I wasn’t even sure I was going to answer the questions when this whole thing got started, and here I am facing off against Nina Planck, author of Real Food and one of the inspirations for many of us self-titled “Real Food Bloggers.” I feel very unworthy, both to be facing Nina Planck and to have featured so many wonderful foodies already here at Kitchen Stewardship.
This series has introduced me to some new people and given me a chance to go more in depth with some of my favorites, as well as interview Sally Fallon Morell.
We have learned from those of us who, like me, have rather recently jumped into the Real Food movement with both feet, those who have been fully immersed for a number of years, and others just testing the waters and making changes one baby step at a time.
Thank you to the Real Food Face-Off participants, the men and women, parents and grandparents, human beings trying to do their best with their food…for being willing to share your thoughts with the world.
It’s truly been an honor to host, and I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did.
Visit the Real Food Face-Off Introduction page for a full list of all the participants and links to their face-offs.
The Final Face-Off: Nina vs. Katie
|Nina Planck grew up on a farm eating nothing but local, real food, then left all that behind to become a vegetarian world traveler writing speeches for government officials and reporting for TIME Magazine. She finally came back to butter, cream and eggs and opened the first farmers’ markets in London, launching her next career as a Real Food icon. She married Rob Kaufelt and happily drinks raw milk and nibbles artisan cheeses in Greenwich Village together with their son, Julian, and still rather new twins, Jacob and Rose, born August 2009. Her second book, Real Food for Mother and Baby, tries to debunk some of the longstanding nutritional myths surrounding fertility, pregnancy, and feeding babies.||I really should have had someone else write this for me. Who wants to talk about themselves? (Bloggers, some might say. Touché.) Here’s how I ended up here, in brief: I wanted to write a book called Kitchen Stewardship. Easier said than done. I started blogging to have some accountability to keep writing and see if my idea would hold water, and I discovered books like Real Food, Nourishing Traditions, and The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I began applying my own philosophy to my ever-widening cache of food information and took baby steps, one at a time, until I started hosting the Real Food Face-Off, which has made me feel guilty for not doing more. 😉|
How do you describe the way you eat when someone asks you to define your food?
|We eat real food. If humans have been eating it for a long time (hundreds, thousands, or millions of years), we call it real. If it’s been produced and processed pretty much the same way since then, we call it real. Wild salmon, grass-fed beef, raw milk, proper cheese. With a few fun things, like dark chocolate, and raw honey and real maple syrup.||I eat traditional foods, which means in a nutshell that if we as humans haven’t been eating a food for hundreds, or better yet, thousands, of years, it shouldn’t be passing my lips. Margarine and Crisco are great examples of “foods” of this century that don’t count! Mostly, I try to include basic foods that pack a nutritional punch, rather than to focus too much on avoiding.|
What was/is your major incentive for living a real food lifestyle? (How did you come to eat the way you do?)
|I was raised on real food. Then I went astray with vegan, vegetarian, and low-fat diets. My health faltered. I came back to real food bit by bit. Started with eggs for breakfast. A huge improvement. Dropped non-foods like non-fat frozen yogurt – the lowest form of milk.||I believe God gave me the gift of my human body and the earth we live on. I am called to be a good steward of those gifts and care for both well. As a mother, He has blessed me with the immense responsibility of feeding and growing two children, and that impacts my food choices even more than concern for my own health. I’m also a bit of a rebel inside, so I have to admit I’m drawn to traditional foods because they’re countercultural, and that makes me happy in its own right. 😉|
If you only had energy for ONE make-from-scratch food, what would it be? Is your preference for taste or health?
|I love to make meatloaf (half beef, half pork) and I love chilli (no beans). But is roast chicken my all-time favorite food? Perhaps. We eat for taste and health. I don’t eat anything solely because it’s healthy – hmmm, except, perhaps, cod liver oil.||It’s a tie between chicken stock and homemade yogurt. Yogurt is just so easy and saves so much money; our health benefits because we eat it more when it’s always available. However, you simply cannot buy bone broth in a store with the same calcium, , , and other health benefits of homemade chicken stock, so because it’s so elusive, I would have to make it myself. If I got too tired I could coach my husband how to do these tasks, too!|
What food was your favorite that you no longer eat (or shouldn’t eat)?
