inkwell.vue.340 : Amy Trubek, The Taste of Place
permalink #26 of 93: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Fri 14 Nov 08 11:39
    
Learned today that more than 50% of the farms in Connecticut, and more
than 60% of the farms in Rhode Island, are smaller than 10 acres.
  
inkwell.vue.340 : Amy Trubek, The Taste of Place
permalink #27 of 93: spinning around like an errant, tuxedoed rinse cycle (thelobster) Fri 14 Nov 08 11:58
    
Well I'm in favor of both urbanization and people rising out of
poverty and earning a decent living.  

Is there really no luxury-food market in Switzerland that can support
artisanal foods?  It really doesn't take that many people to buy a few
10-kilo wheels of cheese, and if it really is the best cheese in the
country, as you say, and everyone knows about it, as you say, then I
guess I don't understand why they don't just raise their prices.  

Moving off that particular Swiss hillside, I imagine that many
artisanal food producers around the world manage to compete with big
agriculture by operating within the niche of gourmet grocers and
fine-dining restaurants (and farmers' markets rather than
supermarkets), charging higher prices for higher-quality food with
unique character.  
  
inkwell.vue.340 : Amy Trubek, The Taste of Place
permalink #28 of 93: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Fri 14 Nov 08 12:12
    
I think Europe, continental Europe in particular, has managed to
preserve artisanal farming to a degree we would find almost impossible
to imagine here in the the US.  If they shrank to a tiny luxury niche
as here in the US, that would be a big change.
  
inkwell.vue.340 : Amy Trubek, The Taste of Place
permalink #29 of 93: spinning around like an errant, tuxedoed rinse cycle (thelobster) Fri 14 Nov 08 12:30
    
Well it sounds like that change is coming, at least in Switzerland.
  
inkwell.vue.340 : Amy Trubek, The Taste of Place
permalink #30 of 93: Amy Trubek (katherine) Fri 14 Nov 08 14:35
    
I do think that for us to really appreciate the taste of place in our
present moment of history we need to see it as a strategy or
intervention into the global marketplace, but as important, larger
scale industrialized agriculture. And as wiggly, the person with ties
to rural Switzerland points out, many small scale artisan food efforts
in Europe remain, but these efforts are fragile and would probably not
survive without support, not just official government, but cultural
support through consumer commitment. 

To integrate another strand of discussion, I do think that present
concerns about global climate change and the environmental costs of
industrial scale agriculture may help turn more people, cultures and
governments towards the taste of place. What better way to connect
people to a vibrant working landscape than through tasting food and
drink? But as of right now, most of the people involved in making such
food are beyond subsistence, but certainly not putting money in 401K
and taking big vacations every year. But if their work respects the
environment, has a smaller carbon footprint, continues important craft
food tradtions and in fact has great sensory qualities, doesn't it
deserve to thrive even if not purely in the free marketZ?

I may sound overly idealistic here (a result perhaps of living in
Vermont) but at the same time I am also quite pragmatic - I believe in
terroir (which I define as both unique environmental and cultural
traditions that help create great tasting food and drink but I believe
in it as a dynamic process, always open to innovation and change. 
  
inkwell.vue.340 : Amy Trubek, The Taste of Place
permalink #31 of 93: cyndigo (cynthiabarnes) Fri 14 Nov 08 15:42
    
>cultural support through consumer commitment

That's a huge challenge, tied up with so many different issues.

I like getting beyond the oversimplification of purely local eating,
and the emphasis on homegrown items. Not all of us want to be farmers.
I could cut my own hair, but I prefer to earn money and pass it along
(hopefully in the form of a living wage) to someone who DOES want to
cut hair, and who'll do a better job. The same goes with most food
products.

Will be writing about chocolate in Belize next week, am interested to
see how the concept of terroir applies to cocoa.
  
inkwell.vue.340 : Amy Trubek, The Taste of Place
permalink #32 of 93: Amy Trubek (katherine) Sat 15 Nov 08 07:12
    
Cynthia, thanks for pointing out that the taste of place fits into how
we divide up labor today. I love the way that the AOC system in France
(which is the government supported placed based food organization) is
based on the respect for artisan communities, the relationship between
many people involved in, let's say, making Comte cheese (dairy farmers,
cheesemakers, affineurs and distributors) and the people living in the
Jura region as well as communities of cheese consumers around Europe
and the United States. I like the idea of buying a cheese that I know
was made in a certain way, including respecting the environment and
local craft traditions. This in some ways resembles the fair trade
movement (which can be helpful in purchasing coffee and cocoa) but the
AOC label goes further by creating parameters on production levels as
well as having the collective of let's say cheesemakers explain why
their cheese is linked to a certain locale.
  
