Gloucester resident Jen Pickens lives an Uber-Paleo lifestyle: not just gluten-free but grain-free. She believes her gluten and grain sensitivities originated in childhood when her family’s Iowa farm received a heavy shower of the insecticide DDT from the adjoining commercial fields.
The Paleo Diet advocates meat, fish, vegetables, some fruits, but nothing that a Neanderthal wouldn’t have enjoyed for dinner. Wheat, and other refined grains, came much later in the history of man; according to the Paleo people, these late additions to our diet are the demons responsible for crazy spikes in our glycemic indices, which make our bodies vulnerable to such modern diseases as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, etc.
Lucky for Pickens, her partner is Paul Cohan, otherwise known as Sasquatch, Gloucester fisherman and producer of the finest smoked fish products. On record, I declare Sasquatch smoked fish definitively “the best.” “Squash,” as they call him, smokes sweet, meaty salmon, cod, and mussels (OK, also scallops, but they’re hard to find), very, very, very slowly — it takes an average of eight hickory-smoked hours to go from zero degrees to 140 — in a building behind the Gloucester Daily Times office. He sells his products at the Rockport and Cape Ann farmers markets, at The Cave and Willowrest, both in Gloucester, and Vidalia’s in Beverly.
I only mention Squash to point out that the guy who produces the best preserved protein around makes a good partner for the Paleo-committed. I cooked with Jen recently, a dish she says should be “Gloucester’s Pizza,” her own fascinating paleo crust topped with mashed potatoes, “Finnan Sasquatch,” red onions, herbs and sprinkled with grated cheese. Bubbling from the oven on a cast iron skillet, it tasted not so much like a pizza but a smoked fish gratin on a tender crust of ground almonds, duck fat and eggs. Yes, duck fat. Here’s another interesting Pickens lifestyle idea: She cooks almost solely with duck fat.