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Real Food/Fake Food: Why You Don't Know What You're Eating and What You Can Do About It

Real Food/Fake Food: Why You Don't Know What You're Eating and What You Can Do About It

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Real Food/Fake Food: Why You Don't Know What You're Eating and What You Can Do About It

valutazioni:
3/5 (68 valutazioni)
Lunghezza:
394 pagine
7 ore
Pubblicato:
Jul 10, 2016
ISBN:
9781616206529
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

“Olmsted makes you insanely hungry and steaming mad--a must-read for anyone who cares deeply about the safety of our food and the welfare of our planet.” —Steven Raichlen, author of the Barbecue! Bible series

“The world is full of delicious, lovingly crafted foods that embody the terrain, weather, and culture of their origins. Unfortunately, it’s also full of brazen impostors. In this entertaining and important book, Olmsted helps us fall in love with the real stuff and steer clear of the fraudsters.” —Kirk Kardashian, author of Milk Money: Cash, Cows, and the Death of the American Dairy Farm

You’ve seen the headlines: Parmesan cheese made from wood pulp. Lobster rolls containing no lobster at all. Extra-virgin olive oil that isn’t. So many fake foods are in our supermarkets, our restaurants, and our kitchen cabinets that it’s hard to know what we’re eating anymore. In Real Food / Fake Food, award-winning journalist Larry Olmsted convinces us why real food matters and empowers consumers to make smarter choices.

Olmsted brings readers into the unregulated food industry, revealing the shocking deception that extends from high-end foods like olive oil, wine, and Kobe beef to everyday staples such as coffee, honey, juice, and cheese. It’s a massive bait and switch in which counterfeiting is rampant and in which the consumer ultimately pays the price.

But Olmsted does more than show us what foods to avoid. A bona fide gourmand, he travels to the sources of the real stuff to help us recognize what to look for, eat, and savor: genuine Parmigiano-Reggiano from Italy, fresh-caught grouper from Florida, authentic port from Portugal. Real foods that are grown, raised, produced, and prepared with care by masters of their craft. Part cautionary tale, part culinary crusade, Real Food / Fake Food is addictively readable, mouthwateringly enjoyable, and utterly relevant.
Pubblicato:
Jul 10, 2016
ISBN:
9781616206529
Formato:
Libro

Informazioni sull'autore

Larry Olmsted is an award-winning journalist who has been a visiting professor at Dartmouth College, where he taught nonfiction writing. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Real Food / Fake Food and Getting into Guinness, a history of the Guinness Book of World Records, a book for which he broke three world records himself while researching. He currently writes online columns for Forbes and USA Today, and he appears regularly on television and radio. Olmsted is an avid fan of American Ninja Warrior and a passionate fan of sports fans.

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Anteprima del libro

Real Food/Fake Food - Larry Olmsted

1. Real Food, Perfected: A Day in the Life of Parma

This is one of the most important and influential cheeses of Italy, if not the world. Important because the genuine article is so incredibly delicious and balanced in flavor . . . influential because there are hundreds, if not thousands of imitations produced around the world, from wedges of parmesan to green cylindrical boxes containing a grated substance that resembles sawdust, though it still bears the name on its label.

—JOHN FISCHER, Cheese (Culinary Institute of America textbook)

The Parmesan cheese you sprinkle on your penne could be wood: Some brands promising 100 percent purity contained no Parmesan at all.

—LYDIA MULVANY, The Parmesan Cheese You Sprinkle on Your Penne Could Be Wood

It is a typical day in Parma and time to make cheese. The first rays of the sun are just breaking through the darkness when a dairy worker—let’s call him Paolo Rainieri*—is awakened by his alarm clock. It is 5:00 a.m., and to say he is used to this early hour is an understatement: Rainieri has been rising at this same time to make cheese seven days a week for the past thirty-five years. The last time he had a day off was when a scooter accident sent him to the emergency room, and the last vacation he enjoyed was his honeymoon—and even that was a short escape—twenty-seven years ago. His father was a Parma cheese maker, like his father before him, and very little has changed from generation to generation, except that Paolo has replaced the rooster’s crow that woke his grandfather with an alarm clock.

The Rainieris’ devotion to their endless work is hardly unusual here, more the rule than the exception among the city’s cheese makers, a highly exalted bunch. After all, the cows of Parma do not have calendars, do not take vacations or observe holidays, and every single day they produce milk. Every single day the farmers who own the cows rush this white gold straight to dairies like the one Rainieri works in—because Italian law says cheese making here must commence within two hours of milking.