inkwell.vue.340 : Amy Trubek, The Taste of Place
permalink #33 of 93: Gary Gach (ggg) Sat 15 Nov 08 15:40
    
any thoughts on obama's selection for usda?
  
inkwell.vue.340 : Amy Trubek, The Taste of Place
permalink #34 of 93: Anne Boyd (nitpicker) Sun 16 Nov 08 08:58
    
Amy, I'd follow on to Gary's question with a similar one.  Do you see
any role in the U.S. for more governmental support/recognition of local
character in food and wine production?  

You mentioned earlier that small scale artisinal food production in
Europe often depends on both governmental support and cultural support
for its survival; in the US we seem to have some degree of cultural
support now, at least in some places for some products, but the
governmental support seems to be lacking.

As I've mentioned, I'm abysmally ignorant about wine, so I didn't even
realize until I started Googling around that there actually is an
American system for classifying the origin of wine grapes - American
Viticultural Area, or AVA.  It certainly doesn't seem to have all the
features of the French AOC system, and it wasn't totally clear to me
what purpose it is meant to serve or whether it protects local
character in wine production to any significant degree.
  
inkwell.vue.340 : Amy Trubek, The Taste of Place
permalink #35 of 93: Amy Trubek (katherine) Sun 16 Nov 08 12:06
    
Yes, we have the American Viticultural Areas, but as you mentioned
Anne, it does not go into real depth as to a real, persistent
connection between wines in an AVA region and the natural and cultural
environment of an AVA. 

As part of my work at the University of Vermont I have been working
with Roger Allbee, Secretary of the Agency of Agriculture in Vermont,
and others to start thinking about building policy in Vermont around
the taste of place. We just had a really exciting workshop where we
brought the present head of the INAO, the governing body for the AOC
and other French experts (s well as a contingent from Quebec)to speak
to a group of cheesemakers, sugarmakers, policy people and legislators
about  how the AOC (and Geographical Indications, an EU entity) works
and the possibilities for Vermont. I was amazed at the enthusiasm and
good will on all sides of the discussion and I think we might move from
ideas to action here. What policy or legislation will finally emerge,
and to what extent it will mimic the AOC, is anybody's guess, but I am
optmistic.

Other than that, I would say the main focus at the level of states
here in the US over the past 5 years or so has been on the "buy local"
movement. I have been particularly impressed with those efforts to
change school food lunch - a hard nut to crack but there is lots of
movement there.
  
inkwell.vue.340 : Amy Trubek, The Taste of Place
permalink #36 of 93: Amy Trubek (katherine) Sun 16 Nov 08 12:08
    
And Gary, I have no idea about Obama's pick for USDA but I have
thought about who might have a chance...I think he will be very focused
on raising the profile of nutrient dense foods, particular for those
with less resources. I wonder if he will picks someone with expertise
in that area rather than commodity agriculture.
  
inkwell.vue.340 : Amy Trubek, The Taste of Place
permalink #37 of 93: Paulina Borsook (loris) Sun 16 Nov 08 14:24
    
the sustaimnable ag/enviro activist folks i work with are horrified
that it might me vilsack (sp?), current gov of iowa, and a better
friend to monsanto you have never met. and we are also horrified
that it might be calif's current secretary of ag, a.g. kawamura.
who has a ponytail and comes across as mr earth muffin ---
but oh, he is SO not that.

do you have any sense of who realistic contenders might be?
jim hightower would be the dream guy, but that's not
gonna happen...
  
inkwell.vue.340 : Amy Trubek, The Taste of Place
permalink #38 of 93: Catie McIntyre Walker (rosebud) Sun 16 Nov 08 16:02
    
Terroir!  This is one of my favorite subjects.  Unfortunately I just
received the book yesterday via mail, but immediately went to the
chapters regarding wine.  

Dr. Trubek, thank you so much for sharing your experiences! I am
looking forward to completing the read. At a younger age I knew there
was something unique about the local foods I was raised on vs foods
from other areas, but never knew how to quite how to define it until I
started reading about wine. I started putting pieces of it together in
the 70's when I read that the great French wine regions of Bordeaux and
Burgundy shared roughly the same latitude(46ºN) in Washington State
where new vines were being planted in the late 60's. Ever since, I have
been fascinated with the subject. 

