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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

You might know Dan Barber best as the chef of Blue Hill in NYC. But, behind the kitchen maestro, is a big thinker who really gives the farm-to-table movement a whole new meaning. Well worth listening to… especially for the story about the mokkum carrot!

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A Nigerian Easter in the Midwest

Woman in Gele, Iro, and Buba

From the front door she calls, “He has risen!” Her children respond, “He has risen indeed. Let’s eat!”

I dodged church Easter Sunday this year. My mother Gbeme, however, worshipped at the Baptist church she’s been attending twice weekly for the past 20 years.

Raised Catholic in Nigeria, my mother’s Easter begins the seasonal swap from heavy wools to floral prints and pastels. She wears a beautifully vibrant gele — an intricately fashioned tie around the head worn by Yoruba women — and iro and buba — the matching outfit traditionally worn by Yoruba women — to church. She exchanges compliments with the other congregants about their upbeat clothes and steady health. For two hours the pews fill, the choir sings, and for the larger Easter crowd, the young new pastor delivers an especially rousing sermon. Soon thereafter, church dismisses. Time to eat.

For many Americans, Easter is synonymous with the egg. But in my bicultural household, Map of Yoruba and Igbo Peoplecreamy frejon is the signature Easter week delicacy. The bean soup is made of smoothly blended brown beans called ewa ibeji and steeped coconut, then sweetened with cane sugar to taste.

In the mid-1980s, my mother left metropolitan Lagos to attend college in rural Wisconsin — and made necessary modifications to the original frejon recipe. Back then international foods weren’t as integrated. In lieu of traditional Nigerian dishes, my mother observed her first few Easters amid sweet friends, sweet rolls, egg salad, and hearty Midwestern casseroles. After she graduated, she moved from Wisconsin to Minnesota, reuniting her with city dwelling, a dense Nigerian immigrant community, specialty grocers, and Easter frejon.

Read more of Caroline Joseph’s essay on Yoruban Catholic tradition.

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nprfreshair:

“More than 50 percent of the food dollar is spent outside the home now, and that’s a big difference [from] what it was several decades ago. People are eating outside because they’re on the move, they have crowded schedules, they want to take the family out for a treat – and there are so many restaurants out there now to cater to this need. … The problem is when you go out, you tend to eat more and you tend to eat worse than when you eat at home.” — Kelly Brownell

Oy, don’t I know it…
~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
nprfreshair:

“More than 50 percent of the food dollar is spent outside the home now, and that’s a big difference [from] what it was several decades ago. People are eating outside because they’re on the move, they have crowded schedules, they want to take the family out for a treat – and there are so many restaurants out there now to cater to this need. … The problem is when you go out, you tend to eat more and you tend to eat worse than when you eat at home.” — Kelly Brownell

Oy, don’t I know it…
~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

nprfreshair:

“More than 50 percent of the food dollar is spent outside the home now, and that’s a big difference [from] what it was several decades ago. People are eating outside because they’re on the move, they have crowded schedules, they want to take the family out for a treat – and there are so many restaurants out there now to cater to this need. … The problem is when you go out, you tend to eat more and you tend to eat worse than when you eat at home.”Kelly Brownell

Oy, don’t I know it…

~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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Whole Foods has become the first prominent supermarket chain to run a Ramadan marketing campaign—and they’re hoping Muslim customers will return the favor as they break fast. Even though Muslims traditionally forego meals during the day, lavish evening Ramadan meals could mean big bucks for the natural foods giant … as well as brand loyalty from a demographic not traditionally courted by megastore advertising.
-

—from Neal Ungerleider’s piece "Whole Foods Celebrates, Monetizes Ramadan" in Fast Company

~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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Did Elites Help Cultivate the Local Foods Movement?

by Nancy Rosenbaum, producer

When we first released "Driven by Flavor," some listeners were rankled by Dan Barber’s assertions. In the video clip above, the Blue Hill chef argues that “elites” deserve recognition for catalyzing sweeping changes in our collective food consciousness:

"It has been a movement that’s pretty much started with the people who can afford to pay for this kind of food. Do I think that’s unfortunate? I really don’t … a lot of great movements in this country, including women’s suffrage, including the civil rights movement, started with elites and ended up becoming mass movements through powerful ideas."

