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Real Food/Fake Food: Why You Don’t Know What You’re Eating and What You Can Do About It

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  2,902 ratings  ·  364 reviews
You’ve seen the headlines: Parmesan cheese made from wood pulp. Lobster rolls containing no lobster at all. Extra-virgin olive oil that isn’t. Fake foods are in our supermarkets, our restaurants, and our kitchen cabinets. Award-winning food journalist and travel writer Larry Olmsted exposes this pervasive and dangerous fraud perpetrated on unsuspecting Americans.   
Hardcover, 318 pages
Published July 12th 2016 by Algonquin Books
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3.81  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,902 ratings  ·  364 reviews

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Aug 14, 2016 rated it it was ok
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, via Librarything, in exchange for an honest review.
I had a love/hate relationship with this book. The chapters on seafood and olive oil were terrifying. The rest of the book really irked me.

I absolutely understand the regional pride behind things like Champagne and Parmigiano Reggiano. Many people have the means to get these "real" foods from their producers overseas. Many people do not have the means to do so. This was one of my issues w
Jul 29, 2016 rated it it was ok
This book was riddled with spelling and grammatical errors ("principal" instead of "principle" and—the one that almost made me stop reading—"Columbia" for the country of "Colombia") and presents information that should be common knowledge to most of the audience for whom this book is intended. There is a lot (a lot) of repetition and the most interesting parts—when the author speaks with the producers of the genuine foodstuffs and others in the food industry—are too short and often too focused o ...more
Ken Dowell
Oct 14, 2016 rated it liked it
Several years ago I was vacationing in Puerto Rico and while driving along the south coast of the island, stopped at a seaside restaurant. Sitting on a dining deck overlooking the Caribbean, I ordered red snapper and thought that it was possibly the best fish fillet I’d ever tasted. I ordered red snapper again while I was in Puerto Rico and the result was the same. But when I came back to the continental U.S., every time I ordered red snapper I was disappointed. After reading Real Food, Fake Foo ...more
Dec 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
5 Mind-Blowing-Stars! ☆☆☆☆☆
Everyone need to read this book. Its insane finding out the truth about what we put in our mouths, thinking we are eating healthy. Worst part is, the people, & organizations like the FDA & USDA , who are supposed to be protecting us, don't. Not even half. Congress doesnt want to pass laws to monitor where our food comes from or what is in it. And even worse, some companies lie to you, pushing fake labels, pretending to be better than they are. Its disgusting.

Crystal Starr Light
Bullet Review:

Wavering between 2 and 3 stars - yes, I will be returning this on Audible!!

I've read more than a couple of these types of books, Fast Food Nation, Omnivore's Dilemma, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and I must say, this one was the least interesting of the bunch.

It's hard to be motivated to care about things like Kobe beef and Champagne - when the book talked about things like vine-ripened tomatoes, honey, coffee and tea, it was strongest. But the chapter-long explorations into very ex
If I ever wanted to lose weight, I think reading nonfiction food books is a good start. Real Food/Fake Food is the second book in a row generally referencing food, nutrition, health, etc. The first was The Big Fat Surprise. Real Food/Fake Food (RF/FF) is a confusing, informative and disturbing book on identifying the food I might think I am eating vs. what the food might actually be. Crazy right? It really is...

There are so many qualifiers on what real food and what the author refers to as "fake
Jul 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Larry Olmsted has an engaging and anecdotal style of writing that makes his book compulsively easy to read and it is oh so informative. I am on a quest now to find real and fresh parma-reggianno cheese and authentic and fresh olive oil. I am glad to know why ordering red snapper in a restaurant is a bad idea and why one should never ever dine in a sushi restaurant. It surprised me to read why Costco, Walmart and some of the other big-box stores are actually more reliable than restaurants and gro ...more
Jan 03, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I broke my "no pop science" rule and once again mildly regret it.

The book examines a handful of "real" foods and their fake counterparts: Parmigiano-Reggiano, Champagne, seafood, coffee, olive oil, and truffle oil are a few examples. All have a long, venerable history and exacting standards; all are widely imitated and sold as fraudulent “fake foods”.

Like most pop-science books, the writing leaves a lot to be desired. The chapters are laid out in a very predictable fashion: a product is made t
N.N. Light
Jan 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating and eye-opening book on food, both what you should and shouldn't be eating. Some of the opinions I agreed with while some I didn't. Beautifully executed and made me think. If you care about what goes in your body and want to be healthy, this is a must-read!

My Rating: 5 stars

Reviewed by: Mrs. N
Apr 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: food-politics
If you know me, you know I love food politics. I love reading about it, I love thinking about it. I love thinking about the ethics of what we eat, about the victims of our consumption, about the many, many ways the FDA and food companies fail consumers, about the health consequences of those failures, and about the complete lack of transparency.

But this book isn’t… quite… that. It’s not a book for people interested in food politics so much as people who fancy themselves foodies.

