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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. Iโ€™m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything weโ€™ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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October 06, 2010

Grokfeast in Yosemite National Park

By Mark Sisson
68 Comments

On September 8th I asked my readers to host picnics and to send me the results. The following is one of 27 amazing submissions, the best of which will win an entire cow, courtesy of US Wellness. Vote for your favorite on October 8.

What happens when two Primal families go camping together?ย  All the other campers get jealous ๐Ÿ˜‰

We arrived at dusk on Thursday, two moms, two dads, three kids and an aunt, and split up into groups setting up camp, wrestling toddlers in the dirt, and making dinner. Lime juice, herbs and veggies were mixed into a jar, and seafood was speared and lightly grilled over our open fire. We ate by camplight, in the dark quiet of the valley, and stargazed while the little ones dreamed.

Thanks to a brilliant bit of inspiration, the crisp morning greeted us with the smell of bacon and herbs, and the sight of fresh figs caramelizing in the pan. We feasted in silence…well, the adults did, at least. The kids were too busy jockeying over positions for the last bits of fig and bacon to revel. After cleaning up, we set out on a hike, at a relaxed and easy pace. We found a shady spot strewn with boulders, and, with a glance, the two mamas were racing up the biggest one.ย  Friendship won over competition, and they helped each other find footholds and make it to the top. The kids were quick to imitate, scaling every rock possible around them. The morning passed naturally, equal parts rest and play.

The group split up again, the kids and dads continuing on their hike while the moms and aunt went back to camp to begin prep for the evening meal, rabbit stew. Herbs and vegetables were spread out across two tables, and we got to work, chopping and laughing. When we pulled out our main ingredient, a whole, fresh, pastured rabbit, a family we didn’t know was walking by our table. We saw their eyes widen and their jaws drop as we stretched out the carcass and began removing it’s organs. So much for packaged camping food.

The stew was magnificent. The broth that was intended for it had been forgotten at home in the flurry of packing, but we stewed enough tomatoes and vegetables to make a delicious base for the rabbit. We feasted, truly, and the large pot was quickly emptied. Bellies full, we couldn’t help but pick over the bones, unwilling to let even one piece of the moist, flavorful meat go to waste.

The next morning found our bellies still full, and the adults unanimously chose to skip breakfast. We fed the kids, and set off for another mellow hike. Ambition got the better of us, however, and three hours later we had gained about 1500 feet in two miles, three of us with sleeping toddlers on our backs. Not quite the easy hike we had envisioned, but none of us wanted to turn around. We rested at the top of a waterfall, while the kids chased the overbearing squirrels away from our snacks. This was when another brilliant idea came. We combined two of the snacks in our packs, and came up with a new favorite trail food: homemade beef jerky with pastured butter. Like pemmican, but better, somehow; salty, chewy, creamy goodness. Adult and child alike huddled together, ravenously devouring our newly discovered delicacy. Refreshed, we played on the rocks, explored the area, and the older kids stripped down to enjoy the cool water of the lake above the waterfall.

After a somewhat exhausting hike down (why is down always harder than up?), we relaxed by the river that wound near our campsite, stopping on the way back to watch a young deer and its mother grazing on the side of the road. We set up our campfire early that night, and built it for lasting heat rather than flame, so that we could roast our final feast above it’s coals. Watching the meat cook above the fire, we felt a bit excessive; how could the eight of us possibly eat this much?ย  We didn’t need to worry. The finished meat exploded with juice once pierced beneath its well cooked exterior, perfect and pink within. Our appetites, healthy after the long hike, combined with the perfectly cooked beef and lamb meant that we were left with little more than bones for leftovers. We kept the fire going into the night, enjoying, once more, the stars, our dear friends, and some well deserved wine.

To all those who balk at the idea of living a primal life, who think only of the hardship, of saying goodbye to pizza and hamburger buns, I ask you this: Do we look like we were suffering to you?

The Feast

Day One:
Dinner

  • Campfire-grilled Ahi and Scallop Ceviche
  • Fermented lotus root and ginger carrots

Day Two:
Breakfast

  • Caramelized Figs with Bacon and Chevre Eggs
  • Kale & Seaweed Salad with Mushrooms
  • Sweet Potatoes (kids)

Snack

  • Avocados
  • Nuts

Dinner

  • Sauteed Rabbit Kidneys, Heart and Liver with Lime and Sage
  • *Rabbit Stew with Heirloom Tomatoes
  • Red Wine (adults)

Day Three:
Breakfast

  • Intermittent Fast (adults)
  • Eggs with Kale (kids)

Snack

  • Beef Jerky with Pastured Butter
  • Almond Butter
  • Sweet Potatoes (kids)

Dinner

  • Campfire-grilled, Pastured Lamb Chops and Grass-fed Beef Rib Eye
  • Trio of Herb Butters (Sage, Basil, Chive)
  • Kale and Seaweed Salad
  • Sauteed Mushrooms and Beets
  • Butternut Squash with Pastured Butter, Sage, and Raw Goat Feta
  • Red Wine (adults)

