I want to keep this short, but I want to give you enough information to do justice to this lovely book.
I was sent a review copy of “The Real Food Revival: Aisle by Aisle, Morsel by Morsel,” coauthored by Sherri Brooks Vinton and Ann Clark Espuelas.
It is, simply, a paean to honest, healthful, delicious, and mainly local and seasonal food.
More specifically, it is a guidebook for eaters (for instance, shop at farmers’ markets, subscribe to community-supported agriculture programs,) with resources and contacts (for instance, LocalHarvest.org and ChefsCollaborative.org).
It is a lesson in food production that clearly explains the difference between agribusiness and small, diverse-crop practices – and the health perils and benefits therein, including the effects on produce of chemicals, genetic modification, packaging, transportation, storage, and so on.
It is a cheat-sheet for shoppers, filled with advice on how to talk to your butcher and fishmonger, how to read labels, how to save money (make your own ginger ale!).
Best of all, it’s fun to read. No nagging or scare tactics, just information, anecdotes, the occasional recipe here and there – and it’s well written.
The authors (Vinton hails from New York, Espuelas lives in California) have traveled the country to learn about local food production – and it is a joy for me to discover that Marin County receives special accolades for our Straus Family Creamery, McEvoy Ranch, Cowgirl Creamery and the Marin Agricultural Land Trust.
I joked with coauthor Sherri Vinton by e-mail that for Bay Area foodies, she was preaching to the choir, that we already knew how to eat “real.” Sherri replied that rather than preaching, she believed she was harmonizing with the choir.
“I hope the book is a tool for the converted,” she said.
And it is. The bibliography alone is a wide-ranging syllabus of must-read food writing, including Rachel Carson’s 1962 classic “Silent Spring,” Deborah Madison’s “Local Flavors” and, of course, Eric Schlosser’s “Fast Food Nation.”
The descriptions of various types of alternative grains, oils and sweeteners serve as encouragement to experiment.
And as for the bad news this book delivers on industrially grown soy and corn – well, let’s just say that’s a particular issue with me, and I’m glad to see it addressed here.
If you think you already know all this stuff, fine. But now it’s in print, in one convenient paperback. Put it on your gift list for someone on the brink of eating “real.”
As Vinton told me, "A lot of eaters have said, ‘I've been telling my sister/neighbor/bartender about this stuff for ages. Maybe now they'll believe me!' "