A different revolution

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"The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution." ~Paul Cezanne 

While the original statement from the turn of the 20th century was referring to artistic styling rather than agricultural methodology, the quote has been adopted by modern food movements to represent where, how, and what we eat.

Affluent dining in the 1950s and 1960s usually meant eating Continental or French cuisine. The food concentrated on technique rather than ingredients. This type of dining was free from the constraints of seasonality and locality. The whole point of dining out was to enjoy what was not normally available to ordinary households. Exotic ingredients consumed in a restaurant were the hallmark of affluence and the modern world. Food from far away was desirable while more basic and homey ingredients were seasonal and thought to be mundane. 

Then the modern world gave way to a movement of "Food on Demand." Whatever you wanted and whenever you wanted it. Grocery stores bought in to the demand and stores swelled with produce from around the world and meats and fishes from exotic locations. People ate, and for the most part still do, what they want and whenever they want it. 

The Farm-to-Table social movement is a complete reversal of affluent dining and eating expectations. The movement embraces the constraints of seasonality and locality. This is exactly the way most people have eaten throughout history. Food is harvested from small, local farms and eaten at the height of its freshness and seasonality.

Farm-to-Table has been gaining momentum in recent years. The very hopeful movement was founded by chefs, food writers, and environmentalists to bring local, fresh food to restaurants, schools, and kitchen tables across the country.

The revolution comes in the form of some very simple ideals: The only thing that matters is the farmer, the food, the cook (home or restaurant), and the plate. This is basic food alchemy and the essence of the Farm-to-Table food revolution. By simplifying our food expectations, we change the way we eat, the food we eat, and even where we eat it. We become mindful of our food.

Informed consumers are often concerned and wonder what they can do to eat healthier, seasonally, and locally. Thankfully, awareness has been made of the distinction between the "Dirty Dozen" and the "Clean Fifteen." The first group are those 12 crops that farmers typically use the most pesticides on; the second describes the 15 fruits and vegetables that have the lowest amount of pesticide residue. With awareness, these distinctions could become a thing of the past--and all people, regardless of income and where they live, would have access to healthy and clean food grown without pesticides and herbicides.

Here are my farm-to-table tips for you:

Eat seasonally: Learning to enjoy the food that is seasonal - and how to preserve the foods you enjoy throughout the year by canning or freezing - reduces the need for mega-farms to produce food with the assistance of pesticides and herbicides. 

Enjoy greater food safety: The food you eat is grown locally; you know exactly where it came from. Many state and countrywide recalls would become a problem of the past. 

Shop farmers markets and CSAs: This is the easiest and most enjoyable way to take part in the Farm-to-Table movement. Many local farms also have Community Supported Agriculture models (CSAs). Home-cooks and restaurants can pre-purchase a share of the upcoming season's crops. Farms can better predict how much to grow, how many people to hire, and can grow more diverse crops. Many CSAs have local pick-ups or even home delivery.

Shop with small family farms : By renewing the relationship between consumers and the land, we create local jobs and truly take stewardship of the land.

Traceability : Know your farmer, know their practices. By shortening the supply chain, consumers are more aware of where the food comes from and how it was grown.

At first glance, the Farm-to-Table revolution is defined by negative precepts. No food from outside a region, no food that is unhealthy, less meat on menus and plates, and no food that is out of season. Yet, these negatives create a positive simplicity: Cooking on the basis of taste and flavor, with no foods of exotic origins or novelty, is at the heart of healthy eating and a healthy planet. 

Laura Frankel is a noted kosher chef, a cookbook author, and Culinary Director for a media company. Currently, she serves as Director of Catering at Circle of Life catering at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El.   


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