From Food Blog to Cookbook: The Domestic Man

Russ Crandall, the blogger at The Domestic Man, chats with WordPress.com about the Paleo lifestyle, the challenges of writing about (and photographing) food, and how his blog became a book.

Russ CrandallRuss Crandall established his blog, The Domestic Manto chronicle his culinary and gardening adventures and a lifestyle modeled after the Paleo diet, which focuses on natural, unprocessed foods. Over the years, his recipes have evolved to focus on fundamental, traditional, and historically relevant meals.

Today, we’re happy to announce the release of his cookbook of the same name, The Domestic Man, which pairs recipes with short histories of dishes — and mouth-watering full-page photographs. The cookbook is for both novice and experienced chefs, Paleo eaters looking beyond the traditional Paleo diet, and people who want to test out the Paleo way.

We chatted with Russ about the blog-to-book process — and his food photography tips, too.

Tell us how your blog was born.

My wife and I moved into a house of our own in 2008. Having spent the past ten years living with roommates or relatives, it was the first time I had a kitchen all to myself, and I started getting interested in cooking. It was also the first time I had a backyard, and I decided to try my hand at gardening. I started chronicling my cooking and gardening adventures as a side project, and in 2010 The Domestic Man was born. Over the years, I decided to focus the blog exclusively on gardening.

What’s the story behind your blog name?

Initially, it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, that I’m a man doing (and enjoying) chores that were traditionally not assigned to men. A few months later, I adopted a Paleo-style diet in order to address some serious health issues I’d been experiencing for several years. After changing my diet and focusing on traditional recipes, the blog title began to take on a secondary meaning: that humankind has become domesticated, and we have lost touch with our lineage.

fish

Pesce al Sale (Salt-Crusted Fish)

Up until recent history, we’ve passed down traditions and skills — cooking included — from generation to generation. It’s been an inherent component of the human condition for millions of years, and we’re not doing it any more.

For people who don’t know much about the Paleo diet, can you talk more about it?

The Paleo diet is a way of eating based on scientific study and evolutionary evidence to figure out the optimal diet for our age. Essentially, the diet focuses on whole, nutritious foods like animal-based proteins, vegetables, and fruits, while avoiding foods that are detrimental to our health like most grains, legumes, and processed foods. My interpretation of the diet is a little different than a typical Paleo diet in that I’m more lenient when it comes to rice and dairy as long as they don’t negatively affect you.

meal

Butter Chicken

The Paleo diet is counterintuitive to current cultural norms; low-fat, whole-grain diets have been promoted as the key to health for the past fifty years, despite the fact that our health has been in serious decline ever since we started vilifying meat and fat (which was the result of shoddy nutritional science). Current science shows that when sourced from healthy, pasture-raised animals, foods like meat, eggs, and fats are some of the best foods we can eat.

When first feeling out the diet, I discovered I was eating what I like to call June Cleaver meals: meat, starch, and vegetable. That got me thinking: most traditional meals follow that same pattern as well! So I started incorporating traditional and international foods into my diet and on my blog. Classic dishes like bangers and mash, beef bourguignon, lamb vindaloo, or even a bowl of pho are perfectly Paleo in my book.

How did the book deal come about? Do you have advice for food bloggers who want to publish?

coverWriting a cookbook has been something I always wanted to do. I recognized that no one in the Paleo community had written a book on traditional foods — everyone seemed to be trying to invent new recipes instead of looking at the way we’ve been eating for thousands of years.

So I sent book proposals to some publishers, offering to write a cookbook based on traditional foods. After a couple months of negotiating, I signed a contract with Victory Belt Publishing, the publisher that has released nearly all of the bestselling Paleo books to date.

My advice to food bloggers who want to publish in the future is to start practicing now. If you focus on writing the best posts you can, with the best recipes possible, the cookbook part might fall into place. Publishers are looking for authors who are already creating quality products.

Was the blog-to-book process what you expected? What challenges have you faced?

Writing a blog post is very different from writing a cookbook recipe, and I found out very early on that I wasn’t equipped to deal with the standards and attention to detail that comes from writing a collection of 100+ recipes all at once. I wasted a ton of time learning how to write a proper recipe — time I could’ve been using to develop new recipes (or sleeping).

