The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food

( 3 )


"[E]ngaging, funny and delicious... I would call this The Omnivore's Dilemma 2.0.” —Chicago Tribune

At the heart of today’s optimistic farm-to-table food culture is a dark secret: the local food movement has failed to change how we eat. It has also offered a false promise for the future of food. Our concern over factory farms and chemically grown crops might have sparked a social movement, but chef Dan Barber reveals that even the most enlightened eating of today is ultimately ...

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The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food

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"[E]ngaging, funny and delicious... I would call this The Omnivore's Dilemma 2.0.” —Chicago Tribune

At the heart of today’s optimistic farm-to-table food culture is a dark secret: the local food movement has failed to change how we eat. It has also offered a false promise for the future of food. Our concern over factory farms and chemically grown crops might have sparked a social movement, but chef Dan Barber reveals that even the most enlightened eating of today is ultimately detrimental to the environment and to individual health. And it doesn’t involve truly delicious food. Based on ten years of surveying farming communities around the world, Barber’s The Third Plate offers a radical new way of thinking about food that will heal the land and taste good, too.

The Third Plate is grounded in the history of American cuisine over the last two centuries. Traditionally, we have dined on the “first plate,” a classic meal centered on a large cut of meat with few vegetables. Thankfully, that’s become largely passé. The farm-to-table movement has championed the “second plate,” where the meat is from free-range animals and the vegetables are locally sourced. It’s better-tasting, and better for the planet, but the second plate’s architecture is identical to that of the first. It, too, is damaging—disrupting the ecological balances of the planet, causing soil depletion and nutrient loss—and in the end it isn’t a sustainable way to farm or eat.

The solution, explains Barber, lies in the “third plate”: an integrated system of vegetable, grain, and livestock production that is fully supported—in fact, dictated—by what we choose to cook for dinner. The third plate is where good farming and good food intersect.

While the third plate is a novelty in America, Barber demonstrates that this way of eating is rooted in worldwide tradition. He explores the time-honored farming practices of the southern Spanish dehesa, a region producing high-grade olives, acorns, cork, wool, and the renowned jamón ibérico. Off the Straits of Gibraltar, Barber investigates the future of seafood through a revolutionary aquaculture operation and an ancient tuna-fishing ritual. In upstate New York, Barber learns from a flourishing mixed-crop farm whose innovative organic practices have revived the land and resurrected an industry. And in Washington State he works with cutting-edge seedsmen developing new varieties of grain in collaboration with local bakers, millers, and malt makers. Drawing on the wisdom and experience of chefs and farmers from around the world, Barber builds a dazzling panorama of ethical and flavorful eating destined to refashion Americans’ deepest beliefs about food.

A vivid and profound work that takes readers into the kitchens and fields revolutionizing the way we eat, The Third Plate redefines nutrition, agriculture, and taste for the twenty-first century. The Third Plate charts a bright path forward for eaters and chefs alike, daring everyone to imagine a future for our national cuisine that is as sustainable as it is delicious.

The Wall Street Journal
"[F]un to read, a lively mix of food history, environmental philosophy and restaurant lore... an important and exciting addition to the sustainability discussion.”

The Atlantic
“When The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan’s now-classic 2006 work, questioned the logic of our nation’s food system, “local” and “organic” weren’t ubiquitous the way they are today. Embracing Pollan’s iconoclasm, but applying it to the updated food landscape of 2014, The Third Plate reconsiders fundamental assumptions of the movement Pollan’s book helped to spark. In four sections—“Soil,” “Land, “Sea,” and “Seed”—The Third Plate outlines how his pursuit of intense flavor repeatedly forced him to look beyond individual ingredients at a region’s broader story—and demonstrates how land, communities, and taste benefit when ecology informs the way we source, cook, and eat.”

