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Real Food: What to Eat and Why

Real Food: What to Eat and Why

Автором Nina Planck

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Real Food: What to Eat and Why

Автором Nina Planck

4/5 (5 оценки)
460 pages
7 hours
May 10, 2016

Примечание редактора

Eat well…

One of the pioneers of the real food movement, Nina Planck was at the forefront of eschewing fad diets in favor of traditional, whole foods. As the world embraces farmer's markets and the concept of farm-to-table, Planck's writings have never been more relevant.


Hailed as the "patron saint of farmers' markets" by the Guardian and called one of the "great food activists" by Vanity Fair's David Kamp, Nina Planck was on the vanguard of the real food movement, and her first book remains a vital and original contribution to the hot debate about what to eat and why.

In lively, personal chapters on produce, dairy, meat, fish, chocolate, and other real foods, Nina explains how ancient foods like beef and butter have been falsely accused, while industrial foods like corn syrup and soybean oil have created a triple epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. The New York Times said that Real Food "poses a convincing alternative to the prevailing dietary guidelines, even those treated as gospel."

A rebuttal to dietary fads and a clarion call for the return to old-fashioned foods, Real Food no longer seems radical, if only because the conversation has caught up to Nina Planck. Indeed, it has become gospel in its own right.

This special tenth-anniversary edition includes a foreword by Nina Teicholz (The Big Fat Surprise) and a new introduction from the author.
May 10, 2016

Об авторе

Nina Planck, author of Real Food: What to Eat and Why and The Farmer's Market Cookbook is a leading expert on farmer's markets and traditional food. In London, England she created the first farmer's market and in New York City, she ran the legendary Greenmarkets. She has a one-year-old son named Julian, who eats real food.

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Real Food - Nina Planck





First I Explain What Real Food Is

We Become Vegetable Farmers

I Am Forced to Eat Homemade Food

My Virtuous Diet Makes Me Plump and Grumpy

I Am Rescued by Farmers’ Markets

I Discover Weston Price and His Odd Notions

Everywhere I Go, People Are Afraid of Real Food


I Am Nursed on the Perfect Food

I Remember Milking Mabel the Cow

A Short History of Milk

I Reply to the Milk Critics

Milk, Butter, Cholesterol, and Heart Disease

Traditional and Industrial Milk

The Virtues of Raw Milk

I Learn to Appreciate Proper Cheese


Why Even Vegetable Farms Need Animals

How Factory Farms Wreck the Natural Order

Why Grass Is Best (and I Don’t Mean for Tennis)

The Virtues of Beef, Pork, and Poultry Fat

I Try the Winston Churchill Diet

I Am Skeptical That Red Meat Causes Cancer

Buying and Cooking Real Meat


How Our Brains Grew Fat on Fish

Life After Salmon

Are You Depressed?

The Truth About Fish Farming


I Never Rebelled Against Vegetables

What Is an Industrial Tomato?

Are You Organic?

How to Eat More Vegetables


Surprising Facts About Fats

If You Have Only Two Minutes For Fats . . .

How I Stopped Worrying About Saturated Fats

Please Butter Your Carrots

Make Mine Extra-Virgin

My Opinion of the Minor Vegetable Oils

Coconut Oil Is Good for You


How the Margarine Makers Outfoxed the Dairy Farmers

How Fake Butter Causes Heart Disease

Why I Don’t Eat Corn, Soybean, or Sunflower Oil

I Am Not Convinced by Canola


The Abominable Egg White Omelet

Whole Grains and Real Bread

Traditional and Industrial Soy

What Is Real Salt?

Chocolate: The Darker the Better


What Is Cholesterol?

How Cholesterol Became the Villain

The Cholesterol Skeptics

Diet First, Then Medication

A Disease of Deficiency











Real Food was a bold, groundbreaking book, so ahead of its time that even now, a decade later, the world is just catching up. Weaving together arguments from science and history, the book made the case that not only whole foods but also whole fats should be part of our diet. Butter, lard, tallow, suet—for decades banished from kitchens and avoided on doctors’ orders—were, in the pages of Real Food, reintroduced as traditional, delicious, and, most daring, good for health.

