I’m not a “foodie” but am interested in food. I grow much of my own food and use the gardening principles best described as “mineral augmented organics.” Proponents of this method like Steve Solomon (The Intelligent Gardener), Michael Astera (The Ideal Soil) and Gary Kline of Black Lake Organics in Olympia, Washington argue that we have to go a step beyond the organic method which urges the use of compose, biological additions and cover crops and add minerals as dictated by an annual, or more often, soil test.
So, I am naturally predisposed in favor of the farm to table movement which Dan Barber gets credit for starting. Barber was featured in the recent Netflix original series called, “Chef’s Table.” In that he seemed quite obsessed with finding the best tasting food and delivering it to the table of his very upscale restaurant to diners who have paid a small fortune to taste his creations. One complaint that reviewers have of his book is that it has an arrogant, top down view where the big time rock star chef as a conductor directing farmers to grow certain foods and training the customer to try new things.
Farm to table is a concept I endorse and kudos to Mr. Barber for the progress he has encouraged through his farm, restaurant and book. I listened to the audio version with Barber reading and I made it to the end. He had lots of interesting food adventures. It’s great when you are an important and wealthy enough chef to fly off to Spain multiple times to research foie gras and the best ham in the world. And this is where I get confused by the idea of a third plate which, apparently, includes humanely raised foie gras and ham from pigs who fatten by foraging on acorns in a particularly fertile area of Spain. I’ve never eaten foie gras. Most of us haven’t. I just wonder of the third plate might make more sense if it included foods that are more accessible to the average eater.
However, if you want to take a tour of high end food, high end millers, cutting edge farmers and top of the line plant breeders (including a lot about Steve Jones who runs the WSU research facility in Mt. Vernon) there is much of interest to read about in The Third Plate.
We live in a small community that boasts a James Beard Award winner and our roads are full of cars heading to a destination where their dinner experience with wine will cost $250 per plate. The Netflix Chef’s Table series feature six chefs (some quite weird and eccentric) who create tastes that make foodies willing to pay big bucks. I suppose the foodie thing has its place but, personally, I’d prefer an affordable meal at a farmer’s market food stall or from a good food truck. (My kind of food show is “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”)
In reality, I hope the ultimate “third plate” will include food from everyone’s personal garden and from local farmers. Essentially, if you take out the fancy ham, the goose liver and a few other esoteric delights that seems to be Chef Barber’s goal as well.
Taste, rather than nutrition is the goal Barber is chasing. There has to be some correlation between taste and nutrition but there is little if no discussion of nutrient value. Perhaps the goal of superior nutritious food will come with The Fourth Plate.