An investigation of the American food industry, providing examples of authentic and fraudulent products and how best to differentiate between the two.
In his solidly researched new book, USA Today food and travel columnist Olmsted (Nonfiction Writing/Dartmouth Coll.; Getting into Guinness: One Man's Longest, Fastest, Highest Journey Inside the World’s Most Famous Record Book, 2008), a well-traveled and knowledgeable food writer, takes readers on an enlightening but frequently disturbing culinary journey. While providing fascinating insights into where and how some of the most delicious food products are produced, the author also reveals how often these are imitated to detrimental effect. “When you choose to eat Real Food, your immediate benefit is that it tastes good,” writes Olmsted. “Your long-term benefit is that it is almost always healthier….Conversely, when you choose—or are duped into eating—Fake Foods, you usually get things that taste worse, are less healthful, and sometimes truly dangerous. Eating them supports production methods that are often unsustainable and sometimes illegal.” Beginning in Parma, Italy, the author emphasizes the importance of terroir in the establishment of the quality and character of individual foods. Three basic products have been carefully produced for several generations in this region and consistently meet the highest quality standards—parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar, and prosciutto—while the various knockoffs always fail to compare. In later chapters, Olmsted explores specific products and industries, such as olive oil and truffle oil, champagne, beef, wine, cheese, and possibly the scariest and certainly most confusing of all: the fishing industry. Regarding seafood, writes the author, “in many major U.S. cities, your chances of getting what you ordered—and paid for—in both restaurants and stores are slim at best.”
A provocative yet grounded look at the U.S. food industry. Though the prospect of finding quality food products may prove increasingly challenging for most consumers, Olmsted provides encouraging tips to help navigate the many obstacles.