Hi, my name is Russ Crandall, and this is my website. I started The Domestic Man in early 2010 with the idea that we as humans have become domesticated, and we have lost touch with our lineage. In many cultures, we’ve stopped passing down traditions from one generation to the next, one of the most important traditions being how we gather and prepare our meals. Today, an alarming number of Americans don’t know where our food comes from and how to prepare it beyond taking it out of a box and heating it up.
So I decided to reconnect with nature by chronicling my cooking adventures. In late 2010 I discovered and adopted a new dietary lifestyle modeled after the Paleo diet, which focuses on natural, unprocessed foods. Conveniently enough, this new dietary template further supported my desire to be less…well, domestic.
Beef Bourguignon, a classic French dish with a perfect pairing of tasty, nutritious ingredients.
Once I started trying to write recipes that were in line with my new way of eating, I discovered a trend: there are a ton of delicious, healthy dishes out there, nestled in the pages of history. I didn’t really need to invent new meals to stay compliant with my diet, but instead I could just look back one, two, or nine hundred years into our past to find dishes that are naturally tasty and nutritious. Because they were developed in a time before processed foods. Since then, I’ve adjusted this site to focus on fundamental, traditional dishes that are historically relevant.
I currently live in the Baltimore/DC area with my wife and son. I’m originally from Washington state, and I spent most of my adult life in Hawaii. I also spent a good amount of time traveling the world, which has definitely influenced my view on cuisine. I spent a few of my younger years working as a chef in small restaurants, where I learned some cooking fundamentals. Since then, I’ve just been figuring out everything else as I go. I have been serving in the U.S. Navy since 2000.
Bragging rights: this little website has been featured in People Magazine, The Huffington Post, AOL.com, and Mashable; it was also a finalist in the Savuer Best Food Blog 2013 awards. I also wrote a cookbook.
Here is some more info about my diet and the recipes found on this site; I’m not a nutritionist, so please do your homework before making any drastic dietary changes.
What is “Paleo”?
The Paleo (short for Paleolithic) Diet is a dietary lifestyle based on the ancestral human diet. Essentially, it focuses on whole foods like meat, vegetables, and fruits while avoiding foods that are problematic to many of our digestive systems: grains, legumes, and dairy. Processed foods, refined sugars, and unnecessary additives are also best avoided. It is not a reenactment of prehistoric diets, but rather the use of scientific study and evolutionary evidence to figure out the optimal diet for our modern age.
Many people – myself included – have benefitted greatly from switching to the Paleo diet. There are a ton of examples out there showing that the diet has helped to reverse instances of type 2 diabetes, cardio vascular disease, and autoimmune disease. I personally experienced dramatic improvement in my own rare autoimmune condition after switching to the diet in 2010. The Paleo diet also helps in weight loss, improving athletic performance, and getting better sleep. In a nutshell: when you eat right, your body simply functions the way it’s supposed to function. It’s not a cure-all, but it is a gimmick-free way of eating and staying healthy.
There are other diets out there that are similar to the Paleo diet, like Primal Blueprint diet, which is generally more lenient with dairy; the Perfect Health Diet interpretation of Paleo is actually closer to how I eat; and I also mostly agree with the dietary guidelines promoted by the Weston A. Price Foundation as well. Honestly, these are all names for the same basic principle: eat natural foods that are low in toxins and nourish the body.
What’s so bad about grains, legumes and dairy?
The standard “Paleo” answer is that we never fully adapted to digesting grains, legumes, and dairy because they were introduced later in human history than other foods. In general, grains and legumes are nutritionally poor compared to meats, fruits and veggies, so it also makes sense to focus on the most nutritious foods possible. Dairy is problematic for some people, although some forms of dairy (heavy cream, hard cheeses, butter) are more easily digestible than others (milk), mostly because they’re just fat or the harmful sugars have been processed/fermented out.
And while this is likely true, I think the more reasonable answer is that we are simply more susceptible to and affected by problematic foods because we’re not connected to nature in the same ways we have been throughout history. Plenty of access to the great outdoors, constant contact with livestock, and the consumption of a wide variety of fresh/seasonal foods and naturally preserved/fermented foods were all staples of the human condition until our modern era. Additionally, we’ve further weakened our gut flora by misusing antibiotics (killing off both good and bad bacteria) and overusing antibacterial products. Lastly, the foods we eat today are less nutritious due to soil depletion and negligent mass-farming practices. These three factors contribute to a weakened system and an increase in food allergies and autoimmune-related health issues.
So what exactly do you eat / not eat on the Paleo diet?
The list of foods to avoid seems relatively short: grains, legumes, dairy, and added sugar. It gets a little more complex once you drive these things down and look at what these foods include. For example, corn is a grain. Peanuts aren’t actually nuts, they’re legumes. Also off the list are grain and seed derived cooking oils like canola, corn, vegetable, and grapeseed oils.
I eat a lot of meat, veggies, and fruits. I cook with coconut oil, butter, clarified butter (ghee), and animal fats like lard and tallow. I also cook with olive oil if it’s used at a lower temperature (sautéing vegetables or in salads, for example). As far as meat goes, I try and get grass-fed red meats, pastured pork, and free-range poultry from local farms when I can afford them. I also try to eat as much wild-caught seafood as possible. I use natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, and grated fruit instead of sugar. I consider white rice to be an acceptable food source since it is very easily digestible by most people, although I often cook rice in broth to increase its nutritional profile. Fermented or full-fat dairy products like heavy cream, yogurt, sour cream, kefir, and hard cheeses are all okay in my book as well.
