(Find the recipe for BEEF AND BACON SWEET POTATO PIE, over on Alex's blog, right here)
If you're on Instagram, you'll know we like to share and post often- a great, hyper visual way to connect with our foodie friends, share our food, recipes, and day to day adventures. We were lucky to meet one, well many, of those friends at Paleo fx in Austin last year. Alex Boake, came by our booth, where we filled her bag with snacks, and in return, she gave me a sweet bacon button to wear. After the conference, I checked out her site again and fell completely in love. Alex not only creates delicious, and easy to prepare paleo meals, but instead of the traditional food photos, she illustrates her recipes. They're bright, fun, and awesome enough to be your new desktop wallpaper... She also does work for quite a few paleo bloggers, from websites, to their cookbooks. Amazing, right?! I chatted with Alex recently because I just had to know how she got started with this fun concept.
Alex: Is it cliche to say, "Since I could pick up a pencil?" That's basically the case! It really peaked in High School where I was literally drawing in every single class. Don't be like me, kids! Since creativity ebbs and flows, I can say there have been periods where I don't produce much personal work, but it's definitely always been a passion for me.
Alex: This is something I don't talk about too much, because it's rooted in my deep, dark...nerdy past. I'd been drawing for a long time, but there was really something about Japanese Animation, aka "anime" that really caught my interest. I'll admit I was definitely a Sailor Moon fan. For a lot of people like myself, it starts with emulating and redrawing existing images. Somewhere along the way you gain skill and confidence and begin drawing original works, studying anatomy, colour theory, and all the fundamentals. These days I dabble in some fan-art on the side, as can be seen in my Fandom Foodie recipe series. This Mario Bros. inspired recipe, for example, is Maple Marinated Grilled "Cheep Cheep"--aka Salmon.
Alex: This was in late winter/early spring in 2011. A while earlier I'd heard of the Paleo thing, but it seemed so restrictive to me. At the time I was having troubles with my health, and had been dealing extreme digestive problems since High School. These were mostly centered around eating fast food and too much junk food. Then after University I developed a baking habit and things got even worse. This lead me to research different ways of eating because I was tired of the way things were going. In the Paleo community stories like this aren't unusual. I really got into primal/paleo eating, as many people did, through Mark's Daily Apple. The inclusion of full-fat dairy just made things more tolerable for me, and it all really clicked! These days I fall into the 80/20 Primal spectrum. In the past I've dealt with some restrictive eating habits, so I'm trying to find a happy medium.
Alex: When I transitioned to eating Primal, I immediately deleted all the traditional baking blogs I had been following. This left a big hole in my life, and lead me to search for Primal and Paleo bloggers to fill that gap. Lucky for me I stumbled upon bloggers such as Primal Palate, She Cooks, He Cleans, The Domestic Man and Jan's Sushi Bar. These were some of the first blogs I started cooking from. After a few months I started getting more creative in the kitchen and I realized I was developing my own recipes. I knew I wanted to share these recipes that my family loved, but I'd tried running a baking blog before and I knew photography wasn't my passion. Then I realized, why not draw my recipes? My art had been in a rut after finishing my illustration thesis in University, and running an illustrated cooking blog gave me an opportunity to develop my portfolio in a different direction. As a bonus, I was also able to befriend a lot of the cool Paleo bloggers I admire!
Alex: For sure! I've worked with Diane Sanfilippo of Balanced Bites. Doing the illustrations for Practical Paleo was my first big published project. The infamous Poop Pageant? If you were ever wondering who drew that...well, it was me! More recently I did some spot illustrations for Russ Crandall (aka The Domestic Man)'s The Ancestral Table, and some super cool meat diagrams in Tony Federico's Paleo Grilling--which just came out last month. As for bloggers, I've had the chance to work with Real Food Liz (formerly Cave Girl Eats) and Civilized Caveman. As a freelancer, I'm always looking for new projects! Additionally, I try and collaborate with other Paleo bloggers in the form ofrecipe trades. Since my work is really different, it's a cool opportunity for someone to get an illustration of their own recipe, and for me to get photos of one of mine. Right now I have a few in the works that should be going up on my blog in the next few weeks, be sure to check them out!
Alex: I have a soft spot for my first-ever recipe post, which was Creamy Chard with Bacon and Mushrooms. It's the one that started it all--plus it's amazingly delicious. If you can tolerate dairy, this is definitely one to try. My current go-to is actually one of my more recent illustrated recipes. It's Roasted Cauliflower with Smoked Paprika. Also delicious, and really easy. Plus, low carb to boot! At lot of the time at home we just grill meat on the BBQ and I make a big side-salad. I usually post these on my Instagram account! It's kind of my thing.
Alex: Part of the challenge is making recipes that I also want to draw the ingredients for. I don't really like to draw the same thing twice, or draw the same thing twice in the same way. It may be a recipe blog on one hand, but it's also my portfolio. I like to keep it varied and exciting, but also make recipes that I want to eat, and that other people might want to make. Sometimes I feel like I'm chasing my own tail a little bit! In terms of creating the pieces, I try not to draw the finished product too much, or to draw it in a way that you could easily photograph. What's the point of that? That's why I usually have the elements floating in the air, with sauces cascading around in space. I like to keep it fun and dynamic.
Alex: That would have to be how amazingly supportive and talented everyone is. People are always willing to share themselves and their special gifts, in ways that you don't always find in other circles. I feel really blessed to be able to work with and be friends with so many amazingly fun and kind people. This never would have happened if I hadn't stumbled upon the Primal way of eating. It got me inspired enough to start my own blog, but I have to put the credit out there to the community for encouraging me, and welcoming my admittedly "odd" blog with open arms. There's too many people to mention, but I'm just going to shout out THANKS to everyone who has supported my crazy food drawings!!
Come gather around the warm glow of the fire and listen, watch, share, discover, and be inspired by the conversation. It is here where we explore stories, and new ideas. Pull up a rock.