Dan Barber is not a writer; he’s a chef. And it’s probably because he’s a chef that he can so successfully lead us through the food-focused stories that make up the book.
You may know Barber from his Chef’s Table episode. Or from eating at either of his Blue Hill restaurants (One’s in Greenwich Village, Manhattan. The other’s at Stone Barns in Tarrytown, Westchester). The Third Plate is his manifesto. The title refers to Barber‘s vision for the future of American cuisine. No longer, he says, will we do the old meat-and-two-sides thing. Instead, thanks to the farm-to-table revolution, vegetables will replace meat as the centerpiece of our meals.
The book follows Barber as he learns about these trends and techniques in food production. It’s successful because he doesn’t expect us to be academics or chefs ourselves; only interested laypeople, down to go with him on his journey of food exploration. The four sections are Soil (about the ecosystem of flora, fauna and microbes necessary for successful farming). Land (about foie gras and Ibérico ham production in Spain). Sea (about fish farming, also in Spain). And Seed (about “landrace” farming and crop diversity in the Pacific Northwest). And Barber himself plays a central role in the book, serving as our guide as we meet each producer whose story and method we learn about.
The Third Plate is for anyone who likes non-fiction that balances technical details and a review of the pertinent literature with easy vocabulary and fast-moving stories about exploration and travel. An interest in farming and the farm-to-table movement isn’t a prerequisite for reading Barber’s Book. Though, that might be exactly what you emerge with after reading.
For more about Dan Barber and The Third Plate, visit the book’s website.
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