That’s the question I have asked myself many times in the past few years. The answer is simple; farm fresh food tastes so darn good. I’m not just saying that from the perspective of a chef, but as an avid eater who likes to eat really good food. For years, more than I care to remember, I have eaten food that was convenient and available regardless of the seasons. I gave little thought to its impact on my health or the environment. As I became more involved in the local, sustainable, and organic food phenomenon, I grew to appreciate the beauty and taste of freshly farmed local vegetables, local dairy products, artisan products, organic meats and poultry and sustainable fish. The tastes were clean and full of flavor. Good farm fresh food became my favorite form of activism. My enthusiasm and desire to share, whole unrefined foods, locally grown and raised,” real food”, led me to create Farm to Table Dinners. Bringing together interested neighbors, friends, and acquaintances to experience the pleasure of eating food together, the newly developed friendships, and the sharing of the farm’s bounty created real local food advocates, more than if I had I written anything about this interest of mine. They became for the most part real foodies!
Which leads me to a new question, how can we convey these new found pleasures to more people? How can we create “real foodies”? I am much more likely to change the way a person eats by having them sit down in a convivial setting and eat good food then writing another article on the virtues of fresh food. I believe that having shared meals using local foods with friends and neighbors nourishes our bodies, our souls, and our society as a whole. I have attempted to change the way people relate to food and each other through my farm to table dinners. These dinners have been very successful, attendees walk away talking about flavors and taste. It’s exciting to listen to their conversation. But more can be done. You do not have to be a chef to create these dinners; you can do them in your home.
Creating a Farm to Table dinner is easier than you think. It just requires a little pre planning and before you knows it, your guests will be talking about the wonderful flavors; and, that they have never eaten anything this delicious. I’ve put together a few simple tips to help you in your planning.
- Let the season dictate your menu. Go to your local farmers market or farm to check what’s actually available near you. Build your menu from walking through the market. Let your creativity flow, putting your menu together after you’ve walked through the entire market.
- If you have a garden, check it out. See what you can actually use from it. How nice is it to say this herb is from my garden or I just picked those greens in your salad form the garden.
- Be flexible. Sometimes what was seen at an earlier visit may not be available on your return visit. Do not fret; it is an opportunity to be creative, possibly using some new item. Ask the farmer for some assistance. Ask questions, don’t be shy. It’s an adventure.
- Be Consistent. Limit extraneous and imported ingredients. In this area you can get locally produced dairy, meat, fish, jams, olive oil, and wonderful fresh produce. Try not to use anything over 100 miles away. Don’t use that lovely olive oil from Spain or those strawberries from California. Use something local, we are trying to reduce our carbon foot print and better the environment.
- Don’t waste anything. See how creative you can be. In a true farm to table dinner there is very little waste; everything is used, the bones and trimming of vegetable go into soups or stock, the trimmed fat can be rendered for sautéing. These are just a few ways those things can be used. It also saves money.
- Serve more Vegetables and less meat. Serve moderately sized portions of meat, poultry or fish and more vegetable. Serving more vegetables adds greater variety to the dinner in addition to keeping costs down.
- R-E-L-A-X: Remember this is not about demonstrating your expertise as a chef, but rather about building relationships and celebrating local food. It’s about building shared experiences in a casual and friendly environment. It’s about your guests enjoying themselves while experiencing local wholesome food, good conversation, and a spirit of family and community. When you sit down and “break bread” with friends, neighbors and family it’s more than just eating, it’s about sharing a sense of love and community.
I have created many Farm to Table Dinners from those at my home with a few guests to some of over 100 guests like at Holbrook Farm. My approach and outlook has always been the same. I want my guests to feel welcome and special. I try to create a warm friendly family atmosphere where the entire experience is communal. I hope that the experience builds an awareness of what we can obtain locally, and that eating this way helps all of us. I believe that sharing food together makes our community a stronger better place to live for ourselves, our parents, and our children. My hope is that we all can have Farm to Table Dinners, which I believe will make our world better. Cheers!
Check out my menu for our October 14, 2012 Farm To Table Dinner at Holbrook Farm: