I’ve had this book on my Kindle for a while now, and I would start reading, get upset, close that book and go on to something else. After several false starts, I steeled myself and got into it. It’s not that it’s a difficult read in the sense of being wordy or high brow or too scientific for this English major, but rather that I found the subject matter upsetting.
Several years ago my husband had a very mild heart attack followed by not so mild surgery. Since then I’ve been intent on feeding my family healthy foods, and let me tell you, those parameters seem like they change weekly sometimes. Drink coffee, don’t drink coffee, drink coffee. Same with wine. Eat lots of fruit, eat only berries, limit fruit. Vegan or Paleo? Vegetarian or pescatarian? Mediterranean, carb free, gluten free, dairy free, the list goes on and on and on.
What I finally decided on, what works best for me and my family, is basically living by Michael Pollan’s golden rule:
Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
We usually limit red meat – grass fed, organic – to a couple of times a month. Wild fish. Organic, free range poultry. Same with eggs. Mostly organic fruits and vegetables, I try to shop with the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 as my guide whenever possible. You get the idea.
So to read this book and learn that I may be spending money, lots of money, on foods that aren’t what they purport to be is upsetting. The Tampa Tribune did that year long investigation into restaurants and how they lie about grass fed and organics and so forth and that was bad enough, but this book takes it even further.
Extra virgin olive oil? Don’t hold your breath, you’ve probably never even tasted it. What is commonly sold in American supermarkets is something that may have started with olive oil, then had other oils like soybean or sunflower oil added to it, which is bad enough, but also has chemical additives. I’ve been buying olive oil from California, which is delicious and even more importantly, is what it professes to be. I used to have to buy it online, but now most supermarkets carry at least one or two varieties, from Walmart to Publix to Fresh Market. I’ve heard that there are some Florida farms that were devastated by the citrus greening that are now experimenting with growing olives for oil, but it will take a few years to see how it works out.
Fish? Unless you’ve caught it yourself, you just have no idea what you’re getting. Red snapper is one of the worst, it’s usually tilapia or tilefish. And shrimp? OMG – Olmsted writes:
In 2007, the FDA banned five kinds of imported shrimp from China; China turned around and routed the banned shrimp through Indonesia, stamped it as originating from there, and suddenly it was back in the US food supply.
And that’s not even the worst seafood culprit. Escolar is a fish so toxic that it is outlawed in Japan, but somehow it makes its way to US tables, often as white tuna in sushi restaurants. In fact, Olmsted says the odds of actually getting white tuna in an American sushi restaurant is about 0%.
I could go on and on, and Olmsted does – but he also offers some good news. Big box stores like Costco, BJs, Trader Joe’s and even Walmart are as stringent with their food labeling as the much more expensive Whole Foods. Bison is a cleaner and healthier alternative to beef. If you buy food live – like lobsters – that can’t be faked. Buy coffee beans and grind them yourself at home or the supermarket, at least you know you are getting 100% percent coffee in your bag. Check the label for country of origin when purchasing cheese, and the rinds – Reggiano Parmigiano and Pecorino Romano are stamped on the rind of those cheeses from Italy.
If you care about what you eat, or are a foodie of any kind, this is fascinating and elucidating reading.
For more information, check out Diane Rehm’s interview with Larry Olmsted:
5 Foods You Can Trust-And 5 To Avoid, From The Author Of ‘Real Food/Fake Food’ – The Diane Rehm Show
Larry Olmsted titled his book ” Real Food/Fake Food,” instead of “Fake Food/Real Food,” he told us during his July 6 interview on our show, because he’s passionate about high-quality, natural meals – and he wants others to have the same approach, too. “These real foods are so good,” he said.
8/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™
REAL FOOD FAKE FOOD by Larry Olmsted. Algonquin Books (July 12, 2016). ISBN: 978-1616204211. 336p.