Two years ago, Steve Bjerklie <stevebj> and I was very fortunate to go
on a two day tour of the AVA's in Washington State and visited with
many of the vineyard owners. Our tour guide was Gilles Nicault,
winemaker and manager of the Long Shadow's Wine Consortium in WA. He
was born and raised in France and certainly understands this thing
called "terroir." Nicault has also worked closely with Michel Rolland,
who was mentioned in the book.  

All of the AVA's were very distinctive (vines planted in old river
beds, vineyards with soil containing petrified woods, AVA's with
extreme winds, close to rivers, some areas with sage brush, sandy soil
or volcanic soil,etc...)and of course, we tasted those wines which were
very distinctive as well. One of the most interesting was the Horse
Heaven Hills AVA, where we visited a vineyard that was planted on
several tiers of cliffs that dropped down to the Columbia River - - a
very deep drop.  And interesting enough, Randall Grahm (was also
mentioned in the book) had some of his own vines (riesling) planted on
one of those tiers. 

From the beginning I understood that the book and this discussion is
not about "eating local," but about a "sense of place." But I also
understand my own unique "sense of place" where I grew up in Eastern
Washington (Walla Walla)and aware of these differences when I taste
foods or wines from another "place." Some people make fun of me when I
taste a wine from the Walla Walla AVA and might comment it reminds me
of "autumn," while other wine lovers "get it."  

While I am partial to my own "sense of place" when savoring food and
wine, I cannot deny that what is familiar to me isn't always better. 
Such as the Pinot Noir from Washington State (what little there is)
cannot be compared to many of the lush Pinot Noir from Oregon.  The
climate, deciduous forests and even down to the clay soil is only
unique to the Willamette.  

Walla Walla is surrounded by wheat fields, but in the valley we have a
large Italian settlement (started late 1800's) who developed truck
gardens which also begat the Walla Walla Sweet Onions. I grew up
surrounded by fields holding the special soil and in fact, my step
father's family was one of the first Italian settlers to put the onions
on the map.  Through the years, other states and areas have grown the
onions from the same seeds, but the results have never been the same -
it's all about the soil (volcanic), percentage of rainfall and our
longer growing days, just like our distinct vineyards. And I would like
to think that even the culture from the Italian families made an
impact on these onions. 

Forgive me while I yammer on about the subject. Being raised in a
small town, which still had a large farm existence, I took a lot of
flavors and colors of the produce for granted until I was old enough to
really understand the unique difference. For instance, the
strawberries grown in our valley (third-generation berry farmers) were
intense in flavor and the color almost a blackish-red compared to the
orangish-red berries with half the flavor I found in other areas. My
grandparents raised their own beef and chickens in Eastern Washington.
After my grandparents retired and eventually deceased, I would never
taste a chicken as plump and tasty as my grandmother's again until I
purchased one from a kosher butcher shop in a small suburb in Sydney,
Australia about 10 years ago. And yet, I only buy beef from two
different ranches in Oregon because it reminds me of the beef I grew up
with. I haven't found one yet in Washington that I care for. 

Probably the best experience with terroir was with a glass of wine.
The wine was from a vineyard which had previously been wheat for a 100
years. A particular wine from these vineyards reminded me of my
grandfather as crazy as it sounds. It was something about the nose. I
easily picked up the smells of petrol, but there was something else.
Visiting with the winemaker,(also from France - we have several French
winemakers living in Walla Walla), I told him how this Cabernet
Sauvignon blend reminded me of my grandfather. The nose of the wine
reminded me of Grandpa's overalls, his work shed and even his mudroom
in the back of the house.  Serge, the winemaker, indeed understood
everything I was talking about after he found out what my grandfather
did for a living. My grandfather was in the grain business and spent
days in the fields whether it was managing crews or bidding on grain
for feed. I visited the vineyard and went through some of the old
buildings left from days when it was a wheat ranch - and many of the
smells from it's days of being a wheat ranch, left it's mark on the
grapes. 

Dr. Trubek, as I was scanning the book, I noticed the photo of the
cattle horns and I immediately knew what that was about - biodynamics. 
In the Walla Walla AVA, we have the first vineyard to be biodynamic
certified. The vineyard/winery owner is from France. And there must be
something to this as his wines often receive 98 from Parker.  I
understand the methods, but in many ways the practice is still very
mysterious to me - - however mysterious and supernatural, I will never
discount it.  And you posed the question, "Does our past determine our
future when it comes to terroir?"  From my personal experiences - - it
does. 

Were you able to taste any of the wines that were from biodynamic
certified vineyards and were able to taste differences from those that
were not grown that way? Do you feel we should mimic other environments
or accept our own "sense of place?"

