Dan Barber, chef at New York restaurant Blue Hill, has made a call to local food enthusiasts to take the next step on the track of sustainable eating.
I read it and then started in on the comments (almost always the best part of an article). I realized the comments forming in my own head were quickly becoming a full on rant.
Barber encourages chefs to take on a variety of ingredients that is truly representative of what is grown on the farm in his new book, The Third Plate.
Dude even made an inspired ‘Rotation Rissoto’ featuring all the awesome (often neglected) crops that went into growing the organic, heirloom wheat Barber had originally approached the farmer for.
Sure, great example to set for other chefs.
What about the cooks?
What about those of us at home doing our best to feed ourselves and our families local organic food? What about those who have no idea what a rissoto is? What about those who aren’t even sure how to pronounce rissoto?
I’m a bit of a heretic when it comes to the local vs conventional food debate. I’m for quantity over quality. I think we would serve the environment, the economy and our health better by helping push more people to the starting line. Adding extra fuel to propel those of us already headed down this track is great, but it shouldn’t be the focus.
You can’t tell someone they need to be dining on ‘rotational rissoto’ when they don’t know what the fuck a rissoto is in the first place (it’s a tasty Italian dish made with rice btw). Of course you could always make reservations at Barber’s restaurant and be prepared to shell out $85 a pop. Because THAT is sustainable. (/sarcasm)
I agree with the need for nose-to-tail style of eating. Unlike Barber I don’t think it’s best served as an elitist strategy reserved for true ‘foodies’.
It’s just the opposite. It’s practical. It’s the way every developed food culture has eaten since we stopped chasing antelope around the savanna and began growing our own food- because it makes sense!
Selective eating was the curse of those at the top of the economic heap- common problems among the aristocracy during the middle ages was tooth decay caused by a selective diet of sugary treats, and nutritional deficiencies from their highly refined ‘superior’ white bread.
In a brilliant flip of society we now have those in the highest income brackets ($85 dollar dinner anyone) eating the practical variety of produce and those of us at the lower end of the scale being filled with the more selective/processed food creations.
Give us back our food!
Stop trying to make local food about status.
You know what would actually help?
Helping people develop the skills to eat real food at home.
Support local farmers who practice rotational farming.
Building systems within our cities to connect the two.
Earmarking government funding to help overcome the obstacles presented by a new food system.
Not so good for a restaurant’s bottom line sure… but infinitely better for everything else ‘foodies’ are quick to list as their motivations.
For the love of all that is good: stop trying to make decent food a trend! It discourages people from engaging with what is a basic right, it makes it the property of those who can afford $85 dollar dinners, and that’s bullshit.
Want to know the real trick to eating in this trans-formative ‘third plate’ way recommended by Barber?
Get a CSA.
Yup that’s it. You will be getting whatever the farmer has growing in his fields. It’s going to force you to start cooking and eating produce you aren’t familiar/comfortable with, or watch as they languish in your fridge (ask me how I know).
Bonus: you’ll figure out which ones can be ignored the longest without becoming compost material.
Even visiting your local farmer’s market will develop a sense of what is grown locally (sadly strawberries are not a 12 months a year thing).
It’s almost like building a food culture from scratch. Oh wait that is exactly what it is!
Barber laments the lack of a developed food culture in North America (true enough we never really got around to that).
We aren’t going to make our food culture in the pristine, stainless steel, kitchens of restaurants where money is exchanged for our dinner. That’s called consumerism- we already have that
It needs to be made in messy, dented, home kitchens. Where the everyday jane/joe is dedicated to working through the kinks and hurdles of combining this type of eating with our busy, modern lives.
Changing the menus in high end restaurants to represent the realistic produce of a farm is great. I really mean that- elite culture tends to trickle down to mid-class and lower classes as we try to emulate those ‘above’ us. The problem comes when we make good, local, pesticide free food the solely property of the elite.
An eggplant from my local CSA is not the equivalent of a Prada Bag- it’s a gawd-damned vegetable (I think. It’s not a fruit is it?).
This type of eating is as down to earth (literally) as you can get. It belongs to all of us- not just foodies.
Now I’ll hop off my soapbox. I’m on my way to see if Kingston and Frontenac Public Library has a copy of Barber’s book I can reserve.