Before Farm to Table was around, Augusta was Field to Fork.
If you were to search “Farm to Table” on the internet the first hit would be a definition by Wikipedia: “A social movement which promotes using local food at restaurants and school cafeterias, preferably through direct acquisition from the producer (which might be a winery, brewery, ranch, fishery, or any other type of producer which is not strictly a ‘farm’).” It has more to say on the subject, look it up.
I didn’t realize “Farm to Table” was a real movement until around 2007 while working in the catering department at The Peabody in Memphis. I should have though. I was already referencing my experiences in New Orleans and Louis the XVI’s practice of buying from local shrimpers and Emeril’s Chef’s competitive rush to the fish and farmers markets each morning. “To boil it down: the farm to table movement broadly refers to food made from locally-sourced ingredients, often natural or organic.” [Restaurant Insider June 22, 2018] I thought I was on the cutting home culinary edge when I drug my then significant to The Memphis Farmers Market to get a local cut of beef in 2007. (At this time, the farm has not responded to my request to present their name.)
Now, depending on what you read/believe, this movement started in around 2005 with a renewed interest by foodies in fresh organic foods. The movement was further fueled by a chic trend of the home chef cooking on a professional level with sustainable ingredients bucking the big industry effort to destroy our environment (sustainable foods, proximity, no steroids, humane treatment of animals, self-reliance). We watched shows like “Hell’s Kitchen” and then the launch of The Food Network, then “The Cooking Channel”. But let’s face it – here in Woodruff County, this is nothing new. Earlier today, I told Bonny, “They may call it Farm to Table, but here in Woodruff, we’ve lived ‘Farm to Fork for years!’” Bonny thought that was pretty clever, and I have to admit I did, too! Then I found a copy of an article that talked about the movement, so maybe I was clever, or maybe I read that article and my subconscious mind reached for it, or maybe we were all clever! (Got an ego going here, ok?) But my point is, even before Julia Child brought the concept of fresh gourmet cooking to America in 1961, though her style was French, (something to be discussed later) we’ve been cooking what I’m now going to call “Field to Fork” since Augusta was Chickasaw Crossing.
I cannot remember a meal, in any season here in Augusta, Arkansas, that wasn't most likely entirely provided by the country. Rather, items were from “field, farm, or stream”. Almost every yard in this town has a home garden. Almost every field has a crop, or hunter, or both. We ride the river and we also are fed by it. Our earth feeds us here, and that is the point. Even before “Farm to Table” was a “Thing” – “Field to Fork” has been a way of life here. (And I hope it always will be.)
So, (sniffles), this section of “Forgotten Augusta” is about our Fields and our Kitchens. I invite you to share. This is how we get those fabulous family cookbooks. It is how Thanksgiving smells the same or “right” each year. It is how we make our memories. Smell. Sounds. Taste. And of course, who we see there. Love you all.
--- Michelle Lane