“The joy of living, I say, was summed up for me in the remembered sensation of that burning and aromatic swallow, that mixture of milk and coffee and bread by which men hold communion with tranquil pastures, exotic plantations, and golden harvests, communion with earth.”
Antoine de Saint Exupery
It has been said that food can be either the greatest form of medicine or the slowest form of poison depending on it’s pedigree. Where our food comes from and how it gets there is important, but It’s deeper than that, family farms are good for the American psyche and our local economy. Family farms are generally defined as small operations run and worked by family members. Small organic farms tend to operate more sustainably, both economically and environmentally, than their corporate counterparts. Family farms support and enhance local economies while corporate farms remove wealth and destroy the earth with their overuse of harmful chemicals and disastrous farming practices.
“Good farmers, who take seriously their duties as stewards of Creation and of their land’s inheritors, contribute to the welfare of society in more ways than society usually acknowledges, or even knows. These farmers produce valuable goods, of course; but they also conserve soil, they conserve water, they conserve wildlife, they conserve open space, they conserve scenery.”
– Wendell Berry
There are five million less farms in America now than there was after the Depression. In 1900, 32% of Americans worked on farms now less than 2% do. Industrial farming has taken over. 75% of agricultural product is produced by 6% of the farms. Part of the blame lays on our Federal governments economic policies governing not only prices set for products but in it’s relentless support of corporations by instituting ridiculous conditions to which small farmers must adhere.
“The passive American consumer, sitting down to a meal of pre-prepared food, confronts inert, anonymous substances that have been processed, dyed, breaded, sauced, gravied, ground, pulped, strained, blended, prettified, and sanitized beyond resemblance to any part of any creature that ever lived. The products of nature and agriculture have been made, to all appearances, the products of industry. Both eater and eaten are thus in exile from biological reality.”
– Wendell Berry
Family farms shorten the food chain and bring us closer to healthful and diverse food supply. We develop relationships with the farmers, foragers and fishermen that feed our family’s. We become a community, together. Organic whole foods are unprocessed, natural foods in their original form which are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, protein, carbohydrates, fat and fiber as well as all of the hundreds of phytonutrients that work together in the proper amounts to give our body exactly what it needs to be healthy. Unlike processed food, they do not contain added flavors, colors or preservatives.
My wife Lisa and two year old Beaumont have been eating whole foods for the last eight years almost exclusively. 90% of our diet comes from small farmer’s like De La Ranch, Bautista Creek Farm or Johnny’s Garden that we buy from at the Palm Springs Farmer’s Market. Our weekly menu is decided on what we find that is in season rather than what a magazine tells me to eat. As Michael Pollan once said “at home I serve the kind of food I know the story behind.” Our Sundays are saved to enjoy the bounty of small organic farms as a family. My son Beaumont sits on the corner and helps cook, or at least his toy pig ‘Baby’ does.
Some small farms have Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs. Michael Pollan says “C.S.A. reconnects you as an eater with the source of your food, offering a vivid reminder that, whatever we eat, we eat by the grace of farms and farmers, of the land, the weather and the season — not supermarkets. The C.S.A. means I also eat in the knowledge that I’m doing my small bit to defend a gorgeous patch of bottomland along Cache Creek outside the tiny town of Guinda from the oncoming wave of sprawl that threatens to engulf California’s entire Central Valley into one big, wall-to-wall housing development.”
