abstract:Each spring my husband and I relocate to our farm in the Southern Interior of British Columbia. While we've owned the property for two decades, we've not had the luxury of circumstance to be there until the last few years. Taking control has put us on a steep learning curve on multiple fronts. The best teacher of course is experience, and we have tried to pick off projects within the scope of our budget and energy, which of course necessitates learning by our mistakes. I don't feel we began to really take things seriously until we acquired chickens. A garden can be tilled, seeded and left for a few days or even a week with a timed water system. Ditto for a ploughed field depending on the planting and time of year. But animals require that you be there. And being present on a daily basis you learn their rhythms, their needs, their idiosyncrasies and personalities.
Chickens were the catalyst to understanding the responsibility of our farm. My book shelves are lined with titles on topics of interest. The Guide to Self Sufficiency, Back to Basics, The Organic Grain Grower, Bee Keeping & Honey, The Oxford Companion To Beer. And of course many many cook books to deal with all the bounty from the vegetable garden.
There is a series on Netflix right now that connects the dots from farmer and field to consumers and their tables. It is called Chef's Table. This is where you become inspired by cooking movements around the world started by chefs who embody a philosophy of eating that is most often traced back to their roots. If you watch this series I challenge you NOT to think about food and its connection to the health of the landscape from which it derived, combined with the skill, technique, history and cultural identity of every hand that touches product from field to table.
article: July 12, 2015 — My two favourites are the first and second chef stories. The first is Massimo Bottura, a chef in Modena, Italy with three Michelin stars who took traditional Italian dishes and ingredients and invented a playful post modern presentation that is both inspired by his love for his wife and family as it is by his desire to surprise and delight his guests. When an earthquake struck the Parma region it destroyed thousands of giant rounds of cheese made by the famous Parmigiano cheesemaker. Suddenly a tradition and a business run by generations of this family was at risk of collapse. Massimo derived a risotto recipe using Parmesan cheese that was circulated around the world to other fine restaurant chefs who ordered the broken rounds en mass and saved the cheesemaker's livelihood!
The second is Dan Barber, a chef in New York who took the name of his grandmother's farm in the Hudson River Valley, Blue Hill Farm and connected his cuisine to the sustainable food movement. He inspires farmers and seed breeders and his culinary brigade to chase the pinnacle of freshness and taste, educating diners and other cooks to accept nothing less than food grown and prepared with care. In one part of the interview he paraphrases Michael Polin's mantra (or perhaps it is the other way around) by saying, "When you have a farm it is all about the soil fertility. Soil is like a bank, if you take something out, you have to return it. Take grass. Grass needs manure and so suddenly I find myself in the cow business. Cow dung needs to be distributed, and what does that better than chickens, so next, I'm in the chicken business. The brambles and forest are always encroaching on the property and goats will eat anything so, guess what, I am in the goat business..." And then this stunning realization (which I paraphrase) - "As it turns out, the highest order of humane treatment of animals produces the best flavour." Or more broadly, the highest quality of food uses the most ethical farming and animal husbandry practices."
Check out the series and see which chef embodies your style preference and philosophy of cuisine. I for one am anxiously awaiting Season II.