Cookbook Review: The Ancestral Table by Russ Crandall

Barbecue Sauce and All-Purpose Beef Rub. Both worked well on pulled pork and ribs (both of which were cooked in my slow cooker)

Barbecue Sauce and All-Purpose Beef Rub. Both worked well on pulled pork and ribs (both of which were cooked in my slow cooker)

The Ancestral Table by Russ Crandall entered my radar earlier this year when I my Paleo-living friends raved about it on Twitter and Instagram. I put it on my wish list for later because I was busy with writing, trying new cookbooks was low priority. Then, Shirley Braden, gave it to me at our annual retreat with the promise I would write up a short review.

Colcannon

Colcannon

Chili Con Carne

Chili Con Carne

A modern day cookbook based on living with a particular diet of course starts with the author’s personal history and outlines their reasoning for how they follow the diet. Russ takes us on a journey of growing up with food then experiencing a stroke at age twenty-four. Like many of you reading this, and like me, Russ found his way to healthier living by adopting a specific diet. For him, it’s the Paleo diet in-line with the Perfect Health Diet (PHD) by Paul Jaminet, Ph.D. The PHD allows safe starches in the form of rice, taro, plantain, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tapioca, and sago. It also allows for some dairy. Russ explains the allowance of rice, potatoes, and dairy before getting into the recipes. In short, rice was being consumed well before the end of the Paleolithic Era and potatoes were likely as well. I won’t go into all the reasons for dairy, but I’ll share the one that applies to me. I was dairy-free for three years because I was allergic. It turns out it wasn’t any of the proteins I was allergic to, but the by-products of the pasteurization process. It would seem this is a common occurrence and why some people who react to dairy, do fine with raw dairy. The occasion serving of rice, potatoes, and dairy along with my usual diet of meat and vegetables is really how I’ve been eating lately without knowing it was part of a specific Paleo diet.

Meaty Collard Greens

Meaty Collard Greens

New England Clam Chowder

New England Clam Chowder

I was smitten with The Ancestral Table as soon as I flipped through it. Russ doesn’t just focus on the usual Paleo dishes. He took cultural dishes from around the world, ancestral dishes, and put them in one book. Congee, Colcannon, Japanese Beef Curry, Loco Moco, Bibimbap, Saag Paneer, Tostones, Pão de Queijo, Lomi Lomi Salmon, Crawfish Étouffée. The beauty of these ancestral dishes he compiled is they are either naturally gluten-free or easily made gluten-free with simple swaps, which he has done for us. He also gives us the foods many grew up on in the States. Stew, Chili Con Carne, Pot Roast, Roasted Chicken, Pulled Pork, Wedge Salad, Onion Rings, Meaty Collard Greens, Fried Chicken. FRIED CHICKEN! Can we take just a moment to bask in that glorious dish we all had to give up? FRIED CHICKEN!

Southern Fried Chicken

Southern Fried Chicken

Congee

Congee

I love that my beloved Hawaiian/local Hawai`i dishes are included in this book. I recommend you try the Loco Moco. The way I make it differs only slightly from Russ’ recipe, but the important components are a savory beef gravy and a runny egg. When you break the yolk and it runs with the gravy into the nooks and crannies of the rice, you are treated with a rich burst on the palate. Back home, we call that onolicious. Traditionally, it’s made with rice. If all grains are a problem for you, cauliflower rice works just as well. Yes, I’ve made it with cauli rice myself and not just telling you it works because Russ says you can. You bet I made the Fried Chicken. When I was done frying at all, staring at the thighs draining onto shredded cabbage, I wondered how we would eat it all. I realized I should’ve halved the recipe, but I wound up doing what most of us do with leftovers that can’t be consumed before they go bad – I froze them, in individual portions. If you loved fried chicken before having to give it up, try Russ’ recipe. My eyes rolled into the back of my head and I found myself going back for seconds.

Mocha Ice Cream in the food processor

Mocha Ice Cream in the food processor

Japanese Beef Curry

Japanese Beef Curry

I feel like I made half the recipes in the book and I would make them all again.

Hearty Stew

Hearty Stew

Wedge Salad

Wedge Salad

High School Reunion

I joined Facebook several years ago because it was the only way my friend would let me see her wedding photos.  She was mean!

