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“Feed your family and avoid waste by creative use of all of nature’s bounty.”

That age-old cook’s imperative has inspired generations of the world’s best recipes and most delicious prepared foods.

Boiled in water long enough those bones, skin, heads, fat, feet and roots leftover from two or three meals will make a nutritious broth. Add some herbs and mushrooms picked in the woods, a few vegetables, a pinch or two of precious salt and the broth becomes a meal. If the cook understands taste, it can be delicious.

The most frugal of cooks also can be brilliantly creative. How about Italian Cioppino, Portuguese Caldeirada, Spanish Paella, Mexican Tortillas, Ethiopian Injera, Tibetan Momos or French Pâté? My guess is that the first versions of those were mixtures of what was on hand.

For thousands of years the concept of butchering an animal without using all that is edible or not cooking everything that is ripe simply didn’t exist. Now it does, and not just in America where the average full-scale grocery store stocks over 47,000 products many of which are pre cooked and ready to eat. When was the last time you saw animal hoofs or heads or a quarter, half or whole carcass in your local meat department?

Today’s cooks are so separated from the sources of their foods, so inundated with entertainment cooking in restaurants and the media and so overwhelmed with thousands of multi cultural, ready-to eat products to choose from that we approach cooking from a perspective of a single meal or primary ingredient.

Choosing from what we have seen on TV, read in print or searched on the Internet we decide what to cook and go to the grocery store and buy the required ingredients (from all over the planet in any season). Back home in the kitchen we do our best to duplicate what the recipe source presented. Cost matters, but using what is in season and ripe from the land, getting everything edible from the carcass, incorporating every leftover before it spoils, parceling out dried herbs over long winter months and trying to be as creative possible making food that will sustain your family’s health doesn’t even cross our minds. The farmers’ market phenomenon is helping us become aware of seasonal foods, but only a tiny percent of American cooks shop at them regularly.

Despite all of that, often when we least expect it, we are served or cook something that is simple, delicious and just makes sense. It can appear in a showy restaurant, a roadside café or in a home kitchen. And chances are we learn that it was part of or inspired by an old family recipe that was handed down through generations.

This is real food, and it is more satisfying than those that are gorgeous and delicious but only possible because of worldwide access to season proof ingredients.

When I find Real Food Recipes I will share them here, beginning next time with a simple and unbelievably good Italian (big surprise) Pork Ragu Al Maialino.

Editor’s note:  Real Food will be an ongoing series.  To access the entire series simply click on the tag Real Food (in red) at the bottom of the post or in the tag cloud in the right sidebar.