|Non-fat soft-serve frozen yogurt. And I used to consider the imitation crab meat at salad bars – the flaky white stuff with the orange edges – a delicious treat. But it’s truly the lowest form of reconstituted fish. I was also a juice addict. If you’re on a low-fat diet and drink a lot of juice, you’re wreaking havoc with your blood sugar and moods. Dumb.||Honestly, besides the fact that I need to cut down on refined sugar, I really miss easy chicken. So many of my good chicken recipes start with boneless, skinless breasts, which are just too pricey when you buy meat at the farm. I get tired of only having shredded chicken, but when I harvest some breast meat from our whole birds, it’s like a delicacy!|
What’s your favorite real/traditional food?
|I’m crazy about real chicken stock and beef stock but mine is never as good as it could be. I’d have to go with a fresh glass of raw milk, not too cold.||Plain homemade yogurt with raw honey and frozen fruit.|
What was the hardest transition to make to real food?
|Without a doubt, my toughest challenge in the change from low-fat, vegan, and vegetarian diets was adding real fats. My first steps toward conscientious omnivory were eggs, roast chicken, and yogurt. Good moves, all. But losing my fear of fat took some time. But oh boy, when I did – happiness. And better health. And no more struggles with my weight – the most amazing part.||Second guessing everything. Eating is no longer a question of “Does it taste good and won’t break the bank?” But now it’s “Is it sustainable? How to prepare? What are the origins? How did people used to eat this and why? Etc.” It’s also a realistic struggle to find the funds for pricier food. And the time to prepare it. There’s a reason KS seeks balance!|
What’s something you remain afraid to try?
|I’m not scared of anything, but I have learned there are foods I just don’t like very much, and I should stop trying them again and again. I dislike green and black tea, beer, and lamb. But who cares? If there are a few real foods you don’t like, just don’t eat them!||Kombucha. The darn mushroom is staring at me in my fridge, taunting me that I’ve already killed it! I even bought the tea; I just can’t seem to prioritize it enough to put it on my to-do list. (There’s plenty more for this list, by the way!)|
What’s next on your list of changes to make?
|I could drop a few bad habits: I eat standing up, when alone. I eat too fast, when alone.||Grind my own grain.|
List your top 3 baby steps to move from a Standard American Diet to Real Food.
|1. Stop eating industrial corn in all its forms: corn oil (and all the other yellow oils); corn syrup (it’s everywhere); and corn-fed/industrial feed-lot beef. Of those, the beef is definitely the best for you.|
2. Stop eating anything that’s been engineered to be in high in something or low in another.
3. Cut refined sugar and white flour to the bare minimum.
|This is tricky, because it really matters where you start. If I’m drinking 3 diet sodas per day, that needs to change before I worry about where my fish comes from. Here is an attempt at 3:|
What is the worst food (or “food”) a person could possibly put into their systems?
|Trans fats are bad. So is sugar in all its forms. Even honey and maple syrup should be treats.||A toss-up between trans fats and artificial sweeteners, along with all the junk and excess consumption that usually comes along with those.|
If you had only $20 to spend in a week on real food, what would you buy and what would you make?
|Some meat and some dairy and some affordable vegetables. Chocolate and wine would be sacrificed.||For starters, I would NOT buy lettuce for salad. It’s too easy to spend $5 on lettuce for the week even without going organic.|
What does “eating healthy” mean to you?
|Eat all kinds of real food in moderation and ignore all the diets out there.||Focusing on the foods we need to eat to have healthy bodies, rather than demonizing foods we’re afraid of. I think there are two paradigms of healthy eating in America. Ask not what you can take out of your food, but what your food can put into you.|
Name the top food scoring highest on both the nutritional and budget scale? (i.e., best health benefits for the lowest cost)
|For children I’m a big fan of whole dairy, beef, chicken, and eggs. Canned wild salmon is affordable and very good for you. So are canned small oily fish.||Chicken stock for sure. You take bones that would be garbage and a buck’s worth of vegetables (or garbage scraps, too) and come up with something totally nourishing. It’s like beyond free.|
Biggest drawback of real food lifestyle?
