Talk about primitive eating habits


A paleo wedding cake? Seriously?

Hayley Mason and Bill Staley of Monroeville are about to release their fourth paleo cookbook, a 432-page, full-color tome with more than 175 recipes, including the wedding cake.

The actual release date is Tuesday, Feb. 17. But locals can get a sneak preview at a book- release party from 5 to 8 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 15, at E2 in Highland Park, where Chef Kate Romane will cook up some paleo treats. (To register, go to and click on “Connect,” then on “Events.” Admission is free.)

Ms. Mason and Mr. Staley, the duo behind the Primal Palate website, became paleo collaborators four years ago, when the diet was just taking off. Their first cookbook, “Make It Paleo,” was one of the first on the scene to translate regular recipes into paleo style. Now they’ve got a host of competitors, including Food Network Chef Daniel Green’s new “Paleo Diet Cookbook” and a host of niche books on things such as paleo pizza, wraps and bread.

In August 2013, Ms. Mason and Mr. Staley took their partnership a step further: they got married. The wedding cake recipe in their new book, “Make It Paleo II,” is a variation on the one served at their reception.

In fact, Ms. Mason considers their wedding reception, as well as a “welcome party” held the night before the wedding, a personal coup. She planned mostly paleo, strictly gluten-free menus and faced naysayers who insisted the grandparents would want dinner rolls.

“Nobody even noticed that there wasn’t bread on the table,” she said.

The welcome party was a pig roast held at Pittsburgh Field Club in Fox Chapel. The couple concocted a menu of grilled mixed vegetables, salads, roasted turkeys and an ice cream truck from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams in Columbus.

For the wedding reception, held at Fox Chapel Golf Club, chefs helped Ms. Mason devise a “beautiful meal,” and friends and family helped to make a fully gluten-free cookie table using recipes from the couple’s cookbooks.

Some of those same family members couldn’t get on board with their convictions in the early days, but getting published made a difference.

“Now they’re some of our biggest fans,” Ms. Mason said, noting that “Bill’s mom got an advance copy [of “Make It Paleo II”), and she’s been making meals from it every day.”

Part of the problem, Mr. Staley noted, is the stigma that surrounds the word “paleo.” People think of a snarling caveman gnawing on a raw leg bone, when in reality, “You could have a paleo meal and never even know it.”

A paleo diet does imitate that of our early ancestors in that it involves eating “foods you can hunt and gather,” he said, such as meat, vegetables and nuts. Paleo eaters avoid gluten, soy, processed foods, legumes (considered a gut irritant) and often dairy, although some paleo eaters are willing to use high-quality, grass-fed dairy. In avoiding those foods, the couple use some substitutes that are relatively uncommon, such as palm shortening, coconut aminos, bonito flakes, almond flour, coconut milk and duck fat. One their website, they list online sources for items that might not show up in your local grocery store.

But the image of “somebody biting a raw steak” is totally misguided, Mr. Staley said. Some of the couple’s favorite dishes from the book include a breakfast casserole, lemongrass chicken curry, spinach and artichoke quiche, lemon blueberry waffles, pizza made with cauliflower crust, and a dairy-free lobster fettuccine alfredo made with coconut cream and a choice of grain-free pasta or spiral-sliced zucchini.

The two collaborated on this book with Ms. Mason’s sister, Caitlin Grace Nagelson, a sushi chef who worked at the now-shuttered Fukuda. One of her contributions is a steamed pork dumpling recipe. Ms. Mason told her that paleo dumplings were not going to be possible, but Ms. Nagelson proved her sister wrong.

Ms. Mason is a former makeup artist, and Mr. Staley was a landscape architect. Now they work in their home kitchen, testing recipes and running their blog, which includes recipes, videos and product recommendations. They’ve also got a handful of their own products for sale, including the cookbooks, e-books and grain-free cookie dough.

And perhaps the most telling item: T-shirts that read, “I Don’t Eat Crap.”

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