The Third Plate: "Land" by Dan Barber
Dan Barbers book, The Third Plate, goes into Mr. Barbers investigation of different farms around the world and how they are creating a better future for our food, land, and culture. In the section called "Land," Mr. Barber, talks about his visit to Spain where he meets with Eduardo Sousa. Mr. Sousa is not like your typical farmers. Mr. Sousa lets his geese run wild and he lets them eat the local acorns so that they can fatten their liver. As a result of this, when it comes time to slaughter the geese, they are at the tastiest state they will ever be. He then goes on to explain the dehesa which is a multifunctional pastural system and cultural landscape in south and central Spain and southern Portugal. The dehesa produces a variety of products but is also a natural habitat for the Iberian pig. These pigs take care of the land by eating, their manure, and even just walking. The land also gives back to the pigs by giving them acorns to eat which help them become the healthiest they can be. "Now I was realizing that Eduardo really held up the entirety of an ecological system, a road map for a Third Plate. Chefs can narrate that message in the same way that those striations of fat, and the red meat that surrounded them, narrate a story as intricate, complex, connected, and- to borrow from Jack's description of how soil works- mysterious as the landscape that made it." (182) This quote really encompasses how the land, on which your food is grown and the ecosystem that runs within it, plays a major role in the quality and health of the food you are eating.
Iberian pigs enjoying a meal in the sun at a pastureland in the dehesa.
The Third Plate: "Sea" by Dan Barber
Dan Barbers book, The Third Plate, investigates different farms around the world and finds that American cuisine drastically needs to change. In the section called "Sea," Mr. Barber talks about a fish farm called Veta La Palma in southern Spain. While there he meets with a biologist named Miguel Medialdea. Miguel explains to Mr. Barber how , "Veta la Palma's natural biomass is determined by the health of the aquaculture system. Which in turn determined the number and the quality of the fish they raised." (240) Miguel then goes on to explain how the shrimp eat the phytoplankton and the bass eat the shrimp and the flamingoes eat the bass. Most fish farmers would not like birds eating their fish but at Veta la Palma they don't mind one bit because the flamingoes are part of the ecosystem as a whole. " 'We're farming extensively, not intensively,' he said. 'This is the ecological network. The flamingoes eat the shrimp, the shrimp eat the phytoplankton. So the pinker the bellies, the better the system.' The quality of the relationship matters more than the quantity of the catch." (245) Mr. Barber likes to talk a lot about the different relationships that run throughout the farm. He describes the strong relationships between the farmers, the fish, the algae, the flamingoes, and the whole ecosystem of the farm and how they all play a major role in keeping the farm healthy and working.
Flamingoes at Veta la Palma.
Guns Germs and Steel: "How to Make and Almond" by Jared Diamond
Guns, Germs, and Steel, anthropologist Jared Diamond explains why some societies are more materially successful than others. He attributes societal success to geography, immunity to germs, food production, the domestication of animals, and use of steel. In the chapter, "How to Make and Almond" Mr. Diamond talks about the domestication of wild plants by humans and other species of animals. It says that "plant domestication goes back over 10,000 years." (115) This is interesting because plants were not domesticated using molecular genetic techniques. How were plants domesticated in the past? Humans are just one species that domesticated plants unconsciously. Plants need to spread their seeds in order to have offspring so their species can survive. This meant they had to become attractive to animals. "Many plant species trick an animal into carrying their seeds by wrapping the seed in a tasty fruit and advertising the fruits ripeness by its color or smell." (116) These animals then carry the seed to another location where it will spit it our of defecate. This way seeds can be carried far from the parent. Plants adapt to making themselves attractive to animals and become domesticated. They adapt by becoming bigger, becoming red when ripe (such as strawberries), and becoming tasty. This makes humans want to cultivate these plants. These are the plants that will survive. Many plants have adapted to the species of animals that will carry their seeds. Small berries for birds and big berries for humans are two examples. Plants have adapted to the environment and the needs of animals and humans and by this we have domesticated them to suit our needs.
Berries of all different sizes for all different species.
