A different kind of dinner-and-a-show at FERN Talks & Eats

November 5, 2014 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklynites packed the Green Building in Gowanus for the first-ever FERN Talks and Eats evening of dinner, drinks and a show. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese
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Dinner and a show, Brooklyn style.

The Food and Environment Reporting Network (FERN) hosted its very first FERN Talks and Eats party, an evening of storytelling, music, performances and food at the Green Building in Gowanus on Monday night.

“We’re a news organization; we do investigative and in-depth stories about the food industry, so you are probably wondering why we’re doing a live performance,” said FERN’s editor-in-chief Sam Fromartz as he greeted the guests. “Basically, we try to reach audiences wherever they are. We’ve brought our writers in from all over the countries to tell stories. It’s the first of its kind that we’ve done and we’re really excited about it.”

Guests at Monday’s party had the chance to eat and drink while shows popped up all around the room. There was music and dancing between readings by FERN writers, the food served was paired up with appropriate readings. Performers danced throughout the room, directing guests as to where the next reading would be.

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The program included readings by writers Michelle Nijhuis, Tracie McMillan, Maryn McKenna and Lisa Hamilton. Actors and dancers performed along with their readings. Afterward, Fromartz, who recently released the book “In Search of the Perfect Loaf,” joined chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, who has authored “The Third Plate,” for an entertaining conversation.

In keeping with FERN’s mission, all of the talks were centered around in-depth and investigative pieces on food, agriculture and environmental health. Nijhuis’ reading was entitled “Murder in the Ozarks” and explored illegal paddlefish caviar. McMillan’s “The Secret World of Garlic” recounted her time working on a garlic farm. McKenna, in “Meeting Your Dinner,” reflected upon how her experience on a humane chicken farm changed the way she thought and ate food. In a reading titled “Fresh Rice,” Hamilton discussed Laos rice farmers adapting to a move to Fresno, California.

The food that complemented the readings was both fitting and delicious. For Nijhuis’ tale of the paddlefish, snapper crudo with paddlefish roe was served. During McMillan’s narrative of the garlic farm, listeners enjoyed garlic soup and grissini. Coq au vin with celery root puree and braised greens were served during McKenna’s “Meeting Your Dinner.” During Hamilton’s report on the Laos rice farmers, arroz con leche was offered. Throughout the evening, fresh bread was available and drinks were served by Sovereign Cider and the New York Distilling Company.

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