What do you think? Are elites the chicken or the egg here? Or is there another way of understanding how the food revolution Dan Barber is a part of became so widely embraced?

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Hull a Strawberry in Seconds without Waste

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

I realize this may be a stretch for our editorial thrust, but this tip from Saveur is too good not to share on an early Saturday evening. And, if you are finally entering summer like us cats up here in Minnesota, you’re starting to increase your fresh fruit intake — especially coring all those delicious strawberries for your loved ones. What’s more meaningful than this?!

(h/t Lifehacker)

Tagged: #food #tip
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Emerging from the “Dark Ages” of American Food Life

by Krista Tippett, host

Dan Barber

Dan Barber is one of those voices who stays with you and changes the way you move through ordinary time — the vast ordinary time, that is, that we all spend thinking about what we will eat, buying food, storing it, preparing it.

His knowledge is as infectious as his passion. He wants us to enjoy our food. And if we become “greedy” for flavor, he says, we will also reform our agricultural ecologies and economies.

This is an irresistible proposition, of course. And what is strange, he helps us realize, is how far-fetched it sounds.

As I told him when we began to speak, I grew up in the 1960’s and 1970’s, an era Dan Barber calls “the Dark Ages” of American food life. My grandparents grew their own vegetables, and we found that quaint but a bit puzzling. Buying supermarket food that emerged from boxes and cans was progress.

And yet, the transcendent food memory of my childhood remains the enormous, red, delicious tomatoes that were available at a ramshackle store on Main Street for a couple of months each summer. It needed nothing added to be the most gorgeous meal in itself. When I mentioned those tomatoes, an audible sigh went up in the audience. We all remember those tomatoes. Dan Barber — and others like Michael Pollan and Barbara Kingsolver — would have us ask this: Why did we abandon that pleasure, and how can we reclaim it as part of our ordinary food lives?

That question becomes more urgent, relevant far beyond the matter of pleasure, as we learn what Dan Barber knows about the nutrition that comes with flavor, the potential that maximally flavorful, nutritious food is now being shown to have even in the fight against cancer. The processes and distribution systems that have leached the flavor out of seeds and produce — processes that also mean I can’t grow those transcendent tomatoes in my home garden even if I try — have made them inexpensive and available in all seasons. But in this generation or the next, the ecological costs of this will become unsupportable.

Amuse Bouche - Fresh Tomato BerriesAmuse Bouche — Fresh Tomato Berries at Stone Barns. (photo: ulterior epicure/Flickr, cc by-nc-nd 2.0)

This is a good news story, though, for a change. Because this crisis, if Dan Barber is to be believed, will bring us home.

The “great social movement” of which he is part is forcing us to re-learn where our food comes from. It is helping us internalize the natural connection between what is ethically grown and healthful and what is delicious. It is helping us discover the particular flavors and bounty of where we come from. You will learn more about root vegetables — especially carrots — in this conversation than you ever realized could be fascinating. Who knew, for example, that sweetness that forms in root vegetables in the hard freezes of northern climates is the vegetable telling you, as Dan Barber tells us, that it does not want to die.

Dan Barber’s cooking is about storytelling too, and it is fascinating to take in his approach to cooking that points “the vectors” at the brilliance and art of farming rather than the flourishes of his cooking. Though the gestalt of his two restaurants is by all accounts extraordinary. Food & Wine has called Blue Hill at Stone Barns one of the world’s “top 10 life-changing restaurants.”

If there is a challenge to the rest of us in Dan Barber’s delightful mission to put pleasure back at the center of our food lives, it is that we will all have to take up our boning knives and cast iron skillets again and begin again to cook.

Some will be uncomfortable with his provocative and impassioned explanation of why he is not vegetarian. He is also not a purist in the local food movement. He confesses to loving citrus on his menus all through the year, and insists that we must make the same distribution systems that have alienated us from flavor begin to work for the regional agricultural economies we must create.

