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The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food

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Barber explores the evolution of American food from the 'first plate,' or industrially-produced, meat-heavy dishes, to the 'second plate' of grass-fed meat and organic greens, and says that both of these approaches are ultimately neither sustainable nor healthy. Instead, Barber proposes Americans should move to the 'third plate,' a cuisine rooted in seasonal productivity, Barber explores the evolution of American food from the 'first plate,' or industrially-produced, meat-heavy dishes, to the 'second plate' of grass-fed meat and organic greens, and says that both of these approaches are ultimately neither sustainable nor healthy. Instead, Barber proposes Americans should move to the 'third plate,' a cuisine rooted in seasonal productivity, natural livestock rhythms, whole-grains, and small portions of free-range meat.


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Barber explores the evolution of American food from the 'first plate,' or industrially-produced, meat-heavy dishes, to the 'second plate' of grass-fed meat and organic greens, and says that both of these approaches are ultimately neither sustainable nor healthy. Instead, Barber proposes Americans should move to the 'third plate,' a cuisine rooted in seasonal productivity, Barber explores the evolution of American food from the 'first plate,' or industrially-produced, meat-heavy dishes, to the 'second plate' of grass-fed meat and organic greens, and says that both of these approaches are ultimately neither sustainable nor healthy. Instead, Barber proposes Americans should move to the 'third plate,' a cuisine rooted in seasonal productivity, natural livestock rhythms, whole-grains, and small portions of free-range meat.

30 review for The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food

  1. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    This book is like a hybrid of Jared Diamond (Guns, Germs, and Steel), Michael Pollan (the Omnivore's Dilemma), and ... Donald Trump. Barber is a prizewinning chef at a ultra-ultra restaurant and has won multiple James Beard awards, including the country's outstanding chef of 2009. He also has the ego to match. Barber quite correctly points out that our current, faddish obsession with farm-to-table is not sustainable. In his telling, contemporary American cuisine has traveled through two phases, This book is like a hybrid of Jared Diamond (Guns, Germs, and Steel), Michael Pollan (the Omnivore's Dilemma), and ... Donald Trump. Barber is a prizewinning chef at a ultra-ultra restaurant and has won multiple James Beard awards, including the country's outstanding chef of 2009. He also has the ego to match. Barber quite correctly points out that our current, faddish obsession with farm-to-table is not sustainable. In his telling, contemporary American cuisine has traveled through two phases, or plates. The first plate was made possible by nineteenth- and twentieth-century technological innovations in agriculture and the plate was centered on a seven-ounce prime cut of protein (e.g., corn fed beef, feedlot pork, Perdue-style chicken). The second plate appeared in the waning decades of the twentieth century, as we became somewhat cognizant of the terrible ecological costs of industrial monoculture and concentrated animal feedlot operations. Barber points out, however, that the second plate was also dominated by a seven-ounce prime cut of protein and surrounded by organic fruits and vegetables. Chefs have changed how they source ingredients, but not what they source, or how they think about the way their food preparation fits into an overall cuisine. Barber argues that we need a new way of envisioning a cuisine, as the totality of how food is grown, and that we must be more sensitive to the overall, long-term ecological sustainability of food systems. In this, his arguments fit very well with other contemporary writers who have thought about food systems (e.g., Pollan, Eric Schlosser), although Barber harkens back to an earlier generation of ecologists, such as Aldo Leopold and Wendell Berry to a greater degree. While I don't disagree with Barber's overall conclusions, I have two major gripes with the book. First is that Barber is almost unbearably elitist, and seems to truly believe that chefs will be the ones to drive this type of ecologically-minded change. At the start of the book he writes, "chefs are known for their ability to create fashions and shape markets. What appears on a menu in a white-tablecloth restaurant one day trickles down to the bistro the next, and eventually influences everyday food culture (p. 10)." Barber is apparently a chef who has never eaten really great street food off the back of a truck. He does not seem to really grasp the possibility that culinary influence may flow in the opposite direction, i.e., that chefs may be inspired by humbler, local cooking traditions. It's a curious blind spot, since he describes a vivid memory of seeing Palladin at work in the kitchen, making a delectable sauce that made the poorest cuts of a chicken delectable. The book describes a decade-long journey that Barber took to arrive at his new ecological sustainability, and he meticulously traces his shifting perceptions and deepening understanding of sustainability. This journey takes him to Spain, where he observes how centuries-old practices have produced not only the famed Jamon Iberico, but a thoroughly integrated system of crop, forage, and livestock production. It amazes me that he could come away from a setting like that and still cling so tenaciously to a top-down assumption about how foodways are created and sustained. I suppose I shouldn't find it surprising, considering the milieu that he works in at his own restaurant, and I suppose that the clientele who patronize Blue Hill would find his trickle-down cuisine as comforting as the trickle-down economics they have been peddling in this era of growing social and economic inequality. And this brings me to the second complaint I have about the book, which is that although Barber argues elegantly for a more holistic sense of ecology in food system production, he completely ignores the social and human inequalities that are embedded in our current food systems. There are a host of authors writing about the social injustices that are perpetrated within our contemporary food system, and yet Barber turns a completely blind eye to the people who work in our fields and feedlots. I'm thinking about people like Schlosser, but also Barry Estabrook, whose investigative reporting for Gourmet magazine revealed the injustices that are heaped upon pickers in Florida's tomato fields. Or Sara Jaraymaran, who writes about the plight of restaurant workers throughout the American restaurant sector (not only in fast food joints but in the very kind of white-tablecloth establishments where Barber works). It amazes me that Barber could spent a decade soaking in the literature (e.g., Aldo Leopold's land ethic, or Carl Safina's sea ethic) and completely ignore the human ethics in our current food systems that are so problematic. I'm especially puzzled about this omission, given that he traveled so extensively and talked with so many big thinkers in the process of developing this book. If this had been an exercise in armchair philosophy, I could understand how someone might read Thoreau, Emerson, and Leopold and retain such a single-minded commitment to agrarian idealism. But he was out there, in the field, quite literally. There's a glimmer of this kind of consciousness when he visits the North Carolina low country to study how people are reviving the tradition of planting Carolina gold rice. He writes, "there was an uncomfortable duality to this short historical period. Flavorful food was widely available; in many places, it was the only food available. But it happened at a time when the South was still in the grips of slavery. 'At least initially," Glenn said, 'everyone experimenting with kitchen gardens had a slave. They did the work. They almost always did the cooking, too. We had a bunch of wealthy white people who could afford to write books about what some really smart black people were doing.' (p. 347)" Our food system has not evolved very far at all from that time. Barber makes a gesture toward Big Picture thinking. At the end of the book, he argues for the realization of a third plate, one that uses all parts of the harvest. In this mode, we would not abandon the current farm-to-table model, but deepen our commitment to it, to execute an honest nose-to-tail enactment of that ideal. He designs a menu that would use bycatch, harvestable portions of cover crops, spent grains from beer making, etc. That's all well and good, but at the end of this book, I'm still left asking the question, who will do this work? And how, exactly, would it transform American cuisine on a broad scale?

  2. 5 out of 5

    John Mcdonald

    I loved this book. As a professor of environmental science at a small college, I've been trying to raise awareness of the environmental costs of our modern food system for many years now. But when my students have asked for alternatives, I've felt like I've been oversimplifying things with answers about CSA's and farmers markets. I love how this book really tackles the complexities of sustainable food production. While there is some hope out there, it is not a simple task. Dan Barber explains how I loved this book. As a professor of environmental science at a small college, I've been trying to raise awareness of the environmental costs of our modern food system for many years now. But when my students have asked for alternatives, I've felt like I've been oversimplifying things with answers about CSA's and farmers markets. I love how this book really tackles the complexities of sustainable food production. While there is some hope out there, it is not a simple task. Dan Barber explains how a truly sustainable food system needs to go far beyond the farm-to-table ethic promoted in farmers markets and big organic supermarkets. And he does a great job describing the complexity of the ecosystems AND the social systems required to produce the mythical Third Plate. The most amazing thing about this book for me is that it really was a page-turner. Almost 450 pages about food systems and I couldn't stop reading. Very well researched, very engaging, and very provocative.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Trish

