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.