Three years is such a short time in the grand scheme of things, but in the publishing world, it can be an eternity. Books come and books go, and a lot of great books don’t get the publicity they deserve. Which is likely why I was able to find Real Food Revival by Sherri Brooks Vinton and Ann Clark Espuelas at one of those deep-discount remaindered stores back before Christmas.
With a sub-title of “aisle by aisle, morsel by morsel”, Vinton’s search for real food in the supermarket aisles predates not just Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, but also Marion Nestle’s What to Eat. Taking on everything from baked goods to bottled water, Vinton gives a common-sense approach to finding, and demanding real food.
Neither Vinton or Espuelas are experts; they don’t have the nutritional background of Nestle or the science background of Pollan, yet they do their research and present a well-documented case for each of their claims. This makes the book refreshingly free of jargon and chemistry, something that can make for a dry read at best in similar works, and can be downright off-putting in some cases.
Each section offers vignettes of artisanal producers for the various aisles, from free-range organic farms, to cheese-makers and bakers to trout-farmers. Each chapter also offers tips on the Real Food Revival, with suggestions of actions individuals can take to ensure accessibility to real food options such as talking to your grocery store manager, joining a CSA, planting a garden, preserving your own food via canning or freezing or even simple ideas like making homemade gingerale in place of soft drinks.
A selection of chapter-appropriate recipes are included through-out, with a focus on eating seasonally, first and foremost, with additional emphasis on local and organic.
The book shows it age in the section on convenience foods, as we’re already into trends such as the addition of pro and pre-biotics that hadn’t seen the light of day in 2004/05 when the book was written.
The main message of The Real Food Revival remains relevant, though. We need to get back into our kitchens and start cooking from scratch. We need to maintain well-stocked pantries, and we need to spend more time thinking about what we eat.