    The grace and fluency with which James Beard Award-winning Chef Barber relates his experiences in his Blue Hill restaurant in New York City, walking the fields of his Stone Barns organic farm in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and in his travels to Europe and throughout the United States left me wide-eyed with wonder. This extraordinary memoir and field notes is engrossing in a way that few writers achieve. Barber is gentle in his instruction, but he is telling us what he has learned about the The grace and fluency with which James Beard Award-winning Chef Barber relates his experiences in his Blue Hill restaurant in New York City, walking the fields of his Stone Barns organic farm in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and in his travels to Europe and throughout the United States left me wide-eyed with wonder. This extraordinary memoir and field notes is engrossing in a way that few writers achieve. Barber is gentle in his instruction, but he is telling us what he has learned about the inadequacy of the current concept of food sustainability, and it is a lesson we really need to assimilate and organize around. Happily, his lessons are filled with well-cogitated thought, possibilities, solutions, humor, and beautiful images. I’d heard Corby Kummer interview the New York restaurateur on the New York Times book podcast back in the spring of ‘14, and thought it sounded like something I’d like to look at. I felt no urgency. Only when I obtained a copy for someone else and began to browse through it did I discover the can’t-put-it-down page-turning clarity, and the irresistible humor in Barber’s writing. I am trying now to figure out how many copies of the book I can give away for Christmas without repeating myself. This book is divided into four sections, called Soil, Land, Sea, and Seeds. You won’t have heard these stories in quite this way before, and if they seem familiar, you will find it enlightening to see what Barber has chosen to highlight. Barber moves gradually through his dawning realization that the way we have been eating, in restaurants and at home, is not actually going to be able to sustain the land, the ocean, nor the planet, no matter that we gradually move from pesticide-grown vegetables to organics. There has to be a greater understanding of the web of interconnections between the soil and our eating habits. We have to be willing to increase the diversity of our diet and think about eating foods that replenish the balance in the soil along with ones we use more commonly. It may be obvious to those who have paid attention to the concept of sustainability that we haven’t yet come around to actually managing the task ahead of us. Barber suggests it is more than simply changing our diets from meat-centric to vegetable-centric. He concludes that we “cherry-pick” our vegetables and therefore limit the amount a farm can sustainably produce for a given community. A farm has to grow cover crops on at least some of the land, and that is part of the cost of crops we actually eat. He urges us to think about how this works in fact, and what this reality means for pricing, output, and consumption. But I may be making it sound boring. In Barber’s hands, it is anything but that. His work is filled with enlightening vignettes about the places, the people, the restaurants that led him to learn so much about sustainability and its opportunities. Barber awakened me to certain understandings about plant pairings that I’d sort of heard about, but never really believed possible: like having four different crops growing in the same space at the same time to preserve and replenish soil vitality. Especially, or perhaps only, in small scale operations where crops are harvested by hand might this be possible…but it is possible, in fact desirable! Vignettes about the fish farmers and restaurants featuring fish were particularly interesting. I hadn’t followed the latest developments in that field and am astonished, pleased, and heartened to know that there are some doing things which enhance wildlife rather than diminish it. He tells of a fish farm in Spain which hosts vastly increased numbers of migrating birds as well as produces exceptional-tasting fish for market. It gives me hope that the work on the west coast of the USA to preserve and restore the tidal salt marshes near San Francisco might be successful for life of all kinds, including our own. Barber outlines his own learning curve, his oversights and humiliations, and he is very funny in places, showing the reactions of people with different world views meeting (at Barber’s behest) face to face and trying to be civil, or in speaking of finely tuned chefs at their most passionate or most perplexed: ’Dan,’ [Ángel] said, turning to me, ‘have you ever cooked naked in your kitchen?’ Ángel features in another very funny bit:”[Santiago] goes to different ponds in Veta la Palma [Spain] at different times of the year. Always at the full moon,” Ángel said. Thinking of Steiner and his lunar planting schedule, I guessed, “Because the fish have better flavor when the moon is full.” “No,” [Ángel] said, looking puzzled. “So he can see what he’s catching.” The section on wheat farming was completely new and fascinating to me. In the very beginning of the book Barber reproduces a photograph of the perennial Midwest native prairie wheat (with root system) alongside higher-yielding grain varieties planted to replace it. I was truly shocked by the difference in the profiles of the two plants, and thought it indicative of what modern agriculture has done, in every aspect of our food profile, to the concept of sustainability. The good news is that there are folks around the country thinking about our food future. Barber managed to create an international community of thoughtful practitioners striving to figure out how we can best produce what we will need to live on earth. This completely fascinating book happens to be very easy to read. Someone in your family, not just the foodies, will love reading of Barber’s researches and spending time with this thoroughly decent guy who is willing to share his successes and failures in the field.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rose

    As interesting and well-written as it is, I still wonder for whom this book was written. The foods discussed end-up being unaffordable for many, if not most, people. What good is a food revolution that is targetted to those who already have their pick of the best food available?

  5. 4 out of 5

    Josh Mattson

    This was an astounding read! I must say it was made even sweeter by previously seeing Dan Barber speak about his recent publication, and then also being the first in line to secure his new book on the hold-shelf at the local library. I had been hoping to read a book of this caliber for quite some time now, without knowing it was out even there. This was due to a number of recent questions that were beginning to pop into my head like bubble gum. What is the status and health of the wheat being gr This was an astounding read! I must say it was made even sweeter by previously seeing Dan Barber speak about his recent publication, and then also being the first in line to secure his new book on the hold-shelf at the local library. I had been hoping to read a book of this caliber for quite some time now, without knowing it was out even there. This was due to a number of recent questions that were beginning to pop into my head like bubble gum. What is the status and health of the wheat being grown in our country? How does it affect us? What is a balanced look at organically grown versus fertilizer grown? Who are the superheroes of agriculture? Where do they hang their capes? How does capitalism reflect the way we till our land? What is the history of the soil we eat from? Where did The Praire go? When did all the machines come in? Is Farmed Fish a possibility? How can a carrot measure 16 points on the brix scale? All in all I invested about 8-10 hours in this book, taking notes, and going back for review. I found the history, vision and characters curious, inspiring, heartbreaking, and thought provoking, wrapped with well written narrative and wit. A fantastic read and most heartily recommended.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    I am a sucker for any well reasoned book about food politics, and, like a good meal, this one more than satisfies. Dan Barber is the chef at Blue Hill at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, New York, and at his city restaurant called Blue Hill New York. At these restaurants, he goes beyond the farm-to-table ethic now proliferating by actually growing much of the food he cooks. When I picked up The Third Plate, I anticipated something that might build on The Omnivor I am a sucker for any well reasoned book about food politics, and, like a good meal, this one more than satisfies. Dan Barber is the chef at Blue Hill at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, New York, and at his city restaurant called Blue Hill New York. At these restaurants, he goes beyond the farm-to-table ethic now proliferating by actually growing much of the food he cooks. When I picked up The Third Plate, I anticipated something that might build on The Omnivore’s Dilemma, a book about what and how we eat, a book which has altered the sensibilities of many cooks and eaters. But this book is really about farming. Barber assumes we all know we should shun meat from antibiotic-fed animals, avoid vegetables laced with pesticides, and eat seasonal and locally sourced food. He figures that’s all good stuff, but it isn’t enough. In fact, the organic and locavore diet is his definition of the second plate, and Barber is pretty sure any reader of this book is likely already on board, committed to that second plate. (The first plate featured a big hunk of feed-lot steak; let’s not even go there.) He also knows that organic vegetables can come from inferior soils, often products of monoculture plantings. They may be healthier for us and better for the planet, but they aren’t good enough. The third plate is the one he dreams of. It is filled with foods that have come from healthy, undepleted soils and waters. The Third Plate is all about people and places respectful of maintaining land and water in ways that recognize the interdependence of living things. Barber’s descriptions of various iconic people whose activities in growing, harvesting, and preserving delicious foods are beautifully written, and he has made sure that I will want to meet them all. Could they really be so colorful, so able to philosophize about life and food? This fabulous collection of characters makes me never again want to call myself a foodie. Never mind that I think every day about cooking and eating. Barber’s farmers, fishermen, and grain breeders are other worldly. The long chapter entitled “Sea” is a particularly lyrical paean to those who want to preserve our oceans to yield delicious fish for years to come. Ah, that word “delicious.” Turns out that Dan Barber is concerned quite a lot with flavor, and he talks about that more than about health, figuring we had already leapt onto that band wagon. Readers will learn quite a bit about the dehesa system of agriculture in Spain, and they will come away with new respect for the agricultural innovations of land-grant colleges. Barber’s recipe for the future of food focuses on a “whole farm” approach which he follows himself, one that is particularly good for the soil, that in turn allows more flavorful foods to emerge. Is it possible that farms can follow his example? Will the food be affordable? I can’t afford to have a meal at Barber’s restaurants; I’ve checked the on-line menus. His ideals are so appealing, so seductive, yet sadly elitist. Perhaps the models he admires will gradually become more common and hence more economical. I hope, I hope. Though he never mentions it, the “whole farm” ideal, in which many varieties (whether plants, animals, or fish) are interdependent and mutually beneficial, is probably an excellent model for a world anticipating climate change. Climate change gurus say that when a farm has planted different vegetables and varieties, it is better able to withstand a season with aberrant weather. In fact, the greater good is not something Barber often focuses on. He is concerned with sustainability, but even more with flavor. As a foodie (although I promised not to call myself that), I embrace anything that will bring great food to me and those I love, but I also have nagging feelings about the billions of people on this earth who must be fed. Too many people cannot afford expensively produced foods. A healthy plate of food that is simply prepared and also inexpensive? That would make a fine fourth plate.

