Tableland

Last night Papa Squirrel and I enjoyed a screening of the movie Tableland at the Brooks. For those of you not familiar with this film, it won first place this year at the New York City Food Film Festival. It’s a great look at how small-scale sustainable agriculture works in the northwestern US and British Columbia.

While that’s not our part of the country, there are a lot of people around here with just as much passion about growing and producing food that’s as good for the environment as it is for the people who eat it. Some of those people are the ones who brought the film to the Brooks and crafted a wonderful meal of local products to go along with it. Melissa Peterson of Edible Memphis, Andrew Adams of the Brushmark restaurant, and Van Cheeseman of Flora at Bluebird Farm were there to speak to the importance and pleasure of supporting sustainable agriculture in the Mid South.

Edible Memphis celebrates the growers, chefs and artisans in the Mid South who spend everyday creating the products that make this such a great place to live and eat. Flora at Bluebird Farm raises heritage varieties of vegetables that are not only great to eat, but are also an important step in keeping these varieties around. Ask Van about why he chooses to grow these vegetables, and you’ll learn about the passion he has in keeping the breeds around and the pleasure he takes in finding varieties that he’s never grown before and can’t wait to share with anyone who loves good food.

Chef Andrew Adams was the star last night, though. He produced a family style meal that easily rivaled the meal prepared in the film using mostly local products. Fresh baked bread graced the center of each table, almost too beautiful to eat and baskets of local zuchinni and onions on flatbread. We started the meal with a salad of local arugula followed by potato and ratatouille fritters with a Mediterranean tomato sauce. This was followed by a local bean cassoulet and haricots verts with local tomatoes. Next up were a sweet potato and potato gratin served with butternut squash agnolotti. The main course was a heaping dish of locally grown and ground polenta with grass-fed beef in chimichurri sauce and candied local carrots. For dessert, we were served apple and cheddar turnovers followed by apple and pear deep dish pie.

All of the wonderfully fresh ingredients for this fabulous meal came from the last of our local farmers markets for the year. Andrew is a familiar site shopping at both the downtown market on Saturday mornings and the Wednesday afternoon market at the Botanic Garden. He’s been a leader in our city in seeking out and serving local ingredients and in advocating support for our local farmers.

There were plenty of messages to take away from both the film and the meal. Eating local is delicious. Supporting local farmers is good for everyone involved. Encourage your favorite chefs to use local products. Ask them where they get their ingredients and make sure to let them know that you appreciate it when those ingredients are locally produced. You may not want to craft a meal as elaborate as Andrew’s, but you can make a great meal of your own with local ingredients. And the more you use them, the more you’ll appreciate them and look for them. The more you’ll plan to put them away at their peak during the summer so that you can enjoy them all winter long.

Learn more about eating local. Come visit us at Slow Food Memphis. You may have missed out on Tableland, but Slow Food Memphis and Brooks Shaw’s Old Country Store are joining up tomorrow morning, November 1, at 10:00 am for a free sorghum and biscuit tasting. This is sorghum from local producer Clinton Family Farms who will be there to talk about why and how they make sorghum.

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