The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food

Dan Barber, Author
Dan Barber. Penguin Press, $29.95 (460p) ISBN 978-1-59420-407-4
Reviewed on: 03/03/2014
Release date: 05/20/2014
Paperback - 496 pages - 978-1-4087-0650-3
Compact Disc - 978-1-61176-321-8
Paperback - 496 pages - 978-0-14-312715-4
Compact Disc - 978-0-553-54443-5
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The chef of the trailblazing farm-to-table restaurant Blue Hill at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, in Pocantico Hills, New York, Barber is also a journalist crusading to help change the culture of American cooking. Blue Hill was the name of his family farm in Massachusetts, informing his early impressions while growing up, and in this multilayered work he aims to address the intrinsics of where food comes from—that is, from “soil,” “land,” “sea,” “seed,” as he divides his chapters. Barber harkens back to the stringent “land ethic” advocated by the American environmentalist Aldo Moro. There was no golden age of American agriculture, Barber asserts, because taming the land both North and South grew into an “exploitative relationship,” involving higher and higher yields and less vigilance to healthy soil management—climaxing horrendously during the so-called dirty ’30s. The value of establishing a viable interconnectedness between technology and ecology ensures that organic farmers are the heroes of this work, people like specialty-grains purveyor Glenn Roberts, who encouraged the author to plant a marvelous ancient Native American corn, Eight Row Flint, that had been farmed to near exhaustion in the early 19th century; New York state planters Klaus and Mary-Howell Martens, who had to cease using pesticides because Klaus was literally being paralyzed, and rediscovered the civilizing and sociable wonders of growing wheat; and a Spanish geese raiser, Eduardo Sousa, who produces foie gras without force feeding. Barber’s work is a deeply thoughtful and—offering a “menu for 2050”—even visionary work for a sustainable food chain. (May)
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