  7. 5 out of 5

    David

    Our son-in-law is a foodie. While discussing Spanish cooking he mentioned that Spain is prevalent in this book so it peeked my interest. He was right, Spain does play a major part of this book. The farm to table movement began in the 2000s and Dan Barber, an American chef and farm owner is trying see what is the future of food sustainability. The subtitle on this book, “Field notes on the future of food” says it all. We begin with the growing of a 400-year old corn, that was almost extinct. The b Our son-in-law is a foodie. While discussing Spanish cooking he mentioned that Spain is prevalent in this book so it peeked my interest. He was right, Spain does play a major part of this book. The farm to table movement began in the 2000s and Dan Barber, an American chef and farm owner is trying see what is the future of food sustainability. The subtitle on this book, “Field notes on the future of food” says it all. We begin with the growing of a 400-year old corn, that was almost extinct. The book is divided into four sections, soil, land, sea and seed. Barber looks into the different aspects of the food movement, the positives and negatives, it’s past and it’s future, all seen through the eyes of a chef. This is where Spain comes in. Known for its jamón Ibérico bellota, he goes to the farm of Eduardo Sousa in the dehesa in Extremadura. His claim to fame is producing foie gras but not in force feeding the geese, rather free ranging ones. And he raises those acorn-fed black pigs for the jamón too. Interesting process. Down the road in Cadiz, chef Ángel León of 3-Michelin starred Aponiente restaurant uses entirely lesser known seafood items to create celebrated meals. These are typically the stuff dragged in by the catch and discarded. Of course his big interest is used bluefin tuna caught in the 3,000 year old Spanish net fishing process called the almadraba. Just north of Cadiz in Veta La Palma, Miguel Medialdea uses an old estuary ponds on the Guadalquivir River, south of Seville to raise sustainable sea bass. His method is farming fish in a natural environment, complete with thousands of flamingos. Jamón Ibérica, foe gras, and bluefin tuna, are all high end foods and the last two are very controversial these days. But remember, Barber is a high end chef of Blue Hill in Manhattan. His aim is to understand the sustainability of the food movement and where is it going. He raises food on his own farm which sounds like a love and challenge in itself. One could easily dismiss this book as some lofty high end goal. It’s not all lofty stuff. In the final chapter, he focuses on the humble wheat and its outcome, bread. Yet there is plenty of information here that makes one think about the food process. In Mexico in the 1940s, a visiting American Vice President came down for the inauguration of President Manuel Ávila Camacho. He toured some farms and saw how poor the yields were. With his contacts he brought American fertilizer and a Japanese short wheat to Mexico. Yields were up and India asked for help. The downside of the story is after a few years the fields were overused and the small farm lands were bought up cheap by big landowners. The poor farmer moved to Mexico City swelling it’s numbers. Repeat around the world. Dan Barber’s feeling of optimism fills the pages when confronted with global issues to feed the masses. Perhaps as a chef, he can focus on the search for taste, small yields and a passion for food. He provides an interesting menu for the future (literally a five course meal with dessert) for 2050. It made for a good read, lots of thought about food choices and a good distraction.

  8. 5 out of 5

    AJ Calhoun

    While in many ways The Third Plate is comparable to In Defense of Food or The Omnivore's Dilemma, Dan Barber is certainly not, as some have hailed him, the next Michael Pollan. Third Plate is a fascinating, at times rambling food memoir in the truest sense. It follows through with its subtitle of "field notes," sometimes feeling like one restaurateur's long indulgent marketing project. This is not to say The Third Plate is not worth a read, certainly it is the strongest book in this genre to hit While in many ways The Third Plate is comparable to In Defense of Food or The Omnivore's Dilemma, Dan Barber is certainly not, as some have hailed him, the next Michael Pollan. Third Plate is a fascinating, at times rambling food memoir in the truest sense. It follows through with its subtitle of "field notes," sometimes feeling like one restaurateur's long indulgent marketing project. This is not to say The Third Plate is not worth a read, certainly it is the strongest book in this genre to hit shelves recently and offers a subtle, almost accidental, argument against big food. Don't expect anything earth-shattering, do expect a good afternoon of reading guaranteed to famish you thoroughly.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kenny Leck

    A book that doesn't just define what we, how we eat but more importantly, it determines what we grow for our children, their children, and their children's children.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Gretchen Alice

    I loved this deep dive into farming culture and sustainable methods of food production. It's more than that, too. It's a look at why wheat matters, why we're straight up destroying our oceans, and why monoculture farming is so damaging to the land. (If you want a short version of that last part, go watch the "It's Alive: Goin' Places" video on youtube where Brad visits a bison ranch.) The book tends to rely a lot on the influencce of chefs, but since that's Barber's actual job/life, I didn't min I loved this deep dive into farming culture and sustainable methods of food production. It's more than that, too. It's a look at why wheat matters, why we're straight up destroying our oceans, and why monoculture farming is so damaging to the land. (If you want a short version of that last part, go watch the "It's Alive: Goin' Places" video on youtube where Brad visits a bison ranch.) The book tends to rely a lot on the influencce of chefs, but since that's Barber's actual job/life, I didn't mind so much. I'll be thinking about this for a long time to come. A note on the audiobook: Barber himself does the narration, which works out very well. His tone comes across as curious, compassionate, and just a tiny bit smug. There's some repetition to the chapters, but that worked out really well for a car book since I like to be able to zone out occasionally while I drive. I have no idea if he wrote this entirely on his own or with the help of a ghostwriter, but the writing is also quite good.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Adrian