Part of Real Food was uncontroversial. The book gave language and shape to a burgeoning movement unfolding across America: a return to fresh, local, and seasonal foods as well as a reengagement in the pleasures of eating after decades of sterile, supermarket dominance and menus written as if from a prescription pad.

Yet while many in the farm-to-table-movement were happy to embrace local produce, whole-grain breads, and olive oil, Nina Planck went a step further, insisting that traditional foods must also include many considered taboo: full-fat cheese, whole milk, egg yolks, red meat (plus the organ bits) and, of course, those bygone fats.

The case for real food resonated in a simple yet powerful way: How could these ancient foods, part of tradition and culture for millennia, be bad for health? Over the last decade, people have begun to remember that before the obesity epidemic, our ancestors collected eggs, churned butter, and drank whole milk. They savored the cream while feeding skim milk to the pigs—to fatten them. Chopped liver, bacon for breakfast . . . these memories aren’t entirely gone. Now they’ve been unearthed and reexamined in a new light: maybe they aren’t culprits after all. It now appears that these foods may very well have been the guardians of our once-good health, which many Americans, now medicated and overweight, are struggling to recover.

Yet even in the face of this history, doubts have lurked about whether these foods are safe. After all, they contain saturated fats and cholesterol, which, since the 1950s, have been considered dietary evils Numbers One and Two for heart disease. In 2006, Nina Planck made a detailed scientific case in favor of saturated fats and cholesterol, a view then so unpopular that hardly a nutrition expert would support it. But in the past five years, there’s been a sea change, an almost vertiginous reversal in the scientific record.

Since 2013, for example, the caps on dietary cholesterol have been dropped from government nutrition advice, meaning we’re free to eat egg yolks and shellfish with impunity. Eating cholesterol, it turns out, doesn’t reliably alter blood cholesterol levels.

Even more stunning has been the recent reversal on the link between saturated fats and heart disease. In the last five years, a large body of scientific literature has challenged this most sacred belief. As I write, no fewer than thirteen meta-analyses and systematic reviews, on a vast quantity of observational and clinical trial data, concluded that saturated fats are not linked to death from heart disease—or any other disease.

Some data do show that saturated fats raise LDL cholesterol, but this fact doesn’t seem to raise one’s chances of having a heart attack or dying. The simple explanation for this apparent paradox is that neither total nor LDL cholesterol reliably predict heart disease. In the last decade, researchers have made remarkable progress in finding more accurate biomarkers, such as lipoprotein subparticles, that better predict poor cardiac health, and that research is still unfolding. We can, however, answer the pressing question: Will eating natural saturated fats lead us to an early death? Those thirteen review papers clearly say no.

Of course, none of this thinking is mainstream yet. Although scientists are beginning to be more vocal about their doubts on saturated fats, and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada backed off its saturated-fat limits in 2015, U.S. authorities have held firm. It is controversial to say that American nutrition experts have been able to do this only by ignoring the data; I believe this is true.

One hopes for a correction from our officials, not only because we’d like everyone to enjoy, guilt-free, the pleasure of eggs fried in butter—although that would be plenty! The more urgent reason is of course to repair the public health. As Real Food explains, these traditional foods are essential for obtaining the full complement of nutrients needed for human well-being. It is simply impossible to get the vitamins and minerals essential for healthy pregnancies and babies, and for a life free of chronic disease, without eating foods of animal origin.

Also, there’s the sticky reality that without animal fats, one’s choice of fat is largely limited to refined vegetable oils, an industrial product invented only in the early twentieth century, whose astronomical rise in the food supply parallels ill health. The omega-6 fats in these oils—including corn, soybean, canola, sunflower—cause inflammation when consumed in excess and oxidize easily, especially when heated. Nina Planck was prescient in warning us about the dangers of consuming too many vegetable oils.

Thus any proponent of real food must, in the basket alongside whole grains and produce, include foods derived from animals as well as the fats those animals naturally carry. This is the diet nature has given us, the diet we evolved to eat. Fat itself is still taboo for many eaters. Yet science does not support the low-fat diet; it never did. A convincing quantity of clinical trial data shows that without ample dietary fat, most of us will struggle to lose weight or to prevent or control diabetes. That is presumably why the U.S. government began dropping any total fat limits from its 2015 dietary guidelines.

What Real Food does so beautifully is to combine the conversation about nutrition science with one about food—the history and culture it conveys, and the pleasures it brings. Sixty years ago, nutrition science began to deflate the simple joy of eating. Cuisine was reduced to an arduous slog of macronutrient percentiles, calorie counting, and a growing list of the verboten. No doubt the effort was well intentioned. But the experts who pinned the blame on fat and cholesterol were tragically wrong.

Now we are called to rectify these mistakes, to scramble back to an authentic way of eating. In this nation of immigrants, each individual and each family will have to rediscover a personal and family food culture. I predict a rewarding journey for those who pursue it fully. Ahead of her time, Nina Planck has given us the courage to start. Daring, thorough, and persuasive, Real Food is an enduring guide for a lifetime of eating.

Nina Teicholz

Author, The Big Fat Surprise (Simon & Schuster 2014)

New York, NY


Americans are world-class consumers, and one of our more enduring shopping habits involves books about diet and health. Our appetite for the latest guide to self-improvement by way of food is as durable as our tendency toward puritanical beliefs. The two habits of the heart frequently collide, cartoon-style, producing a dust-cloud of guilt, as each deviation from the perfect diet leaves the stain of sin, whether visible, as in belly fat, or unseen, as in impure foods coursing through the system. We must then cleanse, ideally with the inedible. These days, raw kale is the hair shirt. There is no balance. The symptoms of our national eating disorder are an obsession with correct eating, status anxiety, and (ironically) poor health. I call it Amerexia Nervosa.

Hoping to save us, many have preached the gospel of food. The Reverend Sylvester Graham is the modern father of whole wheat bread, having invented, in 1829, a loaf called graham bread, made from unsifted flour free from chemical additives such as alum and chlorine, which were already common in cheap, factory-made loaves. In his little book of 1837, Treatise on Bread and Bread-Making, Graham hoped to clear the soul—especially the female soul—of sin by restoring real bread and proper baking.

The art of bread-baking, when considered in all its relations and intimate connections with human health, and prosperity, and virtue, and happiness, and with reference to the natural responsibilities and duties of a woman, is actually one of the highest and noblest accomplishments that can adorn the female character.

Like Britain’s Real Bread Campaign and the Maine Grain Alliance of our times, the Graham campaign might be called organic or traditional, in that he called for healthy soil, good wheat, and an old-fashioned approach to baking, but the heart of his message was moral. He believed that women belonged in the kitchen baking, and that a vegetarian diet would cure alcoholism and curb lust.

Health crusaders have been visiting American towns ever since. A nutritionist with a gift for reaching civilians, Adelle Davis wrote a series of books, among them Let’s Eat Right to Keep Fit, calling for whole foods and vitamin supplements. Dismissed by the medical and nutrition powers, Davis nevertheless sold more than ten million books and became, as Time put it in 1972, the high priestess of a new nutrition religion. In the 1950s and 1960s, her salesmanship for unsexy whole foods such as liver, brown bread, eggs, and milk—and, critically, vitamins—presages our current era of nutritionism, which holds that the value of a food is the sum of its individual components, including macronutrients, vitamins, antioxidants, trace elements, and other ingredients invisible to the naked eye and largely undetectable on the palate. The Davis persona suggested the common-sense outsider, a perpetual irritant to the men in white coats.