I have cooked more, and with more pleasure, since this conversation. I have had conversations with my children that Dan Barber gave me ideas and words to have. I continue to savor and tease out the unexpected link he offers between what is pleasurable, what is ethical, and what is life-giving, and it is a great gift that I am delighted to pass on to you.

Comments

Matzah Makeover Turkish-Style

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Got a few extra sheets of matzah handy and looking for a Passover-friendly recipe? Deena Prichep has posted photos and recipes of various matzo pies, including a Turkish mina de carne that elevates this bread of affliction to a culinary delight!

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…15 years ago when I went out into communities, these people would ask me, ‘Why are you doing the slaves’ work?’ And now I don’t hear that anymore.
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Will Allen, founder of Growing Power in Milwaukee

In his recent interview with Tavis Smiley, Allen credited Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative and and the White House Kitchen Garden with getting people of color “back into the game” of what he calls the “good food revolution.”

by Nancy Rosenbaum, producer

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The square has emptied out since the afternoon but it’s still a great atmosphere, a sense of solidarity, and very well-behaved – people are sitting around bonfires, or walking around picking up rubbish. Crowds who find occasional looters drag them over to the soldiers and hand them over. And no sexual harassment – which is not the norm downtown, especially when there are big groups gathering! We’re happy to be eating koshary – thank goodness vendors are still selling street food because we’re starving.
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Heba Morayef, still blogging from Tahrir Square, Cairo (via technipol)

At its essence, civil protest comes down to upholding values and the pragmatics of eating together, non?

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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Elmo Talks Nosh in the White House Kitchen

by Nancy Rosenbaum, producer

Everybody’s favorite red Muppet took a tour of the White House kitchen this week, bantering with assistant chef Sam Kass about the virtues of eating melons and whole-wheat lasagna. This guest appearance happened on the heels of President Obama authorizing the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (fact sheet, PDF), which includes $4.5 billion in new funds for schools whose nutrition standards meet updated guidelines and enables communities to create local farm to school networks and school gardens.

Sample Before/After School Lunch Menu
A sample lunch menu shows what schools might offer since the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. (source: White House)

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A Visual Feast at Dan Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

After hearing chef Dan Barber describe his dishes as “unconstructed,” we wanted to experience the beauty that he and so many other people describe. Unfortunately, we’re based in Minnesota and we’re a public radio gig, which means we don’t quite have the funds to fly to the Pocantico Hills for a gourmet meal. Fortunately, we found a set of wonderful photos documenting the ulterior epicure’s nine-course meal in the early autumn of 2007, along with his review. His set up and conclusion are reason enough for reading why Dan Barber matters in this food-to-table movement. Bon appetit!

Blue Hill at Stone Barns Sign

Moments and reminders of how humans ought to live are, in our world, scarce. Having grown up on the prairie plains of the Midwest amidst fields of corn, wheat, and cattle, there wasn’t a day that I went to school without passing by my dinner.

I was quite shocked to discover that for many Americans, hundreds of miles, if not infinitely more, conceptually, separated the farm from their table. Some, sadly, lived just down the street from me. At the age of 6, I was confused and frightened by my friend Tommy’s unintelligible disconnect from the beef he ate and the cows that could be heard lowing in the distance from his swing-set out back.

Cows didn’t have bones, he insisted — there were none in his meatloaf, tacos, or burgers — and neither did chickens, which always came in the form of “tenders,” or, ironically, “fingers.”

As an avid fisher-child, I knew very will how to navigate the pin-boned-riddled bass my dad and I used to haul home on weekend trips. For Tommy, fish were amorphous, water-bound creatures that ended up on his plate as deep-fried “sticks.”

What does all this have to do with Blue Hill at Stone Barns?

Blue Hill at Stone Barns Cupola
Cupola tops one building at Blue Hill at Stone Barns.

Quite frankly, a lot.

While a farm-raised kid like me is tempted to roll my eyes at the trend-supported “slow foods” and “sustainable” mindset/lifestyle, I am reminded of Tommy, and those like him.

When chefs like Dan Barber, owner and executive chef of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, dawned on the American food scene like demi-gods from the corn fields, I couldn’t help but snicker with a dose of cynicism… I mean, this is basically how my parents and I grew up eating.

