My partner Charlie and I have been watching the Netflix documentary series "Chef's Table." I was complaining that these guys - and they're almost all guys - seem utterly divorced from the realities of daily life. We were walking into our Saturday morning farmer's market- a bit hangry, and, as usual, we'd forgotten our bags.
"Like that guy from Blue Hill Farms!" I said. This elite chef runs a family farm AND a fancy Manhattan restaurant. "Here's a guy using the 'terroir' of the soil to create perfect tasting vegetables- For $98 a pop!"
"What's wrong with the perfect vegetable?" Charlie countered.
"What about poor public school children?" I spluttered."Where are their perfect vegetables?"
"Why are school children his responsibility?" Charlie said. "He runs a restaurant!"
"Because of equity and sustainability!" I blurted out, uncertainly. I had just returned from South By Southwest- Austin's hip culture and media festival- And my head was filled with heady talk titles like: "The Love Algorithm," "The Future of Emotional Machines," and "Good is the New Cool." This was a brave new world full of 21st century terms like: "biopunk," "hackpharma," "grocerants," and of course, "foodporn"!
That was the panel I attended: "Beyond Hashtag Foodporn: Changing the Food Media Diet." We dove into the controversy over Just Mayo, the vegan spread that isn't really mayo. And how in the last 50 years, U.S. chickens have quadrupled in size. They've grown so quickly, it's akin to a human baby growing to 600 pounds in two weeks!
"Perhaps most shockingly of all," I tell Charlie, "much of the time 'farm to table' isn't really 'farm to table'! Often those touchy-feely menus list farms no longer supplying food to the restaurants - So they're lying! Because when the farmer drives the meal, it's too tricky for chefs and too expensive.
As we talk, we come upon our customary produce stand. It is overflowing with the abundance of the earth: frothy kale, golden beets, gloriously tumbling oyster and shiitake mushrooms.
"Do you have basil?" I ask, since I'm trying to make pesto.
"No," the farm lady declares, "too early."
I turn to Charlie, "April is too early for basil?"
"I'll take this parsley then," I say.
"No parsley today," she corrects me. "That's cilantro."
I turn again to Charlie: "The ever useful cilantro! So as usual, we just have to go to the store."
"I need dill," he wanly agrees.
"So instead of 'farm to table,' it's 'farm to Von's to table.'"
"Knowing us, more likely it will be 'farm to Von's to table, back quickly to Von's, back quickly to table."
"At least maybe we'll remember our bags!"