Other salubrious diets had exotic origins. In the early 1960s, Michio Kushi, a Japanese scholar of political science and law, founded the Erewhon brand of natural foods and made nutritionally correct Americans aware of macrobiotics, the art of balancing—sugar and salt, acid and alkaline, yin and yang. In his early life, Kushi was a peacenik with hopes for ending war and violence via politics. Disillusioned on that score, he turned to food as a means to peace, this time via individual health. Macrobiotics thrived, and with it sales of brown rice, seaweed, and soy.

In 1971, Frances Moore Lappé defined correct eating, in her bestselling book Diet for a Small Planet, as refusing beef. Her case for a vegetarian diet was largely ecological; a critic of rich-nation table habits, Lappé argued that eating grain was greener and more efficient than eating beef made of grain. Her relentless focus, then as now, fell on hunger and equality. Also in 1971, a perky young cook named Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse, the now-classic restaurant in Berkeley, California. Waters is the ur-champion of local, seasonal, and organic food, simply prepared. Her first pursuit, however, was aesthetic. She wanted her restaurant to look, feel, and taste like France, where she lived and cooked as a young woman. Taste and beauty, says Waters, led her to local organic farms and to activism.

Many others have urged us to eat in a certain way, and I would argue that beneath each diet (however worthy the actual foods) lies a personal motive, political agenda, or cultural reform. Usually this deeper motive is anything but secret, and I’m all for changing the world fork by fork. But like the savvy reader of labels, the eater who susses out the non-food agenda is better off than the one who reads without a clue.

Perhaps it’s Michael Pollan who has brought all these reforms, trends, and ideas together in a coherent yet multifaceted disco ball of food politics, and perhaps what makes him the great food-budsman of our time is that he seems to lack any other agenda. In The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Pollan offered himself as the objective everyman bearing the deeply-reported, fact-driven story. In his civilian duds—he’s not a farmer, chef, dietician, doctor, or vitamin salesman—Pollan is a steady voice, an affable authority. With quiet persuasion, he shows how American eating habits have run amok. When Pollan writes a comprehensive, popular account of feedlot beef or the microbiome, it’s an instant classic because we trust him.

I do have my small disagreements with Pollan, namely the suggestion that we eat mostly plants. As measured by volume? Calories? By counting individual species? Moreover, as wholesome as roots, stems, leaves, seeds, and fruits are, the clinical evidence does not support avoiding eggs, beef, and butter. But his message, as I understand it, is largely one of approach, not plate-by-plate planning. Uncle Michael urges us to be skeptical of health claims, to eat real food (not industrial simulacra), to savor the communal pleasures of the table, and to stop when we’re full. Amen, brother.

As for me, I’m just a minor character in a long line of campaigners. So, what’s my underlying agenda? (I have wondered myself. I’m married to a cheese monger, but I believed in butter and cream before I met him. I own farmers’ markets, but I don’t write about real food because I own farmers’ markets; I own farmers’ markets because I believe in real food.) I do want to rehabilitate traditional foods unjustly maligned. But more than that, I want Americans to eat freely, for health and pleasure. By doing so, I believe we’ll make the local watershed cleaner and the view more beautiful, but regional agriculture is not my primary subject. I’m in the liberation business.

In 2005, I tried to trademark my book title and little open-air-market company with an intellectual property lawyer, but he said the words real and food, when paired, were already in common use. I couldn’t own them, like Monsanto owns Roundup Ready corn. Although I didn’t think the phrase real food was quite in common use, my plans for world domination were scarcely dashed. I don’t want to own words; I want to spread them. Now real food is on everyone’s lips, and I’m glad. I don’t care which fast-food behemoth borrows the term next. There is no ironclad guarantee of quality in this world. It pays to apply a little skepticism to every label and every claim.

More than ten years later, my motives in writing Real Food are the same. I wish you freedom from the hobgoblins of nutritionism—calories, grams, milligrams—and freedom to eat the foods that suit your culture, physique, and palate. As for me, having personally achieved freedom around food, I plan to retire from reading nutrition journals. I’ll be eating real food, as I understand it, until the closing credits.

