Bittman celebrates the farmer

Home-grown Wisconsin CSA box contents. Photo by ehfisher (Ed Fisher aka gleam) via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

In a recent online column for The New York Times, Mark Bittman argues that “we need real farmers who grow real food, and the will to reform a broken food system. And for that, we need not only to celebrate farmers, but also to advocate for them.” His piece opens this way:

I was at a farm dinner in Maine the other night, a long table of 60 people eating corn, chicken, salad, a spectacular herb sorbet and other goodies. When one of the hosts arose to ask someone to describe the first course on the table – huge marrow bones from the farm’s cattle– she introduced not the chef but the farmers….

This is a fine trend. With all due respect to my chef friends (many of whom will agree with this statement), most cooking is dead-easy and pretty quick: it takes 20 minutes to roast a marrow bone, and an ambitious fifth-grader can get it right on the first try. A more complicated dish, like the seared corn with chorizo that was served a bit later, might consume an hour and require a bit of skill. But raising and butchering the cows and pigs that produced the marrow bones and meat for the chorizo? Growing the corn? These are tasks that take weeks, if not months, of daily activity and maintenance. Like anything else, you can get good at it, but the challenges that nature (ask the corn farmers of Kansas) and the market (ask Tyson Foods, whose profits just fell 61 percent) throw at you are never even close to being under control in the same way that a cook controls the kitchen. What a cook doesn’t control is ingredients, and that’s where the debt to farmers comes in.

It’s a nice post that, like much of Bittman’s writing, is opinionated but reasoned, and it includes some great links as well. Check out the full piece here.

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