Near A Thousand Tables: "Feeding the Giants" by Felipe Fernández-Armesto
Near A Thousand Tables highlights the story of food as a cultural history in eight different revolutions. "Feeding the Giants," a chapter in the book, is about how industrialization changed the way people ate and produced food. "For the nature of the market was changing, undergoing what might be called 'massification': a vast increase in volume combined with new patterns of concentration which defied existing structures of production and supply." (189) The population was increasing because of industrialization especially in the developing world. People began to give up agriculture for industry and rural for urban life. This meant they had to have new innovations for producing and supplying food. Markets became bigger and were more concentrated as industry began producing food. The supply of food became mechanized and food distribution was reorganized. "Today, and for the last half century or so, one can even speak of 'the industrialization of eating,' as food gets faster and households rely on dishes prepared outside the home to uniform standards." (190) The industrial revolution changed the way we eat today.
The meatpacking plant of Chicago’s Union Stockyards was among the earliest U.S. businesses to exemplify the industrial model.
Near A Thousand Tables: "Challenging Evolution" by Felipe Fernández-Armesto
When the continents began to drift apart 200 million years ago so did the evolution of plants and animals on the different continents. They developed isolated from one another until the sixteenth century when European voyagers brought them back together. "Biota were shifted around the globe on a convergent pattern." (165) Foods from different continents began to be grown where they never existed before. These foods then became staples in places where they did not originate. "The effects of the exchange were most dramatic in the field of nutrition." (166) Lands that were not used could now be used for plants that were suitable. People were able to have more varied diets. This also made it easier to feed more people. Of course this also meant the spread of disease and there were political consequences but it changed the way the world eats. Its hard to imagine some countries without the foods they are famous for. Italy without tomatoes is hard to picture. This is true of many other countries as well.
Different countries and states and foods that are now considered a staple food there.
Cultivating an Ecological Conscience: "Why American Agriculture is Not Sustainable" by Frederick L. Kirschenmann
Cultivating an Ecological Conscience is a book with a series of essays about farming, philosophy and sustainability. In the essay "Why American Agriculture is Not Sustainable" Mr. Kirschenmann says that there is no commonly accepted definition of sustainable agriculture so in different situations the definition can vary greatly which makes it hard to say what is sustainable. It cannot be judged on any specific farming practices. To talk about American agriculture being sustainable you must have to talk about whether we are moving toward or away from the capacity of the land to renew itself. "In his seminal work, The Ecology of Commerce, Paul Hawken suggested three guidelines, embodying nature's principles, that serve as indicators of sustainability." (179) His three principles are waste equals food, transitioning from a carbon-based economy to a hydrogen and sunshine based economy, and to ecological restoration. To be sustainable there has to be the ability of ecological restoration. Humans cannot be just about the welfare of humans. "We usually rely on economic motives to stimulate sustainable behavior. However, most members of the biotic community (many of them essential to a healthy ecology) have no immediate economic value." (184) We cannot achieve sustainability if we are basing it on our own self-interest. There is no one way to achieve sustainability. We have to understand how the biotic community works and redesign our food and agricultural system to work with it.
Wind turbines in Alberta.
The Philosophies of Sustainability by Olli Loukola and Simo Kyllonen
In this article the authors talk about how sustainability is becoming more prevalent in todays society. They go into many different aspects of sustainability such as, Sustainability in Theory, Sustainability in Political and Moral Debates, Philosophies of Sustainability, Values of Sustainability, and Sustainability and Justice. Mr. Loukola and Mr. Kyllonen state that "The key component of the concept of sustainability is a requirement for the sustenance, survival, or flourishing of a process, an organism, or a resource." (2) However, they say, science is leaving this theory to be dealt with elsewhere. They then go in to talk about economic arguments and non-anthropocentric arguments. The economic arguments focus more on employment and wealth, whereas, the non-anthropocentric arguments focus more on nature and life. In the end of the article the authors state that what they have learned is that "Scientific theories of sustainability can never designate which entities it is we are to sustain and which not. Also sustainability is essentially an issue of justice, with all its difficulties." (6+7) This quote lays out how sustainability is not only affected by the natural environment but also the environment of debates, philosophies, values, and justice.
Balancing economic, social and environmental considerations in planning for sustainable growth