One spectacle I shall be watching, however, if only from the cheap seats, is heart disease. The cholesterol theory of heart disease—which holds that dietary saturated fat causes unhealthy cholesterol levels, atherosclerosis, and death—has dominated cardiology and nutrition for nearly sixty years. But epidemiological and clinical evidence to support this hypothesis is crumbling. For example, a UCLA School of Medicine study of 136,905 people admitted to 541 hospitals nationwide for coronary artery disease between 2000 and 2006 found that almost half the patients had total LDL levels considered ideal. In 2014, Dr. Rajiv Chowdhury and colleagues found that higher blood levels of margaric acid—a saturated fat found in butter—predict fewer cases of heart disease.

In short, a growing number of facts don’t fit the theory. Thomas Kuhn called such facts anomalies. As Kuhn described in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, a theory (like the flat earth) begins to wobble when the weight of contradictory facts grows. But it will not topple until its predictive value fails and a superior hypothesis arrives to replace it. Thus, for example, in the years before Copernicus published his revolutionary paper on heliocentrism, every sensible astronomer in Europe knew that Ptolomeic astronomy could not predict planetary paths. But nothing changed until Copernicus supplied a new model, in 1543. Writes Kuhn,

Let us then assume that crises are a necessary precondition for the emergence of novel theories and ask next how scientists respond to their existence. Part of the answer . . . can be discovered by noting first what scientists never do when confronted by even severe and prolonged anomalies. Though they may begin to lose faith and then to consider alternatives, they do not renounce the paradigm that has led them into crisis . . . once it has achieved the status of paradigm, a scientific theory is declared invalid only if an alternate candidate is available to take its place.

A thoughtful reader of the cholesterol literature will soon notice that the diet-heart hypothesis is in a classic Kuhnian crisis. Even as the medical and nutritional establishment scrambles to explain the awkward data, and to slightly revise the basic theory, the men and women in white coats will not renounce the hypothesis that butter kills. But Kuhn also says, rather brightly, that failure of the existing rules is the prelude to a search for new ones. We await the clever researcher who will unveil a new, scientifically compelling and politically savvy hypothesis.

In these pages, I’ve told you what I think about food. Now it’s up to you. All that I wished for ten years ago came true. Everywhere I turn, I see organic and local produce, lacto-fermented krauts and drinks, grass-fed beef, broth bars, raw milk, cultured butter, whey drinks, savory yogurt, wild salmon, pastured eggs, dark chocolate, unrefined sea salt, and more. This omnivore is terribly pleased. Now, as the scripture says, I intend to sit under my own vine and fig tree. If you pass by, please join me, and we’ll raise a glass of whole milk to our real food nation.

New York City



I Grow Up on Real Food, Lose My Way, and Come Home Again


When I was growing up on a vegetable farm in Loudoun County, Virginia, we ate what I now think of as real food. Just about everything at our table was local, seasonal, and homemade. Eating our own fresh vegetables certainly made me proud; they tasted better than the supermarket vegetables other people ate. But I regarded homemade granola, whole wheat bread, and chicken livers—not to mention the notable lack of store-bought processed foods in brightly colored boxes in our kitchen—as uncool. Today, my embarrassment over the simple American meals we ate is long gone, and I regard the food I grew up on as the very best. It’s true that in certain quarters these days, sautéed chicken livers are fashionable, but I don’t care about that; I prefer real food because it’s delicious and it’s healthy.

What is real food? My rough definition has two parts. First, real foods are old. These are foods we’ve been eating for a long time—in the case of meat, fish, and eggs, for millions of years. Some real foods, such as butter, are more recent. It’s not absolutely clear when regular dairy farming began, but we’ve been eating butterfat for at least ten thousand years, perhaps as many as forty thousand. By contrast, margarine—hydrogenated vegetable oil made solid and dyed yellow to resemble traditional butter—is a modern invention, merely a century old. Margarine is not a real food.

