Good flavour allows for food to be fully experienced.
That’s why I see taste as being such a driving force for this whole food movement. I think we all have it in our DNA somewhere to seek out good-tasting, nutrient-rich food. I don’t think many of these people grew up on farms. But they’re excited about the movement because they have connected with ingredients through taste, and then learned how they’ve been grown and felt more alive because of it.
That’s true. I wonder what that is?
I think it’s part of who we are. You know, we were hunter-gatherers at one point. So we were moving around looking for what was our next meal, what would taste good and what wouldn’t kill us—what was of nutritional value essentially. That was our existence for a long time. We’re not actually that far removed from that. So what we’re seeing now is this happening in an urban setting. It’s sort of tapping into our DNA, I think. I don’t mean to sound so froufrou about it. I really mean it. You know? There’s an exploratory excitement that comes from this engagement with food’s origins that makes it taste better.
I’m also conscious of the fact that I can engage with this movement because I have a certain amount of privilege—economically, socially. How does this become successful for everyone?
Well, this is where the next step of this good food movement comes in. The Third Plate is really a call for a much less “privileged” way of eating—because I’m talking about eating from the entirety of the landscape, not just the costly specialty crops and prime cuts of meat. In the US, nose-to-tail eating is all the rage, so eating offcuts of meat that you don’t necessarily covet. What I’m talking about is the nose-to-tail of the whole farm, which is this question we’ve been discussing: “What are those other crops that fed the soil to give you that great-tasting tomato? Let’s put them on the menu too.” And that means putting the buckwheat and the beans that helped nourish the soil for that tomato on the menu. And then the farmer says, “Wait a minute. He’s interested in my buckwheat as well? Wow, I was losing money on it.” And the farmer suddenly has an economy for buckwheat. And ultimately, maybe not now but down the road, if all of our diets end up reflecting the kind of diversity that restores the landscape, it makes our way of a eating a lot more economical. It’s actually democratising the good food movement.
It reminds me of something you say in the book where we should stop thinking about food as a chain, but rather as a series of interconnected rings.
Yeah. Because the food chain assumes that it starts here with a seed and ends here on the plate, instead of thinking about this as concentric circles, which is really what they are. There’s really no beginning and end. And especially if we’re composting and utilising waste in the right way and in our restaurants, we can return them to produce more food for the future.
I read that you’ve started a proper waste restaurant.
Yeah. So we’re closing Blue Hill and opening it as a waste restaurant for a month.
Tell us about that.
Well, every dish is a waste derivative. An example is skate fish. We discovered if you clean the cartilage left over after the fillet is removed, cut it into thin strips and deep fry it, they come out looking like French fries. They’re delicious. And fish suppliers discard thousands of pounds of this stuff.
Then there’s a big craze in New York for cold-pressed juices, so we contacted this company Liquiteria and said, “What are you doing with the pulp that’s left over from the juice?” And they said, “Oh it’s shit. We throw it out every day.” So we went to the main processor for their juice, which goes through one ton of pulp every day. They had trucks going to Virginia, which is 300 miles south of us, to get rid of it. So we’re making a hamburger out of the pulp.
[Laughs]. Wow! How?
It’s not that hard. The pulp is usually composed of about five different vegetables. And we mix all of it with fermented beans.
What about the psychology of eating waste? How do you think people will respond to this?
Well, you’ve probably hit on the reason for doing it—change the psychology. That’s what great cooking does to become permanent. It becomes a cuisine.