Every week, we’re spotlighting a different food blogger who’s shaking up the blogosphere with tempting recipes and knockout photography. Today, we chat with Michelle Tam of Nom Nom Paleo.
Photo: Courtesy Michelle Tam
Michelle Tam never set out to be a professional blogger, much less an unofficial spokesperson for the Paleo diet (the popular protein-rich regimen inspired by the eating habits of our Paleolithic ancestors). But that’s what happened in 2010, when the mother of two ditched grains and infused her diet with meat and seafood. Her blog, Nom Nom Paleo, soon followed, and today the site garners more than 100,000 page views daily.
"It was a culmination of me discovering the Paleo diet and feeling really great about it, [and] discovering that there weren’t a bunch of websites out there that fit exactly what I wanted," said Tam, a former hospital pharmacist who began blogging full-time in July. "What I wanted was my kind of food.”
For Tam, that means prettily styled, homey fare, plus Paleo renditions of dishes that recall her Chinese-American upbringing in the San Francisco Bay area—but don’t make her yearn for a steaming heap of chow mein, or a hearty slice of chocolate cake.
"I don’t really miss [those foods]," Tam told us. "I know it sounds crazy, but now I really don’t."
Here are a few more things to know about Michelle Tam and her dietary choice:
1. At first, Tam thought the Paleo diet was completely bonkers.
"I thought Paleo sounded totally crazy when [my husband], Henry, told me about it. The fact that you don’t eat any grains at all—even whole grains!—and that maybe red meat wasn’t so bad went against everything I’d ever learned when I was a nutrition and food science major in college. But he felt and looked so great, and what I was doing wasn’t working for me.I was doing low-fat, counting calories, and doing cardio, but I had achy joints, I had a muffin top, and despite weighing less on the scale, I just didn’t feel great."
2. She worked the night shift for 12 years as a hospital pharmacist.
“It’s really not that bad! It was seven nights on, seven nights off. But I realize now that you’re just in a constant state of jet lag and you’re always kind of sleep-deprived. Now, my memory is so much better!”
Yep, Nom Nom Paleo sells an action figure version of Tam.
3. Paleo helped her cope with the rigors of burning the midnight oil.
"For about four years, [Paleo and working at night] overlapped. I actually felt a really big difference when I started Paleo—my energy level was way up. I actually think I worked [the nightshift] longer than I probably would have because I was eating Paleo."
4. She used to be a vegetarian.
"Before I was Paleo, I would choose to be mostly vegetarian because that’s what was ’healthy.’ It’s a pretty big shift."
5. Tam’s interpretation of the Paleo diet doesn’t mean piling on the meat.
"We don’t eat as much meat as people think we do. When I look at my plate now, the portion of meat is the same—the size of your palm—but the quality is much better. And instead of eating big plate of whole wheat pasta [alongside it], it’s all vegetables. We do get a whole cow once in awhile, because it lasts a long time.”
6. Umami is her secret weapon.
"I try to maximize deliciousness with the least amount of steps possible, and I think one of the key ways is to boost umami. That’s in fish sauce, stocks, bacon, and mushrooms, and those are ingredients that I throw into everything.”
7. Making Paleo versions of Chinese food can be a tall order, but it’s not impossible.
"It’s actually hard to eat Chinese if you’re Paleo, but I have actually made a bunch of recipes that are abridged, Paleo-ified versions of those foods. I don’t miss having a giant thing of chow mein—when I’ve had it after I went Paleo, I don’t feel great. I also make walnut prawns, and I have a recipe for siew yoke, which is crispy pork belly.”
8. Tam does allow herself non-Paleo snacks from time to time… but she doesn’t crave them.
"Even if I ever eat something that is not Paleo, I know what I’m getting into: I used to have all this gut stuff, like bloating. I don’t think you want me to go into it! But I was always a huge, huge bread and pasta fan, and I love sweets and stuff. When I cut it out, I was able to incorporate foods that I had not eaten in a long time, like a nice plate of short ribs or other really delicious and satisfying food. The other stuff? I don’t really miss it.”
Would you ever try the Paleo diet? Let us know below!