Hey Sacramento followers – Between the Lines Book Club meets tomorrow (9/26/15) at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30AM! Not in the Sacramento area? Leave your comments about The Third Plate here!
In The Third Plate, chef Dan Barber talks about the importance of making sustainable agriculture part of elite cooking. Barber wants to make it fashionable to use all the parts of an animal or vegetable, rotation crops like barley and rye, and humanely and sustainably raised livestock.
Every culture has in some way grappled with the concept of sustainable agriculture, a term which basically means how to use land without using the land up to the point where it is no longer productive.. An early example from the Americas is that of the “The Three Sisters.” Several Native American Tribes had a practice of planting “The Three Sisters,” maize, beans, and squash, together. Each plant has components that keep the soil healthy, ensuring good farming in future years. The crops also proved a balanced diet when eaten together.
Sustainable agriculture is described today as agricultural practices that maximize human nutrition and quality of life while also maximizing the health of the environment and its ability to continue to provide food. This means that a farm cannot exhaust the nutrients in soil through over-farming, nor use chemical fertilizer that damages local water sources. My California readers will be most familiar with the concept in terms of water usage. While water is a renewable resource, California farms pull water out of the aquifer much faster than the aquifer can be refilled. The term “sustainable agriculture” became popular in the 1980’s. Other issues to consider are how much land is being used and how much energy a farm uses.
Discussions about sustainable farming can take a low-level approach (using different fertilizers and crop rotation, or a more radical approach (urban farming, vertical farming, and changes in the economy as a whole.
Welcome to Between the Lines! If you are in the Sacramento area, please join us at Arden Dimick Library, at 10:30AM on Saturday Sept. 26th. This month we are reading The Third Plate, by Chef Dan Barber. Barber belies that chefs have an opportunity to change the way people think about food. Here are 3 other chefs who did just that!
Alexis Soyer (1810 – 1958)
Soyer was a French chef who moved to England during the French Revolution. He worked for a number of celebrated restaurants, but his most significant achievements were as an inventor and a humanitarian. Sober invented a portable stove for use in the home and later invented the first camp stove for military use. Sober was a tireless advocate during the Crimean War for nutrition and safe food for the troops. He also sold cookbooks for charity and advocated on behalf of the Irish who were suffering through the potato famine. Soyer institute changes in how the government thinks about feeding troops and changes in how kitchens are stocked and organized that are still significant today.
Chef Ettore Boiardi, also known as Chef Boyardee (1897 – 1895)
Boiardi is the chef who brought us raviolis in a can. He came to America from Italy when he was sixteen years old and worked his way up to become head chef for the Plaza Hotel and a chef for President Woodrow Wilson. When he opened his own restaurant in New York, customers begged to take home his sauces, so he started packaging them in clean used milk bottles. In 1927 he began a business of selling canned pasta products and sauces. He was commended for helping provide rations to troops in WWI.
Alice Waters (1944 – present day)
Waters is the owner and founder of Californian restaurant Chez Panisse. Waters has been a hugely successful promoter of organic food and local food. Most recently, she’s been working to make school lunches more healthy and to encourage schools to incorporate gardening into their curriculum. Since the early 2000’s, she’s been active in the Slow Food movement as well. Modern chefs and food writers cite her as having a huge influence on the way people today think about food. She moved the phrase ‘organic’ into the mainstream.
This month in Book Club we are talking about The Third Plate by Dan Barber. Barber is an upscale chef in New York, and he believes that the trends set in more fashionable cuisine trickle down to set the food trends in grocery stores and on people’s tables. Barber is fascinated with the idea that sustainable food is also often tastier and healthier.
Barber is the chef and owner of the Michelin Star Rated restaurant Blue Hill. There are actually two Blue Hills, both owned by Barber – one in Manhattan and one at Stone Farms. People wanting a more casual experience can stop by Stone Hill’s ‘Cafe and Grain Bar’. This blogger feels that we have reached peak hipster-ism with the phrases “Cafe and Grain Bar” and “Farm fresh lattes.” But it can’t be denied that the jam looks fantastic. He was appointed by President Obama to work on the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition. He’s received multiple awards from the James Beard Foundation, including Top Chef in America in 2009.
Two of Barber’s passion projects are his book, The Third Plate, which took him ten years to write, and his pop-up restaurant, which took over Blue Hill in Spring 2015. The pop-up was called WastED, and it served food that would normally be thrown out in a high-end restaurant for reasons of style and appearance (not food that was rotten). In this mini-restaurant, Barber wanted to make a point the chefs and home cooks have always used things like bruised fruits and broken clams, but they might not tell you so. Barber wants to make reducing food waste (and resource waste as he is interested in sustainable gardening and animal husbandry) as stylish as anything else in a restaurant. Dishes included fried skate ray cartilage with a dipping sauce infused with whitefish heads and charred pineapple core with lime ice cream. Want to see the menu?
Barber has done tons of interviews. Here’s one where he talks about WastED, writing the book, and that time he got fired because he couldn’t make decent bread, from eater.com
Here’s his TED talk about how to raise sustainable seafood:
And here his is talking about the possibility of cruelty-free foie gras:
In keeping with Sacramento Public Library’s One Book 2015 program, Between the Lines Book Club will be reading The Third Plate, by Dan Barber, in September. If you can, join us in Sacramento, CA for an in person book club at Arden Dimick Library (891 Watt Avenue, Sacramento, CA 95864) at 10:30AM on Sept 26, 2015.
You are also welcome to leave comments here!
The Sacramento Public Library will be holding events all through October related to The Third Plate – this means a lot of food, people! Here’s a link to the full program including event dates.