Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
6 Oct

Grokfeast in Yosemite National Park

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?  All the other campers get jealous ;)

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.  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?  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.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Wow..!!

    Resurgent wrote on October 6th, 2010
  2. 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!

    Primal Toad wrote on October 6th, 2010
  3. absolutely amazing, great job guys!

    Bryan Barksdale wrote on October 6th, 2010
  4. Wow.

    Veronique wrote on October 6th, 2010
  5. Amazing.

    Lars wrote on October 6th, 2010
  6. If the narrative were not accompanied by (beautiful) photos, I would not have believed this really happened. Amazing!

    Maria wrote on October 6th, 2010
    • I am so grateful that we have the pictures; though I was there, it would be easy for me not to believe it either :)

      Jamie wrote on October 7th, 2010
  7. Man, I am consistently awed by the number of people on MDA that have serious photographic talents. Grok on!

    The Primal Palette wrote on October 6th, 2010
  8. Thats awesome, good times.

    Robert wrote on October 6th, 2010
  9. absolutely stunning photos! Wish I was there with you!

    Robin wrote on October 6th, 2010
  10. Truly my favorite place on earth. Jealous.

    lojasmo wrote on October 6th, 2010
  11. Gorgeous– food, friends, setting– all perfect. And who on earth took those photos???

    El wrote on October 6th, 2010
  12. the food these guys made looks amazing. I don’t think I could make food like that without a kitchen :D

    Audry wrote on October 6th, 2010
  13. great pics!

    MeatMe216 wrote on October 6th, 2010
  14. This is amazing! The food looks delicious and someone has a great eye for photography.

    Cindy Hanna wrote on October 6th, 2010
  15. That rabbit stew looks amazing! I will be making it this weekend.

    Emerson wrote on October 6th, 2010
  16. 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!

    Larry wrote on October 6th, 2010
  17. 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!

    Laura wrote on October 6th, 2010
  18. Wow. That is amazing. And I like the idea of jerky+butter for snacking. Kinda like deconstructed pemmican I guess.

    Ryan wrote on October 6th, 2010
  19. 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.

    Kris wrote on October 6th, 2010
  20. Wow, primal camping and hiking sounds so fun!

    Pat wrote on October 6th, 2010
  21. All the food picks look great. You certainly were not suffering!

    Adam wrote on October 6th, 2010
  22. That is some stunning photography, and delicious-looking food!

    mayness wrote on October 6th, 2010
  23. 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!

    anzy wrote on October 6th, 2010
  24. 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!

    Julie wrote on October 6th, 2010
    • Thanks! The weekend flowed quite organically, and just took a bit of planning to make it flow. :)

      Jamie wrote on October 7th, 2010
  25. That is some seriously gourmet primal camping food!

    Lindsay wrote on October 6th, 2010
  26. 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!

    Mary Adams wrote on October 6th, 2010
  27. Holy smokes that food look delicious!! Can you come coook at my house. Photos were awesome!!

    Lori wrote on October 6th, 2010
  28. That sounded awesome! Jealous

    Ryan wrote on October 6th, 2010
  29. Those figs look GOOD!
    And I love that you dressed your own rabbit at the site – awesome!

    Melody wrote on October 6th, 2010
  30. These recipes look INCREDIBLE! I also loooove seeing families as part of the movement! Healthy children are our future!

    Melissa McEwen wrote on October 6th, 2010
    • I agree. When paleo/primal choices are viewed as a lifestyle, not just a diet, it is impossible not to include your children.

      Jamie wrote on October 7th, 2010
  31. This looks amazing! Puts hot dogs and hamburgers to shame.

    Mike wrote on October 6th, 2010
  32. Love the photos, such a nice place to spend a day.

    Mark wrote on October 6th, 2010
  33. I’ve been to yosemite, but that looks so beautiful. I almost feel like I wasted my time there compared to you guys.

    Garth Whelan wrote on October 6th, 2010
  34. That picture with the soup dripping off the chin of that Grokette is SO awesome. I love it! :D

    Funkadelic Flash wrote on October 6th, 2010
    • The best part? It was meat drippin’s, not soup ;)

      Jamie wrote on October 6th, 2010
  35. Looked wonderful. Makes me realize I need to get my kids out camping more. Thanks for inspiring!

    Chris wrote on October 6th, 2010
  36. 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?

    Sharon wrote on October 6th, 2010
  37. 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* :D

    Deanna (Diana Renata) wrote on October 6th, 2010
  38. mmm I’m craving me some stew.
    It’s so cool to see kids(and grownups) living primally and having so much fun!

    Ben wrote on October 6th, 2010
  39. This looks so nice. I need to find myself a primal tribe and go on a camping trip!

    Anya wrote on October 6th, 2010
  40. pretty awesome camping trip!

    mike wrote on October 6th, 2010

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