There are more than three hundred such dairies in a relatively confined, legally designated zone around Parma and the neighboring town of Reggio, both in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna province, each of which makes one and only one product: huge wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Under newer EU regulations and Italian laws dating back centuries, Parmigiano-Reggiano can only be prepared in this one spot, where it has been made in the same painstaking way for more than eight hundred years. Thanks to its unrivaled quality and consistency, it enjoys a coveted nickname, King of Cheeses, and is considered by many experts to be the finest widely available cheese. The daily transfers of ultrafresh milk from cows to farmers to cheese makers are just two small steps in an intricate dance, a complex but closed virtuous circle of life that involves grass and flowers and cows and pigs and banks and warehouses and inspectors and craftspeople, and makes Parma a near-perfect community of agricultural sustainability.

The small city of Parma is Italy’s gourmet epicenter. Not too far away, Bologna proudly and loudly claims to have the best restaurants in all of Italy, a distinction the Milanese, Modenese, Florentines, Romans, and Sicilians happily and passionately argue, but no one challenges Parma for the supremacy of its products. This one small city, off the radar for most tourists, is home to the world’s largest pasta maker, Barilla, which also runs a major culinary academy here. And Parma claims Italy’s largest food producer of any type, agri-giant Parmalat, named for its hometown. The city produces two of the world’s most recognizable and coveted foodstuffs, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and Prosciutto di Parma, Italy’s beloved cured ham.

Less well known outside Emilia-Romagna is Parma’s most elite delicacy, culatello, air dried eye round of pork. Because the making of a single small culatello loin involves cutting up the pig leg and thus rendering it unusable for prosciutto, with its much greater yield, culatello is expensive and rare, a cured meat specialty of Parma that is virtually impossible to find outside of, and even within much of, Italy. Commercial production is limited, so it has traditionally been a homemade bootleg specialty, like Ireland’s famed poitín moonshine, easier to get from a friend in the know than a store. But with effort culatello can be purchased, and is worth seeking out, because it is delicious, and many fans consider it the finest of all cured pork products.

Another best-in-class food product is made just down the road in the neighboring town of Modena, equally famous for its exotic cars, as headquarters of both Ferrari and Lamborghini, and its exalted aged vinegar, Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena. This thick, powerful, complex vinegar is precious and far apart in flavor from the sad, thin, generic, and often heavily processed commodity item simply called balsamic vinegar in much of the world. Like most things in the Parma region—except the sports cars—it has been made in the same traditional craft manner, under strict quality laws, for centuries, earning it a coveted PDO (Protected Designation Origin) status from the European Union. This means that anything bearing the name Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena can only be made in Modena, just as Parmigiano-Reggiano, another PDO product, can only be made in Parma and neighboring Reggio. Regulations dictate that this real balsamic can be made only from wine-quality grapes grown within Modena, specifically of the Lambrusco or Trebbiano variety. Making balsamic vinegar from these premium grapes means not making wine from them, driving up the cost.

No other ingredients but grapes can be used. They must be crushed and then immediately cooked in an open pot over an open flame until the pressed-grape must is reduced by half. The thickened must is transferred to breathable wooden barrels, where it ages for over a decade. It ages best in nearly full barrels, so because of continuous evaporation loss—what Scotch whisky makers call the angels’ share—the contents are moved every year or two to progressively smaller barrels, with six sizes in a typical set. Only after a minimum of twelve years, and often twenty-five or more, can this elixir be bottled, labeled, and sold as the famed balsamic of Modena. What remains is a tiny ultraconcentrated amount from the huge volume of high-quality grape juice that began the process well over a decade earlier.

This is why real balsamic vinegar is thick and syrupy, and why a tiny bottle can cost three figures. It is not for salad dressing—the Modenese make another excellent vinegar, condimento, for that, still far superior to most supermarket versions of so-called balsamic. Instead, it is used in small amounts as a super flavor booster for soups, roasts, and stews or served straight and sparingly on fresh strawberries and even vanilla gelato, an unlikely but stunning flavor combination. There is perhaps no higher calling for this fine aged vinegar than drizzled over chunks of aged Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, a taste partnership made in heaven. In this part of Italy, the ingredients tend to speak for themselves with a divine simplicity, so a standard celebratory feast would begin with a plate of paper-thin sliced prosciutto and another of bite-sized nuggets of cheese with ancient balsamic, accompanied by good red wine. It is everything a dinner guest could hope for.