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal - Audio
★ 07/01/2014
Executive chef of farm-to-table restaurants Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Barber is known for championing sustainability and making responsible decisions about food sourcing. In this revolutionary book, he blows up the idea that locavorism and organic farming are the best ways to ensure the availability of good food for everyone. Dividing his thoughts into sections relating to "Soil," "Land," "Sea," and "Seed," Barber shares the results of his years of investigating integrated food systems, taking listeners to Spain and Washington State and along the Atlantic Coast to visit food producers whose work supports long-term sustainability. With the author narrating, listeners feel as though they are having a conversation with him: one that is groundbreaking, frightening, and hopeful all at once. VERDICT This work challenges listeners to rethink both taste and sustainability with the knowledge that better options are out there and stands next to The Omnivore's Dilemma as an essential book about food.—Donna Bachowski, Orange Cty. Lib. Syst., Orlando, FL
The New York Times - William Grimes
Not long ago, Dan Barber…came up with a dish he calls Rotation Risotto. It's a manifesto on a plate, a tricky play on the Italian classic that uses, instead of rice, a medley of lesser-known grains: rye, barley, buckwheat and millet. Each grain represents an agricultural virtue: Rye, for example, builds carbon in the soil. Taken together, they argue for a new way of thinking about the production and consumption of food, a "whole farm" approach that Mr. Barber explores, eloquently and zestfully, in The Third Plate…Mr. Barber is a stylish writer and a funny one, too.
The New York Times Book Review - Corby Kummer
In articles, TED talks and at conferences, Barber has established himself as one of the food world's leading voices on how farm practices influence flavor. And now he establishes himself as one of the food world's leading writers…Barber has an ear for dialogue and an eye for people's quirks, as well as a quality not always apparent in the heat of the kitchen—a sense of humor about his own impatience and bluntness, which he excuses as a chef's necessary trait. He also reveals an easy erudition…
Publishers Weekly
The chef of the trailblazing farm-to-table restaurant Blue Hill at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, in Pocantico Hills, New York, Barber is also a journalist crusading to help change the culture of American cooking. Blue Hill was the name of his family farm in Massachusetts, informing his early impressions while growing up, and in this multilayered work he aims to address the intrinsics of where food comes from—that is, from “soil,” “land,” “sea,” “seed,” as he divides his chapters. Barber harkens back to the stringent “land ethic” advocated by the American environmentalist Aldo Moro. There was no golden age of American agriculture, Barber asserts, because taming the land both North and South grew into an “exploitative relationship,” involving higher and higher yields and less vigilance to healthy soil management—climaxing horrendously during the so-called dirty ’30s. The value of establishing a viable interconnectedness between technology and ecology ensures that organic farmers are the heroes of this work, people like specialty-grains purveyor Glenn Roberts, who encouraged the author to plant a marvelous ancient Native American corn, Eight Row Flint, that had been farmed to near exhaustion in the early 19th century; New York state planters Klaus and Mary-Howell Martens, who had to cease using pesticides because Klaus was literally being paralyzed, and rediscovered the civilizing and sociable wonders of growing wheat; and a Spanish geese raiser, Eduardo Sousa, who produces foie gras without force feeding. Barber’s work is a deeply thoughtful and—offering a “menu for 2050”—even visionary work for a sustainable food chain. (May)
Kirkus Reviews
A multiple James Beard Award-winning chef proposes a revolutionary change for growing and consuming food.Moving beyond the organic farming and farm-to-table movements, Blue Hill executive chef Barber argues for the importance of the whole farm: an integrated, biodynamic system that sustains the richness and diversity of land and sea. American agriculture—with its large farm holdings, monoculture and unwieldy machinery—often leads to farmers' lack of intimacy with the land. "It's that lack of intimacy," writes the author, "that leads to ignorance, and eventually to loss." What is lost is taste and nutritional quality. Visiting small American and European farms, Barber learned the importance of nurturing soil that contains "a thriving, complex community of organisms." A carrot grown in earth that contains diverse phytonutrients tastes entirely different from one subject to insecticides and fungicides. Even farms that do not use chemical controls—the so-called "industrial organic" farms—may grow plants in nutrient-poor sandy soil, enriched by organic fertilizer. Barber interweaves food history, conversations with experts in food preparation, production and nutrition, and colorful anecdotes from his travels to farms, restaurants and markets. He tracked down Spaniard Eduardo Sousa, who raises geese for foie gras by allowing them to graze freely on acorns, getting fatter as they do naturally to prepare for migration. Rather than force-feeding, giving geese what they want, Sousa believes, results in exceptional foie gras. "When we allow nature to work, which means when we farm in a way that promotes all of its frustrating inefficiencies—when we grow nature," Barber writes, what we harvest is both abundant and flavorful. The same principles that apply to soil are relevant to the sea, as well; agriculture and aquaculture are not separate entities. Barber's menu for 2050 features baby oat tea; blue wheat brioche; pigs' blood sausage; trout in phytoplankton sauce; and beer ice cream.In this bold and impassioned analysis, Barber insists that chefs have the power to transform American cuisine to achieve a sustainable and nutritious future.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781611763218
  • Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/20/2014
  • Format: CD
  • Sales rank: 518,454
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 5.80 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Dan Barber is the executive chef of Blue Hill, a restaurant in Manhattan's West Village, and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, located within the nonprofit farm Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture. He lives in New York City.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2014

    The Third Plate is a brilliant and challenging look at our food

    The Third Plate is a brilliant and challenging look at our food system, aimed at moving the farm-to-table conversation forward. It's one part manifesto, one part chef's memoir--Michael Pollan meets Anthony Bourdain. (I especially loved the kitchen scenes, which pick up after the first section.) It will change the way you think about food.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 10, 2014

    Educational Read on what we eat

    I thought the book was educational and helped explain how we produce food. I enjoyed some of the stories and will be more thoughtful on what I choose to eat.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2014

    Dan Barber's The Third Plate is required reading for anyone inte

    Dan Barber's The Third Plate is required reading for anyone interested in the future of our increasingly unsustainable food system (and, frankly, that should be everyone).  Barber goes beyond simply espousing a farm-to-table ethos.  He notes that still puts the farmer in the service (or beck-and-call) of the restaurant.  Barber argues that it should be the other way around.  The book is broken down into four parts, each addressed thoughtfull:  Soil, Land, Sea, and Seed.  Although I'm quite cognizant about food issues, I've learned much from this book.  People, our futures truly are at stake.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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