My name is Erin Shriver and I’m a Primal food blogger and owner of Primal Body bath and body products in Pittsburgh, PA. As a recovering vegan, I have adopted and embraced a Paleo lifestyle and began digging into alternative grain free cooking and baking methods for my blog, Real Food Renegade. With more than 10 years of professional experience formulating bath and body products I developed some Paleo/Primal friendly personal care products made with all natural organic butters, oils and of course grass fed beef tallow that really focuses on sustainable ingredients. The Primal Body store will be launched in December 2012 with a limited selection of “Cheeky Cow” grass fed tallow soaps, lotions and exfoliating body scrubs.
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?
Both. My dad really wanted me to be independent when I was a kid. He always tried to teach me to think for myself and when I was about 5, I remember him pulling a chair up to the stove and teaching me to cook my own eggs. My mom was on board too. I remember many summer days shucking corn or snapping beans on the front porch. Much of my childhood was filled with traditional home cooking and as a teenager, I began cooking for many of my friends. There was a pretty big group of us, 15 or so, who would gather for the holidays and I was always in charge of feeding all 15. This went on for years, even after I got married I was still having this big group of misfits over for holiday meals.
Q: Why is eating grass-fed meat and sustainably-caught fish different? How does it affect your cooking?
Well, not only are the health benefits of eating grass fed meats and sustainably caught fish well documented, but the ethics involved are quite important to me. I actually spent nearly 6 years of my life as a vegan because I believed it was healthier and better for the environment. As my health began to slowly deteriorate I found myself looking into the subject a little more closely. I read The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith and was positively disillusioned by the wealth of information contained in that book. It was a revelation that would greatly impact my current perspective on sustainable agriculture and optimal health. A Paleo/Primal lifestyle seemed like the natural course of action which resulted in major improvements in my health, mood and overall well-being. Where cooking is concerned, it just feels amazing to provide the highest quality food to myself and my family. My 9 year old daughter has even been known to go to friends houses for dinner and ask “Is this grass fed beef?” followed by her speech on why people need to make the move to sustainable food choices over the prevalent industrial options. We must be doing something right!
Q: Is it just about health? Or is there more to it than that?
There is so much more to it but with that I’d say that the health benefits and the environmental and humane benefits are simply two sides of the same coin. Living in accordance with my beliefs provides me with a sound and stable mind, peaceful demeanor and overall happiness in life. It’s about integrity and understanding that everything in this universe is inter-connected and inter-dependent. Education regarding biodynamic agriculture is imperative if we are to see our failing system change in a any meaningful way. This is something that is extremely important to me, and my family has made it a top priority to secure and purchase from sustainable and humane suppliers. Sadly, people think that eating this way is too expensive and I’ve always wondered why people have such trouble parting with their money to buy nourishing food. The value is what you get with your money, not the money itself.
Q: How did you learn about grass-fed meat?
My husband and I started purchasing grass fed beef from a local farmer about 9 years ago. I can’t remember where I first heard about it, but I felt that it was a healthier option for a variety of reasons. I was most concerned at the time about CAFO’s and didn’t want to contribute to the destruction that is factory farming.
Q: Why is it so important to have the right ingredients?
The right ingredients make the right dish. I absolutely love trying new and obscure spices, fruits and veggies to pair with the subtle taste difference in meats and seafood. Grass fed meat often has delicious unique flavors compared to their inferior CAFO counterparts.
Q: What are the most important keys to success for the home chef?
Don’t be afraid to take risks! Think outside of the box - or better yet, realize that there is no box! Use ingredients that are unfamiliar to you, research them and head off into the great unknown. That’s what makes it fun and fresh. Try picking one or two new unfamiliar ingredients a week and incorporate them into a meal.
Q: What are your best tips for home cooking?
Aside from taking some culinary risks now and then, I’d say that following some tried and true recipes and substituting one or two ingredients for something new is a great way to build confidence in the kitchen. Before you know it, you will be creating your very own signature dishes from scratch. Sauces are also really important to learn. Bases like demi glace can be made in advance and tossed in the freezer for quick luxurious meals fast.
Q: What is your favorite recipe using grass-fed meat?
That’s tough, but I’m really partial to the Bison Bourguignon that I made for this project. Other than that, I’m a sucker for a perfectly grilled filet mignon with herbed pastured butter slathered on top. Simple pleasures.