Bari Weiss of The Wall Street Journal reports on newly released book titles and the world of publishing in "The Book Reader."
If it’s possible to feel virtuous while digging into an eight-course tasting menu, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Dan Barber’s incredible restaurant and educational center in Tarrytown New York, might just be the place. That’s because the juicy tomatoes, the sweet strawberries, and the tender lamb on your plate were grown or raised right outside the window the dining room or on nearby farms in the Hudson Valley.
Blue Hill has become a mecca for farm-to-table foodies, Chef Barber a high priest.
All of which is why the argument of his new book should cause denizens of farmers markets to pay attention. Farm to table isn’t enough, he writes in “The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food.” Despite the movement’s successes, it’s failed to fundamentally change the way we eat, our health, and the environment.
“Farm to table may sound right—it’s direct and connected—but really the farmer ends up servicing the table, not the other way around,” he writes. “It makes good agriculture difficult to sustain.”
Barber uses the metaphor of the plate to describe the three stages of modern American eating habits. The first plate contains a seven-ounce corn-fed steak and a few vegetables produced by industrialized agriculture. On the second plate—the one in front of us today—the steak is free-range, and the veggies are organically grown. But the two aren’t so different: both feature a big prime cut of meat. The future, Mr. Barber suggests, is the third plate: an organic carrot dish flavored with a sauce made from a free-range secondary cut, like beef shank.
In other words: we need to change our tastes. The new American palate Barber imagines would value the lesser cuts of meat and cover crop grains and legumes.
Mr. Barber describes innovative farming practices—or, really, back-to-basics ones—he believes can replace industrial food systems and introduces us to the intrepid farmers that are producing delicious crops by nurturing biodiversity.
“Truly delicious food is contingent on an entire system of agriculture,” he writes. And if there’s someone we can trust about deliciousness, it’s Dan Barber.