Regardless, I have come to immensely appreciate what Chef Barber, and chefs like him, are doing for our food culture: bringing us back to the land.

Blue Hill at Stone Barns Map
Map featuring countryside of Blue Hill at Stone Barns.

I won’t belabor this point anymore, or details about the restaurant, which can easily be skimmed from its website. The only thing I will say is that it’s tucked away just 40 minutes (on a good traffic day) outside of New York City on the old Rockefeller estate at Pocantico Hills, in a part of our world that I wished more of it could be like. A visit to the farm itself, if not for the food (which would be a pity to miss out on), is worth the trip.

We put ourselves in the capable hands of the kitchen and ordered the “Farmer’s Feast” — a multi-course progression of dishes assembled at the whim of the chef.

Blue Hills at Stone Barns Table Setting
Table setting with locally made sparkling water from Saratoga Springs.

The food at Blue Hill at Stone Barns is special. It’s fresh, the compositions are well-balanced, the flavors are nuanced, and everything is cooked perfectly. Even more impressive — all of the produce, and most of the meats, including the chicken (Stone Barns “Barred Silver” chicken) and Berkshire pork served to us, were from the farm surrounding the restaurant.

5th Course - Stone Barns Barred Silver Chicken
Stone Barns barred silver chicken, the fifth course, with corn and quinoa, zucchini puree, and piracicaba.

6th Course - Blue Hill at Stone Barns Berkshire Pork
The Berkshire pork was belly and loin served with cranberry and shelling beans.

Take, for instance, our flights-upon-flights of amuses bouche that march out in rapid-fire to welcome us to the table. The most interesting, perhaps, were miniature “tomato burgers” served on a bed of sesame seeds. What appeared to be a straightforward sandwich, however, turned out to be an exciting exercise in unexpected flavor combinations. The the “buns” were actually sweet buttery financiers. The filling was a tangy sweet mix of tomatoes and onions.

Amuse Bouche: Tomato Burgers
The amuse bouche of tomato burgers was a complete conceit, from “financier” buns to sesame seeds.

Amuse Bouche - Fresh Tomato Berries
Amuse bouche: fresh tomato “berries” were sweet and juicy, and perfectly ripe.

Amuse Bouche - Blue Hill V8
Amuse bouche: Blue Hill “V8” tasted like tomato-based gazpacho.

Amuse Bouche - Butter Eggplant and Salt Tastings
A plate of amuse bouche starting with (front to back) salted butter, eggplant puree, arugula salt, carrot salt, and golden frill salt with tempura green beans on the side.

Having caught the tail end of an Indian summer, heirloom tomatoes, summer corn and green beans lingered around to delight us. As well, a peek into the coming autumn yielded an abundance of mushrooms — nearly a dozen, which our server proudly paraded out to use during the meal — and various beans.

Amuse Bouche - Tempura Green Beans
Amuse bouche: tempura green beans.

These, and many farm-fresh (literally) items were spotlighted in various forms on our succession of plates, like a jewel-like salad of heirloom tomatoes. It featured a refreshing combination of tomatoes — raw, sun-dried, in foam and sorbet form — with grilled stone fruits, melons, and shaved fennel.

1st Course - Heirloom Tomato Salad
The first course of an heirloom tomato salad was a composition of stone fruit, tomato foam, tomato sorbet, fennel, housemade ricott, sun-dried tomatoes, and melon.

The most memorable dish of the evening, for me, was a salad showcasing those green beans. The composition included raisins, green and wax beans, and bits of pistachio. It was dressed with a pea-green vinegar-kissed “garden gazpacho” and topped with broad, tissue-thin shavings of matsutake mushrooms and a fresh farm egg crusted with hazelnuts. The oval orb, which at first glance appeared to be a Scotch egg, turned out to be simply a soft-boiled egg skinned in a thin cry shell of hazelnut dust and deep-fried. Piercing the egg yielded a delightfully runny yolk that blanketed the salad with a warm velvety coating. The flavor combination — creamy, tart, sweet, grassy, and nutty created — was truly extraordinary.