    If you love food as much as I do and learning how a chef thinks, researches and approaches aspects of putting together good quality products then this one is for you. I really enjoyed the breakdown on items from the sea, land, earth, soil description and the many conversations he had with other chefs, fishermen, farmers and the like. Not to mention his visits to Spain (perhaps that conjured up my own memories of visits and their food culture? haha)Wonderfully engaging and gives one pause even as If you love food as much as I do and learning how a chef thinks, researches and approaches aspects of putting together good quality products then this one is for you. I really enjoyed the breakdown on items from the sea, land, earth, soil description and the many conversations he had with other chefs, fishermen, farmers and the like. Not to mention his visits to Spain (perhaps that conjured up my own memories of visits and their food culture? haha)Wonderfully engaging and gives one pause even as a consumer on what quality consumption from a food perspective might be about now and in the future.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    Living in Durango, I certainly know some folks with what I consider to be very extreme. . .militant even. . .views about their dietary choices. Lacking a Biblical worldview, it is clear to me that these people have made food, or their flavor of environmentalism, their religion and many of them are angry zealots. I have been treated with utter disdain by a cashier at a local health food store for buying animal products. My friend, Stephanie, had a total stranger grab her face, peer into her eyes Living in Durango, I certainly know some folks with what I consider to be very extreme. . .militant even. . .views about their dietary choices. Lacking a Biblical worldview, it is clear to me that these people have made food, or their flavor of environmentalism, their religion and many of them are angry zealots. I have been treated with utter disdain by a cashier at a local health food store for buying animal products. My friend, Stephanie, had a total stranger grab her face, peer into her eyes and then cluck her tongue and shake her head in dismay and exclaim, "You look so bad because you are eating all that meat." (For the record, Stephanie looks just great.) I have had friends over for dinner and they refused to eat the food I served because every component of the meal wasn't organic. Their culinary ethic (which was beyond my budget since our income was a fraction of theirs) meant more to them than their friendship with my family. I could go on and on regaling you with many amusing/bemusing stories from the farmer's market. My experience is that people, armed with little BUT zealotry, get crazy about environmentalism and food. I have spent many hundreds of hours reading about food, growing food, sourcing food, cooking food and. . .the best part. . .EATING food. I have tried to do my best with the information available to me in my given life situation to be a good steward of the food God has made available to me. I want to approach food with the most consistent Christian worldview I can sort out. Frankly, the screaming accusations of one school of culinary thought against a differing school (vegan vs. vegetarian. . .Weston A. Price vs. Paleo. . .raw food. . .fashionable food "intolerances," etc.), the all-out selfish rudeness of people regarding their personal dietary choices and the dueling "experts" and "studies" have left me pretty fed up (and not in a post-Thanksgiving Dinner sort of way). Plus, as I listen to friends and missionaries talk about their experiences abroad I can't help but think this is all an elitist first world problem anyway. As I debate whether to use vanilla bean paste, or my homemade vanilla extract in a Victorian sponge cake, my missionary friends are telling me how much foreign food aid is killing entrepreneurs in impoverished countries. Sometimes I wonder why I bother trying to sort any of this out because it all seems to be well above my pay grade. So, when I began reading The Third Plate (not knowing anything about the author) my initial vibe was that this was yet another non-scientist high minded chef wanting to scold evil human beings for despoiling Gaia and I anticipated some snarky anti-Christian disdain to be sprinkled throughout. But, I like to finish what I start and I DID find the writing style engaging, so I kept reading. As I turned the pages, I found myself calling my kids in to read a paragraph here and there. Topics from the book became topics of conversation around the house. We looked up more information about aquaculture and sustainable seafood. We had good worldview discussions about gluttony and the fate of the American buffalo. I started wanting to apply for a passport so that I could travel to Spain to eat! By the time I closed the book, I was glad I had kept reading because I had a totally revised appraisal of Dan Barber and his approach to cuisine. I am positively a supporter of all that Dan Barber is doing and seeking to do. My reflection on the book is that America does totally lack a food culture (assuming Fast, Cheap and Easy doesn't count for a food culture) that unites it, but we do have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to natural resources. So, being a Southern woman who cherishes her Southern food traditions, maybe the way to go is to perfect local cuisines. . .make the best tasting food by applying the most deft hands and agile minds to the resources available in any locale. My husband always says that God's ideas are GOOD ideas and I think a focus on a community united around a local food culture is good for the health of the people, the animals, and the environment. Good dominion taking isn't stuffing our gobs with the last bluefin tuna in the sea just because we can afford to, or making Frankenfood just because we have the technology available (not worrying about any consequences beyond profitability for ourselves). . .exercising brute force upon the planet every which way we can for our own personal consumption and enjoyment. Good dominion taking is a stewardship obligation to make the world God gave us better, more beautiful, more beneficial for our good and His glory. I think Dan Barber's approach is doing just that.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Cat

    It's absolutely unfair that one of the best chefs in the country is also such a fabulous writer. Barber is engaging, astute, and optimistic. He tells his story here through a series of character profiles (an organic grain and dairy farmer, an obsessed Spanish seafood chef, an ecologically aware sea bass farmer [also in Spain--this book made me want to visit Spain], a lowcountry rice cultivator [shout-out to South Carolina where I live!], and a midwestern wheat breeder. In this character and stor It's absolutely unfair that one of the best chefs in the country is also such a fabulous writer. Barber is engaging, astute, and optimistic. He tells his story here through a series of character profiles (an organic grain and dairy farmer, an obsessed Spanish seafood chef, an ecologically aware sea bass farmer [also in Spain--this book made me want to visit Spain], a lowcountry rice cultivator [shout-out to South Carolina where I live!], and a midwestern wheat breeder. In this character and story-driven approach, Barber follows on the heels of Michael Pollan, but with his own vein of humor and hope. The ecological and agricultural circumstances of contemporary life that he writes about are dire, and he gives the facts about the economic pressures that support agribusiness and deplete our oceans and our soil fertility. But he's also always interested in solutions and community and in respectful innovation, which is SO satisfying to read and very encouraging in terms of rethinking what the "future of food" could be. His anecdotes are both very much located in his life as a working, high-end chef at the Blue Hill Stone Barns center (Sidenote: this book makes me REALLY REALLY want to eat there), but they also think through the interrelationships of species, localities, and cultures. An editorial came out this week in the New York Times on the relationship between reduced biodiversity and reduced cultural and linguistic diversity (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/13/opi...), and this book powerfully advances the message that local traditions must be preserved, advanced, and transformed for the present and future. It is especially persuasive as it talks about the ecologically complex relationship of the plants and animals that come out of the the Spanish dehesa, a region that produces fabulous figs, acorns, geese, and, most famously, the pigs that produce jamon ibérico. Barber proposes an agriculture that is not at war with or decimating its surroundings but that acts within (rather than against) the beautifully organized chaos of nature. I found it to be both an inspiring and a gripping book, and one not subject to the vague nostalgias that the "localism" or "slow foods" movements are heir to (hence his engagement in the work of breeding new wheat varieties at the end of the book). An absolutely delicious study--part observation, part ecological autobiography, part manifesto, and every bit a pleasure. (Plus a fabulous bibliography at the end!) Addendum: This is also a book that made me wish so much that science education was approached in a more interdisciplinary fashion in public middle schools and high schools. The entwinement of chemistry, biology (cum ecology), agriculture, cooking, literature, and philosophy in this book made me realize how passionate i could have been about these forms of knowledge that always seemed opaque to me. This is also a tribute to Barber's power as a teacher and storyteller (and a neophyte as he admits his bio background, like mine, only extends to ninth grade!).

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    If you’ve heard of Dan Barber’s The Third Plate but haven’t picked it up, now’s a good time. The way to make western eating sustainable, according to Barber, is not just a matter of grass-fed or free-range… what we need is an overhaul of the ingredients and food types we choose. The third plate features second and third cuts, lesser shellfish, a larger variety of grains, and other unpopular or untapped items that present a manageable ecological burden. By encouraging readers to appreciate the re If you’ve heard of Dan Barber’s The Third Plate but haven’t picked it up, now’s a good time. The way to make western eating sustainable, according to Barber, is not just a matter of grass-fed or free-range… what we need is an overhaul of the ingredients and food types we choose. The third plate features second and third cuts, lesser shellfish, a larger variety of grains, and other unpopular or untapped items that present a manageable ecological burden. By encouraging readers to appreciate the relationships between land, ocean, farmers, chefs, and eaters, and by recounting his experiences with near-sustainable foods created with these relationships in mind, Barber is priming our tastes. I certainly wouldn’t say no a plate of cattails, phytoplankton, or a carrot steak. If every mid-range restaurant committed to perfecting one dish in the next year that features ingredients we can afford to consume, and if we, the eaters, relinquish our obsession with huge portions of prime meat, the “third plate” can minimize some of the impact of today’s food production. That said, The Third Plate can’t rebut the counterpoint that many of the problems we have with our current food preferences could also crop again with whatever foods we target next. And there’s still the annoying matter of consumer cost: no Third, Fourth, or Fifth plate will ever produce as much food as cheaply as the GMO/corn-fed/feed-lot system. The journalistic writing has been compared to Michael Pollan’s – a generous comparison, I think, but not outlandish. Barber’s writing is great, although I could do with less off-hand pseudo-self-deprecation. He’s also determined to make everything a perfectly-timed anecdote. Still , it's some of the best popular non-fiction I’ve read recently. What Barber gives us is a viable step forward from the organic movement. Recommended.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Prima Seadiva

    Audiobook read by the author. The biggest problem I had with this book and the food movement today is that it is still mostly for the affluent and privileged. I worked many years in the cooperative food business emphasis on health and integrity . We were perceived as freaks. Today it's gotten to be big business but oops some of the integrity has been put on hold. The food worker, gardener and cook part of me found the histories about wheat, corn, fish and other foods fascinating but they aren't fo Audiobook read by the author. The biggest problem I had with this book and the food movement today is that it is still mostly for the affluent and privileged. I worked many years in the cooperative food business emphasis on health and integrity . We were perceived as freaks. Today it's gotten to be big business but oops some of the integrity has been put on hold. The food worker, gardener and cook part of me found the histories about wheat, corn, fish and other foods fascinating but they aren't for me. I cook and eat healthy but no way can I afford to buy most of the foods in this book to cook much less travel to their locales or eat in fancy restaurants. The whole uber chef dynamic is a bit much too. It ties right into the status of eating a meal that costs more than most of us spend a week on groceries. I can appreciate how farmers, cooks and others want to use high quality and tasty food grown/ raised responsibly with respect but I did not see how the instances in this book can translate out to solutions for all parts of the population and into the larger world. Ironically with the increase of marketing organically grown food by large corporations, some of the same practices (harvesting too early, growing for easier shipping, plastic over packaging) of commercial food corporations have become the norm. The plus is fewer chemicals for eaters and those who grow and harvest a minus is control for bigger profits. The bigger question is how we feed billions, improve the quality of food available and do it without further destroying our environment and plant gene base. I didn't see that addressed enough in this book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    So I got most of the way through this and I could ignore his smarminess and I could ignore the way he breathlessly states basic facts as if we are all just learning them and I could ignore the way that His Farm in New York is just the Best Place Ever, but then he got to a part where he started rhapsodizing about the sad loss of the "farming system" (?!) of the antebellum South and that was the straw that broke the camel's back and I had to stop.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mercede Robertson

