Summary of The Third Plate

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Chef Dan Barber makes an emphatic plea to chefs and diners to consume only foods that are sustainably grown. When farmers nurture their crops’ soil and encourage their edible creatures to eat what they enjoy, the resulting produce and meat taste better. Barber shares cautionary tales of people’s reckless disrespect for nature, such as the 1930s Dust Bowl, which occurred when strong winds sent neglected and exposed farm soil airborne. He highlights the role chefs play in changing consumer tastes and stresses the need to move beyond “farm-to-table” dining, though he doesn’t always define his terms for non-foodie readers. Warning: Sensitive readers may find that his gruesome descriptions of force-feeding practices provide sufficient reason to become vegans right away. Nonetheless, getAbstract recommends his well-informed quality of life and environmental message.

About the Author

Dan Barber is chef and co-owner of the Blue Hill at Stone Barns restaurant in Manhattan’s West Village. He affiliates with the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture.



The Food Landscape

Exceptional dishes come from a melding of the entire food landscape. Consider New England’s Eight Row corn, which New York’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns restaurant is growing for its diners. This long-forgotten strain from the 1600s makes very tasty polenta. Farmers transformed Eight Row corn into a flavorful ingredient by using the rare Iroquois “Three Sisters” planting method – which places three supportive crops together. The corn’s growing trio includes squash, which discourages weed growth at the base; beans, which supply nitrogen to the corn and the soil; and the corn stalk, which gives the beans a perfect place to climb.

Which Plate?

Since the 1980s, most Americans have based their evening meals on “the first plate.” Dinner consists of a large slab of “corn-fed” meat with a few vegetables on the side. Today’s dinners use the “second plate,” instead. Chefs following the “farm-to-table” concept create dishes from fresh foods, harvested that day or as recently as possible. Due to the popularity of farm-to-table dining, farmers plant crops and raise livestock designed in advance to sell to chefs. This includes...

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