Parmigiano-Reggiano belongs to a cheese family known as hard grating cheeses, and while technically correct, this has made it widely misunderstood in the United States. It is harder than, say Brie or feta, for sure, yet hard cheese is a bit of an exaggeration. Because in the United States it tends to be kept too long, cut too small, and stored poorly at retail, it is often dried out and harder than it should be. It does make an excellent topping or recipe addition when grated and tends to be used mainly for this on our side of the Atlantic. But in Italy—and in my house—the King of Cheese is for eating first, grating second.

When fresh, Parmigiano-Reggiano has a texture just firmer than aged cheddar, sometimes called semihard, but it is filled with tiny, crunchy crystals of calcium lactate that give it a distinctive texture and mouth feel, almost an effervescence. The body of the cheese yields easily to the teeth, and starts to dissipate in a rich creaminess on the tongue right away, sort of like biting into a thick slab of chocolate, neither soft nor hard. Throw in the tiny crystalline structure and you have the cheese version of a fancy Nestle Crunch bar in terms of consistency. It’s better when cut from the wheel in large slices, the size of an enormous wedge of three-layer wedding cake, and served neither sliced nor grated but broken into chunks. With the exception of near relatives like Grana Padano, there is no other cheese eaten this way.

Parmigiano-Reggiano is so special that there is a specific tool for serving it, something every household in Emilia-Romagna possesses: a teardrop-shaped knife with a gentle blade that looks like a guitar pick mounted on a handle, point down. Because of its crystallized structure, natural irregular fault lines run through the cheese, and by inserting the tip of this pick and applying a slight forward prying pressure, chunks about half the size of Ping-Pong balls easily break off.

Once you start popping them in your mouth, the nutty, buttery richness and intense flavor that come from age and concentration make it impossible to stop. When you eat a young soft cheese like mozzarella or cottage cheese, you are eating a lot of water, but Parmigiano-Reggiano is almost pure protein left after evaporation—a single two-pound wedge is four gallons of the freshest, purest milk you can imagine, compressed.

At the Parma headquarters of the quasi-governmental consortium that oversees cheese production, I participated in a structured tasting of samples from different dairies with an expert, Mario. He explained to me that the cheese is volatile, and when I broke a chunk off with my knife he advised me to smell it immediately to get the best indication. I did. I smelled cheese. Mario got hazelnuts and grass from the cow’s diet. Then we tasted it. I got really delicious, creamy, nutty, slightly salty cheese. Mario got grassy, slightly salty, and fruity but not in a sweet way, more acidic, like pineapple. Hey, at least we agreed on slightly salty. We also agreed on delicious.

But the cheese is even better with one drop per chunk of aged balsamic, so powerful it is often applied with an eyedropper. When discussing food, we use the terms concentrated and intense a lot, but there is no product I can think of, with the possible exception of saffron, that takes these properties to such an extreme as balsamic vinegar—and good balsamic is much more complex than saffron. The main quality is sweet and sour with a dense texture, but it also has berries, grapes, vanilla, and a rich earthy mustiness, in a good way. If dark was a taste, it would have that, too.

Like most foods around Parma, making balsamic vinegar takes a lot of time and a lot of help from Mother Nature, and because the start-up time frame to produce a single bottle is at least a dozen years, the small industry has what economists call a high barrier to entry. Most producers are family owned and have been for generations. The barrels themselves, usually in matched sets of five or six, can be well over a hundred years old, and in Modena it has long been tradition that such a set of well-seasoned barrels is given by the bride’s family at her wedding, a priceless dowry.

It is no coincidence that so many delicious foods come from this one place, because Parma has two irreplaceable advantages: history and terroir. The history mirrors the Italian culture’s love of regionalism, with those regions’ specialties predetermined by natural resources. As a result, what is law today in Parma is nothing more than the way things have been done by custom for at least nine centuries. The high quality of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese was famously praised by the author Boccaccio in his 1348 masterpiece The Decameron, but bills of sale and trade documents trace the cheese more than a century and a half earlier. Experts believe that by the thirteenth century it had achieved essentially the same form it has today. Only after being made in exactly the same way for hundreds of years, a method carefully taught to sons by their fathers, did it enter Italian legal codes.

Europeans have long embraced food purity laws, hearkening back to the world’s first, the Reinheitsgebot. Variously known as the German Beer Purity Law or Bavarian Purity Law, it was enacted in 1516 by then-independent Bavaria (which not coincidentally later gave us the wonderful tradition of Oktoberfest—and to this day, only beer brewed within Munich city limits can be served at the festival) to govern production of beer. The Reinheitsgebot mandated that only three ingredients—water, barley, and hops—could go into beverages sold as beer. Unlike some contemporary protectionist regulations drafted by lobbyists, what is thought of as a purity law was really one of the earliest forms of consumer protection, to ensure drinkers got what they thought they were buying—real beer. Over the centuries the law was modified, first to accommodate the use of yeast and later newer styles of brewing.

