An Iowa chef takes issue with Time’s Joel Stein
Regarding the article Tom mentioned yesterday, Joel Stein’s Time article, “Extreme Eating“: while Mr. Stein is of course free to eat whatever type of food he chooses, I must take exception to his contention that “Dodd was basically telling the Iowans that every night they should decide whether to accompany their pork with creamed corn, corn on the cob, corn fritters or corn bread. For dessert, they could have any flavor they wanted of fake ice cream made from soy, provided that flavor was corn.”
I am forced to question whether Mr. Stein has actually been to Iowa (outside of a presidential candidate’s rally). While there is indeed a large amount of corn, soy, and pork grown here (more than anywhere in the world in fact), to say that this is all we can eat when we choose to eat locally is blindly absurd and typical of a bicoastal mentality that considers America’s great heartland to be little more than “flyover states.”
In fact, Iowa farmers can and do grow anything that can be grown outside the tropics. Our support for local, sustainable agriculture is evident in the hundreds of farmers’ markets we have, many of them year-round affairs, and the dozens of organizations that support the so-called “locavore movement.” The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture is at Iowa State University. Practical Farmers of Iowa and the Iowa Farmers Union enjoy tremendous growth and prestige here and around the country. The Iowa Network for Community Agriculture supports local food resources statewide. There are five Slow Food Convivia here, and eight “Buy fresh, Buy Local” campaigns organized statewide. Edible Iowa River Valley, a member of the Edible Communities family of magazines, boasts a quarterly readership over 36,000.
My restaurant alone provides our guests with all its meat and roughly 60 percent of everything else (year-round) from more than 30 “Devotay Local Farm Partners” — and not to belabor the point, but there is no corn on our menu.
Mr. Stein concludes by saying, “I’m going to keep buying food from my foreign neighbors. Because it’s the only way we Americans learn about other countries, other than by bombing them.” While this may or may not be true, I suggest he spend a little more time learning about his own country first. He can start here, I’ll have a table waiting for him.