An eater, Real Food advocate, and co-author of The Real Food Revival, Sherri Brooks Vinton is the kind of woman who makes my heart happy.
And (wonder of wonders!) she actually agreed to let me interview her.
FR: What’s your food heritage? What was it like eating in your home growing up?
Sherri: I spent a lot of time at my Granny Toni’s house-she made everything from scratch. If she was making chicken noodles soup she would make her own noodles. She grew her own food, composted and recycled everything. It wasn’t because she lived in the country or was some sort of earthy ‘60’s hippy gal—she was a church going Polish woman who lived in the city limits of Baltimore. Her sustainability came from a place of frugality and self-reliance, of making due with what you had—and her food was made more delicious because of it.
FR: It sounds like your taste buds got accustomed to Real Food early on. How did you go from a Real Food eater to an advocate?
Sherri: My husband and I took a cross-country motorcycle trip and I was looking forward to digging into the local food culture with my fork. Instead it was all fast-food joints and processed food. I saw the family farms, bought out by agribusiness, abandoned and melting into the ground and got a whiff of a feedlot. I came back home looking for answers. I joined Slow Food, started going to seminars, asked a lot of questions and found out that there were practical steps every eater could take to turn the agricultural tide–to save small growers and enjoy better food. I wanted to turn everybody I knew onto this great network of sustainable growers and producers.
FR: What’s your definition of “Real Food”?
Sherri: Real Food is raised without a lot of chemicals or genetically modified organisms, it is grown with great respect for natural resources and any animals in its care. Essentially, if it’s good for the environment, the farmer and you—it’s real food.
FR: Tell us about “The Real Food Revival.”
Sherri: The Real Food Revival is a movement toward a more sustainable, just food system. Everyone who supports sustainable agriculture with their food choices–visits the farmers’ market, is a member in a CSA, or chooses local over imported foods is a member of the revival—and we are legion!
FR: So, buying an orange can be a revolutionary act! I like that. Most of my readers are already committed to eating Real Food. Do you have any advice for those who don’t have local farmer’s markets near them? They have to shop at their local grocery stores and make the best decisions they can with what’s available.
Sherri: Grocery stores are often very responsive to customer requests—so I would suggest anyone who cannot buy local food directly encourage their market manager to do so. It’s becoming increasingly easy to find Real Food in the market—meat, milk and eggs from animals raised on pasture or at least a vegetarian diet, GMO free oils, local and seasonal produce, artisanal cheeses—because eaters are demanding them. Many farmers also ship—perhaps it’s not a practical solution for all of your grocery needs but for items such as grass-fed meat, it can be a great way to stock up.
FR: Do you eat out? If so, how does your food philosophy fit in to your choices?
Sherri: Oh, I love to eat out. I choose restaurants that are working to source locally and/or preserve culinary traditions. So I look for market menus, and I’m a big fan of handcrafted ethnic food. We love pizza night at home—when we order from a local joint we’re supporting a small, family owned business and keeping dollars in our community. You can’t say that about the drive-thru.
FR: Would you call yourself a good cook?
Sherri: I love to cook—have since I could reach the stove. It brings me great happiness to be able to tickle the taste buds of my family and friends. Cooking brings so much to our home. I never understood the theory of playing beat-the-clock in the kitchen—trying to get in and out and quickly as you can. Invite your people around the hearth, let them pitch in and call it a party!
FR: I’m of the same opinion. I mean, we need to cook, so why not try to stay positive about it? I once heard that cooking is the only art that uses all five senses. Sadly, it’s become a lost art as we let manufactured edible food-like substances replace Real Food. That said, are you hopeful about the future of food in the U.S.?
Sherri: I am continually inspired by the growers and eaters I meet in my search for Real Food. The Winter Markets are a great example. I live in the Northeast and last winter our markets started to go year-round. On the first day of the winter market I walked into the space and it was PACKED with eaters scooping up everything they could—meat, cheese, bread, root vegetables, greens. The farmers were selling out and just blown away by the response. One grower told me, “This is the first year since I’ve been farming that I will start my spring season in the black. I won’t have to go into debt to buy seed, feed the animals. It’s a miracle.” That’s the power of the Real Food Revival.
