I was invited to a lunch at Delfina yesterday celebrating the publication of The Niman Ranch Cookbook. Bill Niman was there with his wife Nicolette Hahn, an environmental lawyer, along with Bill’s co-author Janet Fletcher and assorted folks from Ten Speed Press. We munched on all kinds o’ meat: grilled lamb chops with rosemary salt, roasted suckling pig, beef carpaccio, and bacon-laced pizzas.
At one point, Nicolette mentioned an op-ed piece she was trying to get published. It was about animal feed, and how most of us don’t know what’s going into the chain at the early stages. The Times had published her op-eds before, but no one wanted this one.
Which got me thinking about how little we know, or even care, about the food we eat. For all my rhapsodizing about all things organic and artisanal, and all the visits to the farmers’ market, whenever I try to think or write seriously about our food system, I trip over huge gaps of understanding. I know that the growth of Niman Ranch is a Good Thing (setting aside questions of carnivorism). Five hundred independent family farms are now raising cattle, pigs, and sheep according to Niman’s protocols. If places like Burger Joint and Chipotle are buying the meat, and people are willing to pay a little more for them, then that makes the world a better place, right? That’s easy.
But that’s also a little shallow for someone who calls herself a food writer. Food is a big subject to tackle: history, cooking techniques, ingredients, wine. A life-long pursuit. But this stuff is important, and I need to launch this part of my education in earnest. Anyone have any recommendations? Favorite books?