Thank you. 
  
inkwell.vue.340 : Amy Trubek, The Taste of Place
permalink #39 of 93: Catie McIntyre Walker (rosebud) Sun 16 Nov 08 16:21
    
>>... how horrible the wine grown in North Carolina is.  I've heard
there are exceptions, but when I went to the wine festival last year
every one I tasted was too sweet and cloying. So even if you can make
wine locally, that doesn't mean you should. 

Let me be the devil's advocate - even if you can make wine locally and
you have the skills to make it well, I believe you should. Sweet (off
dry) wines are a style and there are people who enjoy them.  It's true
that North Carolina will never have the same terroir that has made
California, Washington and Oregon successful in wine production. But
the growers need to understand what vitis vinifera and their own
terroir will go hand in hand, then they can be successful in their own
right - - and of course, assuming the winemaker is skilled. 

It's true, they will never produce a Cabernet like California's, a
Merlot or Riesling like Washington's or a Pinot Noir like those from
Oregon, but somewhere in North Carolina there is a diamond in the rough
that can be enjoyed and understood for it's own terroir and style.  
  
inkwell.vue.340 : Amy Trubek, The Taste of Place
permalink #40 of 93: John Ross (johnross) Sun 16 Nov 08 20:54
    
We're seeing something similar with cider apples in the Skagit Valley
(northwest Washington, the opposite corner of the state from Walla Walla).
Using genetic stock from England and France, the growing characteristics,
sugar and acid measurements are often very different from the same varieties
at their places of origin.

They're still identifiiable as Foxwhelp or Brown Snout or Kingston Black,
but they're not the same as the ones from Somerset or Normandy.
  
inkwell.vue.340 : Amy Trubek, The Taste of Place
permalink #41 of 93: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Mon 17 Nov 08 08:10
    
The other thing from that area that's well known is Hermiston melons.
  
inkwell.vue.340 : Amy Trubek, The Taste of Place
permalink #42 of 93: Amy Trubek (katherine) Mon 17 Nov 08 12:23
    
I will have to start with apples, since my husband and I have small
heirloom apple orchard. I am fascinated with John's comment that the
cider apples from England and France do not have the same adicity in
the Skagit Valley. We have a number of cider apple trees (Russets, Cox'
Orange Pippin, etc.) and our cider is (and I really am not bragging
here) the most complex in flavor profile around, which we think is due
to the greater acidity of the heirloom varieties. We have been
attributing it more to our varieties than to any really specific
environmental terroir factor such as our west facing slope. What do you
think is making the difference in WA and are you documenting them in
some way?


And I do agree with Catie's comment: "It's true
that North Carolina will never have the same terroir that has made
California, Washington and Oregon successful in wine production. But
the growers need to understand what vitis vinifera and their own
terroir will go hand in hand, then they can be successful in their own
right - - and of course, assuming the winemaker is skilled." I agree
that attention to place can always create a good product, although
perhaps here in VT we chould spend more time on hard cider and less on
wine given our cold climate.

At the end The Taste of Place I borrow from Randall Grahm's rich and
wonderful writings on terroir (I urge you to go find them on the Bonny
Doon Vineyards website) to espouse my present philosophy of terror:
"Perhaps the taste of place is best understood, as Grahm sees it, as an
aspiration, a desire to make and appreciate food and wine with place
always in mind." Grahm says there is no terroir formula rather only a
terroir intelligence. I wholeheartedly agree.  
  
inkwell.vue.340 : Amy Trubek, The Taste of Place
permalink #43 of 93: Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Mon 17 Nov 08 13:45
    
I do too. I think it's also important to distinguish eating locally
from tasting locally. Eating locally grown foods is often a pleasure
(and <katherine>, I must comment here that I prefer our deep, complex,
rich maple syrup here in New Hampshire to that stuff you make over
there in Vermont!), and it will support local farming, but it won't
necessarily always get you the best food or best terroir. As
<katherine> points out above, Vermont's climate isn't a good one for
wine (neither is New Hampshire's, though there is one winery in the
southern portion of the state). I feel no qualms buying my wines from
elsewhere. Same with certain other foods. 

