Charles & Julie Mayfield
Q: How did you get involved in cooking to begin with? Was it something you learned to love early on or did you come to it later?
C: I was cooking food at a pretty young age. Boy Scouts was a great way to learn to cook basic stuff...and who doesn’t love a good fire? I learned to love it for different reasons at different stages of my life. As a youngster, it meant I got to hang out with the adults at the camp site and come up with creative ways to cook things. As I grew older and started helping mom in the kitchen, I learned the real meaning (to me) of cooking. Cooking is giving your time and talents to others. It could be because they are in need, or you just want to share. The act of cooking food for someone is one of the more endearing and meaningful experiences you can share with that person (again...my opinion). This is how I met my lovely wife...so I’m pretty certain that cooking for others and showing them how is what I am called to do.
J: As I described in the book, it was really out of necessity. My mom became a single working mom relatively early in my childhood, and as I was a year-round swimmer, it was "if I’m going to eat something before my evening practice, I better get some food in me!" Of course, I still have vivid memories of the Easy-Bake Oven. What little girl didn’t love that?! I would confess that pre-college days, my cooking repertoire was pretty basic and bland. Mostly desserts. I came to love different flavors and trying new dishes post-college years. .
Q: Why is eating grass-fed meat and sustainably-caught fish different? How does it affect your cooking?
C: It makes a big difference on several levels. As far as impacting our cooking, you have a very different kind of fat content and makeup with naturally raised mammals. You need to remember that when you are cooking grass-fed meat.
J: A chef friend of ours had a great discussion with us about this, as we were talking about grass-fed burgers. With factory-farmed meats, often times you need to mask the flavor and add in all kinds of things to make it taste better. Grass-fed meat tastes great all on its own, so making a burger with high quality grass-fed meat is just so perfect when just sprinkled with some salt and pepper.
Q: Is it just about health? Or is there more to it than that?
C & J: Well, for starters, I think we’re talking about health on many levels. Health of the animals (when they are raised in their natural habitat — not a feed lot or fish farm), health of us as individuals (when consuming proteins that have great Omega 3/Omega 6 ratios and from proteins without added chemicals/antibiotics), health of the environment, and prevention of adverse health issues (much of the salmonella and E Coli outbreaks come from factory farms). I think we both get a great deal of comfort in knowing that our animals come from a good place that eats/treats/slaughters them in an honorable way. Sustainability is a big issue too... and farmers like Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms have helped to paint a very public and positive picture as to how this kind of farming can be done and sustainable. So yes, there is much more to it than just a health issue.
Q: How did you learn about grass-fed meat?
C: We got most of this information from our journey down the paleo pathway. In reading and listening to the likes of Robb Wolf and Loren Cordain, you learn very quickly that the quality of your food can make a huge difference.
Q: Why is it so important to have the right ingredients?
C: Ingredients are EVERYTHING. This applies to taste, texture, flavor and certainly to nutrient density. If you are sacrificing on quality of ingredients...it seems like a bit of a waste of time. That would be like spending the money to buy a Ferrari and then filling it with regular gasoline. Will the ingredients work? Yes. Will sub-par ingredients allow for optimal performance? Most likely not.
Q: What are the most important keys to success for the home chef?
C: Be willing to be adventurous. One of our biggest challenges in writing the book was actually going and having to write down exact ingredient measurements. Seriously, half the time we cook (when we aren’t writing an awesome cookbook) we rarely measure anything. I think that people get SO strung up on recipes and quantities (I used to be this way...and still am to some degree). Things don’t have to be exact to be good when you’re talking about cooking. That said, be willing to fail on a few recipes here and there. That kind of attitude will take you a long way in the kitchen.
Q: What are your best tips for home cooking?
C: Have fresh herbs on the ready! Seriously, we have oregano, rosemary, thyme, mint, dill, basil and chives growing in our garden. I’d say this is one of our best weapons against flavor boredom.
J: I’m a big advocate for everyone taking a knife skills class at your local cooking store. Being able to properly use and care for a good quality (sharp!) knife can make all the difference in the world. I’d also say that preparation is key. When you’re about to cook up some meal, have all your ingredients ready (mise en place is the culinary term). Especially if you’re doing a quick stir fry or something along those lines, you don’t have time to stop and then be chopping up your veggies.
Q: What is your favorite recipe using grass-fed meat?
C: I’m kind of a sucker for our Farmers Pie. Several reasons: it’s hearty and super filling, you can use darn near any ground meat to change the flavor up (my personal favorites are lamb & venison) and it travels well.
J: Just one? I’d have to say the braised short ribs. They are divine. And, as they cook for a few hours, they make the house smell amazing for several hours!