REVIEW: Real Food: What to Eat and Why
Grandma knows best
Nina Planck's latest exposes bad advice about “bad food” and delivers the skinny on fatty fare.

By Andy Rowan


Real Food: What to Eat and Why
By Nina Planck
Bloomsbury USA (June 2006)
ISBN 1596911441
$23.95 (hardcover)

Posted November 9, 2006: Nina Planck’s Real Food: What to Eat and Why (Bloomsbury, 2006) opens the barn door on myriad nutritional myths created by the food and health industries and their Madison Avenue marketers.

Planck, who grew up on a farm and spent many a childhood afternoon hawking veggies from a roadside farm stand, systematically debunks the idea that rich, fatty foods are bad for you. In fact, she beckons you to enjoy those “sinful” foods and explains how they are essential for a nutritionally balanced body. The book is well-organized, with chapters entitled “Real Meat,” “Real Fruit and Vegetables,” “Real Fish,” etc. The depth of Planck’s scientific and historical research is impressive, lending credence to her damning critique of a food industry that attempts to replace old standbys like eggs, butter, meat and lard (that’s right, lard) with ingredients no one but a chemist can pronounce. “Real Food” topics include myths and facts about cholesterol, the value of salt, the benefits of animal and other saturated fats, the dangers and benefits of fish, and some interesting tidbits about chocolate. Put simply, Planck favors eating the foods our ancestors ate. Food lore—such as that of the cacao tree—and analyses of other cultures’ diets pepper the book nicely.

Planck’s parents left the conventions of Buffalo, New York, and moved to Virginia when she was 2 years old to become vegetable farmers. She has fond memories of eating food seasonally and harvesting with her sister and brother. She also remembers the grueling hoeing, weeding and mulching chores. As a teenager and young adult, Planck recalls being bombarded with the cultural message that all fats are bad for you. She became a vegetarian and cut out fat wherever she could. Planck contends that her health greatly improved when she reintroduced natural fats into her diet. She opened the first farmers’ market in London in 1999 after moving there and desperately missing local, fresh food in her diet. (Planck’s parents, Chip and Susan Planck, are credited with birthing the thriving farmers’ market scene in and around Washington, D.C.)

As a young mother and someone who has recently rediscovered natural fats myself, I highly recommend this book for the experienced foodie as well as the newcomer. Planck nicely weaves her diligent research with nostalgia of her childhood and global history. Says Nina: “Eat the foods we’ve eaten for thousands of years in their natural form,” for this is the way to balanced health.

Enjoy the skin of a roasted chicken, and don’t forget the cream in your coffee.