When those jolly green giant spears begin to frame every dinner plate, it’s sort of like a migratory bird’s return. “Ah, yes,” we say, “I remember you, asparagus. The way you soften in butter. The tenderness of your tip. The scent you give our pee.” One friend lamented that her young daughter, who fell for asparagus last year, had to be reconvinced she dug this green food. “The look on her face was, ‘Mom, you got me to really like this and then it went away for 11 months. How can you do that to me?’”
As hard as it is to stomach, eating in season means being patient and opportunistic. Not surprisingly, the Italians have a word for this: scorpacciata. It means indulging in a food at its peak seasonal perfection. In the very first issue of Edible East End, in spring 2005, we featured that word. Nine seasons on, it’s still our mission.
But is it enough? In his new book, The Third Plate, chef Dan Barber argues the farm-to-table movement has failed because it “cherry-picked” ingredients instead of cooking from the whole plant, the whole animal and—most important—the whole farm. So while you’re scouring farm stands for the peas and strawberries you have been waiting for, consider flowering heads of arugula and kale gone to seed, the pea leaves and tendrils and the lowly radishes that help round out the field and the farmer’s income.
This extends beyond farm stands; we must support not just what’s coming out of the fields, but the restaurants, shops and industries that sprout from them. Like Sag Harbor rum, the region’s first post-Prohibition effort at the favored drink of whalers. Or Blossom Meadows, whose hives produce beeswax for crayons to complement their honey business. And the new kitchen incubator at Southampton Stony Brook will help launch pickle makers, kombucha brewers and other edible entrepreneurs.
Eating and drinking this way won’t persist unless it’s part of our culture. A habit learned and loved and passed on. Our cover shoot from Hayground School embodies this culture shift. Donning hairnets and aprons, students take turns planning, harvesting, cooking, serving and cleaning up lunch for the whole school. Culinary skills are an academic requirement. Attending the school’s annual Great Chefs dinner on August 3, packed with star (chef) power, is the best way to support this.
The East End’s food culture is endlessly rich, even as it still evolves. Winemaker Richard Olsen-Harbich explains why Long Island yields the “coolest wine style going at the moment,” literally and figuratively. Oysterman Mike Osiniski goes to the beaches of Normandy to discover why Greenport oysters taste so good and why oyster farming and eating has so much room for growth.
“That’s what’s so great about Long Island,” says artist Dan Rizzie as we swoon over his fish stew, Long Island beer and international art finds that make his kitchen “a museum for the senses.” “We can get almost anything fresh.”
And we’ll continue to, as long as we support it.
Eating and drinking this way won’t persist unless it’s part of our culture. A habit learned and loved and passed on.