Debbie in CA : ) says
I spent a summer’s exchange in Norway at age 17 and it revolutionized my food attitude. I was blessed to be in a very organic/natural/ healthy family. (We remain close to this day.) I LIVED a healthy routine every day and mamma invested time teaching me. It changed my life. I returned to my fast-food-lovin mom here in the US but refused to eat that “Stuff” ever again.
I turned my health around (I was skinny and sickly) and went on to revolutionize my life and health and create change in my local markets with my requests. I patronized those willing to offer REAL FOOD. When I married and had kids I ramped up to all organics, whole, natural, healthy foods. My five kids have been HEALTHY-HEALTHY and that includes two handicapped ones (twins encountered birth-trauma pre-delivery) who shouldn’t have lived and yet thrived! Though one has since passed onto Heaven, he lived nearly 16 years . . . and the doctors said he would die the first week! Praise God they were wrong. : )
I loved this interview and I’m so glad to have found your site. I’m often times a lone voice crying out for health in a community that claims to be health conscious and yet supports fast-food joints and HFCS. UGH! I’ve found more buddies that celebrate life with real food.
Thanks for being here. : D
Debbie in CA : )
Imara & Debbie — I’m glad you liked the interview. Thanks for commenting!
I think we all have “a-ha” moments where we start waking up to what we’re eating and how our food choices affect not only our health, but the people around us.
Hopefully we can inspire others to join us along the way.
Kelly the Kitchen Kop says
Wow, what a powerful interview…and OH how I wish WE had a winter market!!!!
Kelly the Kitchen Kop
This interview is really inspirational. I have a tendency to get overwhelmed by the magnanimity of a problem and feel as though there’s nothing I can do. Now I realize that every time I shop at the coop or the farmers’ market, that I am doing something. Reading the comment from the farmer who won’t have to go into debt to feed his animals nearly choked me up. I grew up in a community of farmers and my mom grew up on a farm. I’m familiar with and sympathetic to their struggles and try not to judge those who succumb to the paycheck from King Corn while rejoicing in those who farm sustainably and responsibly.
Great interview and agree – the comment from the farmer who won’t start spring in the red was very moving. It’s so great to feel empowered by every food choice we make, and not as Spinner said, overwhelmed. We are helping the small farmers, the environment, the animals AND we are also doing the best for our health. Talk about win-win-win-win!
I liked your first question. As contributing editor for the Soil Association’s magazine, Living Earth, that is always the first question I ask my interviewee: how did you eat at home? I had the privilege of interviewing Dr Vandana Shiva last autumn, and her answer was fascinating. I am also always trying to find out the ‘ah ha’ moment!
Just one thing to add. For me another key benefit of organic farming is the way the farmer fertilises the soil. Organic fertiliser comes from biological systems on the farm – compost, crop rotation and nitrogen-rich clover: a sustainable process, which also stores carbon in the soil. However non-organic fertiliser is made in factories and trucked for miles. Its manufacture alone makes it farming’s biggest contribution to greenhouse-gases.
So another question to ask the farmer might be: what fertiliser do you use?
http://newfarm.rodaleinstitute.org / http://www.soilassociation.org
Elisabeth — I think ‘ah ha’ moments are really telling. I love hearing about the turning points in people’s lives.
You’ll notice this comment didn’t post until today, and that’s because I only just got around to clearing out my spam filter. I think your comment got hung up in it because it has two links in it. In the future, try to limit links to one!
Thanks for your insight,
Sherri has demonstrated at our summer Farmers Market in Litchfield, CT. Her recipes are easy and quick – she uses what is actually on sale that day! We get samples – what a great way to get us to try new foods – so when we buy fresh produce we already know how it tastes and how to cook it, and what the dish will look like. Sherri is also quickly responsive to email. I am getting her book at the library today – if you’d like to read more about our farmers market and get some recipes, here is the site: http://www.litchfieldhillsfood.org/
At the top of the page is a cute kid – just click on Recipes near there.
Fast Food Recipes says
I love her books!