|I can’t think of any but one: if I had a real food luxury, it would be a Raw Milk Butler. He’d bring me fresh raw milk round the clock. No orders, no collections: just a steady delivery.||Trying to explain why you do what you do to other people, especially in-law type people. The fight to keep candy at something less than a mountain for the kids.|
What’s the most creative thing you do to make life easier in the kitchen?
|Creative I’m not, particularly. I love to mix spices with butter and olive oil thoroughly, and then schmeer it on and inside a chicken to roast. Favorites are cumin, cayenne, and chili powder. I love fresh herbs under chicken skin, and I love throwing herbs, garlic, oil, and nuts – whatever I’ve got – into the food processor. I love a sharp fresh green sauce, and the sky’s the limit, for combinations. The other day we had salsa verde (the Italian classic) but without the basil or mint: just parsley, anchovy, garlic, capers, and oil. It was very nice on beef and I was grateful for the green flavor in deepest February.||Cheat on dishes! If I measure salt or something dry, the spoon goes right back in the drawer without apologies. I let a lot of things get rinsed and air-dried so the dirty dishes pile looks more tolerable.|
How important is organic food?
|Ecological is important. But most important: real. The real thing. Real chicken, not ‘tofurkey.’ No imitation foods. I grew up poor on real food. It wasn’t organic (though our home-grown vegetables were ecological).||For the earth, I think it’s super important, as long as it’s sustainable organic and not just “certified” on-paper organic. For our family, it’s hit or miss. We’ve increased our organic intake a ton in the past year; I used to get zero organic animal products. Cost is a major factor, as is quality.|
What do you refuse to buy at a grocery store that you do eat from its source?
|I would never buy farmed salmon but I do end up eating it, despite myself, at weddings and in other desperate situations.||Nothing. I’m getting there on meat, especially beef. But I’ll still compromise in a pinch.|
When eating out, how do make your menu decision (fav “out” food, anything you avoid)?
|In good restaurants I treat myself to the good white bread they serve. We are blessed with super bakers in NYC. And restaurant butter – while probably French and pasteurized – is usually terrific. We eat a lot of French and Irish butter at home, too. There are too few good American butters. But I digress. Otherwise it’s meat and veg for me at restaurants, and things I don’t do well, like marrow gellee or something similarly traditional and peasantry but labor-intensive.||If there’s wild caught salmon, I go for it because I don’t get that at home. I might lean toward beef over chicken after reading Sally Fallon Morell say that no one should ever buy conventional chickens, period. I try really hard to avoid trans fats at all cost, but I like to let my hair down sometimes too and just enjoy a meal without fretting.|
Best book recommendations?
|My favorite books on what to eat are my own. My favorite cookbook is Nigel Slater’s Appetite.||The Omnivore’s Dilemma to open your eyes, Real Food for accessibility, and Crunchy Cons for the philosophical.|
Number one tip you tell your blog readers about eating healthy foods:
|Everyone wants to know how much to eat of one thing or another. You’ve gotta figure that out for your own body and mind. No one can tell you. Not your mother, not the USDA, and not me.||Eat more healthy today than you did yesterday, and accept that you can’t do it all at once.|
This has been the last Real Food Face-Off! Don’t despair; there’s always more to do at KS. We’re talking sourdough recipes all this week and learning to sprout things, and Thursday I have an announcement of the next li’l ol’ series around here.
You can win THREE TINWARE BREAD PANS, my sourdough success gadget, here at KS through Sunday.
Special thanks to Jo-Lynne from DCR Design for the fabulous Face-Off logos. Please visit her if you are a blogger looking for design improvements!
I would recommend trying your local library first to find this!
The image is from Nina Planck’s website.
See Real Food Wednesday for more real food inspiration!