Tasting place doesn't mean you have to live in the place.  
  
inkwell.vue.340 : Amy Trubek, The Taste of Place
permalink #44 of 93: Betsy Schwartz (betsys) Mon 17 Nov 08 16:09
    
People have been working trade routes for spices for thousands of
years. I hope we'll always have trade for  spices , and coffee, and
cocoa, and wine, and maple syrup, and all the other wonderful special
tastes that are local to various regions, even as we learn to go back
to eating the bulk of our calories from locally farmed goods instead of
from the petroleum-based factory food stream.
  
inkwell.vue.340 : Amy Trubek, The Taste of Place
permalink #45 of 93: Paulina Borsook (loris) Mon 17 Nov 08 18:19
    
interesting about cox' orange pippins. when i;ve had them them
in europe in the 70s (back before everything got so much more
regularized in euro ag) i swooned over them. i;ve eaten
them as grown here in santa cruz --- fine, but no big whoop.
i hadnt thot about the terroir aspect of it before...
  
inkwell.vue.340 : Amy Trubek, The Taste of Place
permalink #46 of 93: John Ross (johnross) Mon 17 Nov 08 22:39
    
With respect, Cox's and Russetts are not cider apples in the traditional
sense. It's entirely possible to make good cider with them, but they don't
have the high tannin that makes the classic cidree varieties "spitters" --
they're all but inedible off the tree, but fermentatiion turns the tannin
into a more complex flavor (as it does in many red wines).

The Washington State University Research Center in Mount Vernon is
documenting their experience with cider apples:
http://mountvernon.wsu.edu/FruitHorticulture/Apples.html#ciderAppleTestPlot

Look at the links to the Annual Report Arhives for detailed information
about juice characteristics. I'm sure there are comparable numbers from Long
Ashton and Normandy someplace, but I don't know where to find them. (Long
Ashton was the English  cider apple research center until it closed a few
years ago).

Part of the difference in terroir is latitude. As (rosebud) pointed out, the
Columbia and Snake valleys are at about the same latitude as Bordeaux; the
Skagit is about one degree south  of Normandy and ever farther south of
English apple country. That might be enough to make a difference in ripening
dates. I really don't know how the soil compares, or if the "fertigation"
practices at Mount Vernon make a significant difference.
  
inkwell.vue.340 : Amy Trubek, The Taste of Place
permalink #47 of 93: Amy Trubek (katherine) Tue 18 Nov 08 06:24
    
John, thanks for the excellent information about the research being
done on cider apples - I am going to connect with the folks at
Washington State (and just to clarify I was talking about our fresh
cider; we only make small batches of hard cider and we are definitely
thinking about adding other varieties to that mix). And yes, I do
believe in latitudt (although does that account for Steve's distinction
between New Hampshire and Vermont maple syrup?!?)

And Betsy, thanks for so eloquently articulating my own aspirations
combining eating locally with the taste of place: "as we learn to go
backto eating the bulk of our calories from locally farmed goods
instead of from the petroleum-based factory food stream." I hope we all
pay more attention to place but along the way we need to understand
more clearly the difference between staple foods and the added beauty
of different sensory experiences provided by taste of place foods. Here
in the US we need to revamp how we access staple foods (and what they
are and how they are produced) and protect and promote taste of place
products too.
  
inkwell.vue.340 : Amy Trubek, The Taste of Place
permalink #48 of 93: Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Tue 18 Nov 08 07:28
    
I was kidding about the maple syrup. In a blind taste test I'm sure I
would not be able to taste the difference between Vermont and New
Hampshire Dark Amber Grade A. I prefer to buy New Hampshire syrup,
though, because, well, I live in New Hampshire. It amuses me that in
some stores over in Vermont near the border (e.g. Farmway in Bradford),
I can buy New Hampshire syrup at a discount. 

I also like to buy New Hampshire apples, including <loris>'s cherished
Cortlands. The Macoun apples from the White Mountain region in NH are
very, very good too, as are the Winesaps. 
  
inkwell.vue.340 : Amy Trubek, The Taste of Place
permalink #49 of 93: Betsy Schwartz (betsys) Tue 18 Nov 08 10:11
    
Mmm, we get wonderful Macouns and Cortlands here in MA too...I would
be up for an apple taste test! 

There are also two brave souls here who have started an organic
pick-your-own apple farm. We were shocked at the appearance of the
apples - I expected a few spots but had never seen anything with quite
so MANY, spots layered on spots - but the taste was extraordinary. I
would not normally have chosen red or yellow delicious when apple
picking, but that's what they had ripe, and they were small with a 
tart sweetness to them that I hadn't thought Delicious apples were
capable of.  
  
inkwell.vue.340 : Amy Trubek, The Taste of Place
permalink #50 of 93: Paulina Borsook (loris) Tue 18 Nov 08 10:26
    
macouns are my second favorite apple! and yes the ones i had in NH
(i was there in oct 06)  were wonderful...
  

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