Ready to put down the whisk for a minute and geek-out with me, foodies? I just finished Dan Barber’s “The Third Plate,” the foodie book a the top of my summer reading list because of its focus on sustainability and because it got fantastic reviews from everyone from iconic food writer and editor Ruth Reichl to the Washington Post, who said “Not since Michael Pollan has such a powerful storyteller emerged to reform American food.”
Barber, the recipient of several James Beard Foundation awards including Top Chef in 2009, has long advocated farm-to-table, local eating. His articles on food and agricultural policies have appeared in Food & Wine, Saveur, and Gourmet and his restaurant, Blue Hill at Stone Barns serves seasonal produce grown on-site at Barber’s Tarrytown, NY Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture or other Hudson Valley farms.
I stumbled across Stone Barns about a year ago on Facebook and it’s one of my favorite feeds. The classes it offers alone are enough to make me wish I lived a lot closer to the Hudson Valley – think organic gardening, honey bees and cooking with kids – but it’s the weekly pictures of its CSA take that really leave me breathless. The lists of heirloom vegetables they offer sound like poetry: Ping Tung eggplants, Romance carrots, Little Baby Flower watermelon, Music garlic, Baby King Richard leeks, and Rose deBerne tomatoes.
But in the “The Third Plate” Barber asks us to look past heirloom tomatoes, which much be grown in rotation with other crops in order to be ecologically sustainable. Farm-to-table, he says, often “celebrates a kind of cherry-picking of ingredients that are often ecologically demanding and expensive to grow.” The first plate – traditional American cuisine – features meat and sides, and the second, more “farm-to-table” plate features free range meat and locally-sourced vegetables.