Eat Like a Caveman or Simply Explore Farm-to-Table in 2014

Struck by a recent CNN.com article by Jacque Wilson entitled, “Paleo diet ranks last on ‘best diets’ list,” I was a little surprised the paleo diet had already fallen out of favor. After hearing such great reviews from several friends and co-workers, I was curious to understand how fruit, veggies, meat, and seeds could garner paleo the, “Worst, Best Diet” title by U.S. News & World Report. The article explains that the diet is simply too strict and difficult to stick by, but it’s difficult to dismiss in light of such a building emphasis on eating raw and exploring new, fresh ingredients.

From a culinary standpoint, the paleo diet actually has potential. It arrived with the growth of the farm-to-table movement and is based upon the consumption of foods cavemen and -women would have had access to: meats, veggies, fruits, and nuts. Dairy, grains, and legumes are off limits, which is not the case with the farm-to-table movement. Despite that slight difference, it’s not far off.

Sort of in line with this concept is a healthy level of curiosity chefs and foodies across the globe have developed for understanding where their food comes from and how it makes its way to their plates. So, are the paleo supporters more closely in tune with trends we should be expecting from top chefs?

Paleo Aligator

Since 2009, chefs from across the globe have been gathering on an annual basis at the prestigious yet peculiar Cook it Raw culinary summit. Cook it Raw brings together experienced chefs and a few up-and-comers to explore the social, cultural, and environmental implications of the culinary industry in extreme and challenging situations. From waking before the sun rises to hunt deer to breaking down alligator to be cooked over the fire, it brings chefs close to the raw products they might use daily.

The annual roster of by-invitation-only chefs is quite impressive. This gathering includes about a dozen participants, including globally renowned chefs like David Chang of Momofuku, New York and Daniel Patterson of Coi, San Francisco.

For one week, these chefs step outside the comfort of their restaurant’s kitchens and neatly presented markets to go all paleo – if you will. Instead of choosing which piece of pork to prepare, they hunt the hog. Instead of selecting grains from a list, they harvest rice from fields. And they love it.

In a New York Times article by Julia Moskin, discussing the most recent Cook it Raw event in Hardeeville, S.C., Patterson reflected on his time with the evaluation, “It was magical.” Having attended the event five times, he said he’s always impressed by the various chefs’ genuine desire to share what would be proprietary knowledge in any other environment. The article goes on to explain that, “Chefs who are famously combative in their restaurants become collegial, even cuddly, at Cook it Raw.”

Paleo_Cave_Man

Now, I’m not suggesting that the paleo diet or the farm-to-table trend are going to overhaul the mentality of our favorite bullies, but maybe there is something to be said about this kind of food perspective. Despite paleo being named the worst of the best, it at least made the list. It seems 2014 will be the year to expect more emphasis on raw eating, farm-to-table trends, and an increase in hyper-locally sourced ingredients.

Chelsea B. Sanz
Chelsea B. Sanz

Chelsea Sanz has lived in East Tennessee since her family moved here from South Florida just before she started high school. While she initially begrudged her new home state, she eventually realized she had come to not only love it, but to “bleed orange” as University of Tennessee Volunteers fans here like to say. She and her boyfriend Hunter, a trail worker for Great Smoky Mountains National Park, enjoy exploring the nation’s most visited national park and coming up with their own farm-to-table recipes.

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