I ushered 2016 in by rifling through Dan Barber’s The Third Plate and upon completion, came away with new insights and awarenesses regarding my own relationship with the food I am purchasing, concocting, and disposing of. Through his own research, musings, and anecdotes about other farmers and their sustainable practices, he chronicles his notes on the future of food as they pertain to soil, land, sea, and seed.


For those that are not familiar with Dan Barber, he is the executive chef at Blue Hill New York and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Westchester County, NY. He is also renowned for his policy writing (B.A. in English from Tufts coupled with a degree from the French Culinary Institute) regarding sustainability in food and food choices.


The whole book is littered with pertinent and staggering facts about sustainable farming and the food industry as a whole, but the anecdotal sections are where I garnered my lasting take-aways.

In ‘Soil’, he profiles the Penn Yan area of Upstate N.Y., bringing to light that as humans, we are “subterranean-impaired.” He notes that organic fertilizers bolster the plant’s outward properties, but not the soil. To me, this example is analogous as to how humans live in the present, as we have developed a pattern of treating symptoms instead of root causes, especially as relates to our own health. The soil itself represents the focal point of healthy eating and nutrition.

He flies to the dehesa region in Spain during the ‘Land’ component of the book, where he sees how foie gras can be produced without the act of force-feeding. He also takes in the revolutionary aquaculture benefits that stem from a fresh and salt-water fed ecosystem in ‘Sea’.

And in ‘Seed’, Dan treks south and recounts how the popularization of farming and large-scale farm operations has led to a focus on yields and uniformity of seed, rather than flavor. When wheat is milled, over half of the nutrients are lost within a mere 24 hours. Farmers have had to devise strategies for generating long-lasting flour, at the expense of flavor.

Suffice to say, part of the reason for my long-winded The Third Plate plug was to facilitate and pen my food-specific goals for 2016 and put some integrity behind my words. Here it goes:

-Consume more vegetables/lentils in lieu of cheese/bread.
-Reduce the use of plastic (sandwiches to-go, more specifically).
-Continue to compost.
-Less meat (though it may be admittedly hard).
-Find a staple tofu recipe that I enjoy.
-Write often.

Whether your intentions take shape on a more micro (me) or macro-level (Dan Barber), consider this quote by Michael Pollan: “you are what you eat eats, too.”

Happy New Year to all!


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