This book’s eponymous The Third Plate (Penguin Press, $29.95) concept may seem a little gimicky compared to the incredible nuance of the rest of the book, but it is a helpful way of explaining what Dan Barber’s book is about: if the “first plate” of American food is a big steak of dubious provenance with a side of frozen carrots, then farm-to-table, sustainable eating has merely replaced it with an equally big, choice “second plate” of steak, albeit grass-fed and pastured, and a side of organically grown carrots. A “third plate”—the future of American cuisine—must move from what our appetites demand to what good stewardship of the land can offer: say, a stew of carrots in a sauce made of second cuts of meat. Much-laureled chef of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Dan Barber narrates a wide-range of questions and lessons-learned about soil health, tastes in fine dining, ecology, diet, gastronomical prizes, and unconventional agriculture with integrity and insight. Unafraid to reveal his own mistakes and naivete, Barber heralds the possibility of deeper, healthier roots for the farm-to-table movement. A mouth-watering “menu for the future” follows probing chapters on the “dehesa” of Southern Spain, ancient strains of wild wheat, and perplexing new models of fishing.
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