That meanness reconnected me with so many people from my past and brought me closer to my family back home.   My high school friends immediately began asking, “When are you coming to visit?  Are you coming for your class reunion?”  A lot of my friends were not in my class.   Woody became militant and asked me every week.  Sis begged me to visit.  These were all friends I had not seen or talked to either since high school or while I was still in college.

Chaz and I went to Los Angeles 3 years ago to spend Thanksgiving with Dawn and her family.  We also put together a mini-reunion with as many of our friends who could make it to her house.  It was an amazing day seeing so many people after so long.

Breakfast at Lotus Cafe. Tofu scramble with turkey bacon.

This trip we went down to Encinitas to see everyone.  One of my neighborhood friends, I’ll call her Rad, hilariously volunteered another friend’s house in our Facebook messages.  He graciously agreed to host and his wife did not quash it.  He has a lovely wife, another of my friends from high school and funnily enough, they didn’t remember each other from high school.  Life is funny that way sometimes.

Carrot, beet, and celery juice to start the day.

We woke early the day of the reunion and had breakfast.   There were a few places off of El Camino Real that are super food allergy friendly I wanted to try, but none of them were open yet.   We wound up in downtown Encinitas in the old Lumberyard at Lotus Cafe & Juice Bar.  A lot of healthy dishes and they lean towards vegetarian or vegan dishes.  You see my tofu scramble with turkey bacon.  I don’t normally eat turkey bacon.  Okay, I never eat turkey bacon.   Ain’t nothing like the real thing.  Ya feel me?  However, they didn’t have real bacon.  Only turkey bacon or soy bacon.  The food was a little bland, but I did enjoy the tofu scramble.  It was the first time I had tofu scramble of any kind and my newly egg-free palate was momentarily happy.  I also had a side of avocado.  It was a full half sliced avocado.  They also do fresh pressed juices and I partook of a carrot, beet, and celery juice that was a wonderful pick-me-up that morning.

We took some time after breakfast to drive around town.  I had not been there in nearly 20 years and I had never taken Chaz there.  We drove up and down El Camino Real so I could see all the changes in the businesses and show him where my parent’s computer store used to be.  The shopping center still looks the same with the old brown painted wood and Spanish tile roofs with the door frames all painted a different primary color.

A sign that still says San Dieguito High School

I managed to remember the back way to my schools even if I did miss the turn to show him Oak Crest Junior High.  Ocean Knoll Elementary and San Dieguito Academy (San Dieguito High School when I went there) are across corners from each other so we drove by those two.  There was a soccer game or something going on at Ocean Knoll and SDA was a ghost town.

It would have been nice to get out and walk around, but we didn’t have time.  We didn’t even have time for Moonlight Beach!  *le sigh*

We did have a great time with friends though.  That was completely worth not having time at the beach.  We sat around talking, laughing, and watching the kids play with each other.  Some of the friends we saw the last time we all got together.  Some of them, it was the first time getting together with all of us.

We caught up with each other and reminisced with stories of “back in the day.”  We all went to high school together.  Some of them I knew before high school.  Many of us were in band together.  Oh yes.  My fellow band geeks unite!

I could not have planned this shot if I tried!

Just chatting

and snacking and imbibing

and smile. 😀

I loved being with my friends.

Because we’re ALL crazy!

With the latecomers. That’s my “Sis” in the middle. I love her so!

Rad did all the food for the meal.  Everyone brought little snacky foods.  Somehow, I forgot all about the berries and fresh coconut we brought while everyone else was munching on cheese and crackers.  Oh, well.  I was really satisfied with everything Rad made.  All without worry.  Rad follows a Paleo diet for her health and even before we talked about little details, I knew I was in good hands.  I think we all had a collective foodgasm.  I even had seconds.  Something I very rarely do.  We decided she needs to open up a Paleo food truck.  That would bring me back to Encinitas more for sure!   Give her something to fix and she will do it on a grill.  It doesn’t matter what it is.

All Paleo. All safe for me. All AMAZING!

It was a wonderful day and I was sad to go.  Dawn said it well on Facebook that night, (how I remember it)  it is great knowing that some friends are just as caring and genuine now as they were back then.  I left with the best memory.  We were all sitting around talking and someone said, “Mawwage.”  Then we all chimed in, “Mawwage is what bwings us togeva todayyyy.”