Real Food/Fake Food by Larry Olmsted
A defense of truth in foodie advertising.
First off, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, a delicious hard grating (and snacking!) cheese, unlike any other to hear him tell it. I’m all for Parmigiano-Reggiano. But Grana Padano has all the same characteristics. I’m more familiar with the latter than the former, so maybe I need to go find some P-R and be transported into ecstasies by what I’ve been missing; but I have to say I’ve had damn good G. P. He talks about G. P. being passed off as parmesan, and I’m all for truth in labeling and advertising; but he never stakes any claims as to why G. P. is such a worse thing.
And a confession here. That “cardboard” powder that comes in the shakeable green can? It ain’t Parmigiano-Reggiano or even lousy Grana Padano or even, I guess, cheese. But (whisper) I kind of like it? It has its place? It’s an easily shakeable umami I can put on my pasta. Shaved hard cheese is delicious, but it’s not the same thing, is it? I like the grated stuff. Grew up with it.
Onward… parma ham – I’m not familiar enough with it to comment. Fish labeled as the wrong species – again, I don’t want things mislabeled. But he doesn’t really sufficiently go into why the species is so important.
Olive oil – a very informative chapter. And I’ve been destroying my bottle of super-authentic olive oil that I carted personally all the way from Italy, by keeping it next to the toaster-oven – DOH! But sigh, to hear the experts tell it, we have to buy oils and spices and grains in practically single-serving sizes since they allegedly become inedible so quickly.
Truffle oil, another informative section – basically, don’t. Just don’t.
Kobe beef… You haven’t had it. There are only three places in America serving the real deal. Meanwhile, we have a lot of “wagyu” beef floating around… this is nominally the same species as the cows used in Japan to make Kobe beef, but that doesn’t make it Kobe beef, or good, or anything, really. Anyway, Kobe beef doesn’t sound like something I want. The way it’s described reminds me of a croissant – fat, fat, fat, and just enough lean [muscle/flour] to keep the structure together and not just be a stick of fat. Meh.
Champagne – I don’t even like. Scotch – even less so. More about cheese. And wine – provenances and varietals. Useful info, like what percentage of a varietal is needed in the U.S.A. to use the name of the varietal in the label (used to be 51%, now it’s much higher)…
Don’t let my negativity fool you, the book was A.O.K. with lots of info; I guess just a few too many sections about foodstuffs I’m not interested in.