Other European nations have followed in the footsteps of the Reinheitsgebot for centuries, crafting similar rules governing production of wines, cheeses, and even French bread. While the term baguette commonly refers to a shape of loaf in the United States, in France it is such a serious legal definition that what we might think of as artistic creativity—a seeded baguette for instance—is fraud, a crime, and a Parisian baker could theoretically be punished for including anything but wheat flour, water, yeast, and salt in a baguette de tradition française. The purpose is not to limit the bread eating experience of the French but rather so that when consumers do decide to buy a baguette over other baked choices, they know exactly what they are getting.

Similar laws govern day-to-day life in Parma, and cheese making begins with the coming of spring and the renewed growth of the grasses and wildflowers that make up the area pastures. It is here that history intersects with that second vital part of the regional equation, terroir. A French word derived from terre, for land, it has no clear English translation, but rather a complex meaning suggesting the complexity of nature itself. In layman’s terms it means that a product’s specific qualities literally come with the territory. Like today’s popular expression sense of place, terroir is the sum of all things that give individuality to a particular region’s agriculture. These can include the chemical composition of the soil, the flora, what kinds of animals, insects, and even microbes are found there, as well as weather and seasonal changes. Proximity to the sea is a classic ingredient of a particular terroir, especially evident in briny, peaty, single-malt Scotch whiskies.

While terroir may have a notable defining factor, like the iodine in the salt air of Scotland’s Speyside, it is always far more: a jigsaw puzzle of natural inputs, sometimes so unusual that they exist in only one place. This explains why it would be impossible to grow better tomatoes in a greenhouse in Alaska, despite unlimited effort and resources, than in Naples or New Jersey. It is why sweet onions grown in Vidalia, Georgia; on the Hawaiian island of Maui; or in Walla Walla, Washington, taste sweeter than the same exact onion species grown in the rest of the United States. It is why corn grows taller in Nebraska than in Vermont and why the syrup from maple trees in Vermont tastes better than that from maple trees in Indiana. There are thousands of such examples, but the bottom line is that terroir is so multifaceted that it can rarely be replicated intentionally.

The countryside around Parma is mountainous, with unadulterated local grasses and flowers, changing slightly in composition at various altitudes and sun exposures. By law, these pastures cannot be chemically fertilized or planted with new types of crops, thus ensuring the purity and consistency of the milk supply, and legally the cattle of Parma—some four thousand head strong and every single one numbered, monitored, and accounted for—can eat only this natural growth from spring to fall. In winter, they dine only on dried hay from the same fields. Silage, a wet feed made by the fermentation of various grasses, grains, cereals, or corns, widely used in the American cattle industry to foster fast, cheap growth, is expressly forbidden. So are all supplements, antibiotics, and bovine growth hormones—along with all hormones of any kind. If a cow becomes sick to the point where it is medically necessary for a veterinarian to administer antibiotics, it is taken out of milk production until such a time as the treatment has ended and the cow’s system is clear of the drugs. This all makes the milk today largely unchanged since Benedictine monks here first invented Parmigiano-Reggiano

