Wednesday, April 18, 2012
We are rapidly running out of national treasures, even more quickly running out of regional icons that we can treasure. Jim Weaver may help to change that trend, at least here in New Jersey. I've just finished reading Weaver's personal story, Locavore Adventures (Rivergate Books, Rutgers University Press, $22.95), and I now realize what a significant impact he has had on our state's food culture, its farmers, farm markets, restaurateurs and families. As the chef/owner of Tre Piani restaurant at Forrestal Village in Plainsboro, NJ, and co-founder of Central New Jersey's chapter of Slow Food, he has been able to change how we understand the rich bounty of the Garden State's farms, how we buy our meats and produce, and how we make a healthier place for ourselves and our children. And he's also shown us how to run a restaurant creatively, with respect for the seasonality of food and the importance of coming together at the dinner table.
Weaver's first book is a breezy read, from his discovery of the Slow Food movement, to his immediate enthusiasm toward promoting it and spreading its gospel of fresh and local food, simple artisinal cooking techniques and ecological responsibility. But Weaver's epiphany and evangelism have roots is something in which we can all believe: the sheer convivial pleasure of a good meal shared with family and friends.
Locavore Adventures is full of Weaver's personal photos of places and colleagues and suppliers that anchor and support his locavore sensibility, from the Griggstown Quail Farm, famous for its heirloom poultry, to the Viking Village fishermen from Long Beach Island, to Lawrenceville's Cherry Grove Farm and Hopewell's Brothers Moon restaurant. Woven through the compelling stories and photos are 40 tasty recipes that prove Weaver's argument more eloquently than any passage of the book: we can, in fact, eat much better and more simply prepared meals, less expensively than we might think, and save local farms, dairies and producers, restore and preserve the green spaces we use and once again ENJOY our meals and use them to relax, restore and really feed ourselves well, despite the hectic and uncaring pace of daily life.
New Jersey and Mercer County has a new treasure worth cherishing, and his name is Jim Weaver. One engaging read of Locavore Adventures and you'll know why.