Consider the soybean. Asians have been eating foods made from fermented soybeans, such as miso, tofu, and soy sauce, for about five thousand years. Without fermentation, the soybean isn’t ideal for human consumption. But most of the modern soy products Americans eat are not traditional soy foods. The main ingredient in modern soy foods and many processed foods, such as low-carbohydrate snack bars, is isolated soy protein, a by-product of the industrial soybean oil industry. This unfermented, defatted soy protein is not real food.

Second, real foods are traditional. To me, traditional means the way we used to eat them. That means different things for different ingredients: fruits and vegetables are best when they’re local and seasonal; grains should be whole; fats and oils unrefined. From the farm to the factory to the kitchen, real food is produced and prepared the old-fashioned way—but not out of mere nostalgia. In each of these examples of real food, the traditional method of farming, processing, preparing, and cooking enhances nutrition and flavor, while the industrial method diminishes both.

*Real beef is raised on grass (not soybeans) and aged properly.

*Real milk is grass-fed, raw, and unhomogenized, with the cream on top.

*Real eggs come from hens that eat grass, grubs, and bugs—not vegetarian hens.

*Real lard is never hydrogenated, as industrial lard is.

*Real olive oil is cold-pressed, leaving vitamin E and antioxidants intact.

*Real tofu is made from fermented soybeans, which are more digestible.

*Real bread is made with yeast and allowed to rise, a form of fermentation.

*Real grits are stone-ground from whole corn and soaked with soda before cooking.

Industrial food is the opposite of real food. Real food is old and traditional, while industrial food is recent and synthetic. The impersonation of real food by industrial food, by the way, is neither accidental nor hidden. An industrial food like margarine is intended to be a replica of a traditional food—butter. Real food is fundamentally conservative; it doesn’t change, while industrial food, by contrast, is under great pressure to be novel. The food industry is highly competitive and relentlessly innovative, producing thousands of new food products every year. Most of these new foods are merely new combinations of old ingredients dressed in a new shape (individually wrapped cheese slices instead of the traditional wheel of pressed cheese) or new packaging (whipped cream in an aerosol can). Or the new recipe has been tweaked to ride the latest food craze (cholesterol-free cheese, low-carbohydrate bagels). Real food, on the other hand, doesn’t change because it doesn’t have to. My morning yogurt is a masterfully simple recipe for cultured milk, passed down for thousands of years.

So that’s my custom definition of real food: it’s old, and it’s traditional. To lexicographers, sticklers, and nitpickers (you know who you are), it’s no doubt hopelessly imprecise and incomplete, but I hope it’s clear enough for our purposes.

People everywhere love traditional foods. They’re fond of a nice steak, the crispy skin of roast chicken, or mashed potatoes made with plenty of milk and butter. But they’re afraid that eating these things might make them fat—or, worse, give them a heart attack. So they do as they’re told by the experts: they drink skim milk and order egg white omelets. Their favorite foods become a guilty pleasure. I believe the experts are wrong; the real culprits in heart disease are not traditional foods but industrial ones, such as margarine, powdered eggs, refined corn oil, and sugar. Real food is good for you.

Does that mean you should enjoy real bacon and butter not because they’re tasty but because they’re actually healthy? In a word, yes. Some might mock this as a characteristically American case for real food—call it the Virtue Defense. Gina Mallet, an Anglo-American food explorer who defends real foods, including beef and raw milk cheese, in Last Chance to Eat: The Fate of Taste in a Fast Food World, calls the modish philosophy healthism—and her intent is not to flatter. As scientists began to blame the diseases of civilization on diet, Mallet writes, a new philosophy emerged, based on the notion that death could be delayed, perhaps even cheated, if a person monitored every single piece of food she ate. I’m concerned about nutrition, but I wouldn’t call myself a healthist. For one thing, living forever doesn’t interest me, and for another, flavor does.