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68 valutazioni / 20 Recensioni
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  • (3/5)
    A defense of truth in foodie advertising.First off, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, a delicious hard grating (and snacking!) cheese, unlike any other to hear him tell it. I'm all for Parmigiano-Reggiano. But Grana Padano has all the same characteristics. I'm more familiar with the latter than the former, so maybe I need to go find some P-R and be transported into ecstasies by what I've been missing; but I have to say I've had damn good G. P. He talks about G. P. being passed off as parmesan, and I'm all for truth in labeling and advertising; but he never stakes any claims as to why G. P. is such a worse thing.And a confession here. That "cardboard" powder that comes in the shakeable green can? It ain't Parmigiano-Reggiano or even lousy Grana Padano or even, I guess, cheese. But (whisper) I kind of like it? It has its place? It's an easily shakeable umami I can put on my pasta. Shaved hard cheese is delicious, but it's not the same thing, is it? I like the grated stuff. Grew up with it.Onward... parma ham - I'm not familiar enough with it to comment. Fish labeled as the wrong species - again, I don't want things mislabeled. But he doesn't really sufficiently go into why the species is so important.Olive oil - a very informative chapter. And I've been destroying my bottle of super-authentic olive oil that I carted personally all the way from Italy, by keeping it next to the toaster-oven - DOH! But sigh, to hear the experts tell it, we have to buy oils and spices and grains in practically single-serving sizes since they allegedly become inedible so quickly. Truffle oil, another informative section - basically, don't. Just don't.Kobe beef... You haven't had it. There are only three places in America serving the real deal. Meanwhile, we have a lot of "wagyu" beef floating around... this is nominally the same species as the cows used in Japan to make Kobe beef, but that doesn't make it Kobe beef, or good, or anything, really. Anyway, Kobe beef doesn't sound like something I want. The way it's described reminds me of a croissant - fat, fat, fat, and just enough lean [muscle/flour] to keep the structure together and not just be a stick of fat. Meh. Champagne - I don't even like. Scotch - even less so. More about cheese. And wine - provenances and varietals. Useful info, like what percentage of a varietal is needed in the U.S.A. to use the name of the varietal in the label (used to be 51%, now it's much higher)...Don't let my negativity fool you, the book was A.O.K. with lots of info; I guess just a few too many sections about foodstuffs I'm not interested in.
  • (2/5)
    This book was riddled with spelling and grammatical errors ("principal" instead of "principle" and—the one that almost made me stop reading—"Columbia" for the country of "Colombia") and presents information that should be common knowledge to most of the audience for whom this book is intended. There is a lot (a lot) of repetition and the most interesting parts—when the author speaks with the producers of the genuine foodstuffs and others in the food industry—are too short and often too focused on the author himself. Ultimately, this book felt like a project that arose when the author discovered the areas in which his own food knowledge was lacking and decided to write an angry screed, but an angry screed wasn't going to get him paid, so he had to tone it down and somehow turn it into a book. Save your money and use it to buy some good olive oil or a nice wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano instead.
  • (5/5)
    Highly entertaining and eye opening. You'll want to grown your own food, quit eating, obsess over quality and authenticity, or even just throw up your hands in frustration.One point I disagree on. Most Americans do see Parmasean as genetic pizza cheese and champagne as generic bubbly wine you drink at New Year's and weddings. I doubt many even know there's a geographic significance attached to it.
  • (4/5)
    I won this book in the Early Reviewers Giveaway. It's a well-researched book and very interesting. There are times when the book just seems to rambling on, but content is enough to keep you passively engaged. It's an informative book if you're interested in the origins of food stuffs, particularly foods that can be "faked." The recipes at the end of the chapters are a nice touch.
  • (4/5)
    I picked this up with a little trepidation because I was afraid I'd become paranoid about ingredients I buy at the supermarket or eat in a restaurant, but it turned out to be an interesting and informative researched work. If you're interested in understanding why certain names such as Champagne, Parmigianno, Balsamico, Kobe and Burgundy appear on so many labels of sparkling wine, cheese, vinegar, beef and wine when they're not only not made in the style of the original product or even from the country or region of the original product, this is a good book to read.If you're interested in whether you're even served the tuna, salmon, caviar, gorgonzola, mozzerella, Kobe or Angus beef you think you've ordered in restaurants, this is a great book to read.If you're interested in the reasons why some companies in the US are allowed to rip off international brands for profit with their locally made products and why some are not, this is a good book to read.Has it made me paranoid about what I eat when I am out and what I buy from supermarkets? No, but it has made me more aware of what I may choose to order in certain places, and what I should look out for when I am at the butcher's or the supermarket. The choices are still mine to make, but I'm now able to make more informed decisions.
  • (2/5)
    My problem with this book is probably mine. The book has nothing that I didn't know already from reading the newspapers. We've read over and over again that 'Parmesan" in a green can wasn't made in Parma regions of Italy. ( I didn't really need to read about this one - just taste it). Or that many olive oils aren't from olives, or red snapper isn't red snapper in most restaurants, etc. it was boring reading the problem with few solutions listed. If you are a person beginning a search for better food choices this book may be OK.
  • (4/5)
