I shared a lovely recipe from the cookbook, Cuisine for Whole Health by Pauli Halstead a few weeks ago. Her Thai Salad with Spicy Dressing, pictured above, met rave reviews by my family members. In fact, my dad said it was the best salad ever!
Pauli’s book has gourmet, restaurant quality recipes that follow what I used to think of as “strict” guidelines of Primal Body-Primal Mind by Nora Gedgaudas. Well, Pauli’s recipes would please anyone whether you were following Nora’s guidelines or not.
I thought it would be fun to learn a little more about Pauli and her cooking so I conducted a interview with her. We discussed her cooking experience, her book, why she changed her eating habits, the benefits she’s reaped from that change and money and time saving tips. Enjoy!
(And please excuse the delay in getting the winners up for the six giveaways! They will be announced soon!)
KH: Pauli, the first thing I noticed about your cookbook was how gourmet the recipes were. Tell us a little about your cooking background.
Pauli: I opened my first restaurant, Pauli’s Cafe on the corner of Fillmore and Washington Streets in San Francisco in 1975. It was one of those small neighborhood restaurants that San Francisco is famous for. We served lunch and dinner during the week and on weekends we served the best brunch in town. Sometimes we served 150 people each day. I used to go to the Napa Valley on the weekends to stay with friends, most of whom love to cook so there was always great food and wine. I loved the Napa Valley so much that I moved there in 1980 and started my catering business, The Best of Everything. It was a great career cooking at all the wineries, producing weddings and cooking for many local residents. I always shopped at the local farmers markets and we had great fish purveyors and cheese mongers. All the ingredients that went into our menus were the best that could be obtained.
KH: The second thing I noticed about your cookbook is how healthy it is. As I flip through the recipes I notice a lot of healthy vegetables, meats, and fats, but few starches. Tell us a little about why you cook the way you do.
Pauli: Everyone these days has a different idea of what healthy is. My philosophy is that healthy also has to be good for the environment. I choose organic fruits and vegetables, grass-fed (not commercially grain-fed) meats, wild caught fish, and pastured dairy and poultry products. Pastured chickens are allowed to run around outside in the sun and eat their natural diet of bugs, seeds, grass and other foods. Everything we eat has to be pure, and unadulterated with chemicals, antibiotics and hormones. The best thing we can do for our bodies is eat simple, whole foods. Also, the over consumption of sugar, (including fructose, honey and agave as well as starchy carbohydrates) is what is contributing to our massive epidemic of obesity, heart problems, diabetes and brain problems. Bad oils are another problem. In my book I list all the good fats and oils that are healthy for the body because we need some good fats which will help us utilize protein, vitamins and minerals.
KH:At this point, what characterizes your cooking style?
Pauli:I would call my style fun. I love lots of flavors, Asian, Mexican, Italian, French and quite a lot of regional American Cuisine. Everything has to be impeccably fresh and have lots of color. I am an artist and food is my medium. Even making a simple meal I always arrange it very prettily on the plate. When you take loving care with everything you eat, your body assimilates the nutrients more effectively. So we must slow down when we eat and appreciate our food.
KH:How hard was it for you to change the way you cooked and ate when you started following Nora’s guidelines?
Pauli: I didn’t change my cooking style so much as I changed the ingredients. I got rid of the sugar and the starchy carbs (rather difficult but there is a way, which I explain in my book). It took me three months to get off sugar. The best thing is to go cold turkey. This means cutting out all bread, potatoes, rice, pizza, pasta, you know, all the white stuff. I reduced my protein consumption to around 35-45 grams per day. I have a chart in the book that lists all the grams of protein in most foods so it is easy to figure out. I added lots of salads and non-starchy vegetables and cook with ghee, (clarified butter) coconut oil, cold pressed sesame oil and extra virgin olive oil. To help me with my carb cravings I make a recipe in my book called Nora’s Coconut Bliss Truffles which are made from toasted nuts and coconut, raw almond butter, and coconut butter. They are very rich, but contain no sugar. They satisfy my craving for something sweet. I still eat about 3 of these a day and love them.
I’ve been eating this way for a year now and my hypoglycemia is under control. Also, I lost about 15 pounds right away. There was no calorie restriction. Its just when you stop eating sugar and carbs the pounds just melt off. So that’s been great. The really big news is that my nervous system began to heal and I am much calmer now than at any time in my life.
KH:What was the easiest change to make and what was the hardest?
Pauli:The hardest was making the decision to quit sugar, something I have managed to avoid my entire life. I’ll be 64 this year. Is there life after sugar? You bet. The easy part has been making everything I eat really delicious. I take extra care to please myself with what I do eat and that is very important for anyone wanting to make a change in their dietary lifestyle.
KH: What have been the benefits of eating this way for you personally?
Pauli:I feel the best I have ever felt in my life both mentally, emotionally and physically. I have lots of energy and can go all day. I now have a positive attitude most of the time and don’t get into mental slumpy moods. With hypoglycemia mood swings are normal when your blood sugar drops. So I have benefited enormously from changing my diet.
KH: What do you hope your cookbook will accomplish for those who use it?
Pauli:I want people to know they can heal. You are never too old or too sick. Once you start you are sending your body a message that you are now paying attention and giving it the loving care it needs. The body responds rapidly to positive changes. Every cell in our body/brain is connected chemically so our body is constantly at work to correct imbalances whether we are awake or asleep. Sleep, by the way,is very important when you are healing. Get plenty of rest and relaxation. Stress contributes to patterns of overeating. Stress also contributes to insulin resistance.
KH: Many of my readers are on a budget, do you have any tips for them on how to eat well on a budget?
Pauli: Yes. We tend to over consume protein in America. This is not good for the body or the budget. There is no need to eat more protein. Your body cannot handle too much and will convert it to glucose, which will become fat. You will probably be cutting your protein intake at least in half. The other expensive items that people purchase too much of, because they are so much in the habit, are snack foods, pre-packaged meals, trips to Starbucks and sodas. If we just don’t buy these things at all we will be saving a bundle. All those coffee beverages add a lot of calories every day and they are expensive. Drink more pure water. If you are a parent, please don’t “think” about bringing these unhealthy foods home. Parents are the biggest contributors to childhood obesity and diabetes because they think that letting their children eat anything they want is showing them love. Nothing could be further from the truth. Once kids are used to junk foods they will still want them. Everyone is going to have to tough it out and make the change if they want to be healthy.
KH:The other thing that many people have a hard time managing is time in the kitchen. Do you have any tips for the busy person who wants to eat well at home but doesn’t have a lot of time?
Well I can write a book on that one. We spend so much time on our computers, or watching t.v. or other things. Its going to be so beneficial for the entire family to be involved in meal preparation. Children today think food comes out of a box. Cooking meals together is a way for the family to interact, share their day and have loving connection. There will be a lot less problems in our society if people got back to cooking their meals. And that means everyone in the kitchen, not just mom. When everyone helps it all goes faster. And its fun. Kids need to know they can prepare their own healthy food, so they are connected to it. I think it will promote self esteem.
Thanks Pauli for a great interview!