2nd Course - Green Bean Salad and Local Farm Egg Cracked OpenA green bean salad and local farm egg (cracked open) was the second course with hazelnut-encrusted poached local farm egg, matsutake mushrooms, raisins, pistachios, and “garden gazpacho.”

 This course was followed by another successful dish which featured a coral-coloured fillet of local brook trout resting on a bed of summer corn and local chanterelles. The fish was barely cooked — in wonderful silky limbo between flaky and raw. The fillet glistened with a light but flavorful and naturally sweet tomato-based sauce flecked with smoky coriander seeds and briny capers (one of the only non-local ingredients I spotted). This was satisfyingly simple, yet extraordinarily sophisticated.

3rd Course - Local Brook Trout
Corn, local changerelles, and sun-dried tomato sauce with coriander seeds and capers forms a bed for local brook trout.

While nothing failed, not everything worked, either. The “Embryonic Pasta” was the low point for me for two reasons. This cleverly-named dish was composed of all-egg yolk pasta and a nice, slightly warmed and cooked medley of tomatoes and shiitake mushrooms in a light tomato cream broth.

The first disappointment was the pasta itself. Our server had told us that using all egg yolks gave the pasta an extremely peculiar texture. I had imagined it to be silky, creamy, and very velvety. Instead, it was rather firm and toothy — more like a grain-based pasta.

4th Course - Embroynic Pasta
The fourth course of “embryonic” pasta, made with egg yolks, is flavored with sun gold tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms, and a tomato cream broth.

That being said, I loved the flavors of this dish. It was a strange mix of Italian and Asian flavors. I can’t recall whether it had any heat to it, but I do remember the composition to be slightly sweeter (as most dishes turned out) than I had expected. This sweetness wouldn’t have been bad, per se, if it were cut by a nice dry wine (like a Sauvignon Blanc, which I’ve enjoyed especially with shiitakes before). However, (the second disappointment of this course), the sommelier had paired a too-sweet Riesling Kabinett with this pasta course, a pairing which was slightly more successfully with the brook trout course. The wine was so unenjoyable that it ruined this pasta dish for me. Despite how good the flavor was, I didn’t finish it.

This brings me to the wine program. I’m sure Blue Hill at Stone Barn’s servers are very well-versed in wine. It is unfortunate that our server’s taste didn’t match mine. I had told the sommelier that I didn’t want to do a full pairing. I requested a glass of white and a glass of red, and perhaps a beer pairing, if he/the chef thought that there was a course with which beer would pair particularly well with.

Sadly, I didn’t enjoy the beer — a very “hoppy” Victory Prima Pils — that was paired with the our two salads, although I did feel that it went better with the green beans and egg than with the tomatoes and fruit. And, as stated, the Riesling was excruciatingly sweet for both the already sweet pasta and fish courses (the tomato sauces).

Our red wine, however, paired with chicken, and later pork belly, was excellent.

Desserts were accomplished, but rather unexciting. For some reason, I find myself liking pre-dessert courses more than the dessert course, proper. I haven’t quite thought through the reasoning, but I bet it goes something like this: pre-desserts tend to be more refreshing than satisfyingly (often cloyingly) sweet, they also tend to be smaller, and more often involve fruit and/or sorbet.

And, so it was with the desserts at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. We were reminded of summer once again in both of our sweet courses. Our pre-dessert featured a neon-red pool of watermelon soup and small dices of watermelon topped with a tiny quenelle of ricotta sorbet. The combination of these two elements far out-paced what was to follow: a rather ordinary lemon cheesecake with blueberries and creme fraiche ice cream.

7th Course - Watermelon and Ricotta Sorbet
The sixth course, a watermelon and ricotta sorbet.

8th Course - Lemon Cheesecake
Lemon cheesecake with blueberries and creme fraiche ice cream.

A phalanx of petite fours, including a bowl of darling ruby-coloured fraises du bois, were sent after dessert was cleared. Coffee was served (another non-local product), and the bill was settled.

Petits Fours
Petits fours.

Mignardises - Wild Strawberries
Mignardises: wild strawberries.