Recipe: Carmelized Figs with Bacon and Chevre

  • 1 lb Bacon, sliced into 1″ pieces
  • 20 Fresh figs, cut in half, stem removed
  • 1 Tbs Fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 12 oz Chevre, or other soft, mild cheese (optional)

Heat a cast iron (or other heavy bottomed) pan over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and bacon is crispy. With tongs or a slotted spoon, remove the bacon from the pan and set aside. Return pan to heat and add figs, cut side down, and cook until just beginning to brown. Flip figs over and place 1/2 tsp of chevre on top of each piece (optional). Sprinkle chopped rosemary evenly over the figs and cover. Cook 3-7 minutes longer, until figs and cheese are soft. Plate and serve with the bacon pieces.

Recipe: Rabbit Stew with Heirloom Tomatoes

  • 1 Whole rabbit, 3-4 lbs, organs removed
  • 3 Uncooked sausages, mildly flavored (we used lamb), cut into 1″ pieces
  • 10 Large heirloom tomatoes, cored and quartered
  • 1 Large zucchini, cut in half and then chopped into 1/2″ pieces
  • 4 Medium carrots, chopped into 1/2″ rounds
  • 1 Medium onion, diced
  • 2 Tbs Rendered fat, butter, or coconut oil (we used duck fat)
  • 1 bunch Fresh thyme
  • Sea salt

Heat fat, butter, or oil over medium heat in the bottom of a heavy stock pot. Add onions and a pinch of salt, cook until translucent. Add sausages and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown. Add zucchini, carrots, and another pinch of salt, and cook about 5 minutes more, stirring every minute or so. Add the tomatoes along with a couple more pinches of salt, and stir to incorporate. Bring to a simmer then cook, covered, about 30 minutes, until tomatoes are soft and they have released their juices. Meanwhile, remove the organs from the rabbit and stuff the cavity with thyme. When the tomatoes have cooked, curl the rabbit around the open cavity (trying to keep the thyme inside) and submerge into the center of the pot, covering it in the liquid and vegetables. Simmer, covered, for at least 1 1/2 – 2 hours (longer is better), until rabbit is tender and flavors have melded. Remove rabbit from pot, separate meat from bones, and return the meat to the pot. Salt to taste and serve.

The Tribe

Bruce and Brianna Livingstone, and their son Soz (2).
Paul and Jamie Russell, their sons Jonah (3) and Galen (1), and Auntie Denise Russell.

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68 Comments on "Grokfeast in Yosemite National Park"

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Resurgent
Resurgent
5 years 11 months ago

Wow..!!

Primal Toad
5 years 11 months ago

The food looks so delicious! It looks like you all had a spectacular time as well. I can not wait to look at what the other 26 groups came up with!

Bryan Barksdale
Bryan Barksdale
5 years 11 months ago

absolutely amazing, great job guys!

Veronique
Veronique
5 years 11 months ago

Wow.

Lars
Lars
5 years 11 months ago

Amazing.

Maria
Maria
5 years 11 months ago

If the narrative were not accompanied by (beautiful) photos, I would not have believed this really happened. Amazing!

Jamie
Jamie
5 years 11 months ago

I am so grateful that we have the pictures; though I was there, it would be easy for me not to believe it either ๐Ÿ™‚

The Primal Palette
5 years 11 months ago

Man, I am consistently awed by the number of people on MDA that have serious photographic talents. Grok on!

Robert
5 years 11 months ago

Thats awesome, good times.

Robin
Robin
5 years 11 months ago

absolutely stunning photos! Wish I was there with you!

lojasmo
lojasmo
5 years 11 months ago

Truly my favorite place on earth. Jealous.

El
5 years 11 months ago

Gorgeous– food, friends, setting– all perfect. And who on earth took those photos???

Audry
Audry
5 years 11 months ago

the food these guys made looks amazing. I don’t think I could make food like that without a kitchen ๐Ÿ˜€

MeatMe216
MeatMe216
5 years 11 months ago

great pics!

Cindy Hanna
5 years 11 months ago

This is amazing! The food looks delicious and someone has a great eye for photography.

Emerson
Emerson
5 years 11 months ago

That rabbit stew looks amazing! I will be making it this weekend.

Larry
Larry
5 years 11 months ago

WOW, that looks FANTASTIC! I’ve been paleo/primal for about the last 6 months and only now do I realize that I’ve been camping with the wrong people!

Laura
Laura
5 years 11 months ago

This is the most beautiful camp food I have ever seen. As a fellow camper, you’re inviting me to step up my game! Great location and great food!

Ryan
Ryan
5 years 11 months ago

Wow. That is amazing. And I like the idea of jerky+butter for snacking. Kinda like deconstructed pemmican I guess.