    This is an extremely informed, eloquent, albeit dense book about the intricacies of the future of food production and culture. After watching the episode on Dan on Chef’s Table, and visiting Blue Hill in New York — I was so inspired to learn about his work and beliefs. Dan tells stories about food that changed the way I’ll think about food and my own culture of eating forever. Highly recommend!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Chance

    This book doesn’t have all the answers that I wanted to get from it. Rather, it does a good job of defining a lot of the problems that I wanted answers to, then tracing an outline for the general possible answers to those problems. The Third Plate is a book that should be dry and boring, but because of Dan Barber’s writing turns out to be compelling and even entertaining while dealing with what most would probably consider dull subject matter. For the most part, I really enjoyed the descriptive This book doesn’t have all the answers that I wanted to get from it. Rather, it does a good job of defining a lot of the problems that I wanted answers to, then tracing an outline for the general possible answers to those problems. The Third Plate is a book that should be dry and boring, but because of Dan Barber’s writing turns out to be compelling and even entertaining while dealing with what most would probably consider dull subject matter. For the most part, I really enjoyed the descriptive language that Dan uses to drill down into the reasons why certain things work for building the future of food, but I did find the opposing viewpoints of some of the answers presented to be somewhat lacking in terms of balance. The writing in this book is compelling. It has an intrigue and passion that makes this book utterly readable. This is a very important thing for this book since its subject matter is the growing of food and because the answers to many of the problems we seem to have are cultural and people need to want to read more about them to solve them. As I continued to read this book I was consistently compelled to turn the page to find out more details about some obscure way of thinking about the future of our food. Dan Barber acts as the reader’s guide through his travels to meet people who are trying to do food in a different way. Dan is a compelling guide because of his honesty in the fact that he does not have the answers. Instead, the reader goes on this journey with Dan which makes this book feel more like a story and not a sermon. This book is filled with passion. This is a great thing most of the time, but occasionally I feel that Dan has an answer that he wants to be the right just a little too much and he fails to fully cover the opposing side enough to bring balance to the arguments on the table. To be fair, the fact that he presents two sides at all is to be commended. However, I did find myself wanting to ask harder questions about some of the more idealistic ideas that Dan seems to hold about the future of food. This is a big book that covers a lot of ground, but I found it to almost always compelling and interesting to read even if I found some of the opposing points to be a little weak at times. Overall, this is a well-written book about what the future of food could possibly look like. Can we move away from the purely business motivated food that we currently eat back to some sort of culturally centered diet? The truth is, nobody really knows. However, any kind of change begins with the conversation.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn McBride

    It staggers me to consider how much I learned from this book, not the least of which is the wheat I know has an ancestor that was native to the prairie, and perennial with roots up to 22 feet deep. Consider that for a moment -- roots were commonly 22 feet deep. That's like...tree depth but on wheat! Now ponder the fact that in the rush to settle that same prairie, the native wheat was ripped up, cast aside, the land ploughed up and a different, annual breed of wheat was planted. Only this wheat It staggers me to consider how much I learned from this book, not the least of which is the wheat I know has an ancestor that was native to the prairie, and perennial with roots up to 22 feet deep. Consider that for a moment -- roots were commonly 22 feet deep. That's like...tree depth but on wheat! Now ponder the fact that in the rush to settle that same prairie, the native wheat was ripped up, cast aside, the land ploughed up and a different, annual breed of wheat was planted. Only this wheat had very short roots that did not grasp the soil sufficiently and was not drought resistant. When the drought of the1930's came along, the prairies were screwed. And we did it to ourselves! See, you don't expect to learn this sort of thing in a book touted as being for "foodies". I also learned why everyone that even grows a single tomato plant in a pot should turn their back on chemical additives in their potting soil. And why we should support the smaller farmer who is running a CSA on a handful of acres. I learned how old-school thinking can produce ham that is in demand the world over, how the lack of micronutrients in the soil can affect a child living in the city, and so on, and so on. Honestly, there isn't enough room to discuss all the great things I learned from this book. And I thought I was pretty well schooled in soil, food and organic farming. On some level, I knew but had apparently forgotten, that the lack in nutrition in our vegetables is linked to a lack of nutrients in the soil. A lack of nutrients in our meat, milk and eggs is connected to the lack of nutrients in the grass/fodder/feed we provide the animals we consume. If you think about it, it is basic science. Even computers are only as good as what we put into them, so why do we ignore this when it comes to animals? And how does all this relate to a growing trend of obesity? "Starved of micronutrients, we will keep eating in the hope of attaining them" William Albrecht If you are a foodie, read this book. If you are a concerned parent who has never touched a food plant, you should read this book. Heck, if you eat -- at all -- you should read this book. Ignore the naysayers and make up your own mind. You'll be glad you did.

  20. 4 out of 5

    librarianka

    This book is my choice for 2014 non-fiction, food category. I just voted and I hope it wins. The author certainly deserves it. It is not only full of amazing research, life experiences, meetings of fantastic people who are agents of change but also beautifully written. While it presents a complex web of relations in growing food for the planet, it does so in an incredible accessible, amusing, graceful manner in no way oversimplifying anything. It is a must read for everybody and should make its This book is my choice for 2014 non-fiction, food category. I just voted and I hope it wins. The author certainly deserves it. It is not only full of amazing research, life experiences, meetings of fantastic people who are agents of change but also beautifully written. While it presents a complex web of relations in growing food for the planet, it does so in an incredible accessible, amusing, graceful manner in no way oversimplifying anything. It is a must read for everybody and should make its way into curriculums around the world. I loved how while celebrating wonderful ofen now forgotten achievements of American farmers along with present day pockets of creative and innovative American communities, it includes examples from different parts of the world, Europe, Mexico. Filtered through very personal experiences and relations with food chain workers, it is informative, entertaining, inspiring, ultimately positive and hopeful and overall wonderful book, my choice for best non fiction written in 2014.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Sternby

    I really enjoyed this book. I read an advanced paperback edition and I don't have anything bad to say. There wasn't any deep or confusing plot line to follow so I could pick up wherever I had last read while I was waiting for my brother's lacrosse practice to end. Perfect for any busy person. Having grown up in a family where my mother was going from fad diet to fad diet, it was interesting to get a different perspective on how what we put into our bodies is changing. There are so many books and I really enjoyed this book. I read an advanced paperback edition and I don't have anything bad to say. There wasn't any deep or confusing plot line to follow so I could pick up wherever I had last read while I was waiting for my brother's lacrosse practice to end. Perfect for any busy person. Having grown up in a family where my mother was going from fad diet to fad diet, it was interesting to get a different perspective on how what we put into our bodies is changing. There are so many books and movies about food and diet out right now. It's a hot topic, but if you're interested in it, I'm sure you'd enjoy this book and I would recommend it to you.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    I've had this book since last spring and just now got around to reading it. I enjoyed this book. It was quite fascinating. The author is a chef, who not only creates great food, but he also cares about great tasting food, even if it isn't considered chic. In this book he hones in on foodie trends, sustainability, GMOs, and creating a market for better tasting varieties of everything. Sometimes this book felt long, but for the most part, I was glued to it. It has me even wondering what I can do d I've had this book since last spring and just now got around to reading it. I enjoyed this book. It was quite fascinating. The author is a chef, who not only creates great food, but he also cares about great tasting food, even if it isn't considered chic. In this book he hones in on foodie trends, sustainability, GMOs, and creating a market for better tasting varieties of everything. Sometimes this book felt long, but for the most part, I was glued to it. It has me even wondering what I can do differently in my own home garden. I already have a few ideas.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Seth Ross

    One of the most inspiring and life changing books I have read. Completely changed my mind about so many practices I do in my gardens and how growing food, eating and being a consumer are completely interrelated. My gardening practices will change, with more thought to how I can build healthy soil and therefore create incredible flavor. Great ideas for a world desperately in need of a new agricultural ethos.

  24. 4 out of 5

    jiji

    I'm still not 100% sure what the third plate is. I *think* it means eating in a way that is less wasteful. Instead of cherry-picking the best cut of beef or the prettiest, most well-known fruits and vegetables, consumers and chefs should make a bigger effort to eat the whole farm: Lesser cuts of beef, homelier fish, and humble grains such as oats and barley. This book was sometimes hard to take. The author, a chef himself, is big on buying local and supporting small to midsize farms, and I would I'm still not 100% sure what the third plate is. I *think* it means eating in a way that is less wasteful. Instead of cherry-picking the best cut of beef or the prettiest, most well-known fruits and vegetables, consumers and chefs should make a bigger effort to eat the whole farm: Lesser cuts of beef, homelier fish, and humble grains such as oats and barley. This book was sometimes hard to take. The author, a chef himself, is big on buying local and supporting small to midsize farms, and I would say he definitely aims for sustainability and environmentally conscious consumption. But...he also flies all over the world and country in search of new ideas and innovations in seed breeding and animal farming. He helps a Spanish fish farm start exporting bass to New York City. I think this is kind of an example of the author himself cherry-picking his environmental causes: Flying is a hugely polluting and unsustainable, and flying fish to New York City from Spain doesn't seem particularly environmentally friendly. So maybe the author needs to apply a third plate approach to his life? Or maybe I'm just jealous I can't go anywhere right now. However, I learned a lot from this book, and it was an enjoyable read. I traveled (vicariously, no waste!) with Barber to the Spanish dejesa, to a small landrace farm in South Carolina, to a seed breeding lab in Washington. It was fun. I also started questioning the way I see things. For example, I don't particularly enjoy eating out. I would much rather eat at home because eating out is expensive and I'm almost always disappointed by my food. But Barber made me see that sometimes food can be art; it can be a political statement or push the envelope of what we consider good food. I'd never thought of food in that way...I just kind of thought of it as something that tastes good or bad and costs too much at fancy restaurants. Barber talks about feeding diners a cod head as one of the courses at his restaurants, and how some customers were disgusted and felt cheated, while others saw it as a political statement on sustainability and "head to toe" eating. I don't go to many truly high-end, innovative restaurants. In my mind, I've always dismissed these restaurants (and their chefs) as pretentious and egotistical. I see this kind of eating out as wasteful. But maybe I've been missing the point. Maybe I've been missing out on food as art. Maybe food deserves that kind of consideration? Or has this book turned me into an insufferable elitist? Other areas of interest this book sparked: -Soil: I know very little about soil, and up until I decided to plant a garden this year, new absolutely nothing. I really loved reading about crop rotations and how certain rotations can fix nitrogen into the soil, and how certain weeds can tell you if your soil is lacking nutrients. I liked reading about the microorganisms that live in the dirt. Reading about the chemical nitrogen requirements of monocultures was eye-opening. Being the rabbit-hole prone person that I am, I immediately put a bunch of books about soil on hold through the library. I guess I'm not the only one experiencing a "back to the land" moment during this quarantine...almost all books about sustainability, improving soil, growing vegetables, farming, and permaculture have long, months-long waitlist. One of my new hobbies may be to figure out ways to improve the soil in my yard... Fish farming: I think there's a generally negative view of eating farmed fish, but depleting our oceans through overfishing doesn't seem to be the answer either. One of the things I liked about this book is that it didn't necessarily push extremes. Barber visits a massive, well-run fish farm in Spain that produces tasty bass, and makes the case that, ultimately, well-managed fish farming may be a more sustainable approach to eating seafood than industrial fishing. Fois Gras: Alright, I didn't know exactly what fois gras was or how it was made. I've never eaten fois gras, and don't have a particular desire to do so. Those poor little ducks are force fed. Maybe it doesn't hurt them, but the thought is hard to stomach. Heirloom everything: Barber talks about how people tend to view heirloom vegetables as more pure and tastier alternatives to modern produce and grains. However, they are really just "a moment in history" passed on through generations. They are tastier because modern plant seeds have been bred for sturdiness, resistance to pests and shelf life, rather than taste. Barber suggests that innovation and improvements through seed breeding are an integral part of better, more sustainable farming and tastier vegetables and grains. He argues that this can be accomplished -Chefs: They all come across as passionate, egotistical, narcissistic, obsessive, ridiculous, demanding, and more than a little manic. However, Barber celebrates these qualities rather than condemn them. As someone prone to some of the above characteristics, I do like the idea that having these traits may lead somewhere positive. Still, working for a chef at a high end restaurant sounds miserable. So, overall, I learned a lot, liked the recommended reading sections, went down numerous rabbit holes, formed new interests, gained new respect for my little seedlings and vegetables, and decided to be more conscious about the kinds of food I buy and where I buy it from. What more can one ask for from a book?

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jeff C. Kunins

    foodie must-read thanks much to Omar Shahine for the recommendation on this one. super fun , informative, not at all self-aggrandizing by Barber, etc. Only downside is now we *really* have to make it to the restaurant. asap. :)

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ken Schroeder

    I don't believe the writing was worth 5*, but the ideas hidden behind there will forever change the way I look at food and it's role in our culture and even how I look at non-fiction. Steve Jones!!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jenna (Falling Letters)

