Tag Archives: food

Meet Your Meat

I was surprised to find how much trouble one simple question caused Sarah Agudo in her neighborhood of the Mission District in San Francisco. “Where does your meat come from?” In this era of Portlandia fanaticism of concern for ingredients and preparation, this little question caused panicked anxiousness.

I have worked in the industry for the last five years and it wasn’t until I moved to NYC and started working for Devon Gilroy that I asked that question of myself. Growing up in Dayton, OH meat came from supermarkets not butcher shops. These were things that existed on the coasts in big cities. Once I started asking the question I couldn’t stop. I educated myself on sourcing ingredients. I took Farm-to-Table 101, Michael Pollan’s book Omnivores Dilemma.

In this adventure of sourcing and understanding where my food comes from and how it affects the environment I became avidly aware of the impact of this question. Where does your meat come from? I jump at the chance to answer that question. It gives me a chance to share the story of our farmers, of our cows and pigs and lambs (oh my!). It’s not only important for me to use local animals, but local animals that are part of a biodynamic system of farms. Farms that understand that the grass fed cow isn’t the end result, but one part in a system of stewardship to the land. This is one of the ways that we can help secure our ability to keep producing food.

From a branding perspective farm-to-table has become the new “green” which is the new “black”. Right? Technically every restaurant is farm-to-table, the difference is the amount of steps removed from where the animal/vegetable was raised/grown until it hits the plate. I feel there are some restaurants that highlight a certain veg/animal from a farm, then supplement the rest of the menu with “normal” products. Consistency in a menu for a restaurant is an important goal for most restaurants. When patrons come in to certain places they want to know that what they ate yesterday is the same as what they are going to get today. This is at the crux of the farm-to-table restaurant. Nature doesn’t care, or even acknowledge, your preferences for what food you would like to eat today. Nature just is, and will produce certain food at certain times of the year, unless you live in an environment where your climate doesn’t vary too much. As for the rest of us, we are bound to the seasons. You want an avocado in February? You want an apple in March? Too bad! As as patrons we need to accept the seasons and not demand that our restaurants have everything we want all the time. In the winter enjoy pickled vegetables, and when the spring and summer comes those fresh vegetables will taste all the better!

Where does your meat come from? Is a question that opens a number ten can of worms. If all meat was sourced from local biodynamic sources the typical American would have to eat less of it. Yes, you would pay more. That price would be closer to the actual cost of producing that ounce of protein because the price would account for the unsubsidized cost of the energy used to raise the animal and the cost of environmental impact. Im not sure most americans are ready to give up a $1 hot dog, a $6 hamburger, or a $12 steak. Its a fundamental shift in our culture.

These are some of the reasons why “Where does your meat come from” is such a scary question. It could also be that they just don’t know, and it’s hard to admit that you don’t know something sometimes.

Line Cooks and Love

We don’t have Saturday off
We don’t have Sunday off
We come home smelly
We don’t make a lot of money
We often looks like we tried to kill ourselves multiple times
When we do come home it’s not until late
We don’t hang out with your friends
We don’t have normal friends
We are obsessed with details
We are come home elated
We come home wasted
We come home disgusted
We have one day off and like to sleep in
We have a particular sense of humor
We can be completely cold
We are crass
We love to talk about food
We argue ad nauseam about how to cook an egg

Despite all of this we have a deep passion. Something that crafts us. A passion that is sparsely rivaled in any other profession. Its that passion carries over into the ones we care about and love. As we age we allow ourselves to slow down to show it.

Why you should hire me. NOW!

I have a BFA. Everyone is saying that an MFA is the new MBA. They are partially correct. I didn’t start out as an art student, mathematics came first. Mathematics have me a way to look at the world in certain terms. It’s what I love about it. Theoretically is you knew all of the variable there isn’t a problem you can’t solve without mathematics. It gave me such certainty, until I started making art. Art was this silly world of feelings and emotions, at least that’s what I thought. I started my BFA the semester I got back from Denmark living as a pig farmer, but we will get to that. In my practice I learned that art is math and math is art (that’s a tautology).

Both art and math are governed by a base of assumptions. Math we have postulates, art we have history. Both grow from the pasts they have inverted and follow a logical progression and iterative process. The most wonderful aspect of both of these areas of study is that they can train the mind in finding solutions in not the most obvious places. That was my education, and I pushed that as hard as I could everyday I was in university.

Art was a way of receiving an assignment. Reading the instructions and limitations and bending them to my will. Most student would ask for clarification on exactly what they needed to do to fulfill the assignment. I would push and reinterpret the “guidelines” to allow me to create something outside of the usual scope of the object being created. One example of this would be a project I had in a fundamental 2d class. We had to use words to create a design. I built a flip book in flash, then wrote a program to export frames. Took each one of the frames to a printer and produced a flip book. No where I. The rules said I couldn’t, but everyone else in class had a static image.

