Hi, my name is Russ Crandall, and this is my website. Here you’ll find gluten-free and Paleo-friendly recipes that focus on classic, traditional, and international dishes from a historical, linguistic, and cultural perspective.
I started The Domestic Man in 2010, after some simple changes to my diet had a profound effect on some serious health issues.
I have worked as a contributor to Food & Wine, Yahoo! Food, and AOL.com’s Kitchen Daily; my recipes have also been featured in People Magazine, The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, and Mashable. This website was a finalist in the 2013 Saveur Best Food Blog Awards.
I released my debut cookbook, The Ancestral Table: Paleo Recipes for a Traditional Lifestyle, in February 2014, and my second cookbook, The New York Times-bestselling Paleo Takeout: Restaurant Favorites without the Junk, in June 2015. My third cookbook, The Heritage Cookbook, came out on May 1st, 2019 in digital formats and a limited-edition hardcover print run.
I started The Domestic Man with the idea that we as humans have become domesticated, and have lost touch with our lineage. In many cultures, we have stopped passing down culinary traditions from one generation to the next. Today, an alarming number of Americans don’t know where our food comes from or how to prepare it beyond taking it out of a box and heating it up. This blog is meant to be a counterpoint to the growing indifference to one of the most basic elements that make us human.
After starting this blog, I realized that I didn’t really need to invent new creations to enjoy whole, unprocessed foods; instead, naturally delicious (and nutritious) meals can be found nestled in the pages of history.
I grew up in Washington state, but have spent most of my adult life in Hawaii and the Baltimore/DC area. I currently live with my wife and two sons in Hawaii. I have been serving in the U.S. Navy as a Russian and Indonesian translator since 2000.
My job has given me the opportunity to travel all over the world, which has greatly influenced my view on cuisine. During my younger years, I worked as a line chef in small restaurants where I learned some cooking fundamentals. Since then, I’ve just been figuring out everything as I go.
All of my photography prior to 2013 was done with a Canon T1i using a 50mm lens. I now use a Canon 6D with this 50mm lens.
Salad Shirazi (Persian Cucumber and Tomato Salad)
Here is some more info about my eating style and the recipes found on this site; I’m not a nutritionist, and I encourage you to do your own research or consult a professional 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 (after all, some perfectly healthy foods like tomatoes are relatively new to most cultures). I like to think of it as the use of scientific study and evolutionary evidence to figure out the optimal diet for our modern age.
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 embraces benign starches like potatoes and white rice; I generally agree with the traditional practices 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 certain foods?
The standard answer that you will find in the Paleo community is that we never fully adapted to digesting the low-level toxins that exist in grains and legumes because they were introduced later in human history than other foods. Additionally, grains and legumes are nutritionally poor compared to meats, fruits, and vegetables, so it also makes sense to focus on the most nutritious foods possible. Dairy is problematic for some people (i.e. lactose intolerance), although some forms of dairy (heavy cream, yogurt, hard cheeses, butter/ghee) are more easily digestible than others.
And while the above is likely true, I think the issue is more complex than that simple narrative. The way I see it, while faithfully eating from a list of approved foods makes for excellent marketing and a catchy tagline, a more nuanced, mature approach to nutrition is our best bet for sustained health.
We are more susceptible to and affected by problematic foods because we’re not connected to nature in the same ways we have been throughout history. Many hallmarks of the human experience are no longer prevalent in our modern era. Let’s briefly look at some of them:
- With the advent of refrigeration, we stopped traditionally preserving vegetables through fermentation (fermented foods populate our digestive systems with beneficial probiotic bacteria). Most preserved vegetables today, like pickles and sauerkraut, are simply seasoned with vinegar to mimic the flavors of fermentation.
- We no longer have daily access to the great outdoors, frequent contact with livestock, or exposure to dirt, despite the fact that all three of these factors are linked to improved health.
- In the past, we soaked our beans and sprouted grains (e.g. sourdough), which destroyed toxins and rendered the foods more digestible. Modern culinary practices and the advent of active yeast have eliminated these traditional cooking methods.
- The modern human deals with constant low-level stress (traffic, deadlines), a disrupted circadian rhythm due to artificial light, and poor quality/quantity of sleep.
- We’ve weakened our gut flora by misusing antibiotics (killing off both good and bad bacteria) and overusing antibacterial products.
- Most of the animals we now breed for food are living in conditions that give them poor health, and as a result, their meat is less nutritious. Additionally, modern diets focus mainly on muscle meats and do not include nutrient-dense organ meats.
- Our modern concept of fitness is to vigorously exercise a few times a week under controlled conditions (i.e. on a machine in a gym) in order to justify increasingly sedentary lifestyles, rather than focusing on the active, spontaneous lifestyles of our past.
- We have systematically replaced nutrient-replete foods (fresh vegetables) with calorie-rich, nutrient-bereft foods (snacks, fast food). Satisfying cheeseburgers and fries are on every dollar menu, but it costs upwards of $8 for a limp salad at most fast-food restaurants; no wonder we choose the former over the latter.
- The foods we grow today are less nutritious due to soil depletion and negligent mass-farming practices.