Russ Crandall at work

A friend and I photographed the book ourselves, which was another challenge. We tackled the photos in two different two-week stints, often cooking and shooting about seven dishes per day. It was a lot of fun, but long hours — we usually went from 8 am to midnight every day between prep, cooking, shooting, and grocery shopping. Dealing with leftovers was also quite a challenge! I ended up making quick trips to work to drop off food that didn’t fit in the fridge.

We love the photography on your blog. Do you have photography tips to share with others?

Shoot using natural light. I’m such a stickler for natural light that I only cook and shoot blog recipes on the weekends. That’s why I only post one recipe a week; it’s more important for me to take quality pictures than to have more content or a larger online presence. There are artificial lighting solutions that can mimic natural light, but we just don’t have space for lights. I shoot all of my photos in front of one small window as it is.

dish

Shrimp Ceviche with Tostones (Twice-Fried Plantains) and Guacamole

Photography is the same as all of the other arts in that the best way to get better is to mimic the greats until a style of your own develops. If you’re making a mashed potatoes recipe, do an image search for mashed potatoes and figure out what pictures you like the best, and then try and keep those pictures in mind when you take your own.

Although having a nice camera helps, it won’t make your photos that much better. I upgraded from a $500 camera to a $2,000 camera and was disheartened to find that it didn’t make all of my pictures perfect. Style and composition are more important than having the best equipment. Think of your camera like a musical instrument: the best guitar in the world can sometimes make a bad song sound good, but it can’t turn a bad song into a good song.

Thanks for chatting with us, Russ!

For information on Russ’ cookbook, released today, check out his cookbook page or visit Amazon or Barnes & Noble.


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Cheri Lucas Rowlands

32 Comments

Comments are closed.

  1. EyeCandyPopper

    Congrats Russ!

    Like

  2. food,mostly

    Very inspiring!

    Like

  3. Liviu Paltanea

    Great, thanks for sharing. I found it very difficult to photograph food specially because I don’t have a big place where can I expose the dish. Also the composition also makes me trouble.

    Like

  4. Grasping for words

    Wonderful post and great pictures. It’s 10 in the morning and I’m now ready for some ceviche! My husband and I have incorporated the Paleo lifestyle into our lives slowly and I can attest that it really has made a difference in our overall sense of well being. Alas, we still love our dairy and breads, but have limited them tremendously. I’ll definitely check out your book as it sounds like it’s right up our alley!

    Like

  5. Naomi Valdivia

    This is so great. Your story is really amazing-congratulations on changing your health and putting this out there to open peoples’ eyes! I definitely want to get the book!

    Like

  6. MeAndDating

    A man that can cook, especially cooking well, is a surefire way to impress and even seduce a woman…guys, get cooking!

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  7. bettemae

    pictures are inviting. good information, realistic expectations, will look forward to getting your book.

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  8. Cookhouse

    Makes me want to read the book. My food belief system follows Paleo closely however I too am OK with rice. If we follow nature closely we cannot go too far wrong in my opinion. Natural, unprocessed and resist the temptation for shortcuts! Nice read.

    Like

  9. Tess Riley

    Great to read – nice one and the food looks delicious! Well done!

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  10. chinuephillips58

    Love your article. I love to cook and your story is wonderful.

    Like

  11. gogi6666

    A marvellous final paragraph with a touch of poetry and a pinch of philosophy!

    ‘Think of your camera like a musical instrument: the best guitar in the world can sometimes make a bad song sound good, but it can’t turn a bad song into a good song’

    Thank you for sharing! :)

    Like

  12. Vintage4YourHome

    Congrats to you… Thanks for sharing your inspiring journey..

    Like

  13. tcgarza

    Love your blog! I am a Paleo myself and now my family. I am blessed to have found this type of lifestyle. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

  14. sixdegreesphotography

    Nice introduction.. I’ll be on the lookout for your cookbook!

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  15. BarbB

    Love your blog! While you may notice that I am not of the male gender, I do have a son who has serious IBS health issues resulting from highly processed foods, food additives and GMO foods. He is converting to the Paleo Diet and your cookbook will be a gift to him. Hope that this diet makes you and him feel better.