Blue Hill at Stone Barns is one of the most novel and special restaurants I have ever visited. And yet, what makes the restaurant special are practices and elements that seem highly intuitive and familiar to me, a product of the Midwest and an American consumer: eat what you grow.

That, sadly, is easier said than done these days.

The tenants of Blue Hill at Stone Barns (much like those of the mother ship, Chez Panisse, where I had a spectacular meal last year) require and restrict the restaurant to serving a certain subset of foods. Due to seasonal and regional limitations plus Chef Barber’s insistence that only the best of the garden is served, a number of the same items showed up repeatedly throughout our dinner. Tomatoes figured in somewhere on nearly all of our savory courses, as did mushrooms and beans to a lesser extent. Corn appeared on both our fish and pork dishes.

While this may seem monotonous or redundant, it really isn’t. It’s simply a matter of understanding, appreciating, and celebrating the abundance of what is before us.

Blue Hill at Stone Barns is very much a restaurant of the here and now — in terms of its situation vis-a-vis our nation’s restaurant trends, the current food culture in the world, and the food it serves every day. It captures the best of each day and serves it to its guests. In today’s world, this is tremendously exciting.

I hope to return to Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Maybe in the spring, or the dead of winter. I trust the kitchen and the staff will feed and take care of us with as much passion as on this visit.

This review of Blue Hill at Stone Barns was originally published on October 6, 2007 and reprinted, along with all photographs, with the permission of the ulterior epicure.

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Chef Dan Barber on Emerging from the “Dark Ages” of American Food Life

by Krista Tippett, host

Dan BarberDan Barber is one of those voices who stays with you and changes the way you move through ordinary time — the vast ordinary time, that is, that we all spend thinking about what we will eat, buying food, storing it, preparing it. His knowledge is as infectious as his passion. He wants us to enjoy our food. And if we become “greedy” for flavor, he says, we will also reform our agricultural ecologies and economies.

This is an irresistible proposition, of course. And what is strange, he helps us realize, is how far-fetched it sounds. As I told him when we began to speak, I grew up in the 1960’s and 1970’s, an era Dan Barber calls “the Dark Ages” of American food life. My grandparents grew their own vegetables, and we found that quaint but a bit puzzling. Buying supermarket food that emerged from boxes and cans was progress.

And yet, the transcendent food memory of my childhood remains the enormous, red, delicious tomatoes that were available at a ramshackle store on Main Street for a couple of months each summer. It needed nothing added to be the most gorgeous meal in itself. When I mentioned those tomatoes, an audible sigh went up in the audience. We all remember those tomatoes. Dan Barber — and others like Michael Pollan and Barbara Kingsolver — would have us ask this: Why did we abandon that pleasure, and how can we reclaim it as part of our ordinary food lives?

Amuse Bouche - Fresh Tomato BerriesThat question becomes more urgent, relevant far beyond the matter of pleasure, as we learn what Dan Barber knows about the nutrition that comes with flavor, the potential that maximally flavorful, nutritious food is now being shown to have even in the fight against cancer. The processes and distribution systems that have leached the flavor out of seeds and produce — processes that also mean I can’t grow those transcendent tomatoes in my home garden even if I try — have made them inexpensive and available in all seasons. But in this generation or the next, the ecological costs of this will become unsupportable.

This is a good news story, though, for a change. Because this crisis, if Dan Barber is to be believed, will bring us home. The “great social movement” of which he is part is forcing us to re-learn where our food comes from. It is helping us internalize the natural connection between what is ethically grown and healthful and what is delicious. It is helping us discover the particular flavors and bounty of where we come from. Blue Hill at Stone Barns Carrots and RadishesYou will learn more about root vegetables — especially carrots — in this conversation than you ever realized could be fascinating. Who knew, for example, that sweetness that forms in root vegetables in the hard freezes of northern climates is the vegetable telling you, as Dan Barber tells us, that it does not want to die.

Dan Barber’s cooking is about storytelling too, and it is fascinating to take in his approach to cooking that points “the vectors” at the brilliance and art of farming rather than the flourishes of his cooking. Though the gestalt of his two restaurants is by all accounts extraordinary. Food & Wine has called Blue Hill at Stone Barns one of the world’s "top 10 life-changing restaurants."