All of these factors contribute to a weakened system and our society’s increase in food allergies and autoimmune-related health issues. So my take on nutrition is not that grains, legumes, and dairy have suddenly become bad for us; they likely were always problematic, but environmental factors and the other foods we were eating helped to maintain a sort of digestive harmony. Our modern lifestyles and eating habits have created an imbalance, and many people are finding improved health in avoiding certain foods while focusing on others.
The other factors, like exercise and sleep, are very important in the context of overall health; but since this is a food blog, I’ll stick with the food and let the experts tackle those subjects.
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, grain- and seed-derived cooking oils like canola, soy, corn, vegetable, and grapeseed oils are highly processed and highly inflammatory.
My meals focus on vegetables, starches, and protein (see my plate illustration below). When buying meat and seafood, I try to purchase grass-fed red meats, pastured pork, free-range poultry, and wild/sustainably-caught seafood – as much as my budget allows. I use natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar and grated fruit instead of refined sugar. I consider white rice to be an acceptable food source since it is easily digestible by most people. Fermented or full-fat dairy products like heavy cream, yogurt, sour cream, kefir, and hard cheeses are all okay in my book as well.
I also think there is some merit to eating a diet aligned to your heritage. For example, I’m of Welsh, English, and Irish ancestry, and I feel best when I eat the foods that my recent ancestors ate: beef, cold water fish, cabbage, and potatoes.
There is no one way to eat that is perfect for all of us. For me and my family, I developed this plate above as a way to ensure that our meals are healthful, diverse, and satisfying. This “four corners” plate is based on traditional and historic cuisines, and meal portions that humans seem to naturally prefer.
Starchy foods: rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, parsnips, plantains, yuca, taro, squash
Hardy veg: broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, radish, turnip, cucumber, green beans, eggplant
Leafy veg: lettuce, cabbage, kale, spinach, greens, herbs (side salad or braised greens)
I treat fruits, berries, chocolate, and nuts as treats (first articulated as “pleasure foods” in the Perfect Health Diet), to be eaten seasonally and sparingly, and not factored into meal building. Healthy fats (olive oil, coconut oil, lard, tallow, duck fat, butter, and ghee) and acids (citrus fruits, vinegars, alcohol, and acidic vegetables like tomatoes) are added naturally during the cooking process – like fats to keep food from sticking, and acids to add brightness to the final dish.
Is this blog Gluten-Free?
Yes. Gluten is found in wheat, barley, and rye, and I do not cook with those grains. While I do not personally suffer from celiac disease, I recognize that a growing number of people do, or suffer from non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or have issues with short-chain sugars (commonly known as FODMAPs).
Aren’t you going to have high cholesterol and heart disease from eating so much meat and fat?
There are many recent studies that have found that saturated fats (from healthy animals and coconut oil) and monounsaturated fats (from grass-fed dairy, nuts, and olive oil) are excellent for your overall health. My overall meat intake has not increased since switching my diet – about 16oz of meats/seafood a day (illustrated above). I simply replaced processed foods with more nutrient-dense foods (namely vegetables).
Khao Soi (Chicken Curry Noodle Soup)
Are you on a low-carb diet?
Carbohydrate intake is highly individualized. Most of my carbs come from white rice, sweet potatoes, and white potatoes; I eat about a pound a day of starchy foods, which can range anywhere from 85g-150g of carbohydrates a day depending on the food (I don’t really count these figures, but rather listen to my body). At the end of the day, about 30%-40% of my calories come from starchy foods, which is less than your average American (USDA recommends 40%-60%). I don’t consider my diet “low-carb”; more like “appropriate-carb”.
Why white rice, and not brown rice?
Brown rice is unmilled, so it still has its outer shell, which contains most of its toxins (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 the phytic acid disrupts nutrient absorption. Cooked white rice is extremely low in toxins (much lower than many foods considered “Paleo” like almonds or coconut – more info here. Also, here is some great info on white rice and its place in a healthy diet.
Isn’t eating animals inhumane, immoral, and bad for the environment?
I am just as upset as many activists when it comes to industrial animal husbandry and CAFO-raised products. Those practices are inhumane, unnatural, unsustainable, and unhealthy. Ideally, animals should be raised in humane conditions, fed their natural diet, and harvested at an appropriate time for both the consumer and the animal. I proudly support foundations like The Savory Institute, who are hard at work raising awareness of the potential for grassland restoration through holistic management. I believe that monocrop fruit and vegetable farming without natural biodiversity and symbiosis with farm animals is not much better for the environment than CAFO-raised livestock.
My take is that we have a unique position in the animal kingdom, but we are ultimately animals ourselves, who consume other plants and animals for sustenance. Until we re-learn to live in harmony with our surroundings, there will be no true solution to environmental damage or population-related problems; my definition of harmony includes eating the meat of animals, who provide manure to the soil, strengthen and aerate the land by grazing and trotting, and nourish the humans who eat them. The meat and fat from a large farm animal contains nearly a million calories; my personal belief is that consuming these calories for energy honors the life of that animal as it perpetuates the circle of life.
Bottom line: This blog is not meant to tell you what you should or should not be eating, but rather it is a tool to help you find delicious meals that fall under my own eating style and are appropriate for a wide range of diets.