    Enjoyable read... nothing earth-shattering or totally new, most of the fake food probably most people have heard of before, but overall it was a good book with a lot of detail as to "why" certain foods are fake. The author defined his meaning of fake, which I thought was an excellent idea, since the fake-ness of certain foods is debatable. Also, the chapters spent on wine were tedious since the author seemed to think that certain ideas, like geographically based naming, needed to be reinforced over and over and over and over... got it... Burgundy can only come from Burgundy... I shall not forget, I promise Mr. Olmstead.Anyway, I recommend this book for anyone who eats. Yup, that's a good start. I could care less what I eat and the menu listings were pretty much a waste but I still loved the rest of the book. The section on Parmesan cheese was especially interesting - learning how they make it and how it's graded. I actually went right out to a specialty shop and (hopefully) bought some real Parmesan - it was incredibly tasty. I've always hated Parmesan cheese and now I think I know why... it wasn't real Parmesan, and may not have even been cheese! But I liked the small hunk I bought at Trader Joe's which, again, hopefully, was real.
  • (4/5)
    Being very interested in the subject of health and nutrition I was very happy to receive a copy of REAL FOOD FAKE FOOD by Larry Olmstead. One thing becomes obvious as you read thru this book is that Olmstead has done his research. Who would have ever known there are so many specifics needed to be true parmesan cheese. Or even some of the big name companies are putting out cheese with the same ingredients used to make paper. Likewise, I never realized there was so much to know about olive oil. What's disappointing is that the consumer is being duped in most cases as to what they are actually buying. This book covers all those details. It scary to read how ineffective the FDA and The Dept of Agriculture are in enforcing policies and implementing regulations that actually protect and benefit the consumer.The chapters on seafood and kobe beef are very interesting and actually scary to read. The bottom line is that we really just don't know what we are eating or eat at your own risk. I found this to be a very interesting book and a must read for any foodie or anyone interested in nutrition and wellness.
  • (4/5)
    Larry Olmsted's "Real Food Fake Food" is yet another book that tells us that the food we eat is subpar. Unlike many of the "The Omnivore's Dilemma" knock-offs, this book offers real information. Olmsted gives tells you how to figure out if your Parmigiano-Reggiano is the real-deal, what is actually going on with Olive Oil, and what to look for when buying your booze. I found the book to be engaging and informative, but because of the information presented it did take me longer than usual to read. One negative for me was the inclusion of recipes in the book. They felt out of place and distracting. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about the food they eat.
  • (3/5)
    I'm sitting at a 2.5/3.0 star for this book. It's not the author --- the book was certainly informative and eye opening on many topics...even for things I wanted to turn my head and pretend weren't being said. My problem is with the topic overall. There's just SO MUCH "truth" out there that it's becoming extremely difficult to trust any source. An interesting read, I'll file it in my brain with the other "truths" and try my best to make educated decisions!
  • (5/5)
    Larry Olmsted is angry, and those who read his book "Real Food/Fake Food" will likely come to share his anger. Olmsted, a food and travel columnist, devotes his book to uncovering the many bait and switch schemes used in the food industry to dupe consumers into paying for what they are not getting. He uncovers shady practices used to purvey fish, olive oil, beef, wine, cheeses, honey, maple syrup, coffee, tea, and other foods. Olmsted also makes it clear that Americans cannot depend on the U.S. government to protect consumers. Because of an absence of legislation or vague laws and lax enforcement, food producers have free reign to practice deceptive methods. Olmsted does conclude chapters with ways consumers can protect themselves from widespread deceptive industry practices and ensure that what is being purchased is the real product. It is not only consumer pocketbooks that are being hurt by deceptive practices in the food industry. Olmsted also points out detrimental health consequences that can result. This is an important book to read for anyone who cares about what they eat.
  • (3/5)
    Olmsted has researched his subjects in depth, and offers some interesting history of specific food items discussed in the book. His focus is mainly how a few specific foods are sold to consumers as one thing,but are actually of a lesser quality. He offers a few tips at the end of each chapter to help the reader find and use the highest quality food. It's too bad that so few foods are discussed because it's obvious there is a lot of corruption in the food industry. For example, selling extra virgin olive oil that actually contains lesser quality oils and is a blend.
  • (4/5)
    I am very happy to have received a copy of Real Food/Fake Food by Larry Olmsted in the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. It was very informative and fascinating. I had not considered the idea that the names of some foods are based on deep history and are strictly regulated in their place of origin. I absolutely agree with the author that those names should be protected and that other producers of cheese or wine or whatever can come up with their own name for their product. I want to know what I am buying! I don't see a problem with using a term like "in the style of..." or whatever, just as long as the label is truthful about what is in the package. I almost felt like this could have been two books, or at least two sections, one devoted to fraud, as in the case of criminal substitutions of fish and olive oil, and another section devoted to the naming issue. It also felt a bit disjointed with each chapter jumping from one subject to another without a clear pattern or progression. He discussed cheese in at least three different sections of the book and meat as well. Often times I would be expecting further discussion on a particular point while he went off onto what seemed like a side story, only to never go back and finish the thought. The section on wine was fascinating but a bit confusing and I felt that he could have more profitably spent some of that space on fraud in the area of herbs and spices. Overall the book did a great job of infuriating me about the inconsistency and lack of professionalism of the FDA. I really hope this book gets more people to pressure them into doing the job that we are paying them to do.
  • (4/5)
