Here are pictures of 5 dishes. 2 are dishes I made at home and 3 are from Lawrence restaurant where I work.
A local chanterelle and small zuchini linguini I made with a yolk from a “Les Fermes Valens” egg. Lots of olive oil, parsley and parmesan. The pasta was store bought unfortunately; had it been homemade this dish would have been a homerun.
While at Kinderhook farm, the owners mentioned that what kept them economically afloat was a popular movement towards comfort food and local eating. The majority of their clients have established their businesses in the cultural stirring pot that is Brooklyn. With the help of communities concerned with the source of food in today’s globalized world, smaller farm producers, such as Kinderhook, that offer ethically friendly and diverse produce are able to make a(often meager) living. Until larger chains that support sustainable farming really establish themselves in the North American social landscape, these farms will be kept afloat by the support of individuals and restaurants.
With a better understanding of large corporate farming comes a consciousness that should lead to action. Sefi and Mark, from Lawrence, are an extreme example of what we can do to promote sustainable farming and healthy eating. They have stopped consuming meat at restaurants where the source of the meat is a feedlot or industrial farm. Their perspective is that this meat is “dirty” and that they will not eat it unless forced to.
The whole corporate farming industry is undeniably a dirty businesses and while I haven’t made the changes they have, I admire their determination in avoiding such produce. Where I personally draw the line is when I go out. I am usually more forgiving of restaurants, and will eat what interests me, but the truth is that given my thoughts on the issue, I am not being consequential with my opinions. I support wholeheartedly what they do, but I would miss exploring the ethnic diversity of restaurants that frequently can’t afford to spend that much on quality meat. Ideally however, my goal is to follow in their footsteps.
Upon arrival at my cousin Regine’s and her husband Daniel’s apartment on Monday night, after a long day of driving and visiting the farm, they suggested we eat at Marlow and Sons, which was rather ironic being that Kinderhook is the supplier of much of their meat, and that one of the “woofers” spending time on the farm this summer used to help run the butcher that is associated with the restaurant; Marlow and Daughters.
Carolina and I happily agreed to that idea! This took place over 3 weeks ago, so my memory isn’t quite up to par, but I remember being enamored with a very pleasant decor and a well priced food and wine menu. Excited about being with family in NY, I ordered a bottle of red wine from Jura, a region Carolina and I have been obsessed with for some time now, and ordered a mix of appetizers for dinner. I had a skewer of duck hearts served with a dill creme fraiche and a lightly seasoned quinoa salad; a country terrine and finally a pasta of duck and morels. I picked at a number of other dishes that were ordered and enjoyed them all. The food was simple and comforting; a mix of seasonal vegetables and good quality meats and fish. Carolina enjoyed a porc milanesa for dinner that she loved, which a good sign being that she’s a milanesa master, and I remember that Daniel had roasted chicken that I thought was particularly well cooked and flavorful. We ordered 3 desserts, 2 of which unfortunately weren’t very good, and one, a chocolate, caramel and sea salt dessert that was to die for…
The service was casual and friendly and we had a great night. It was nice to see that the place was busy. There’s a buzz in the food world about places like Marlow and Sons, their diner and their butcher shop, that put so much emphasis on quality ingredients instead of the tasting menus of wacky and elaborate food mixes that were so popular over the last decade. Both are to be enjoyed on their own merits but, in my mind, only one of them is down to earth and can change the way food is grown and consumed in North America … I don’t think that this movement is a trend. Sure, in the media, as more of these restaurants pop up, the novelty will fade and they will find some other theme to wax poetic about, but this kind of eating is here to stay.
Sefi and Mark, super duo from Lawrence restaurant, being interested in sustainable and healthy farming practices, had the great idea of going to Kinderhook farm on our way to NY. The 1000 acre farm, which lies in the Hudson valley, is an admirable alternative to what large corporate farming has come to look like today.
Instead of a large feedlotwhere animals are raised on food they are genetically not supposed to eat; which leads to animals putting on weight at unbelievable speed, mostly made of unhealthy saturated fats; which herds animals in filthy fields of their own shit and debris; which requires veterinarians to pump the animals full of growth hormones and antibiotics to regulate a farming system that is unbelievably harmful to the environment; and which harms the animals and us in the process by facilitating the spread of dangerous bacteria like E. coli,Kinderhook farm is a model in safe farming practices that respect both the animals and the natural ecosystems that support the various herds that depend on them for sustenance.
Raising cattle, sheep, some lambs, chickens for their eggs, and soon pigs, Kinderhook is a farm where the animals feed themselves on the grass of rich pasture that is freely available to them in the meadows and fields that make up the farm. Carefully organized, this allows for an ethically friendlier way of raising animals for food; both in terms of the meat they produce, but also in relationship to the environmental impact that is reduced using these farming methods. Additionally, the meat actually ends up being better for us; increasing the levels of Omega 3s found in their fat and more.
Well raised, a pasture fed animal will taste better as well; directly related to the variety of plants that he eats and the “terroir” those plants grow in. The uniform flavor of most of our meat today stems from uniform farming practices that have commodified the production of meat, and which creates industrial farms where animals suffer similar living environments and eat the same foods.
Our visit at Kinderhook was inspiring to say the least. I’ve posted recently that Carolina and I have mostly switched to only buying hormone and antibiotic free meats. Unfortunately, while this is a positive step, it is far from the switch to only eating meat from farms like Kinderhook. Informing ourselves about local farms that produce meat in ethical ways is important, and promoting their existence by buying their produce is essential. What’s unfortunate is the rarity of finding such meats in our local grocery stores; especially the large corporate ones, that need to be able to buy enough meat from a producer to supply all their stores. This is understandable from a fast and easy business perspective but sad when one thinks of the devastating impacts that result from this.
Admittedly, living in an urban environment where I have alternatives to these large companies, it is easy for me to make a push to sustainable eating but not necessarily for those who don’t have access to alternatives. The terrible state of our eating habits is a cultural phenomenon before a personal one, and criticizing the individual is missing the point in my mind. For many, the healthy options simply aren’t available.
Now, I expect some people who have read this blog post to disagree with me on certain things. The most obvious point of criticism of this kind of farming practice is the issue of supply and demand. I myself have argued this point before. It’s true. If we are to feed the world with the amount of meat we so dearly crave, and if that population as it is currently doing keeps growing, then we will have to produce meat in the hell holes that are the corporate feedlots. It’s a fair argument, which some might be able to contradict but not me(I’m not well enough informed). The fact is though, that the corporate feedlot model is unsustainable for many of the reasons I’ve already stated. It’s bad for the environment, for our health and for our ecosystems. Meat is and should be a luxury. It’s become so prevalent in our society today that we’ve forgotten this. Reducing our meat intake is both a personally healthy choice, but also a socially and environmentally friendly one. Eating meat 3 times a day, let alone once a day, is not a practice that one should engage in, no matter how hard it is to stop doing so. Our reliance on meat for most of our calories should be considered like an addiction and handled accordingly.Restaurants should take this into account as well. Where I work, their meat comes from great sources, many of which follow the same principals of Kinderhook, but in my mind, their menu is too focused on meat and fish, with a single main course being vegetarian. If we are to change our cravings, exciting options need to be made available and promoted.
Despite my deep rooted belief in what I’ve written about today, the fact is that I’m not one to force feed my thoughts on others. I prefer people to come to their own conclusions. Do some research, visit some of your local farms, speak to farmers who don’t have a financial stake in maintaining the homogeneous nature of corporate farming, and make a choice on how you’ll live your life.
*** Did I mention they were also having some fun farming bees?!