    Review originally posted 23 February 2015 Falling Letters. "But we weren’t addressing the larger problem. The larger problem, as I came to see it, is that farm-to-table allows, even celebrates, a cherry-picking of ingredients that are often ecologically demanding and expensive to grow. Farm-to-table chefs may claim to base their cooking on whatever the farmer’s picked that day [...], but whatever the farmer has picked that day is really about an expectation of what will be purchased that day. […] Review originally posted 23 February 2015 Falling Letters. "But we weren’t addressing the larger problem. The larger problem, as I came to see it, is that farm-to-table allows, even celebrates, a cherry-picking of ingredients that are often ecologically demanding and expensive to grow. Farm-to-table chefs may claim to base their cooking on whatever the farmer’s picked that day [...], but whatever the farmer has picked that day is really about an expectation of what will be purchased that day. […] 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." (26) If you've passed by this book thinking “Well, I’ve already read Pollan's In Defense of Food and The Omnivore's Dilemma” - as I initially did - think again! My apologies to Dan Barber. I noticed this book when it was released last spring but I didn’t rush to it because I thought it would rehash books I’d already read. When I added it to my Foodies Read 2015 list, I prepared for a repeat read, thinking I could use a refresher. Instead I found a new perspective that looks beyond what I already knew (Barber assumes you’ve read Pollan and that Barber’s taking the next step from there). As I made my way through the introduction, I got excited about what I was going to read. My note on the quote above was "AHA, that's still the problem. Great, this is the next angle/step!" Barber sets out to look once again at the big picture, moving beyond how we can make single ingredients (like tomatoes or beef) more sustainable."The Third Plate goes beyond raising awareness about the importance of farmers and sustainable agriculture. It helps us recognize that what we eat is part of an integrated whole, a web of relationships, that cannot be reduced to single ingredients. It champions a whole class of integral, yet uncelebrated, crops and cuts of meats that is required to produce the most delicious food. Like all great cuisines, it is constantly in flux, evolving to reflect the best of what nature can offer." (33)The early part of the book involves much discussion of Barber’s restaurant and farm endeavour. Well, of course his restaurant plays a role throughout the story, but in the beginning I felt dropped in the middle of it. Barber writes as though you're familiar with his business endeavour, or as if knowing the background isn't important - but I think it is because I didn't really understand how he ran the farm and how it would accommodate the techniques he learns about. I would have appreciated a few pages fleshing out the background of how he came to run Blue Hill and how the Stone Barns operation functions. Barber breaks the book into four large sections - soil, land (focused on foie gras), sea (focused on fish) and see (focused on bread). The soil chapter focus on soil, because it's so integral to growing anything. A good place for the book to start. I felt too much space was devoted to fish, but I really don't like fish so I wasn't totally captivated. At least I was able to feel a bit better that I don't eat unsustainable fish! There wasn't a lot of direct talk about vegetables, because I suppose they're covered under growing things in the soil chapter. I was very happy to come to the bread chapter (especially after reading so much about icky fish). Bread is my soul food (sometimes life in Japan is very hard when I can't get nice bread ;-;). My exact note was, "Oooh bread now we're talking" (370). Barber references a book about the chicken industry (168). I love chicken but while reading this book I realized - I don't think I've ever had a really good chicken, only chicken from the supermarket. Now that I understand more about where flavour comes from, I think it's my duty to try a well-raised chicken. I learnt a lot about different methods of agriculture. One passage that struck me was about Klaas, a farmer who went looking for books about weed control before the use of manufactured chemicals. He finally found a book written in the 1930s that said "Vigorous plant stands are the best means for eradicating weeds". Klaas says, “I read that to [my wife] Mar-Howell and we just looked at each other and said ‘Duh! Focus on the best plants! How come we didn’t think of that" (66). Of course, it seems so obvious once you say it. Around page 108, with all the talk about how plants grow and overcome adversities, I was hit with the thought that it’s amazing plants just work, they just grow and do what they need to, and they would keep on growing and nature would keep balancing itself out, even if no one knew about it. I think that’s pretty freaking amazing. I learnt a bit about the USDA's historical influence on farming systems and how that was recently overcome by the private sector's influence:“By the 1990s, private industry had surpassed the USDA in the funding of agricultural research at land-grant institutions. And the spending gap continued to expand. In a little more than a century, the spirit of a regional food system encouraged by land-grant colleges was effectively turned on its head” (434).I also learnt a lot about how flavour occurs naturally in foods. It’s something I realized I had no idea about, despite being someone who loves flavourful food (who doesn’t?). I always kind of thought great flavour could only come from using extra seasonings like herbs. I never thought much of food tasting great on its own - which really sums up the problems with the food industry that Barber tackles in this book. For example, one thing I learnt is that exercising animals (such as pigs) makes room in the muscles for fat deposits, which means better flavour (190). Hmmm, interesting! Some parts of the book could have been strengthened by more scientific evidence (although see my comment in the final paragraph about notes). One part that struck me early on was the discussion of how killing soil kills nutrients and thus flavour (sorry, missed the page number). Sounds logical but I'd like some concrete scientific explanation, please, because it’s all new to me. Barber's focus here is flavour and how that can be achieved through chefs pursuing sustainable agriculture. He's not talking about large-scale feasibility of the systems he explores, which is okay, I suppose. It's not the focus of this book, but it's definitely an important question. The ideas he writes about sound great, but how can we widely implement them beyond the privleged world of a chef's fancy restaurant? The forms which Barber explores are definitely not affordable for most people. The numbers are indirectly mentioned about 1/3 of the way into the book (165). He acknowledges not everyone has the money to buy great flavour, and flavour is the focus of his book - not health, ethics or environment (if those areas are benefited in Barber's cases, it's because they're a side effect or means to great flavour). At another point (293), he asks how do we keep in check the drive for economic returns? However, I'm still left wondering who can afford this and how many can you feed with these systems? That's my question, but it's not the one Barber sets out to answer. That's fair, but I think it's a topic that shouldn't be avoided and could have had a chapter devoted to acknowledging it. Barber does touch on environmental benefits, as the way to grow flavourful food comes from growing it in an environmentally friendly manner. He also writes that such systems could be better adaptable in a world affected by climate change. “In the face of weather that is less predictable and more unforgiving, a diversity of locally adapted crops is one way for farmers to hedge their bets. Glenn’s landrace system isn’t just repatriating a lost cuisine. It’s gathering the seed stock for the future of eating” (409). Something this book has that I haven't really noticed in other food books is a certain style of humour. There's some light cussing, small jokes, and colourful personalities. My favourite bit: "I went with yellow mustard"' Klaas said, and then he leaned his head back and smiled mischievously. My expression didn’t change, which I could tell confused him. Had I known about the improbability of planting yellow mustard, I would have said, "Holy shit, Klaas. You planted a weed in your already weed-infested field?!" That’s what his Penn Yan neighbors said. (79)Okay, I'm almost finished! Here are some notes on the end of the book. When I reached the end, I exclaimed "OH epilogue?!" because I found on myself on page 465 of 579. Just as I was thinking "I'd like some encompassing wrap up idea", Barber presents a new menu (475). Okay, that's fine, but as I discuss above - it doesn't really offer the practical answers of implementation that I was hoping for. But by the time I got to the end, I had accepted that wasn't what Barber was exploring. His writing maybe opens the door for that practical discussion. I’ll be picking through the bibliography for more food books to check out. A final comment on an ebook issue: I didn't realize there were any notes until I manually flipped through to those pages at the very end. You can click the note to go back into the text, but you can't go from the text into the notes, which would obviously be the more useful feature. I had no idea there were any citations while I was reading. Come on, ebook, let’s get with the game! You have so much potential. “Fixtures of agribusiness such as five-thousand-acre grain monocultures and bloated animal feedlots are no more the future of farming than eighteenth-century factories billowing black smoke are the future of manufacturing” (20).The Bottom Line: The Third Plate is a big book, yet there were parts I still wanted more of! Barber tackles a huge topic, giving the reader plenty of food for thought. I learned a lot, but would have appreciated some science-based explanations as I don't know much about how farming works. Barber explores how to bring great flavour back into food while eating more of what nature provides. Although he is unable to provide answers to the global issues of food supply and sustainability (as this is beyond the scope of his book), he provides some great insights and an informative read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Max Ritter

    (8.5/10) Finally- somebody elegantly presents a controversial opinion I've held for a while (at least, it's a hot take in the farming community): organic farming is objectively good on paper, but in practice it has simply become "premium eating" for the privileged. It is not an effective way to change how we eat, or to have a positive impact on the planet. This book uses interesting anecdotes and examples to flesh out serious issues in food and agriculture. It brilliantly shows that the debates a (8.5/10) Finally- somebody elegantly presents a controversial opinion I've held for a while (at least, it's a hot take in the farming community): organic farming is objectively good on paper, but in practice it has simply become "premium eating" for the privileged. It is not an effective way to change how we eat, or to have a positive impact on the planet. This book uses interesting anecdotes and examples to flesh out serious issues in food and agriculture. It brilliantly shows that the debates and arguments within farming are just as complex as farming itself. As somebody who's main interest is how to create an ecologically-viable way to feed everybody, this book gave me plenty of catnip to play with. However, some things consistently bugged me, especially in the final section (seeds). To start with the good aspects of it: the author is great. His voice and tone create an entertaining perspective through which complex ideas can be deconstructed. Dan Barber also found an entertaining series of people to examine and put in his this book, making it a little bit less droll then one might expect from a book on this subject. Of every book I've read on environmental and agricultural philosophy (a few), this one is by far the most entertaining. It's also worth noting that I absolutely ADORED the sea section. The discussions of overfishing, aquaculture, bird populations, and the consumption of "undesirable" food... it was incredibly thought provoking. But there were some frustrating aspects. I understand the need to analyze all sides of an argument, but anybody who tries to discredit the work of Norman Borlaug will make me a little peeved, as any of my friends should know. Barber makes it clear the Borlaug was an incredible man (mentioning multiple times that he saved a billion lives), but also gives a lot of time to theories of how the Green Revolution, which modernized agriculture, might have been the starting point to large agribusiness destroying the planet. It got better as the section continued, as Barber outlined one farmer's belief that we can "have our cake and eat it too", i.e. creating great yields without sacrificing flavor and environmental health. Barber also did not talk a lot about GMOs, which might be for the best. As much as he skewers the organic movement for it's specific shortcomings, he also is a clear fan of it. Which is fine- I love that organic farming is on the rise. But as he illustrates, and as I have long feared, organic farming is creating an increasing divide, and not really solving larger issues. Genetically Modified Food is one demonized aspect of how we can feasibly "have our cake and eat it too", so leaving that pandora's box closed is probably a good idea. He did refer to the flavr savr tomato as "revolutionary", so that's good enough for me. There was a lot in this book for me to enjoy. He referenced people I love, including Aldo Leopold's Sand County Almanac, the founding literature of modern environmental thinking. He showed a lot of serious interest, rather than strong opinion. Certain sections showed how his beliefs consistently changed when provided with new information, which is something I always respect from a non-fiction writer. This author isn't a know-it-all, he is proudly willing to learn more. And from that idea, the book accomplishes it's goal. It creates a stimulating look at real, pressing issues, in a cool way. *This would be a great book for somebody looking to get into food issues*. However, it falls short for me in some ways. Mainly from the niche of the book. It's written from the perspective of a chef, and large parts of the writing is dedicated to stories of high-end cooking, as well as a constant reminder of how important chefs are. I agree that chefs set the standard for what/how we eat, but it got a tad pretentious about half way through the book. Especially for me, somebody who's primarily concerned with helping the impoverished and marginalized, it became annoying to constantly revisit the opinions of wealthy diners that went into his restaurant to pay exuberant amounts of money for organic, fresh food. The book attempts to talk about the future of our food, but fails to pay much attention to the majority of the population that could not afford to eat at his restaurant. All in all, it was an objectively good book with some excellent information. Very entertaining and educational, albeit not perfect. Some aspects of it were not my personal cup of tea, but many segments broadened my view of food issues, and sharpened my toolbox on these areas. I'm very glad I read it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Claire Nolan