If there is a challenge to the rest of us in Dan Barber’s delightful mission to put pleasure back at the center of our food lives, it is that we will all have to take up our boning knives and cast iron skillets again and begin again to cook. Some will be uncomfortable with his provocative and impassioned explanation of why he is not vegetarian. He is also not a purist in the local food movement. He confesses to loving citrus on his menus all through the year, and insists that we must make the same distribution systems that have alienated us from flavor begin to work for the regional agricultural economies we must create.

I have cooked more, and with more pleasure, since this conversation. I have had conversations with my children that Dan Barber gave me ideas and words to have. I continue to savor and tease out the unexpected link he offers between what is pleasurable, what is ethical, and what is life-giving, and it is a great gift that I am delighted to pass on to you.

(Photos of dishes from Blue Hill at Stone Barns by Ulterior Epicure/Flickr.)

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Chef Dan Barber and Mindful Eating in the 21st Century (Live Video)

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

date: Friday, November 5th, 2010
time: 7:30 p.m. Eastern
duration: 90 minutes

From Atlanta we take you to Indianapolis to bring you a New York chef who is a game-changing voice of the farm-to-table movement. Tonight at 7:30 pm Eastern, we’ll be streaming live video of Krista’s interview with Dan Barber, of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns fame, from the Spirit & Place Festival in Indianapolis.

Barber is a James Beard Award winner, who is using his New York restaurants to highlight the distinct quality of locally grown, seasonal, and sustainable agriculture. His approach to mindful eating and the values surrounding food in contemporary lives is something you don’t want to miss.

How this public event came about has been serendipitous. A number of years ago Krista interviewed Rabbi Sandy Sasso for a show on the spirituality of parenting. It so happens that she’s been deeply involved in an annual, 10-day festival called Spirit & Place, Indiana’s largest civic festival, which promotes “civic engagement, respect for diversity, thoughtful reflection, public imagination, and enduring change through creative collaborations between arts, faith-based, and civic institutions.” She invited us to come down and we accepted!

This venue is an ideal forum for our conversation, which will enlarge and deepen our understanding about sustainability issues through discussing core human values of beauty and living in relationship with one another. Dan Barber stresses that, for him, a core value of sustainability is expressed through an age-old tradition: “The sustainability stuff comes in through the stories. The thing that the industrial food chain will never have is the ability to tell stories.” I look forward to hearing him tell some of those stories and share his imagination about how those narratives enliven his experiences as a grower and chef and thinker.

Dan BarberWhile preparing for this public event, I can’t help but hear echoes of Krista’s conversation with Ellen Davis — specifically, about getting to know your farmer and understanding where your food comes from. He seems to be one of those bridge people whose appreciation for food and the land was cultivated by working Blue Hill Farm in the Berkshires as a teenager, where he spent most summers “bailing hay and moving cows, pasturing them from field to field.” His Know Thy Farmer effort reminds me of a fabulous film campaign out of Maine called Meet Your Farmer, which emphasizes the values in understanding the struggle of people producing food, the joy of working intimately with others, and celebrating a table of locally grown produce and meat and its flavors even more.

He’s also a businessman. Dan Barber builds on the idea of interdependency but applies it in a fresh way through his fine dining restaurants — that both businesses and livelihoods of the people who work there are mutually dependent. In effect, his farm depends on the viability of his restaurants and his restaurants rely on the quality of the food produced at his farm.

In ten short years, Barber has impacted public consciousness about our everyday food choices and perhaps even agricultural policy. In 2009 he was named to the annual Time 100 list. In 2010, the World Economic Forum invited him to Davos, Switzerland to participate in their annual meeting, and President Barack Obama appointed him to serve on the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. And his TED2010 talk has become a sensation that has been forwarded to more than one of our producers’ email in-boxes.

Please join us right here or on the Being LIVE page and watch the live stream of this public conversation. For those of you who can’t make it, not to worry. We’re recording it and video will be immediately available for playback after the event.

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