There are cookbooks that have a hallowed place in the kitchen, written to inspire awe with special ingredients and immaculate styling. Then there are the cookbooks that, with gravy-stained pages and a threadbare spine, are as reliable to the home cook as a well-seasoned skillet. Melissa Joulwan’s second cookbook, Well Fed 2: More Paleo Recipes For People Who Love to Eat (Smudge Publishing), manages to blur the lines between the two.
Joulwan has quite literally outdone herself. Her voice has matured this second time around and as she skillfully combines exotic spices with anecdotes, her personality shines through as stronger, more refined. The photos, by Joulwan’s talented husband David Humphreys, are even more enticing than the last time we saw them, but the food certainly steals the show.
What is remarkable about Well Fed 2 can hardly be limited to one characteristic. The recipes challenge the palate but remain accessible. Joulwan’s tastes are adventurous, and her cookbook takes us on a culinary journey to the far corners of the world: to Iraq with the Almost Amba Sauce, to Chinatown with Chicken Nanking, to the French countryside with Beef Stew Provencal, to the great state of Ohio with Cincinnati Chili. And yet the basics are not ignored. Next to a recipe for Semi Sabich, a riff on an Iraqi-Jewish dish from Israel, is Joulwan’s tried and tested method for cooking the perfect steak every time.
Well Fed 2 offers useful bonus material, ranging from how to execute chopping techniques, to detailed lists of Paleo pantry staples, and inspired ideas for personalizing a recipe’s flavor combinations. Joulwan even throws in the odd playlist and some links to video content available on her blog, The Clothes Make the Girl.
In Well Fed 2, Joulwan delves deeper into the spiritual side of Paleo that so desperately needs addressing. She encourages the reader to seek their best self, not for any other reason than to fulfill personal potential.
“The best version of me refuses to be measured by some external yardstick,” Joulwan writes. “The best version of me happily goes to bed early, wakes up refreshed, eats Paleo, trains wisely, lifts heavy things, remembers to take a fun run and play a little every day, spreads love, looks up, leads with the chin, makes up new recipes and sings out loud. Not because I must. Because I want to. Because that’s me. The best me.”
There is no guilt, no comparison, no braggadocio to be found here. There is, rather, plenty of joy, encouragement, and pleasure found in the journey. Joulwan speaks powerfully on the page, but gives just as encouraging an example through the way she approaches food: it should nourish, it should inspire, and it should keep you, in body and spirit, very well fed.