    Like

  16. Carvindetroit

    This is good stuff, I cook all the time and I am always looking for new recipes. Healthy food and a good Diet is the best way to promote a healthy American population.
    Thanks,

    Like

  17. raraujo3353

    Pretty cool blog. As a non cooking guy, I am impressed.

    Like

  18. asiadiver

    very interesting. Good luck on the book. I will check out your blog, investigate paleo, forward info to my son (a stay at home Dad), and who knows – maybe buy the book :-). Thanks

    Like

  19. Brent Schrader (virginia is for hunter-gatherers)

    This book is great; we’re looking forward to celebrating the release in DC this Saturday night!

    Like

  20. Maria Paulina Mejia

    This is lovely, Russ! Loved your story and the idea of your blog. Food is symbolic in so many ways. By the way… those plantains on your home photo look exactly like a typical -can’t call it a dish exactly, but sort of- in my country. We call them “tostadas de plátano” o “patacón”.

    I enjoyed your post very much :) Good job!
    María Paulina Mejía

    Like

  21. abrindeyev

    OMG, there are so many people which is destroying their health with Paleo. Let me remind you that there IS another camp — whole plant-based food. Google Dr. John McDougall, Nathan Pritikin, Caldwell Esselstyn & Colin Campbell. Read and compare. View Forks Over Knives on a Netflix.

    If you ask me, here is my point: all those thousands years of evolution mankind was consuming mostly plant-based foods. It’s that simple: you don’t have to catch & kill a leaf, berry or a grain comparing to chicken, cow, fish and bird. You have to go back and re-read that again.

    Mankind will always be lazy: conserve energy and take the less effort in a way to get food.

    And you have to study history: maya — people of corn. Chinese and other asians — people of rice. Europe and Russia — people of potatoes and so on.

    Nobody was consuming mostly meat & dairy & fish in human history because it was damn hard to get enough of them every day!!!

    Good luck and remember: you’re what you eat. Good luck.

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  22. righteousbruin9

    Fascinating culinary journey- My late wife followed the Paleo Diet for four years, until her dietary needs fell to more conventional, hospital and hospice nutritionists to meet. I find several aspects of it useful, though I am eating less meat these days, and it is certified organic, whenever possible.

    Like

  23. Kate Abbott - Clifton Kitchen

    Well done and I’m sure the book will do well.

    Like

  24. simplybeingmum

    What a fantastic post. Loved this bit ‘Up until recent history, we’ve passed down traditions and skills — cooking included — from generation to generation. It’s been an inherent component of the human condition for millions of years, and we’re not doing it any more.’ – so true.

    I’m an amateur cook and food-blogger. It’s so tricky getting all the components together, the recipe, dishing it up, light etc… those who do it well make it look so natural. But it isn’t. It requires military planning! Great going Russ!

    Like

  25. brionyjm

    I think Paleo is so, so interesting. Curious to read much more about it and give it a trial. I’m already a massive advocate of the James Duigan Clean, Lean approach which sounds pretty similar.

    Like

  26. orleen1

    This was a very well informed post of your experience with the paleo diet and blogging experience. Congrats on the cookbook deal!!

    Like

  27. Mommy's Kitchen

    Congratulations !

    Like

  28. corneliaskitchen

    As dear friends kept requesting to write down how I cooked the dishes we just enjoyed together at the dinner table … I started my blog and am I writing down my recipes, take the photo’s and share those on my blog for the love of taste for all to enjoy.

    Like

  29. vinny1014

    I would just like to say as the years grow on us I find that I really enjoy cooking meals now. And what is so pleasurable is the fact that there are so many flavours and tastes out there. I like what I see on this blog and I will be back to try some of them. I also find Pinterest is a great site for finding recipes.

    Like

  30. twinds

    For many passionate cooks and diners, food blogging is the perfect creative and social outlet. I love your blog & book.

    Like

  31. Tiffany

    Some good stuff. I see my favorite, 2x fried plantain

    Like

  32. jessicajomac

    Seven months ago, I had to radically change the way I looked at food. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome at the age of 20. About to get married and begin a new life, I knew I couldn’t go on living the way I was. I went completely Paleo (and then some) in order to get my body back on track. It has changed my life! Just a couple weeks ago I began my own blog in order to share with my family and friends what I am learning. Thank you for the encouraging and inspiring material, Russ! I look forward to discovering more from your book and blog!

    Like

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