    I received this through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.Olmstead presents a disturbing, thoughtful analysis of the proliferation of Fake Food in the American food industry. Many of these stories are ones that flickered through mainstream news headlines in recent years, such as Parmesan not really being the cheese it should be and the way grocery store beef is engineered to look better on the label. He gets deeply into the issue of terrior--the ingredient of place as part of a food's deliciousness--noteworthy in products like Parmigiano-Reggiano or Champagne. The United States tries to enforce basic safety standards with food, but it makes a muddle of things as far as quality. Products like extra virgin olive oil are not checked to make sure they are actually olive oil, while generic food name legal rulings for things like Champagne mean that cheap, horrible knock-offs can use a term without any of the quality assurances of the real wine from Champagne itself. The book is truly eye-opening. I felt the constant need to stop family members and say, 'Did you know...' and elaborate on what I had just read. As a cheese lover, I felt edified by his chapters on Parmigiano-Reggiano and the growing production of artisan cheeses (many of which successfully market their own kinds of cheese instead of piggy-backing on a famous name and muddling it). The chapter on seafood was outright disturbing and will entirely change how I study--and trust--the labels on packaged foods and menus. The portions on wine and the beef industry were also good. ... Well, heck, the whole book is fascinating, down to the bits at the end on honey and maple.I was surprised at the number of typos in this on-sale edition of the book. I also found the recipes at the ends of chapter to be an ill fit with the other content. I would have much rather had maps to see the regions being discussed.I highly recommend this book for American consumers. It will change how you shop and purchase food.
  • (3/5)
    Larry Olmsted's book Real Food Fake Food is sometimes infuriating, sometimes terrifying, and sometimes just downright pretentious. As a cry for eaters and cooks to denounce fraudulently labeled foods, Olmsted is at his best when educating readers about the ingredients and processes that make these products unique. Joining Olmstead on his international travels to learn about the history and regions of where specific foods originate is simple fun. Knowing that I will never eat real Parmesan cheese, Kobe beef, or drink several types of wine, I could not match his righteous indignation. However, his chapters on olive oil and seafood are excellent, as is the information he provides about food regulation (or the lack thereof) in the United States. His writing is clear, his descriptions canny, and he provides appropriate guidance to other resources. These chapters will change the way I shop. With the book originating as a magazine essay, keeping to the essay style instead of compiling it into book form might have been the better stylistic choice.I received a copy of this book as part of the LibraryThing early reviewers program.
  • (3/5)
    The book describes the various ways in which food in this country is adulterated, lied about, and passed off as something it's not. There are blatantly illegal ways like passing off one species of fish as another, and gray area ways, like calling something Parmesan that doesn't fit the definition used in the rest of the world, and sometimes barely fits the definition of cheese. The book is an eye-opener in this way, even as it tends to focus on things like kobe beef, extra virgin olive oil, Parmesan Reggiano, and premium seafood like lobster and Red Snapper. The information it gives about how these products are not what you think they are is on the money, and some of it is infuriating--but it's not going to help you figure out what's in your can of tuna or loaf of bread.The author obviously wants us to swear off fake food and eat Real Food, but doesn't really address the sad fact that it's nearly impossible to eat this way on any kind of budget. Not everyone can buy groceries from specialty shops, and I don't know anyone who brings their Parmesan home from Italy in a suitcase. In other words, it's an eye-opening book, but I doubt if most readers will be able to quadruple their grocery budgets to eat Real Food.
  • (4/5)
    How difficult can it be to eat simple, real food? You stick to the outside edges of the grocery store and frequent the Farmer's Market, right? Apparently not. It is more tricky than that, although forming those habits is helpful. Much of this book is concerned with authenticity in the naming of products and consumer fraud. For instance, most people understand that the Kraft product in the green can labeled "Parmesan" is not the product of Italy named "Parmigiano-Reggiano" and that there is a huge difference in taste and quality. Sometimes you get what you pay for. However, are they aware that the bottle of "Port" produced in America which they are paying as much or more for than the "Port" produced in Portugal is an almost completely different and inferior product? At first I didn't agree with the author that American cheeses and wines should not be allowed to label themselves after the European product which they are trying to be similar to. After all, I am probably not going to be in the market for the more expensive authentic articles, but I might be able to purchase a similar product made here in America. Then the author pointed out that many of the authentic products are either less expensive, or not much more than the domestic inferior product. Now the fact is, that America can and has produced some very fine regional wines and cheeses of our own, it is high time that we start building a market and name for them. America needs to get its food act together. We need to move beyond the "industry" and into the quality, reliability and safety of food.However, that is only the tip of the disturbing information in this book. When the author went on to describe how corrupt our seafood and olive oil industry is, and how the FDA has failed us in their labelling procedures, not to mention purity and inspections, it turned my stomach. Happily, the author provides some shopping tips and clues at the end of each chapter to try to avoid the worst of these, there is no other word for it, scams.I will value my copy of this book as a reference source for all the Designated Origins and other acronyms which will help me to know that the money I am spending on my food is actually for the food I want to spend it on. I don't care if I ever eat a real Kobe steak, but I do want to be sure that the olive oil I use every day is the healthy food of the gods I thought it was when I purchased it.
  • (4/5)
    This is really about western food. In particular high value items like, cheese, olive oil, fish, wine and a bit too much about Kobe beef and how to identify the real thing.

