At my place of employment, we strive to promote the culinary philosophy spearheaded by the likes of Michael Pollan, Joe Salatin, John Jeavons and of course, Alice Waters. This philosophy is none other than the Farm-to-Table movement. The basis of this philosophy is that one’s food should reflect one’s surroundings and be provided (to a maximum) by local farmers and proveyors. Food, therefore, becomes an educative forum in which the presenter (chef or server), can inform the consumer (diner), exactly where their food came from, and the benefits that come with supporting local farmers. A philosophy intended to fully use the pun: Consumable Education.
The beauty of Farm-to-Table dining is that depending on your locale, food varies. In the high deserts of New Mexico, local produce provides the following bounty: corn, squash, beans, chili, peppers, tomatoes, leafy greens, onions, carrots, beets, apples, raspberries etc…
As I mentioned before, the restaurant I work in prides itself on supporting this philosophy. We as servers and bartenders, are educated thoroughly in the origins of the ingredients we serve, and inform our diners every chance we get. This brings us to my story.
(Thank you for your patience. Although, the prefacing is necessary for some.)
It was an ordinary lunch shift; 30 couverts on the books (to finish with 120), the kitchen chopping their prep to the tempo heavy metal, the servers polishing their stations while drinking coffee while I set up the bar. One of the cooks paged the waitstaff and we all convened at the kitchen line to note the day’s specials.
“Alright, today’s soup is going to be a green chili and chicken chowder garnished with tortilla strips- the chilis are local,” began the cook, “today’s catch is going to be grilled King salmon over a cumin seed rice, topped with local, organic bell peppers and squash and finished with a poblano-pineapple vinaigrette.”
After jotting the final ingredients, one server confirmed that the poblanos in the vinaigrette were indeed local.
“Where else do you suppose they grow poblanos, huh?” the cook smirked as he turned to blare the heavy metal and continued chopping. Service started and I was seated a six-top. I waked over to greet my diners and went about my usual five-part routine: greet, drink, specials, questions, order. I zipped over to the wait station and poured six iced teas and returned to the table.
As I was set each iced tea before each guest, I began part three, reciting the specials. “So, we have a few specials to complicate your decision today-” I began, always provoking a giggle. I breezed through our soup du jour and our crepe du jour and was well into the catch of the day.
“Grilled King salmon over a cumin seed rice, served with local, organic squash and bell peppers and a poblano-pineapple vinaigrette. I’ll let you all mentally digest the specials and be right back to take your orders.”
The table spoke amongst themselves for a few minutes, as the do, and when the last menu shut, I walked over to instate part four of my routine: questions. “Do we have any questions on the menu?” I asked, assuming that there wouldn’t be any as the specials weren’t terribly complicated today. But, there was one question.
“Yes, I have one. On the catch of the day, the vinaigrette- is that locally grown?” he asked. Assuming that he was referencing the poblanos, I responded.
“Oh, goodness! I forgot to highlight that too. Indeed, the poblanos are locally grown, in the north valley area,” I responded.
“Right, I figured that. But the other part of it-” he inquired, “Is it local?”
“What, the pineapple?” I asked, confused.
“Yeah, is it?” he inquired. Assuming he was absolutely joking, I started to giggle and looked at the other diners, waiting for them to join me.
They were all looking at me like second graders, wide-eyed and eagerly awaiting the answer. My giggle devolved into an awkward chuckle when I realized, holy shit- this guy is serious.
“The pineapple?” I squeaked.
“Is it local, too? he asked, again. There I was, once again, giggling away. I looked outside to see the chamisa bushes and aspen trees; pure evidence that we are not in the tropics and not even Monsanto could engineer such a thing. This only made containing my laughter harder. Yet, clearly this guy had no idea. He must think that pineapples grow on pine trees. I looked at the man whose eyes were still as curious. I decided to have a little fun.
I answered, deadpan, “Why, yes. Yes they are.”
“Oh, sure! The pineapple is also New Mexico’s state flower, Governor, bird and motto: “Pineapple.”