipes in our book. That is NOT an open invitation to go eat our lemon squares every day for lunch.
How long will it take people to prepare an average meal from your cookbook?
J: The active work time in most of our recipes is pretty minimal. Many of our recipes are ones where you’re chopping, slicing and dicing, then letting it all cook in the oven or on the stove. I’d say the average active work time for most is under 30 minutes.
Do your dogs eat Paleo too?
C&J: Buzz and Phoenix are the two cutest, spaz-tastic dogs in the world, and yes, they eat paleo. We started with Buzz. He is our English Bully and was tipping the scales around 70 lbs. two years ago. We did a little reading and decided to throw him on a raw food diet (mostly chicken and pork). We saw such tremendous results (weight loss, eyes cleared up, more energy) that we converted Phoenix, our Labradoodle, to the diet also. Because we’re always seeing people before and after photos, let’s show you Buzz:
How is your book different from other Paleo recipe books?
J: I think the biggest difference is that ours takes many common comfort foods and prepares them in a paleo-adapted way – not to mention the rocking photos we have for every single recipe, courtesy of Grizz. But make no mistake – this is a cookbook. We don’t try to explain to you why we think grains are not-so-great, nor do we go into insulin/glucagon stories. We’ll leave that to you all at Whole9.
C: Several things. 1) We managed to pull this thing off while working our full time jobs and also coaching classes at our gym regularly. So, I would say that the ease of implementation factor is pretty high. If we can cook, write about, and photograph these recipes with the limited time we have…most folks should be able to cook them no problem. 2) We don’t have some fancy-schmancy kitchen. Single oven, four burners and limited counter space. So, whether you have a sprawling kitchen in your mega mansion or a cramped apartment in Manhattan, you can rest assured that our recipes have a place in your house.
How will you know Paleo Comfort Foods has been a success?
C & J: Honestly, the feedback is the most amazing part. We have heard from so many people about the impact paleo has had on their life. It is so rewarding knowing that we are bringing a book to the shelves that gives people choices when it come to making delicious healthy food. Oh… and a New York Times bestseller would be kinda cool. The more the paleo movement gets out in the mainstream like that, the more powerful it becomes. Having a bestseller in our corner would just lend more credibility to the paleo/primal movement and hopefully open more doors for us to keep spreading the word.
Hey Charles, what’s the hottest thing Jules has ever said to you in the kitchen?
C: “Don’t worry honey, I’ll do the dishes…”
So Jules, what’s the hottest thing Charles has ever said to you in the kitchen?
J: “Meat is on the smoker.” Or, alternately, “I bought dry scallops…” I joke that I’d do anything for scallops, but only dry scallops. Plus, that just sounds a lot cleaner than, “Your meat is delicious,” which usually follows him saying he’s cooking meat on the smoker.