Someone else—a French chef perhaps—might take a different approach in defense of real food. Less interested in health, he might champion pleasure for its own sake. Great—I’m all for pleasure. If the sheer sensual joy of eating shirred eggs or homemade ice cream is enough for you to shed your guilt, throw away phony industrial foods, and return to eating real foods, all the better. I’ll leave the nature of taste and satisfaction, guilt and pleasure to the cultural critics and moral philosophers. This book is about why real food is good for you.


My parents chose to farm, but I didn’t. My father had a doctorate in international relations from Johns Hopkins and taught political science at the State University of New York in Buffalo, where I was born in 1971. A bright young professor, he got tenure early, and he could teach anything he wanted. My mother, for her part, was at home with three young children and very happy. But they always had unconventional plans and utopian ideas: unsatisfied with our local public school in Buffalo, they started and ran a neighborhood school with other parents. They loved physical work and kept a plot in a garden outside of town.

In January 1973, our friends Tony and Mariette Newcomb came to see us in Buffalo. They brought eggs and beef they had raised on their farm in Virginia. We were knocked out by that, my father said. That very year, Dad quit teaching and we moved south to Virginia to learn vegetable farming from the Newcombs. Committed to farming before they’d even tried it, they also bought sixty acres of farmland in Loudoun County, Virginia, for seventy-five thousand dollars they cobbled together with loans from friends and family. My sister, Hilary, was ten years old, Charles was six, and I was two. They wanted us to grow up on a farm.

Our first years farming as apprentices to the Newcombs were wonderful and strange, very different from the life of a professor’s family. Mom and Dad worked all the time, and we lived simply. With no kids my age to play with, I was often lonely hanging around the farm or playing at make-believe grocery shopping at our farm stand. In many ways it was a hard life. But however sore and tired they were, they loved farming, and for us kids, the farm was a rusty, dusty, paradise embracing both work and goofing off, and the Newcomb kids were like cousins.

On September 19, 1977, Hilary was struck by a car coming home from her ballet class. She was fourteen years old. We buried her at home, a few days later, in the woods under a dogwood tree, where Tony Newcomb said there would never be any possibility of disruption. My father gathered boards from poplar trees grown on the farm and cut by the local Amish miller and built a coffin; many people picked up the hammer to nail it shut. My mother braided baler twine ropes to support the coffin. I scampered along as shifting teams of bigger people carried it slowly up Grove’s Hill, where everyone started shoveling.

On the same hill in 1984, Hiu Newcomb buried her husband, Tony, who founded Potomac Vegetable Farms with land they bought in the early 1960s. Many years later, Hilary’s best friend Anna Newcomb and her sister Hana helped to preserve the Newcomb family land. In 2000, they built a visionary co-housing community of nineteen houses, which circle the small, rustic cemetery.

When I visit my sister’s grave, I remember how small I felt as a six-year-old, the awful necessity of saying good-bye to my big sister. I guess Hilary is not going to take me swimming anymore, I told my parents. But I also remember the family, friends, and community who came to bury her, with their own hands, and I’m comforted that the spirit of community at her funeral is still present in the friends, family, preservationists, and farmers who live near her grave.

But all that came later. Our family, suddenly and cruelly diminished, left Vienna, Virginia, and, worse, we had to leave Hilary there. Soon after the funeral, we packed our things, as previously planned, and moved. We headed south, to Swannanoa, North Carolina, where my father would teach political science and be director of the work program at Warren Wilson College, and my mother found work at the local extension service. Now smitten by the farming life, my parents kept a cow and chickens, and grew an acre of tomatoes. Our time in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains is blurry, but what stands out is sad. Dislocated and grieving, I struggled to make friends. One day I crashed my bike into a glass lobby, breaking my arm and tearing a piece of skin off my ribs. I can still hear the tinkling of broken glass, like the wind chime on a porch, as my bike came to rest and then wobbled over. On a scrap of paper, I wrote a note

