Challenged with the question of where food will be in thirty-five years, award-winning chef Dan Barber presents the reader with three plates. The first plate is meat-centric with a side of vegetables, representing the idealized American meal. The second plate is reminiscent of the current farm-to-table trend. It appears identical to the first plate, yet it is created with grass-fed meats and organic veggies. The third plate, the namesake of the book and basis of Barber’s kitchen practice, is vegetable-centric with a meat sauce accent. This plate emphasizes what the land provides for the table, rather than what the table requires from the land. Get ready, because Barber is out to disprove everything you think is good about the current farm-to-table trend that is consuming local restaurants and even major corporations.
Nowadays, when you enter a restaurant, it is easy to find where the food on your plate comes from. Whether a long list is proudly displayed on the wall or menu, or the information is relayed by your server, it is trendy to know where your food is coming from and who produced it. The strawberries are from an organic orchard fifty miles north and the grass-fed lamb from a farm thirty miles east. Even large corporations are beginning to profit off of this seemingly small-scale system. Advertisements featuring fields of wheat, cows whose only desire is to give you milk, or fresh berries being picked carefully and selectively flood the media. This popularized farm-to-table method is a step in a right direction, but ultimately not a sustainable one. These organic monoculture farms commit the greatest crime by focusing on large-scale production, ultimately losing flavor and nutrition. In his new book, The Third Plate, Barber argues for the diversification of farms for the sake of good quality food and a sustainable food system. Dividing the book into four subsections (soil, land, sea, and seed) Barber teaches readers about the dependent relationships that are necessary to create a sustainable, flavorful, and nutritious farm.
Barber’s passion for a sustainable food system is evident throughout the pages of Third Plate. His passion and curiosity take him around the world as he travels to locations that are practicing diverse farming and experiencing incredible results. He takes this knowledge back to his own farm, Stone Barns, which provides ingredients for his Blue Hill restaurants. His revolutionary ideas make for a captivating read that critiques a much-praised food system. The experiences that Barber brings to the pages of Third Plate provide for an informative and knowledgeable read. In addition to personal experience, Barber frequently provides thorough histories of America’s agricultural system. His historical analysis, along with scientific support, effectively proves his ideas of diverse farming to be an effective and sustainable alternative to the current farm-to-table dogma.
-Lisa Creatura loves making home cooked meals from a well-organized kitchen. You can find her, and more of her love of books, on Instagram under the handle boringoldbooklady