For the last 16 months, out of a crowded Berkeley kitchen leased from a social services facility, Larry Wisch (the kitchen's "Fermenter") and his partners Porsche Combash, Misa Koketsu, Jessica Prentice, and Catherine Spanger at Three Stone Hearth have been preparing and selling sustainably sourced and produced foods based on the ideas originated by Weston A. Price, the "Charles Darwin" of nutrition science. Although Price was a dentist, his interest in diverse cultures around the world (he referred to the people he studied as 'primitives'), diet and dental health led him to the conclusion that 'native' (local, pre-modern) diets, rather than modern diets, were better for the formation of the palate, teeth, and ultimately, health. In 1939 he published Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, which linked modern methods of agriculture and food production to disease. Michael Pollan has helped to introduce a generation to the teachings of Weston A Price in his books Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, and many, including the five owners of Three Stone Hearth, are putting theory into practice.
Once a week customers line up to pick up yellow bins full of glass mason jars stuffed with rich stews and soups, lactofermented vegetables (think sauerkraut), and all nature of fermented drinks. When customers return to pick up their weekly bin, they return the used mason jars and bottles so that Three Hearth Kitchen can reuse them.
Below, jars of Russian Beef Soup are lined up just after they've been sealed in jars and cooled. Three Stone Hearth publishes a weekly menu that customers order from.
Here's the cooler, lined with jars - in a day, the cooler will be filled with the yellow bins ready for customer pick up:
In the back room, Larry keeps large, imported crocks built for fermenting vegetables - and for making fermented drinks:
A milk crate filled with coolers, including root beer coolers:
Larry shows off a jar of Kvass, a ruby red tonic made from fermented beets with a little bit of sauerkraut juice - when Larry has extra.
We stood around a table in the Black Room as Larry opened up the jar of kvass. This was the second beverage he served us - the first was a lightly fermented soda made from douglas fir essence and whey (that's what he's pouring in the photo above). Delicate with a hint of the forest, it was the perfect precursor to the salty, acidic kvass, said to be an excellent liver cleanser.
According to Larry, Three Stone Hearth's goal is not to be a large, profit-making entity (which would, invariably, force them into many of the conventions of industrial food production that they are trying to avoid), but to teach people from around the country to practice similar sustainable food purchasing, preparation and distribution (as a community supported kitchen they rely on volunteers for everything from picking up cheese to working in the kitchen). The idea is that as interest in this kind of food grows, the demand for farms that are producing truly sustainable meat, eggs, dairy, produce, and fruit will increase, and more farms will begin farming in this way, and people will have more access to good, real food - food that nourishes the soul and the body in equal measure. It is a noble goal - and something I ardently hope will happen.
This post is part of the Food Renegade's Fight Back Friday, April 3, 2009