Gather: The Art of Paleo Entertaining
It would be silly of me to title this particular book review with anything fancy or clever, and I won’t even mention how their names could rhyme until the end. That’s because the title, in itself, is clever. Yep. It’s yet another paleo book—a cook book, again, too. To their credit, Hayley Mason and Bill Staley of The Primal Palate already did that once: Make it Paleo. I reviewed it here, two thumbs up.
I don’t do many book reviews. I get them all sent to me, but—sorry—I don’t review cookie cutters either, and in some ways that’s what it’s like for me. Pretty simple. But, knock yourselves out. Reviewing all the new paleo books would be a full time job in itself. Since their first go at it was pretty damn good, I pulled it from the stack and spent some time paging through it.
Gather, the Art of Paleo Entertaining went right to the top of just about everything I’ve seen, arguably including the sciency books. It’s really more of a Foodist (review on that coming up—as a non-Paleo but Real Food entry) or Real Food book, focussed on gathering; that is to say: getting together with people you love and cooking for them.
I feel my inner anarchism rise: Anarchy Begins at Home: The Blog Series Part 9 – Conclusion; How to Fix Everything. That is, gathering together—whether it be for work, play, survival, mutual betterment or a fine meal—is what we were meant to do. Not an endless but futile attempt to scale social life into the hundreds of millions. Keep it small. The elegance will take care of itself; because you’ll actually care genuinely.
A lot of care went into this creation which when you get your hands on it will become clear. It’s a labor of love on social levels of love, from two to a few. The whole thing resonates with me primarily because over the years that I’ve been snapping pics and tossing them up here, most have been done in conjunction with various gatherings of my own, from four people to a few more. Here’s a few of the general high points of the book.
- The quality is astonishingly superb.
- The hardcover is the same print as the dust jacket.
- It’s a proper coffee table book. You’ll be proud to have it out where everyone can see it, the only inherent risk being that the meal you just served your guests doesn’t measure up.
- The photography, often full spread, is superb. I take it that’s Bill and he’s very good at it, getting depth of field so artsy fartsy for just the right effect.
OK, let’s get to some nuts & bolts.
- “You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces—just good food from fresh ingredients.” – Julia Child (who else?) That would be the central theme of this book.
- Intuitively divided into four sections: spring, summer, fall and winter. Naturally, it’s then sub-divided into the important friend & family gatherings those seasons bring to mind.
- Rather than the typical format of classifying recipes under whether they are soups, salads, meats, fish, poultry, or vegetables, recipes are integrated into an entire event gathering that’s seasonally and theme appropriate. Going to to do a November harvest gathering? It’s all right there in one section. You’ll not need to flip back & forth or source six different cookbooks.
- One of the most daunting aspects of executing an important gathering comprising a number of dishes and a few more than two people is: “where do I even start?” Accordingly, the book kicks off with a nice section covering all the important or meta aspects of planning and preparation. Then, each gathering section begins with the planning, shopping and preparation particular to that specific even and menu.
A few of my dog-eared favorites in the book, for their out-of-the-ordinary uniqueness:
- Springtime tea party: Rooibos Gingersnap Tea, Cucumber and Salmon Bites, Carrots with Olive Tapenade Trio, Orange Scones, Cranberry Scones, and Zucchini Bread. It’s a gathering with young women in mind, but it was reminiscent to me of an afternoon tea I once witnessed in Paris, in a friend’s apartment where La Tour Eiffel is a mere 100 yards or so from the living room window, and the whole thing was done on a Sunday afternoon, by French teenagers, guys and gals, something they did frequently.
- Midsummer garden party: Watermelon Salad with Mint, Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp, Pan-Seared Chicken with Onions and Mushrooms, Grilled Balsamic Vegetables, Green Bean Salad with Artichoke Hearts and Olives, and Apple Pie. Looks hard. So simple.
- Tropical getaway: Micro-Greens Salad with Diced Mango, Stuffed Red Snapper, Spiny Lobster Tails with Drawn Butter, Fried Plantains with Mango Salsa. Plan it for your next rip to Hawaii or elsewhere tropical.
- Spooky supper: Roasted Marrow Bones, Ghostly Pear Guacamole with Fried Plantain Chips, Beef Heart Stew, Spaghetti and “Eyeballs,” “Bleeding” Cupcakes, Mummy Cookies or Black and White Bones, Caramel Crab Apples. One of the photos is of all the kids in costume at the dinner table. Here’s an idea: hold the dinner right before they head out on the trick or treat mission and perhaps they’ll be a little less interested in candy.
- Hunter-gatherer feast: Sweet and Tangy Venison Meatballs, Wild Mushroom Soup, Apple-Scented Venison Roast, Grilled Elk Chops with Port Wine Reduction, Petite Potato Trio, Crème Brûlée. This one’s for the meat lovers and favors the hunters.
There’s so much more. Of course, all the traditional gatherings are included, as well as a few more things like birthdays, ethic themes, even a cocktail party. Seventeen different and unique gatherings in all.
Now take a look at the short book trailer.
Back when I reviewed their first cookbook I had assumed they were married already. So I asked Hayley how come she kept her last name, and didn’t go with Staley; and I think she said “never!” Turns out, they weren’t married but as you learn in the book, became engaged during the creation—told you it was a labor of love. So I chided her in a Twitter back & forth a while back and she told me she’d changed her mind. She’s going to be Hayley Staley and I just think that’s gonna be all sorts of fun.
Great job. Go order the book. It’s available April 30.