Russ Crandall of The Domestic Man was generous enough to answer some questions for me while he was out touring his new book Paleo Takeout. I wanted to do something special for our first interview here on That’s So Primal and offer a chance to win a free copy of his new book if you sign up for our newsletter. So go ahead and fill out your email in the newsletter box to have a chance at winning his amazing new book. I’ll announce the winner Monday, September 21, 2015.
Now, onto Russ Crandall. I fell in love with his recipes when I first made this pizza dough recipe that was linked to from Mark’s Daily Apple. This is still by far the best Paleo pizza dough recipe I’ve tried to date. Ever since then, I’ve followed his blog intently and bought all his books as soon as they came out. Therefore, it is with great pleasure that I was able to do this interview with Russ and without further ado, Here’s Russ:
Before we get into it, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into Paleo.
I had always felt like I was a healthy guy, but then in 2005, at the age of 24, I had a stroke. It affected the left side of my body, and I had to re-learn basic movements like walking and writing. In 2006, I grew increasingly short of breath all the time, and we later figured out it was caused by inflamed pulmonary arteries. I was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease Takayasu’s Arteritis, and placed on heavy immunosuppressant drug therapy. After about a year of the therapy, I was sick of dealing with the cocktail of drugs and their side effects. I elected to undergo an open-heart surgery to try and fix my symptoms; it didn’t really work – I went back on my medications and tried my best to deal with my symptoms. But then in 2010 I came across a food blog that mentioned the burgeoning Paleo movement, and I decided to try it out. My bloodwork and symptoms improved dramatically during that first month, and I’ve been enjoying improved health ever since. I started blogging and sharing recipes immediately thereafter and the rest is history!
Tell us a little bit about your newest book, Paleo Takeout.
The idea for Paleo Takeout mostly fell into my lap as the result of many factors. I spent seven years in Hawaii and I traveled all through Asia as part of my service in the Navy (I’ve been active duty since 2000). At home, I’d say about 1/3 of our meals are Asian-inspired, so it’s a cuisine that comes naturally. At first I wanted to write an eBook recreating Chinese-American takeout favorites, but over time it evolved into a full-fledged print book with over 200 recipes that run the gamut of takeout cuisine: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, American, Mexican, Italian, and Greek. I had a lot of fun writing the book and I think it’s a great fit for two audiences in particular: those who have ben eating Paleo for a while but miss some of their favorite flavors, and those who aren’t quite ready to dive into Paleo because they can’t quite shake the idea of losing out on their favorite takeout dishes.
What’s your favorite recipe out of the book?
One of my favorite recipes from the book is the Gyros recipe; it’s a cinch to put together and has that same springy texture as you’d expect in Greek or Middle Eastern restaurants. It’s cooked in a loaf which can be sliced and pan-fried (or enjoyed as-is). The loaves can be frozen for super quick meals, too!
What does a healthy diet and lifestyle look like to you and your family?
Our eating habits are aligned to your typical Paleo diet (meat, seafood, vegetables, fruit, and nuts) but we do eat white rice and some dairy, too. It took us several months of tweaking to find out what foods worked best for us, but it’s been smooth sailing for the past few years now. For example, I learned that I can’t have dairy more than a couple times a week, and only in certain forms (butter, ghee, cream, and hard cheese).
I remember reading one of your posts awhile back where you said one of your quick go to meals was rice with furikake and sardines, do you and your family eat any other quick staple meals like this that you eat on a regular basis?
Our other fallback meals include fried rice, and simple soups. Both are great ways to clean out the fridge and only take a few minutes to make. We keep various broths in our freezer for soups, and we refrigerate leftover rice for the fried rice.
What does a typical week of meals look like for your family?
Our family sticks to a pretty simple routine, revolving around dinner. We make dinner with enough portions for leftovers, and then have that for lunch the following day. I will skip breakfast or eat something simple like fruit and canned/smoked fish. My son Oliver and wife Janey will usually have eggs for breakfast. And that’s really about it!
How do you and your family do meal planning?
Our meal planning involves buying meat in bulk and storing it in a standalone freezer. We keep an inventory of the meat and use that to plan out our meals for the week. We will pull the meat out to thaw in the fridge and then build our meals around that with fresh (and sometimes flash-frozen) vegetables. Buying our meat in bulk helps to temper some of the costs associated with well-raised meat, but it can still be somewhat pricy. Another way we keep our weekly costs down is to incorporate safe starches into our meals, namely white rice and potatoes. Pound for pound, they’re some of the most economical foods you can buy; for my eBook, The Safe Starch Cookbook, I did some cost comparisons and figured out that adding these foods as calorie sources can save about $68 per person a month, which comes out to over $4,000 a year for a family of five.
Can you always afford to buy top quality meat, grass fed/pastured? Or if your budget doesn’t afford it do you do conventional meat?
When cooking at home we tend to use high-quality pork and beef that we buy online or in bulk. Poultry we tend to buy organic but not necessarily pasture-raised because the latter tends to be cost-prohibitive for us. When we do buy beef or pork that isn’t grass-fed or pasture raised, we trim the fat off it or buy leaner cuts.
What kind of meals do you prepare for your son? Does he eat the same thing you guys eat at each meal?
Even before changing our diet, we never believed in “kid food”. So Oliver eats what we eat, although we don’t force vegetables (especially leafy vegetables) on him. If he wants to eat them, fine, but we don’t like the idea of pressuring him to eat them. We’ll usually build his plate with equal portions meat, starch, and vegetables; he usually eats the meat and starch first, and if he asks for more we’ll tell him to finish the vegetables and then he can have whatever else he wants. It works well for us.
When you’re not eating at home, what kind of food do you normally eat when you eat out?
When eating out, we usually stick to Asian places: Vietnamese, Japanese (sushi), Thai, and Indian are our typical choices. It’s fairly easy to order from these menus and choose gluten-free items.
What are some of the struggles/roadblocks, if any, do you run into eating Paleo with your family?
It’s always a challenge to eat well while on the road – vacation, road trips, etc. There’s only so often you can eat bunless burgers or sushi before you want something a little more satisfying. Eating well on the cheap is always challenging, but like I mentioned, forethought like buying in bulk or using resources like eatwild.com to find high-quality meat suppliers helps.
What’s your inspiration for thinking of new recipes? What does that process look like?
Since most of my recipes are based on traditional and international cuisines, I end up looking through international and historical sources (cookbooks, websites) for inspiration. I also periodically ask my readers what they’d like to see from me, and keep a running list of reader requests and potential future recipes. When something doesn’t organically happen for me (they usually just pop up in my head), I’ll consult that list.
For any new families out there getting into Paleo, what would be some tips you would give them for just starting out?
I would suggest looking for a local support group, through Meetup.com, Facebook, or your local health food store. These groups are invaluable resources since many of them have already done the groundwork. Secondly, I would say not to sweat too much about getting everything perfect. It’s much more beneficial to ease your family into a healthier lifestyle than to try and do everything at once. It took us months to finally get into a groove and I think that by taking it one step at a time we were able to make more manageable decisions over time.
What is your favorite: protein, vegetable (leafy or hardy), starch and fat?
My favorite protein is seafood, probably clams or oysters. My favorite vegetable is collard greens. My favorite starch is rice. My favorite fat is duck fat!
What can we expect next from The Domestic Man?
I’m going to be taking some time off from the cookbook world – no plans for a new book anytime soon. Instead, I’ll be diving headfirst into my blog, updating and tweaking it a bit. From there, I’m not quite sure, but I’ll definitely come up with something to work on!