Kris
Kris
5 years 11 months ago

The picture with the sauce dripping off the spoon is extremely sensual – you can almost taste it just looking at the picture! Excellent photography of what looks like a delicious concoction.

Pat
Pat
5 years 11 months ago

Wow, primal camping and hiking sounds so fun!

Adam
Adam
5 years 11 months ago

All the food picks look great. You certainly were not suffering!

mayness
5 years 11 months ago

That is some stunning photography, and delicious-looking food!

anzy
anzy
5 years 11 months ago

This looks like so much fun! Just the pics of Yosemite are beautiful and take me back (used to camp there as a kid). I’m a little jealous of the wonderful time you had and the delicious food you ate…invite me next time!

Julie
Julie
5 years 11 months ago

This Grokfeast is my favorite thus far. I like it because it feels so natural and more like what a tribal family would truly do. Plus a whole rabbit stew while camping – so cool! The other feasts looked fun and all, but more contrived, while this looks like something I’d actually do with friends and family as a regular part of my life, not just for a contest. And you can’t get much better outdoor living and playground material than Yosemite!

Jamie
Jamie
5 years 11 months ago

Thanks! The weekend flowed quite organically, and just took a bit of planning to make it flow. ๐Ÿ™‚

Lindsay
5 years 11 months ago

That is some seriously gourmet primal camping food!

Mary Adams
Mary Adams
5 years 11 months ago

I love that they are making this a family affair. Having their children involved in the outdoor and the healthy eating is so important in teaching them good habits to carry through their lives. Besides the fact that the pics of the food and the view are all gorgeous!

Lori
Lori
5 years 11 months ago

Holy smokes that food look delicious!! Can you come coook at my house. Photos were awesome!!

Ryan
Ryan
5 years 11 months ago

That sounded awesome! Jealous

Melody
Melody
5 years 11 months ago

Those figs look GOOD!
And I love that you dressed your own rabbit at the site – awesome!

Melissa McEwen
5 years 11 months ago

These recipes look INCREDIBLE! I also loooove seeing families as part of the movement! Healthy children are our future!

Jamie
Jamie
5 years 11 months ago

I agree. When paleo/primal choices are viewed as a lifestyle, not just a diet, it is impossible not to include your children.

Mike
Mike
5 years 11 months ago

This looks amazing! Puts hot dogs and hamburgers to shame.

Mark
Mark
5 years 11 months ago

Love the photos, such a nice place to spend a day.

Garth Whelan
Garth Whelan
5 years 11 months ago

I’ve been to yosemite, but that looks so beautiful. I almost feel like I wasted my time there compared to you guys.

Funkadelic Flash
Funkadelic Flash
5 years 11 months ago

That picture with the soup dripping off the chin of that Grokette is SO awesome. I love it! ๐Ÿ˜€

Jamie
Jamie
5 years 11 months ago

The best part? It was meat drippin’s, not soup ๐Ÿ˜‰

Chris
Chris
5 years 11 months ago

Looked wonderful. Makes me realize I need to get my kids out camping more. Thanks for inspiring!

Sharon
Sharon
5 years 11 months ago

Your narrative and beautiful photos brought back memories of my camping past.

Somehow I have never been to Yosemite. I will have to put that on my bucket list.

Great fun and food with good friends in a beautiful setting. What could be better?

Deanna (Diana Renata)
5 years 11 months ago

I just have to say, the photography is AMAZING and those figs…. oh my gawd… they’re beautiful.

What a fantastic time you all had! *jealous* ๐Ÿ˜€

Ben
Ben
5 years 11 months ago

mmm I’m craving me some stew.
It’s so cool to see kids(and grownups) living primally and having so much fun!

Anya
5 years 11 months ago

This looks so nice. I need to find myself a primal tribe and go on a camping trip!

mike
mike
5 years 11 months ago

pretty awesome camping trip!

christie
christie
5 years 11 months ago

Cool you make it into a primal trip.

Marti
Marti
5 years 11 months ago

grok on and on and on… WOW, 3 days of grokfeast…

David
David
5 years 11 months ago

the food looks absolutely delicious!

Adina
Adina
5 years 11 months ago

Incredible photography. Primal never looked to polished!

JRM
JRM
5 years 11 months ago

I think this is my favorite. Great location, awesome food, great pictures. Looks like it was a good time.

Jamie
Jamie
5 years 11 months ago

Thanks, everyone, for the comments! I need to mention that photography credits go to the amazing Brianna and Bruce Livingstone. It really was an awesome time!

Stephanie
Stephanie
5 years 11 months ago

wow! amazing! the photos are great, the food looks awesome!

Tori Kean
5 years 11 months ago

this one is my favorite. It really inspires me

Julia
Julia
5 years 11 months ago

I know it’s been said but… wow, what beautiful photos!

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5 years 11 months ago

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