As I scanned my burgeoning shelf of cook books, I came upon one I’d bought years ago. It was not a book of recipes, but one of intriguing food facts. Larry Olmsted, published the best-seller entitled: Real Food, Fake Food: Why You Don’t Know What You’re Eating & What You Can Do About It. Olmsted is a food and travel writer for USA Today, Forbes.com, and a number of other publications.
Below is a taste of Olmsted’s discoveries, that I thought you might find interesting. The book is available at Amazon.
Tidbits from Real Food, Fake Food
- The FDA doesn’t have a definition for “extra virgin.” The only rule: if other oils are included they must be indicated on the label. From 85% to 92% of what’s labelled “extra virgin” is not. Look here for the low down on olive oil.
- Most oils are made from compressed seeds, but olive oil is made from the juice of olives. Buy in small container, no more than you can use in six weeks. Store in a cool, dark cabinet.
- Italy is both the largest importer and exporter of bottled olive oil. Italian producers can blend imported oils with local products and sell the oil as “bottled in Italy.”
- Australia has some of the best olive oil, because of their high quality control standards. Chile is also good. Olmsted uses Australia’s Boulder Bend, sold in the US as Cobram Estate.
- California’s McEvoy Ranch makes high-quality, real extra-virgin oil available on line and at gourmet stores. Costco’s Toscano signature oil is the real deal.
- Truffle oil is almost nonexistent. It is made by perfumists and has no truffles in it. Anything so labeled should be avoided. It merely uses artificial flavoring.
- Always purchase olive oil in a dark, glass bottle for best storage.
- This King of Cheeses is often cut with cellulose, a wood pulp stabilizer. Two-percent is allowable, but some have four times that much. Bland imitations lacks the flavor of real Parmesan.
- Real Parmesan has the EU seal (PDO) embossed with dots on the rind.
- Real Parmesan cheese comes from cows that eat only grass and hay and receive no antibiotics or supplements. A wheel of Parmesan must be aged at least a year.
- You can get good quality products at the big box stores, such as Costco. Because of their size, they have the clout to dictates standards to producers.
And Other Foods:
- Honey is one of the most widely faked foods in the world, often cut with corn syrup.
- Maryland crab is sometimes imported from Asia, so look for the “True Blue” logo at restaurants serving crab meat in the Chesapeake Bay area.
- Scotch whiskey is one of the most authentic products in the world, defined by the UK and produced under strict rules.
- Trader Joe’s gets the best score for accuracy in labeling seafood.
- Grass-fed beef is not necessarily so. Only 100% Grass-fed means what it says.
- Vanilla is expensive and often artificial flavors are used. Read labeling.
This is just a sampling of Mr. Olmsted’s book. Check it out.