Structure: The
Kim Berkshire
Aug 07, 2016 rated it liked it
Parts were really interesting, but I agree with reviewer who thought how nice for the author to be able to travel the world eating things most of us will only ever see at Whole Foods or the farmer's market (if that farmer's market is in, say, Napa). Would like to have seen more American foods put under the microscope. But the olive oil, fish and wine sections were illuminating.
But how seriously can you take a book with so many misspellings? I saw references to inexcusable mistakes in other revie
Jan 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
Of the many "food expose" books I've read, this is probably the least interesting. It's not because it's not well written (it's actually very well research and the clarity of writing is excellent). Rather, it's because the food he writes about isn't the food of the masses. It's the food of the wealthy, and I guess that just doesn't pertain to my food budget.
When I decided to read Real Food/Fake Food by Larry Olmsted after seeing it on my Goodreads feed, my main concern with fake food was whether my health was being endangered by it. I learned that Larry Olmsted is what was once called a gourmet, but would now be referred to as a foodie. His main concern is authenticity. He wants food that is associated with a specific geographic location to have been made at that location in the traditional way. He explains at great length why this is important. He ...more
Feb 14, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, foodie
So repetitive and really not very well-written or edited.
May 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is scaring, even if it starts talking about Parma, which is one of the loveliest city I've ever lived (for 9 years) and where is possible to find the real Parmigiano Reggiano, and the real Prosciutto di Parma and so on. As an Italian person living in Europe (Berlin to be precise), I know how hard is to find the "real food", but at last it's easier compared to the difficulties and lies a U.S. citizen as to go trough. So I think it's good that this book is around, because it helps people ...more
Aug 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction-misc
Highly recommended reading for anyone who truly cares about food and the food & beverage industry. As a life-long food appreciator, as someone who loves to travel, and as a person who feels strongly about shopping and eating locally, this book was exactly what I hoped it would be. Informative without being overwhelming, Olmsted marries his personal and professional experiences with research and industry-expert interviews to produce this excellent piece of journalism.

A few quick takeaways --
I like to think I’m a pretty savvy consumer (compulsive label-reader, ingredient-researcher, CSPI-supporter, etc), but the great many new things I learned from this book demonstrate the constant vigilance required to avoid poisoning yourself in America’s industrialized food wilderness.

Chapters on olive oil, seafood, and meat were particularly illuminating, as was the last chapter’s round-up on honey, juice, coffee & tea, and spices. Pro-tip: skip to the end of each chapter for buying tips t
Nov 18, 2017 rated it liked it
It's a good starter book for consumers who know little about the history and geography of the more expensive food on the market, considered to be one of the most delicious dishes on the planet, but there's less about the everyday stuff. The sections about seafood and wine are very good, but I was somewhat let down by the quick overview of the meat production, which is the most controversial part of the food industry on the whole. Yes, buy grass-fed meat, but if there's little accurate labeling g ...more
❀ Susan G
Mar 02, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-reads

Real Food, Fake Food was a very long book to listen to during my commutes. Unfortunately, I ran out of time and the first time that I borrowed it from the library and it was automatically returned. It was tempting to just give up at this point but I had invested so much time, that I put a hold on the book to finish listening to it. After 12 hours of listening, I have a list of food to reconsider, food to avoid and food to discover.

I will never buy parmesan
Jul 17, 2016 rated it it was ok
Should have been an essay.

I don’t agree with the author on all points. In my humble opinion, he comes across as a food snob. I’m happy that he is able to travel the world to sample the best of the best when it comes to food and drink, but he is writing a book for the layperson. It would have been nice if he had focused his energy [strictly] on foods that the basic consumer has access to, instead of the handful of foods that appear as mostly higher end commodities. I mean, I’m NEVER going to have the opportunity
Feb 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2019
OK, now I need to move to another country and take up farming. I've always heard about "fake" food, but mostly from China, where they pretty much don't give a fuck if they kill everyone. The U.S. isn't that great either (surprise surprise), in terms of allowing false labeling (so much so that fish described as one thing may in fact be trash fish or even poisonous!) and all that through the "borders" and within.

Olmsted makes many good analogies in the book - the only one I can remember is, this
Jul 30, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audies
The book made me very glad that I am a vegetarian who doesn't drink, but it was much too long, and repetitive.
Sep 25, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, food
This writing in this book seemed more emotional than scientific or informative. Many times in farming or animal husbandry decisions are made for improving production and lowering costs. I agree that natural products are better but the population size of the world at present doesnt allow for completely organic production. It s a luxury for those who can afford it. I know that Republican legislation in the US has allowed for a lot of deregulation in food processing, especially in the transformatio ...more
I loved this book it inspired me to be a better shopper and a better diner.

After reading this book you will understand import facts about:

Parmesan cheese - there can be only one everything else is fake
Champagne only comes from the champagne region of France and why
Why American wines and French wines are different
Why sushi in this country sucks - even at the best sushi restaurants
Why you should probably never order fish or seafood at most restaurants
When your boss raves about the Kobe porterhous
May 29, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, eating
It took me over a month to slog through this book. As a vegetarian, it confirmed many of my reasons for excluding meat, poultry, and especially seafood from my diet, but the author came off a bit holier-than-thou for his eating choices-- something I've always tried to avoid doing, even though I do think my dietary choices are "better" than other people's (there, I said it).

This book has a lot of interesting facts and stats (see my Kindle Notes & Highlights), but the way it was structured was
Nov 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: food
This is one depressing book. Larry Olmsted proceeds to rip open the curtain and show us readers that the food that we love is about as real as the great wizard of Oz. He takes us a stroll through real cheese and wine makers ... and through the fake world of "kobe beef", "champagne", "olive oil", "parmesan", and "sushi".

This book makes me want to stop eating, especially out at restaurants.

Nov 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Holy cow! Or, perhaps holy pure, natural, grass-fed, 100% beef cow. There's an overwhelming amount of info here about what we're buying versus what we think we're actually buying. Meat, olive oil, cheese, seafood, honey, juice - even Scotch. Read this, weep, and become a bit smarter about what you eat.
Dec 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
this. was. FASCINATING.
Oct 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Really great audio book - but I'm never:

Ordering sushi
Eating antibiotic-raised animals
Buying "champagne"
Ordering ANY seafood
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