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Friday, February 01, 2008

Friday Five: Dan Barber's Five Things to Give Up for Mother Earth


Friday Five series returns today with Dan Barber, chef and proprietor of Blue Hill in Manhattan and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills. Stone Barns is only 45 minutes from Manhattan, but it might as well be a whole different universe. A model of self sufficiency and environmental responsibility, Stone Barns is a working farm, ranch, and a three-michelin-star-worthy restaurant. (Note to Michelin: limiting your guide to the five boroughs means you've missed out on perhaps the most interesting and unique restaurant in all of New York.)

Dan's commitment to the environment is well known, but he is hardly a die-hard radical. He is a businessman determined to find a way to be both environmentally and economically sustainable - now that's the way of the future. When I visited Stone Barns last September for my lovely birthday dinner, I was impressed by not only the beauty of the farm and the produce, but the massive scale of operation it takes to run that place.


Now, if I've painted him too much of a businessman for you, let me tell you another story. Before the meal Dan took us on a tour around the property. He insisted on taking us - with me in a lovely dress (read:freezing) and heels (read:@#$%) - way out of the way to show off his pride and joy, the compost pile. Compost field is perhaps a more apt description. Once you approach the vicinity you understand why it has to be so far out of the way. Use your imagination. Explaining the workings of the forklift compost turner and the rotation of the pile and the output that goes back into the field and the difference it's made in the quality of his produce, all with the delight of a boy with a brand new Lego set, Dan was a man in his element, doing what he loves and fervently believes in. That compost pile is shit to you and me - pardon my French - but it is a whole different thing in the eye of the chef and proprietor of Blue Hill at Stone Barns.

Given his pedigree and commitment, I asked him to suggest five things we should all give up out of respect for the earth. It's a perfect question for my Friday Five series. Read it and think, and, most of all, do it.

Dan Barber's 5 things to give up for mother earth

1) lists about things to give up

--better to make lists of things you should add to your meals, like raw milk cheese, pig parts other than loin and belly, local honey, pastured eggs, unpasteurized milk. With food, hedonism is the way to help mother earth.

2) the notion that gourmet food is elitist and effete, and cheap food is an inalienable right.

The fast food hamburger and fries guy is harder to feed than the gourmet guy--that is if you calculate the invisible costs cheap food imposes on our health (diabetes, obesity to name two) and our environment (soil loss and hypoxic zones)


3) Meat from herbivores that have ben fed a grain intensive diet.

We will look back on this in 50 years in the same way that we look back on farmers spraying DDT on their vegetable crops.

4) Bluefin tuna and farmed salmon

--all fish are not created equal. (for a list of sustainable seafood alternatives, see the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch List.

5) anxiety ridden eating

--it prevents happiness and hinders creative thought (and it's rough on digestion)


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