Chef Dan Barber -- he of the genius cauliflower steaks and the braised short ribs — has a new book out that's poised to reshape our national conversation about food. The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food tells the stories of farmers who aim to change the way we eat and cook, and unearths the research that will keep us from calling them crazy.
Whereas Michael Pollan’s similarly seminal books The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food looked at food -- what we should buy, how we should eat -- from the perspective of the consumer, Barber writes about it from the perspective of the farmer, and the chef, and the tastebud. He went out in search of the best-tasting food, and he found his answer in a new definition of sustainability.
The "third plate" -- the dish that comes after the meat and potatoes of the '60s and the local meat and local potatoes of the '00s -- is a logical and necessary next step in the movement that has us all flocking to farmers markets and farm-to-table restaurants, asking questions about where our food comes from and finding creative uses for bumper crops.
Barber's book shows us how selfish we’ve been, expecting the soil to do our bidding without considering what it needs from us, what accommodations will make it happiest and most productive. And it will inspire even the most science-averse readers to take interest in microorganisms and the relationship between, say, nitrogen and carrots. If you care about flavor, and farms, and the future of our food system, read on, then read this book. You'll soon bully your friends into to doing the same.