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March 23, 2012

Book Notes - Melissa Joulwan - "Well Fed: Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat"

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, David Peace, Myla Goldberg, and many others.

Several years ago I found myself mesmerized by Melissa Joulwan's roller derby memoir, Rollergirl: Totally True Tales from the Track, so I was excited to hear she had another book. To my surprise the new book is a cookbook, Well Fed: Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat.

Well Fed is more than a collection of recipes, the book contains an overview of the Paleo diet (with lists of allowed and forbidden foods) as well as alternate preparations for the recipes. The recipes themselves are crisply photographed, delightfully simple to follow and cook, and abundant in both flavor and diversity.

I collect cookbooks, and in this digital age most sit on the shelf while I hunt recipes online. Well Fed has earned a spot on my kitchen counter, I have found it that useful (and I am not even on the Paleo diet).

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In her own words, here is Melissa Joulwan's Book Notes music playlist for her cookbook, Well Fed: Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat:

A happy kitchen always has music playing and something bubbling on the stove. This collection of songs is inspired by the recipes in Well Fed and mirrors their flavors, from the American South to Europe and the Far East. It's an energetic, evocative soundtrack for kitchen adventures.

The playlist begins and ends with songs that I listened to for courage while tackling the intimidating task of writing my first cookbook. Both Frank Turner's "Try This at Home" and "Photosynthesis" are a call to arms to go after what we want, to try and fail, to be punk rock in the pure way that means doing what feels right and meaningful.

"Try This at Home" — Frank Turner, Poetry of the Deed

I self-published Well Fed, and there were moments during the months of writing and photography and editing and dealing with the printer when I was convinced I'd made a huge mistake by being so willful. The lyrics of this song say "tear down the stars and take up your guitars, and come on, folks, and try this at home." I sang along with the chorus nice and loud while I wrote recipes at the butcher block in my kitchen.

"Stay a Little Longer" — Willie Nelson, Willie And Family Live

Willie Nelson is just about as down-home, all-American as you can get, but he's also subversive in his own hippie-cowboy way. This song is the sound of a long, languid summer evening, after the picnic is over, when the kids are off to bed and the adults linger in lawn chairs with sweating beer cans.

(Recipe: Jicama "Potato" Salad.)

"You Can't Stop the Changes" — The Infamous Stringdusters, Things That Fly

The keening of bluegrass harmonies seems like the right sound to accompany a recipe that's an anomaly: a traditional Southern dish that, oddly, features Indian spices.

(Recipe: Country Captain Chicken.)

"Corrido #1" — Los Lobos, How Will The Wolf Survive?

I start every Saturday morning with a workout, followed by a big pile of eggs at our favorite Tex-Mex joint down the street. All of the songs from Los Lobos's album How Will The World Survive are good ones; the Tejano twang of "Corrido #1" sounds like sunshine and celebration.

(Recipe: Machacado and Eggs)

"The Harder They Come" — Jimmy Cliff, Ultimate Collection: Jimmy Cliff

I like the way reggae wraps its punk rock sensibility in sweet, lilting sounds, and this song's timeless message bolsters me when I feel like I'm from nowhere and will never amount to anything. "The harder they come, the harder they fall, one and all."

(Recipe: Bora Bora Fireballs)

"Salty Dog" — Flogging Molly, Swagger

It's hard to resist the urge to bang my head and stomp around with Flogging Molly's relentless beat, crashing cymbals, and shout-along choruses. This song tells the tale of drinking with demons from Hell and sinking a ship, with a bonus crow-plucking-out-an-eye reference. But the words are almost beside the point – the feeling is pure exuberance.

(Recipe: Shepherd's Pie, Scotch Eggs)

"That Old Black Magic" — Louis Prima, Wild, Cool & Swingin'

If I could travel back in time, my first stop would be Las Vegas in the 1950s to see Louis Prima perform at the Sahara with Keely Smith and Sam Butera backing him up. After the show, we'd hit an Italian restaurant for baked eggplant served to us by a Sicilian who wouldn't care a fig for Prima's fame, and would insist that we eat one more cannoli.

(Recipe: Italian Sausage & Eggplant Strata, Meatza Pie)

"Romano Hiphop" —, Gypsy Beats and Balkan Bangers Two</strong>

My maternal granny, Veronica Caroline Rovnak, came to the United States in 1902 from what was then called Czechoslovakia. At 17, she married my Italian grandfather in Pennsylvania. I never learned much of her personal history, but I liked to make up stories about gypsies and the evil eye. is a Romani hip hop group that combines traditional fiddle and slinky Eastern European melodies with rhythmic rap In English, Czech, and Romani.

(Recipe: Czech Meatballs)

"Illa Habibi" — Amr Diab, Wayah

My first tattoo was based on a traditional Moroccan henna design. It wraps around my right wrist and is a daily reminder that I must visit Morocco some day. Just the words tagine, souk, and medina make me feel all swoony. Plus, there's the spy appeal. After WWI, Tangier was declared an International Zone ruled by nine different countries, all reluctant to cede control of the glamorous port city. Its twisting alleys became a haven for smugglers, agents, double agents, and movie stars — the Hotel El Minzah was the place to see and be seen. This track weaves sensuous Middle Eastern melodies with modern dance beats, perfect for (faux) belly dancing.

(Recipes: El Minzah Orange Salad, Salmon a l'Afrique du Nord, Moroccan Meatballs)

"Kudi Kudi" — Jasbir Jassi, Punjabi Fever

"Kudi" means girl, so I can only assume this is a Bollywood version of a "you're my best girl" kind of pop song — but it's so much more interesting and tolerable in Punjabi! This makes me wiggle and inspires me to practice that horizontal side-to-side head thing that I can never do. I didn't want to include a standard Americanized yellow curry in Well Fed. This recipe is from Kashmir and the influence of nearby Pakistan and China can be tasted in its fragrant spice blend: rich and exotic but not fiery.

(Recipe: Rogan Josh)

"Ain't Gonna Cut It" — Puffy AmiYumi, honeycreeper

The catchiness of the chorus will not be denied, plus, there's a knife reference: "I can try all night (But you ain't gonna cut it); I can win this fight (You still ain't gonna cut it); I can Sharpen my knife (But it ain't gonna cut it); You ain't gonna cut it no more." Irresistible.

(Recipe: Sesame-Garlic Nori Chips)

"Photosynthesis" — Frank Turner, Love Ire & Song

The day after my husband Dave and I finished the cookbook, we saw Frank Turner play at Emo's, a legendary Austin punk rock club. It was one of the last shows to ever be played at the club, and it was both celebratory and bittersweet. There's nothing quite so satisfying as singing these words along with a few hundred semi-drunks when you've just finished a project you weren't sure you could do: "I won't sit down, and I won't shut up, and most of all, I won't grow up." The next morning, we flew to Prague for a three-week holiday of Czech beer, Schnitzel, castles, and cobblestones.

Melissa Joulwan and Well Fed: Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book (30-page sampler)

Breaking Muscle review
Cosmopolitan Primal Girl review
Ginger Lemon Girl review
Jimmy Moore's Livin' la Vida Low Carb Blog review
Republic of Austin review
Three New Leaves review

Balanced Bites interview with the author
EasyPaleo interview with the author
The LLVLC Show interview with the author
The Lunch Break Blog interview with the author interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

other Book Notes playlists (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlists

List of Online "Best Books of 2011" Lists
List of 2011 Year-End Online Music Lists

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
52 Books, 52 Weeks (weekly book reviews)
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists