At an event publicizing his new cookbook at Harvard Bookstore, Chef Peter Davis urged consumers to “Buy Local!” Davis, the chef of Henrietta’s Table, a restaurant at the Charles Hotel, was promoting “Fresh and Honest: Food from the Farms of New England and the Kitchen of Henrietta’s Table.”
Davis penned the book to promote local farmers and products. He spoke ruefully about the difficulties small farmers face when competing with more profitable mass-market farms. But he said that he was hopeful that small farms are making a comeback as the average American starts to “care more about where their food comes from.” For example, he mentioned that there are more farms in Massachusetts now than there were five years ago, and these farms are also smaller, both signs that independent, local farmers are on the rise.
Davis took many questions from the audience about the best places to buy local produce.
He said that New England’s best produce specialties include fiddlehead ferns, wild ramps, apples, cranberries, and nettles. His enthusiasm about food history was evident as he described how Concord, MA used to be the “asparagus capital of the country” in the late 1800’s.
The event organizer, Heather Gain, said she thought the event was “fantastic,” adding that Harvard Bookstore loved working with and promoting fellow local independent businesses. She was very happy with the turnout of over 50 people, and noted that food writing and cookbooks are a growing part of the bookstore’s business.
The event was made more appealing by the offerings of local cheeses, fruits, and wines selected by Davis. Some attendees, such as Naveen N. Sinha, a graduate student, said that they enjoyed the event—and that the food was an especially welcome addition. As a student in microbial sciences, he said that he appreciated the “nice overlap” between his culinary interests and research interests. He mentioned that he likes to buy locally-produced goods, but also that he understood that many Americans might not be able to afford such a luxury.
Most of the audience seemed enthused about local food afterwards, swapping stories and recipes and sharing their favorite farmer’s market locations and times. As Davis noted, there has been a “huge increase” in the number of Massachusetts farmers markets in the last few years.
“There are three in Harvard Square alone!” he exclaimed.