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  • (4/5)
    Always looking for help distinguishing between competing health claims for local vs shipped food, organic vs farm-raised, animal welfare etc. This one helped.
  • (5/5)
    i am trying to be more liberal with my 5 star ratings, and this book happens to be the first beneficiary.

    the premise of this book is similar to the premise of a lot of books that have come out recently. the most healthy things to eat are real foods, foods that were eaten hundreds of years ago. meat, dairy, real fats, etc... what i liked about it is she went into detail with what the nutritional value of different food items. she explained the nutritional differences between powdered milk, grain fed cow milk, and grass fed cow milk. she also explained how certain industrial food is processed and how the processing diminishes the nutrition. i learned a lot more than i thought i would from this book.

    a lot of it, i couldn't really understand, for the life of me i'll never understand omega-3 and omega-6 and fatty acid chains and the chemical structures of saturated, unsaturated, polyunstaturated, fats...

    i hesitate to give this book 5 stars for 2 reasons.

    1. at times the tone was quite pretentious. if she said one more thing about the delicacies of her vegetables sauteed in real butter with raw milk yogurt and cheese on the side, i think i may have lost it.

    2. going along with point 1, i think this book had very much of a preaching to the choir tone. since i guess i am part of the choir, i liked it, but it very well could have been because it was what i wanted to hear, so i wasn't reading with any skepticism. she didn't present many opposing view-points or give much credibility to the fact that maybe conventional nutritional wisdom has a little something to offer... what i actually want to do is read a book that counters some of the points that she makes..

    ...but really i liked the book. it made me want to eat more good meat, more fish, more whole milk foods, and start cooking with coconut oil and lard.
  • (3/5)
    If you've read anything like this book, then there is no need to read this one also. It will simply be a tiresome repeat of what you've already researched. However, if you are new to the Real Food ideology, then this is a fine starting place. Planck goes through each food group - dairy, plants, proteins - and explains their importance to the body, the nutrients they provide, and what source provides the most. Planck's writing style if cheerful and clear, and she's obviously done her research. Information about nutrition is sprinkled with personal anecdotes and stories. The list of resources in the back is helpful and extensive. But despite all this, I have some issues with this book. First, she commits my greatest pet-peeve when it comes to diet books - extolling foods that are expensive and hard to find. Not everyone has access to the places and shops and vendors that supply these foods. Nor can we afford pasture-raised organic meats or grass-fed fresh raw milk or just picked heirloom tomatoes. This sort of grocery list is only for someone who makes significantly more than your average person. And yes, one might argue that spending on good food prevents spending on medicine and medical bills later. But a weekly budget of this sort of food for a family of four might run you $250 easy - which is ridiculous! This is even assuming one lives near real-round farmer's markets or vendor's selling raw milk - which I don't. In the end, for someone on a budget, her ideology, while sound and wise, isn't feasible for most people. Second, there are no recipes or meal plans or anything practical to assist the reader. It merely tells you what to eat, but doesn't help you take practical steps. Any no, I don't count telling you to "drink raw milk" as a how-do. In the end, this is a good book for a concise, clear explanation for how to make better choices for food. But it's not anything different that what you might find in many other books on the same thing.
  • (4/5)
    I just was poking through this at a friend's house. It's very readable, but a bit of a Pollan-lite. Or Nourishing Traditions-lite. Which there's a time and place for, obviously.
  • (4/5)
    This book is extremely interesting. I am not 100% sure that I agree completely with her view on saturated fats as there is a lot of science that provides a different opinion. The authors points regarding non-processed foods are dead on, and I have begun to alter my diet towards whole foods. Still eating chicken and lean meats vice high fat foods, but I do once a week have 8 ounces of raw milk. This book is an interesting read, and anyone that wants to take a different look at diet and nutrition I highly recommend this book. It will make you at least think about conventional wisdom, even if you don't follow her lead 100% of the time.”