So is this some sort of gluten-free thing?
Sure. This diet is gluten-free (gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye), but better. Many gluten-free products that you find in stores are full of processed foods, sugar, or other grains; these products might help against negative reactions to gluten, but they can’t be considered totally healthy, either.
Aren’t you going to have high cholesterol and heart disease from eating so much meat and fat?
There are all sorts of studies done by people way smarter than me that have found that saturated fats (from grass-fed animals and coconut oil) and monounsaturated fats (from grass-fed dairy, nuts, and olive oil) are good for you and are excellent sources of fuel. The whole “low fat craze” in the 1970s and 1980s vilified just about every fat out there, unfairly so, and it does take a little research to figure out what fats are good. Here is a good resource about cooking fats and oils. My overall meat intake has not increased since switching my diet – about a pound of meats/seafood a day – I simply replaced processed grains and breads with more nutrient dense foods.
So then this surely must be a low-carb thing?
Macronutrient (carbs, fats, proteins) ratios are highly individualized. Many starches/carbohydrates are fine. It’s not the starch in cereal grains that’s bad for you, it’s the other bad stuff they carry. Carbs aren’t as nutrient-dense as other foods, so they probably shouldn’t be the only thing you eat. Dr. Kurt Harris recommends a diet of 20% carbs or less, depending on whether or not you’re trying to lose weight and your activity level. That amount works pretty well for me, although I often tend to eat upwards of 30% carbs depending on my activity level. Most of my carbs come from white rice, sweet potatoes, and white potatoes. A good rule of thumb is 150g/day of carbs is a good maintenance level, 100g/day is good for steady weight loss, and less than 50g/day is good for dramatic weight loss. Again, macronutrient ratios are very individualized. Here and here are some good articles if you want to read more about how carbohydrates fit into a Paleo-style diet.
Why white rice, and not brown rice?
Brown rice is unmilled, so it still has its outer shell, which contains most of its anti-nutrients (primarily phytic acid) and can cause issues with digestive function. Brown rice does have some nutrients in it, but many of them aren’t properly digested by our bodies anyway since phytic acid disrupts nutrient absorption. On the flip side, cooked white rice is very low in toxins (much lower than many foods considered “Paleo” like almonds or coconut). Here is some great info on white rice and its place in a healthy diet.
Don’t you feel like you’re missing out on foods with this restricted diet?
Nope. It took a couple weeks for me to adjust to the new diet, but after that it’s been mostly smooth sailing. My taste for most processed foods has waned significantly over the years (although I still crave Funyuns like nobody’s business). But overall, there are healthy ways to eat most anything, and that’s the whole reason for having this site: although I want to eat healthy foods, I also want to enjoy my meals. I love eating out and trying new foods, especially traditional recipes from all over the world. The purpose of my site is to create traditional meals that are so good that going out to eat at a restaurant doesn’t feel like a treat.
Some people like to have “cheat days” or “cheat meals” where they just eat whatever and move on; it sounds good in practice, but once I started eating whole foods all the time, a crappy meal would make me pretty sick, so I don’t really have fun “cheating”. Instead, I’d rather make awesome food and never feel like I need to have a “cheat”.
So are there any downsides to the diet?
Sure. For one, it’s not a very convenient way to eat if you don’t make all your meals at home. Meals bought while on the go are usually things like salads (not very fun) or bunless hamburgers (pretty messy). It’s no fun to go to a restaurant like Olive Garden with a group and try to figure out what to order. You also spend a lot of time fielding questions about your diet (hence this handy little FAQ). Oh, and my doctor thinks I’m crazy (but he’s happy with my health outcomes). Here and here are some tips that I wrote a while back to help with adjusting to the diet.
The Paleo diet is best described as a baseline diet, or a dietary template. Essentially, you eliminate the problematic foods for a period of time (usually a month) and re-introduce them to see how your body tolerates them. It’s definitely a process, and even my diet is a work in progress. In my first year I found that I tolerated white rice and some dairy (hard cheese, butter) just fine. In my second year I found that I tolerated yogurt.
So how does this diet fit into your recipes?
All of my recipes have these nifty little banners underneath the main picture which tell you how “Paleo” the ingredients are:
Gluten free means that it doesn’t have any wheat, barley or rye.
The Perfect Health Diet is a lot like the Paleo diet, although it considers white rice a safe starch, and that some dairy is okay. If a recipe has rice in it, but it’s otherwise Paleo, this is the banner I use.
This banner means that the recipe doesn’t have any white rice or dairy in it, along with all of the other stuff found in the banner above.
This banner just means that it’s Paleo friendly but contains dairy. Easy.
Legal stuff: I receive a small commission through being an Amazon Affiliate, which means that if you purchase anything after following one of my links to Amazon, I get a portion of Amazon’s profits at no extra cost to you. You don’t have to buy the actual thing I link to, Amazon tracks any purchase you make during that browsing session and attributes it to me and my site. Pretty cool. I have the same deal set up with US Wellness Meats and Tendergrass Farms, two companies that I think are top-notch and worth your attention. Any money I get goes towards hosting this site or buying stuff for the kitchen. Seriously. I also encourage grass-fed farmers to send me their products, which I will use in my recipes.