At Figue Mediterranean, located in La Quinta (California) where I am employed as Executive Chef I buy from several small producers. Every week I get a listing of products from dozens of farmers at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market. I actively support the Palm Springs Farmer’s market and have several people who bring me bags of oranges, lemons and figs from their gardens that they cannot use. My pork comes from the absolutely best pig farmer’s in the country CookPig. We even forage for wild dates and other items we can use on our menus. Food provides a soul satisfying and healthy connection between the Earth and ourselves. Like St. Exupery said, we hold communion with distant farms by simply drinking our fair trade coffees and teas. It offers our guests a very seasonal and fun way to dine that is a bit more spontaneous. Last week I came up with seven dishes based on walking through my farmer’s market. Our guests are sophisticated and demand healthful food. They realize the link between whole, unengineered foods. Here are my specials:
“Find the Shortest, Simplest way between Earth, the Hands and the Mouth”
Di Stefano Artisan Burrata Caprese $16
Slow cooked Cherry Tomatoes, Pesto, Sicilian Organic Citrus Oil
House Pickled Currant Tomatoes, Fig Vincotto and Di Stefano Burrata
Maman’s Provencal Salad $12
Bautista Creek’s simply gorgeous French Yellow and Green Beans, Fingerling Potatoes
and Tomatoes lightly flavored with Basil and organic Vallée des Baux Olive Oil
Johnny’s Farm Eggplant stuffed with Elysian Fields Lamb, Sweet Onions and Pinenuts
drizzled with Tahini Sauce, Harissa Sauce
Diver Scallop, Piquillo pepper granite and Lime Crudo $16
Mexican Diver Scallops drizzled with Kaffir Lime Ginger vinaigrette
Piquillo Pepper Granite, Bautista Creek Finger Limes and Organic Sicilian Hot Pepper Olive Oil
Squid Ink Chitarra Pasta with Uni $18
chilled hand rolled Chitarra Pasta with fresh Dungeness Crab
Sea Urchins and Zucchini Blossom Pesto
Calamari and Octopus Salad $18
plancha fired Calamari and Spanish Octopus, baby wild Arugula,
Shiitake Mushrooms, aged Guisti 12 Year Balsamic, ‘Mother’s Milk’ Olive Oil
Jamón Ibérico de Bellota $32
shaved 2 year Iberico Ham served with Tomato Olive Focaccia, Fig Jam
14 month Mahon Sheep Cheese, house Pickled Okra
Pici with lamb Sugu $28
hand shaped rustic Pici noodles topped with slow cooked Lamb and Tomato Sugo
Roast Loup de Mer Rivieria Style – $38
Sea Bass, Swiss Chard, Reggiano Parmesan, Tomato and Garlic Confit, Saffron Jus
Sticky Toffee and Date Cake $9
uber moist locally foraged Date cake, Sticky Toffee Sauce
On September 22nd, Figue is proudly taking part of National Eat Local Day, a collaboration started by Chef Sarah Stegner and PR maven Cindy Kurman. “Our hope is that leading chefs across the country can work together to raise awareness of the importance of supporting our local sustainable farms. We hope to increase the flow of local sustainable food to the restaurant tables across the country in order to protect our farm lands and to ensure their success so future generations have access, said Stegner.
Joining the two in their efforts are restaurateur Alice Waters and her chef Jérôme Waag at Chez Panesse (Berkeley, CA), Alison Price Becker (Alison Eighteen, New York City), Stephanie Pearl Kimmel (Marché, Eugene OR), Francois de Melogue (Figue Mediterranean, La Quinta CA), Mark Grosz (Oceanique, Evanston IL), Paul Fehribach (Big Jones, Chicago IL), Jamie Leeds (Hank’s Oyster Bar and Lounge, Washington DC), Nora Pouillon (Restaurant Nora, Washington DC), Norman Van Aken (Miami, FL) and Sarah Stegner and George Bumbaris (Prairie Grass Café, Northbrook, IL) and Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill and Topolobampo). The list is growing rapidly.
FOR MORE INFORMATION PLEASE VISIT THE WEB SITE: http://nationaleatlocalday.com/
Figue is preparing our Diver Scallop, Piquillo pepper granite and Lime Crudo. Mexican Diver Scallops drizzled with Kaffir Lime Ginger vinaigrette, topped with Piquillo Pepper Granite, Bautista Creek Finger Limes and Organic Sicilian Hot Pepper Olive Oil.
Chef Francois de Melogue… I support local farm to table so much I even had my VW Westfalia tattooed
“Odd as I am sure it will appear to some, I can think of no better form of personal involvement in the cure of the environment than that of gardening. A person who is growing a garden, if he is growing it organically, is improving a piece of the world. He is producing something to eat, which makes him somewhat independent of the grocery business, but he is also enlarging, for himself, the meaning of food and the pleasure of eating.”
– Wendell Berry
Here are some pictures from two of my favorite farmer’s markets, UC Davis’s and the X Street Market in Sacramento: