I have in my office a stack of #10 canned green beans. Almost every time Bon Appetit CEO Fedele Bauccio walks by, I get a somewhat of a humorous pestering as to “why does my culinary director have canned foods in his office. It’s not us!”
But, these cans intrigue me. The beans are grown sustainably on family farms in Willamette, Oregon. The Food Alliance Certified label is pronominally displayed next to the farmer’s name. The producers speak to wildlife conservation and an equitable workplace. To me this sounds like us. It talks to extending our local Farm to Fork season. It talks to sustaining small family farms by encouraging them to process their harvest and expend their markets. It talks to minimizing the carbon footprint by purchasing items that are produced nearby in the off season.
But….it doesn’t talk to flavor. I was gently reminded of this recently over lunch with Marc Marelich, our General Manager at Willamette University. Marc is also a very talented chef and I respect his opinion when it comes to food. When I asked him the question of what he would chose if he had the choice of canned local green beans or fresh/frozen from wherever green beans, he chose the latter. His reason: flavor.
This is the reality of being a culture focused on great food. While our ethical emphasis is an important element of our purchasing decision, at the end of the day we have to be practical in the kitchen when it comes to the taste of the final product. In this case, I think Marc is right. Flavor comes first.
I haven’t totally given up on the idea of supporting local processing of sustainable ingredients. The cans are still in my office…but a little less prominent and somewhat hiding from Fedele’s view. I am hoping that if I stare at them long enough, I will be inspired by a good idea on how to balance ethical with practical.
– Marc Zammit, Director of Culinary Support & Development