    I already knew food labels are often misleading, but didn't realize things like olive oil are often mixed with other kinds of oil and the front label may say extra virgin and cold pressed, but that doesn't mean much. Fish names are used, but cheaper substitutes served. Wines are named after regions in France, but the grapes never grew in France. All this in order to associate a cheaper brand with old world quality.

    I would have liked to hear about vegetables and grains, but all we got was tomatoes gassed with ethylene to make them ripen on the way to market and something about Durham wheat lasting two years and being healty. Nothing about Asian staples like rice, potatoes, or Asian food in general. This is really about European excellence and American companies trying to associate their inferior products with similar names and substandard quality.
  • (4/5)
    I received a free advanced copy of this book from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program in exchange for an honest review.This book was hardly what I was expecting when I got it. I was expecting talk of GMOs and processed foods. Instead, I was confronted with the notion that the USA doesn't really protect its consumers when it comes to food. Much of this book focuses on mislabeling which can have the somewhat small consequence of higher cost for lower quality or the high and very serious consequence of illness and death. There is also a lot of concentration on something being "fake" because it was not produced in the region (terrior, in the book) where it originated.He will often call out a region for producing something that can only be made in another region. I have a bone to pick. IN his chapter about cheese, he discusses how local cheesemakers in the United States have formed their own types of craft cheese and do not need to make knock-off versions of European cheeses. He applauds California and Vermont. He mentions Wisconsin... but only to criticize a company for making European knock-offs. I'm from Wisconsin originally. We're proud of our cheese. And we make excellent craft cheeses that I think should have been acknowledged. Wisconsin almost always walks away with more awards than it can carry at cheese competitions. I have no issue with him addressing a negative, but I wish he would have also highlighted a positive.I am horrified by some of the things that are overlooked and are also blatantly bad for our health. I am not, however, as bothered by the idea that I maybe have paid more for an item than it deserved because its place of origin wasn't authentic. Ultimately, I can get past a regional difference if I enjoy the taste, but I cannot stand aside for something that can negatively impact our health. That being said, I am a firm believer of transparency and nobody likes to be lied to.I knew going in that I was probably going to read this book and then be afraid to eat everything that I didn't grow myself. I might have been a little dramatic, but there are a few things now that I will probably completely avoid or go out of my way to make sure I'm getting the right product.The writing style was accessible and interesting. He had a dry and sarcastic sense of humor that I loved. He also pulled a lot of his information from interviews with experts which helped to validate what he was saying. There were some obvious errors such as "Pasa Robles" vs "Paso Robles" and a sentence with a repeating phrase (it is it is). Also, the last page of every chapter had the name of the first chapter in it's subtitle at the top. The physical book says nothing of this being a proof, so I suspect that these errors have turned up on the shelves. These are minor things, however, and did not really detract from my reading experience. I will be passing it around to other people.
  • (4/5)
    Author Larry Olmsted’s book “Real Food/Fake Food: Why You Don't Know What You're Eating and What You Can Do about It” will be an inspiration to all readers. I found this book to be a great reminder regarding carefully selecting food sources / ingredients in commercially purchased foods, prior to purchase. People need to be aware that there are differences between genetically engineered (GMO) foods, chemically farmed foods, and organic foods. Many are still unaware of these differences and therefore cannot vote with their pocketbooks, which is a most powerful strategy for obtaining the healthiest foods.The author has provided a book on selected food categories, packed with food history. The facts in Olmsted's book are a real eye-opener.