The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food by Dan Barber tells the stories of chefs, restaurant owners, farmers, fishermen and fish sellers, wheat researchers, grain mill cooperatives, bread research labs, seed savers, and more -- all through the lens of how and why we eat what we eat and how to shift that to better, tastier food and more resilient food systems.
The only reason I docked one point is because I wanted more. And because some times, in order to tell a good story, there were side tracks, or meanderings that had me wanting the author to follow a more linear track.
Though when you are evaluating ALL aspects of our food choices, and food systems, it's not very linear. High-end food trends drive food "fashion" as it were. As a responsible, influential chef, how do you wield that power? What's involved in doing so...educating the consumers/customers? And yet the go-between is the waitstaff, so they need educating too. This is just one tiny example of how Dan leaves no stone unturned in this seminal work.
I was oohhing and aaahhing with almost every paragraph. And wanting to say to someone, anyone - 'hey, read this part!!' (Well, really, 'listen to this!' because I listened to the audiobook that Dan Barber reads himself.) There were just that many good, deep, mind-blowing revelations about and examples of farmers, fishermen, seed savers, bread and grain researchers, and all the people and systems in between and at either end. Many of the food systems Barber describes in the book could be called permaculture systems. They really are some of the most excellent examples of sustainable, resilient, polyculture and systems-feeding-systems operations out there. Holy moley.
I think The Third Plate is a must read for anyone wanting a healthier food system and healthier, tastier food. Because I'm convinced they really do go hand-in-hand.
I started a miniature journey after watching a Ted talk inspired by the events described in this book. I was fascinated by the idea of something like Foie Gras with minimal human intervention. I know there can be a lot of heated feelings regarding the substance, but for me I just enjoy the idea of the animals doing everything themselves as a natural expression of their ‘gooseness’.
I picked up the book, but honestly wasn’t sure what I was expecting. The book itself flickers between various stories of culinary events in the author’s life experience and the ongoing narrative regarding his exploration of naturally derived Foie Gras and the man who produces it. You need to know that going into it. This isn’t a how to book. It isn’t a concise exploration of a topic. It’s a casual journey along with the author as he weaves in and out of events, exploring it from various angles and relaying events as he experienced them.
That being said, at least once in the book I had to stop and reflect on some of my existing beliefs. I had to question what I believed to be true, but not in the way I might have expected. In fact, it had nothing to do with the focal topic of the book, but instead on a small side-story. I’m still wrestling the idea if I am going to be honest.
I think that above all is what makes this a good read. It lets you learn about the deep beliefs and philosophies of those involved, but also forces you to look at your own. If I am going to complain, it is that the book often doubles back on itself making it hard to read as quickly as I do with other books. It’s best taken in small segments and you might at times feel like you’re reading something you already read. Still, it’s a good book to have in my collection.