    4.5 stars. I've owned this book since college, so at least 2016. During quarantine, I've been working through my huge stack of books. Now that I'm toward the bottom, I'm left with books that I want to read but for some reason or another find daunting. I thought this one would be information-dense and take a bit of brainpower to process. I was delighted to find that this read easily and was highly engaging. I was hooked fairly early on. The author, Barber, walks the reader through what is possibl 4.5 stars. I've owned this book since college, so at least 2016. During quarantine, I've been working through my huge stack of books. Now that I'm toward the bottom, I'm left with books that I want to read but for some reason or another find daunting. I thought this one would be information-dense and take a bit of brainpower to process. I was delighted to find that this read easily and was highly engaging. I was hooked fairly early on. The author, Barber, walks the reader through what is possible in terms of more sustainable farming practices and what food could be like. He visits a foie gras farmer in Spain who seasons his meats by having the geese eat foods that will give it certain flavors. He visits grain farmers who discuss how land falls apart when you plant only one crop, that there needs to be a variety of crops planted to maintain healthy nutrients. He learns about how GMO plants have weak/short root systems thus requiring far more watering. SO MUCH MORE GOOD INFO. My two big main takeaways. 1) we need to eat food that supports the land (ie don't just go to the farmers market, but support the farmer in growing food that is good for their land). and 2) We are eating poor quality everything. There are so many varieties out there that we are not eating. We need to be supporting seed evolution for foods that grow well AND are yummy ie don't expect your wheat to all grow the same. Fresh ground grits and wheat. Carolina Gold rice. My two disappointments with the book are that 1) he writing this to support more sustainable agriculture while flying transcontinental a multitude of times and 2) I don't feel like he left me, the average joe, with a way to make changes, with a starting place. How I rate books: 5 Stars= I absolutely loved it, felt very moved. Extraordinary. I rarely give this rating. 4 Stars= 3 Stars= I enjoyed it but wasn't wowed. My most common rating 2 Stars= 1 Stars= The kind of book that I feel shouldn't have been published bc it might discourage some from becoming readers.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Julieann Wielga

    The Third Plate, Field Notes on the Future of Food is rich in ideas. This is not a short book. It is 445 pages. 2015 Dan Barber is a chef and as it turns out a writer. He is the owner of Blue Hill in Manhatten and restaurant is Blue Hill at Stone Barns in the Fingerling area of New York, a farm to table restaurant. Many things that seemed simple are not. There are four sections: soil, land, sea and seed. Barber credits chefs with setting the expectations for what we eat. He gives chefs a lot of power The Third Plate, Field Notes on the Future of Food is rich in ideas. This is not a short book. It is 445 pages. 2015 Dan Barber is a chef and as it turns out a writer. He is the owner of Blue Hill in Manhatten and restaurant is Blue Hill at Stone Barns in the Fingerling area of New York, a farm to table restaurant. Many things that seemed simple are not. There are four sections: soil, land, sea and seed. Barber credits chefs with setting the expectations for what we eat. He gives chefs a lot of power in forming our idea of developing a palette and a market for the food we eat. There are several food innovators who Barber is challenged by and whose stories are interwoven through all four sections of the book. They are not people who knew the answers. They were people who had questions and led lives experimenting to find the answers. Klaas Martens is a farmer and his wife, Mary Howel is a seed breeder. Their farm is in Penn Yan New YOrk. Jack Algier is the Farmer at Stone Barns. In the section, Soil, we learn that we are responsible for the depopulation of the prairie and the death of the wheat. We learn that the variety of a plant allows for it to stand up against different conditions. The strongest plants resist pests and molds. Strong plants come from healthy soil. Soil is the new space, to paraphrase E. O. Wilson. It is Barber's assertion that strong plants in healthy soil taste, yes, actually taste better. This is always a point that I did not believe. I did not believe that "organic" vegetables and fruits and animals tasted better, but Barber is a chef. He cares about taste. He says that it does. Then I remembered being in Northern Ireland on David Greene's very small dairy farm. The cows lived in the fields around the farm. I, myself, helped move them from field to field at the end of the day. I was surprised to find that, there, food did not taste better, as much as it had taste. The milk was raw and tasted something like I imagined the grass tasting. The butter tasted like the milk. The potatoes had a taste that felt like the farm itself.... In fact every time we ate a dairy product in Ireland, I was surprised that it had a local taste. Again according to Barbar, it turns out if you watch the cows they know what tastes good. They have very smart palattes. When given a choice they like grass that is grown in healthy soil. They may be smarter than we are, because when given a choice they go for the healthy plants. Barbar has an epiphany at the end of the section that grain is everywhere in his kitchen, but while he cared about the production of plants and animals, he never really noticed wheat. When he stopped to check his flour, he found it to be dead. Really dead. Grain was dead because it is uniform, milled uniformly, and left to dry out and shrink on the shelf. In Land, we follow Eduardo's, the Spaniard's geese. It turns out that geese also have very fine palettes. They also love grass grown on good soil, well fertilized by pigs that run wild and eat acorns. It turns out that hungry geese, left to run and eat a variety of grasses, will eat so much good grass, that they make extraordinary foie gras without forcing. It turns out that in their foie gras you can taste the acorns that the pigs eat. It turns out that taste is product of a local environment where all the constituent parts make an ecological whole. Who ever thought about taste that way? Real taste is local and interconnected. In sea, I am shamed. I have learned all the lessons of the land to eat lower down on the food chain, the consume less water by eating less meat. But in the ocean, we eat the top of the food chain. We imagine the oceans so plentiful that the large animals could never be depleted. It turns out I was wrong, there are many tragedies of the sea. Look at Bluefin Tuna. Ask Carl Safine, the author of Song for the Blue Ocean. The Spanish chef, Angel Apionente (sp?), feeds of the catch of the day except, this catch is that which is headed for the dumpsters, not the sushi restaurants. His dishes are flavored with phytoplankton and the sea creatures from the bottom of the food pyramid and it is delicious. Its nose to tail eating. Then we go to a fish farm, where the balance of feed to make the fish is not greater than the fish itself, because the fish farm is actually a coastal estuary where the salt water mixes with the fresh water and the whole ecosystem consists of birds, bluefin and an abundance of other fish and plants. Then we learn that Bluefin can be fished responsibly. And it has been for thousands of years in small family boats which take just the tip of the population. But of the 4 sections, seed is my favorite. It is easy to say why. It has one simple lesson that I take to heart and apply to almost all my thinking: genetic diversity is just better. Saving seed is the primary act and power of agriculture. The opposite of genetic diversity occurs when big aggriculture builds a seed that the farmers have to buy to plant each season. Once again, seed is local, particular seeds with particular genetic constitution stand up to particular challenges and needs. Wheat in particular is a complex plant with six copies of each of 7 chromosomes making 42 chromosomes in all, which allows, I guess, for a lot of genetic and phenotypic variations. There are so many complications here, and I do quite have all the understanding to put all the pieces together. But one of the questions is if you are talking about plant yield, as big ag does, and economists do, what goes on each side of the equation. How do you measure water, and fertilizer, and soil health? If the method of farming leaves the soil depleted and water reserves dry after some time period, was that method of farming really more productive? Glen Roberts grown corn, and eventually rice. He does what farmers have done for all time, on a small scale, plant landrace grain, where diversity is a given from each kernal. Then he has a mill that saves the flavor. ( I do not quite understand Landrace grain. Wikepedia says its fold varieties that allow for more pheotypic diversities from a the same set of genes. Apparently, it can be plants and animals. Another question that this chapter left me.) Finally we meet Steve JOnes, whose job is to breed wheat. He quit his job at the University of Washington, because he did not sell to big ag. He kept the seed in the hands of the farmers with its bank of genetic richness far away from Monsanto. Dan leaves the book with his menu of the perfect meal delicious, using food from the whole food chain, with nose to tail animals, brought up in a ecosystem, freshly prepared. Starters are "milky oat tea and Cattail Snacks". Quite a book.

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