Traveling around the country (and this coming year most of the world) Outstanding in the Field brings people together in all different communities celebrating local farming. A top chef is brought in to prepare a dinner using ingredients from the farm or other farms within the area. When served, the staff educates the diners on where each ingredient was harvested and the practices of the farm, as part of their mission to bring together the farm and the table. There is something wonderful about witnessing so many strangers gathering around a community table and develop a better understanding of the food, as well as each other.
The dinner I attended was held at Wattle’s Farm, which is located in the middle of Hollywood, who knew? The land once belonged to a private estate and was donated to provide growing space for locals. Anyone who wants a plot in the garden needs to live within 5 miles of it. It is definitely a gorgeous little piece of rural life amongst the chaos of the LA urban jungle.
Jim Denevan is the brainchild of this wonderful organization. He began his career in the food industry as a teenager looking for a job that would not interfere with his surfing ambitions. Lucky for us that Jim found a passion for the Slow Food movement and began finding ways to address the disconnect between growers and finished food product. Jim is changing Americas food image, not by emphasizing all the bad food practices out there, but instead highlight the wonderful farming practices that we do have available.
I cannot describe how inspiring it was to see so many strangers come together over dinner, share stories and lives, for a couple of hours in the middle of Hollywood. Each course is served “family style”, allowing for even more interaction with neighbors as the table is broken up into “families” for the evening. Whether you came alone or came with your 10 best friends, chances are your family for the evening would consist of several strangers.
Each ingredient has its own story and hearing the life cycle of what was place before the dinners made the meal more enjoyable and intriguing. Some of my favorite stories included the farm where the pork was harvested. The owner releases the pigs onto his land for them to graze where they like. He grows patches of vegetable gardens for them to feed in, but for the most part they roam the property consuming what naturally grows, instead of slop. He also allows his chickens free range in lavender fields. When eating the chicken and pork, the flavor difference is apparent, and the knowledge of their lovely life alleviates the guilt we have all accumulated over the years of emphasis on negative food practices.
It would have been almost a perfect event had the rain not moved in towards the end of the dinner. Everyone was a great sport about it, the continuous flow of wine I am sure aided in this lighthearted attitude. It did however cause the table to clear out pretty quickly once dessert was served. All in all it was a great day of photography, food, and new friends.