I was a pig farmer in Denmark. In my transition between math and art in university I had the opportunity to live in Denmark for six months as a pig farmer. I had never farmed before in my life. I really hadn’t ever been to a farm either. I had the opportunity and I took it. I arrived in Denmark in July. I settled in to my room on my uncles farm that night. I woke at 5am ready to start working. I learned how to go around and make sure the pigs had water, food, the straw was dry, and they were healthy and happy. I would be working there for the next six months with my uncle and his wife, or so I thought. Roughly three weeks after being there my uncle had informed me that I would be watching the WHOLE farm by myself for ten days while he and his wife would be on a cruise. A much needed break for them.

I was quite taken aback. Knowing that they had ready booked the cruise and I didn’t have any way out of it I accepted the responsibility, and decided I had all the confidence that I would be able to do it. There really wasn’t any other option. Those ten days went fairly well except for the automatic feed system getting jammed, which I had to fix while getting directions over the phone from another farmer.

Soon enough I was working a few days on another farm. A chicken farm. Usually at the beginning of the day I would get fairly vague instructions for the tasks that needed to be done that day and was set off on my own. I learned a lot of skills working on these farms. How to repair machinery, plow a field, mend various other items, back up a tractor with a trailer on it. No matter what the job was I faked the confidence to do it, because I had spent most of my life just figuring out how to do things.

Anyway, if you are a potential employer I have never worked in a true corporate environment. What I do have is the knowledge to figure it out. A previous boss would just say, “handle it, handle it”. This was code for I know you will figure it out just don’t care how the sausage was made (something else I know how to do). I have a breadth of knowledge, and a passion for what I am doing. Hire me already

Thank you potential employers.

P.S. It’s a prerequisite your company cares about making a difference in the world.

Why Thanksgiving is the best and most American holiday

Above all Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It doesn’t have the pressure and running around to gather the perfect gifts, lacks the need to run around all night in a silly/complicated costume, isn’t as dangerous as fireworks and alcohol (though sometimes that is fun), doesn’t have the let down of ending at midnight, and it doesn’t have a silly bunny running around hiding eggs (which never made any sense to me). What it does have is your family and/or friends gathering just to celebrate a meal and hang out together.

With that said, I know what some people might be thinking, ‘What about the pressure and chaos of the family coming’. My answer is embrace it, and let it fold into the event. I got both experiences growing up. My family at Thanksgiving consisted of my dad, mom, sister, and me. We have always had a pretty quiet Thanksgiving which is much different from a lot of my friends. We would make a turkey and maybe three or four side dishes and that would be it.

I also like the BIG Thanksgiving. The one where massive amounts of people descend on a chosen family member’s house and bring their appointed dish making for a very large spread. The appeal of this probably came from me not really having a large extended family close to where we lived, but still it was an event. My favorite place to be a part of this was my best friends house, catholic. They had a sort of organized chaos.

Here is my list of why Thanksgiving is the best and most American holiday…

  • Food, and lost of it
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Wine/beer
  • Football
  • Tryptophan (it gives us an excuse for napping)
  • PIE (apple or otherwise)
  • Canned Jellied Cranberry (it just slices so neatly)
  • My new things the week of 22/02/2010

    Ok,

    If people didn’t know I have taken a small hiatus from the art world in order to pursue my culinary passion. Though it isn’t directly connected to the fine arts realm, I believe that there is still a strong connection between the two fields. Currently I am trying to apply lessons learned from fine arts to my culinary endeavors. For me food elicits a visceral experience to the viewer/patron, allowing me to give a richer experience.

    Currently I am working in two restaurants in Oxford, Oh. The restaurant I usually start at in the morning is called Kona Bistro, which is a casual modern dining establishment. Currently at Kona Bistro I am the head prep cook responsible, to all of the great line cooks there, for making sure everything is stocked. In addition to doing daily prep I have recently had the opportunity to do the weekend dessert specials. This weekend is extra special because in Oxford it is Think Pink Weekend, and for this weekend the dessert special is a pink strawberry Pots de Creme in order to celebrate Oxford’s Thin Pink Weekend.

    My nights are spent working as the head sauté line cook at Steinkeller,a tradition Bavarian Bier Hall. Working at Steinkeller affords me the opportunity to use my artistic ability in plating dishes, as well as as well as playing with flavors in making weekend specials. This weekend I was especially proud of myself for coming up with a delectable and filling vegetarian special, we don’t have many of those at a German restaurant. The special is a Green Bell Pepper stuffed with sautéed shallots, onions, carrots, mushrooms, garlic, zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, and herbs mixed with basmati rice and slow roasted. The pepper is served over a spicy roasted red pepper sauce and a bed of arugula.

    Well, those are the things I am up to this week, check back Monday (02/22/2010) for the recipes and photos.

    C.