EDWARDS — Eating like a cave man and a bird might seem like an inherent contradiction. But to chef and author Alan Roettinger, these ancient ways of eating are not only healthier — but also easier — than you might think. He’ll eliminate these contradictions tonight at The Bookworm of Edwards, at an event which will showcase his newest cookbook “Paleo Vegan: Plant Based Primal Recipes.”
Roettinger said unifying these topics wasn’t really a stretch.
“It’s what I’ve always done as a private chef: take the parameters I’m given, and create something delicious within those limits,” said Roettinger, who published “Speed Vegan” in 2010.
“It’s very simple,” Roettinger said. “Where the two diets intersect, there is common ground. Both vegans and paleos will eat fresh, whole, organic, local, diverse non-animal foods, except for grains and legumes.”
Roettinger and foodie Ellen Jones worked together to develop inventive combinations of vegan and paleo ideals.
“I didn’t have to worry about working with [Jones] on this, because she handled all the research and the front matter of the book, which deals with the two philosophies, their intersection, and how vegans can eat according to the paleo philosophy without compromising their own,” Roettinger observes.
So what exactly defines a paleo lifestyle? Roettinger said that the diet is based on the idea that during the Old Stone Age, humans ate food that was appropriate for their species, obtained by hunting and gathering.
“It was with the advent of agriculture (about 10,000 years ago), things began to go awry,” he said.
This awareness of processed foods is compatible with many diets Coloradans already follow — eating whole grains, eliminating refined sugars and fats, and using non-dairy products such as almond and soy milk.
Listen to your body
For many people living in the Rocky Mountains, gardening and growing fresh produce is less of a hobby and more of a dedication to maintaining health. Jones and Roettinger encourage readers to cultivate their own gardens to make choosing nutritious produce easier.
“It’s thrilling to see it sprout, grow, and mature, and it’s unbelievably delightful to harvest it and to eat something that just an hour or two ago was growing outside your own home,” he said.
However, many gardeners at high altitudes find growing vegetables difficult because of the short growing season (and the deer). Roettinger suggests that people should grow herbs inside and shelter potted plants in their houses during cold months to extend the harvest.
The dearth of material to work with in winter can also spur kitchen creativity. Roettinger prides himself on developing artistic combinations of flavors. He said that his unrivaled skill in the kitchen buds from practice and passion.
“I think I’ve always had the passion, but by exercising it in creative ways and studying what others have done with theirs, I gave it strength and focus. It’s like a muscle; if you use it, it flourishes. In the kitchen, it drives what I create because it’s directly related to all the information and experiences I’ve acquired — and continue to acquire — throughout my life,” Roettinger said.
Although Roettinger has practiced his craft for decades, his easy-going attitude makes his book and recipes easy to understand for cooks of all levels. He believes that by listening to the body, people can determine what foods they should eat — and he encourages a healthy dose of bad foods because he thinks “of this as taking a homeopathic dose of poison to develop and keep immunity,” he jokes.
His vegan lifestyle, a habit he adopted about six years ago for health reasons, has encouraged him to be more attune to balancing his food and his body.
“I stopped eating animal products after I wrote ‘Speed Vegan’ for a number of reasons, but primarily for health. I experienced dramatic benefits almost immediately; my sinuses cleared up virtually overnight, mental clarity improved, and I have much more energy. I like to say I feel like I did when I was 40, but in fact I feel better than I did then in some ways,” Roettinger said.
Leigh Horton is an intern for The Bookworm of Edwards. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.