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real food journey: part one

September 24, 2010

{Today’s post is the first in a two-part series.  I’ve recently become a veritable card-carrying member of the Real Food revolution—think local, farm fresh foods prepared in traditional methods—and want to share helpful resources with all of you.  Next week, my zealous proselytizing will focus on Real Food resources in the Pittsburgh area and how I afford Real Food on a tight budget.}

Big Friend knew he was in trouble when I called to say my plane’s wheels had touched down at JFK.  Neglecting to ask about how Little Friend was doing sans mama (or how he was doing sans wife), I immediately jumped to “You need to buy milk today, but DON’T get skim.  Get whole milk.  And fair warning, I’m pretty sure we’re going to switch to raw milk.”

He was kind.  He kept his groans to himself.

I can’t help it that I’m intense.  I can’t help it that when I finally get to read (and finish) a book these days, I keep turning it over and over in my mind like a cherished golden nugget because who knows when the next book will come along to take its place.  I can’t help it that I’m a bit obsessed with local food and farmers.  When I boarded my plane and picked up the copy of Real Food: What We Eat and Why by Nina Plank, I should have known I’d be in for it (and my innocent family right along with me.)

In for a penny, in for a pound, right?

Well, here’s my penny’s worth of thoughts on switching back to real food.  Ditching the skim milk for whole.  Throwing out margarine and letting the butter out of “time out.”  Saving bacon grease in a canning jar next to my stove, which I thought was so disgusting when my mom did it growing up.  Real food gets back to basics, basics like (good) fats that we’ve all been avoiding for years because we’re worshipping at the altar of low fat, hoping to be blessed with great health.  (So why is obesity still on the rise?)

If you, like me, are interested in simplifying life a bit, ditching foods that have a hundred ingredients squeezed onto the label in favor of five or less ingredients, preparing foods in your own kitchen using “old-fashioned” methods, and re-thinking what we eat and why, let me share some resources that have guided my thinking and made my real food conversion easy, enjoyable even.

The books that started it all:

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver- A memoir that reads like a novel, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is Barbara Kingsolver’s (of Poisonwood Bible and The Bean Trees fame) year of eating locally.  That means no green salads in February for her family.  It does mean raising her own heritage turkeys, waiting for asparagus to pop up in spring, and finding (almost) all of her food products within a 100-mile radius of her house.  The memoir is an inspiring and downright idyllic account of living seasonally and locally.  I re-read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle each year around March and launch into great ambitions of starting my own kale seedlings, planting a larger tomato patch, and maybe convincing Big Friend to raise a chicken or two in our backyard.  (But you know how most great ambitions go…)

Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck – If Animal, Vegetable, Miracle set the scene, Real Food stole the show.  Since Barbara Kingsolver had already transformed me into a locavore, when I stumbled across Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s recommendation for Nina Planck‘s book, my mind was fertile soil for Planck’s ideas.  Planck does an excellent job documenting with anecdotal and statistical evidence why foods we think are bad for us (whole raw milk, lard, red meat, and oils) are actually very good for us, if prepared with traditional methods and responsible farming methods.  Reading Real Food was a watershed moment for me, and, basking in the glare of the 100-watt lightbulb immediately illuminated above my head, I set out making deliberate changes to the foods I bought and ate.

The websites that feed the real food frenzy:

Amanda of Oh Amanda blog fame manages to say oh-so-succinctly what I’ve come to believe quite strongly about eating Real Food for real health.  Her informative and entertaining list of Top Ten Steps to Healthier Eating captures in 10 quick nutshells the basics of Real Food philosophy.

I can’t get enough of Musings of a Housewife these days.  Author Jo-Lynne shares her Real Food conversion story in such clear, honest steps that any reader will feel empowered to follow her suggestions.  As Jo-Lynne says, “Basically, eating food as close to its natural state as possible is always going to be the best bet.  It will taste better and it will be healthier.  It’s really that simple.  The hardest part, I’m finding, is making the time to prepare more food from scratch and also finding resources for what I want to buy.”

Kelly the Kitchen Kop might as well rebrand herself the encyclopedia of the Real Food online world.  I have yet to have a Real Food question that hasn’t been answered at some point in the archives of her site.  And since I’m fortunate to be currently following her tutelage in her Real Food for Rookie’s class, I’d be sorely remiss if I didn’t tell y’all to just go ahead and bookmark her site now.  You’re going to use it.  Over and over again.  Kelly also hosts the Real Food Wednesdays blog carnival—a great place to find links to other Real Food connoisseurs’ recipes on Wednesdays.

While you’re busy bookmarking, go right on ahead and tab Nourished Kitchen.  Somehow, Jenny, the site’s author, manages to delve deep for Real Food veterans (with posts on sprouting grains, soaking beans, lacto-fermenting cabbage, and other things that initially made me scratch my head while my mouth hung open and I drooled a bit)  while also encouraging and educating those of us on the rookie end of the Real Food scale.  As she says in I Believe in Farm Fresh, Real Food, “I believe in real food – whole, unrefined, vibrant with nutrients.  A traditional foods enthusiast at heart, I cherish natural and unprocessed foods prepared from scratch through the same time-honored techniques that nourished our ancestors.”  Jenny’s 10 Tips for Real Food Newbies is an essential resource for anyone making the leap back to butter.

The Godfather of the Real Food world:

The Weston A. Price Foundation has been the starting block to many a Real Food convert. The Foundation seeks to promote healthy eating habits by championing nutrient dense foods and preparation practices.  The Foundation’s website offers extensive research on why eating Real Food is the healthiest option as well as excellent support on making the switch.  Weston A. Price includes recipes, expert opinions, and information on what foods to avoid (heads up to anyone using soy baby formula!).  The site is extensive, so I’d recommend starting with their Beginner’s Tour.

Homework for this week: browse the websites and check out the books from your local library.  If that doesn’t keep you busy enough, I’m envious.  Put your feet up and eat a bon-bon in my honor.  Check back next Friday to find out where I buy raw milk, who is my favorite pastured pork farmer, and three Pittsburgh-area farmer’s markets that can completely replace trips to the grocery store.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. September 26, 2010 2:13 pm

    OK–they are all officially bookmarked–thanks!
    (Off to read Small Magazine).

  2. September 26, 2010 3:59 pm

    You’re a woman after my own heart! I love Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and it fits in my inspirational category. I’d add Diet for a Hot Planet to your reading list, and love the FoodieTots website ( for inspiration. I’m trying to chronicle our adventure down the real food path myself…not easy, but once you start, it’s next to impossible to buy produce and meat at the grocery store again (except for items that don’t thrive where you live…).

    Thanks for sharing the new websites – can’t wait to visit them.

  3. Jim permalink
    September 29, 2010 1:11 pm

    Well, just in case you are successful in convincing Big Friend to adopt some avian yard-mates, he’ll need to build a proper home for the lot. My friend and I have done too much discussing and fantasizing about building a chicken coop and came across the following fantastic design somewhere along the way:

  4. littlehousesouthernprairie permalink
    October 14, 2010 10:07 pm

    Great stuff here! Maybe I also suggest a reverse psychology approach? Fast Food Nation. What a book. Written by an investigative reporter. Sometimes when I slip off the locavore/real food wagon, FFN is there to make me run back screaming.


  1. real food journey: part two « Belle Squeaks

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