Vail Symposium event digs into Colorado’s 11,000-year-old potato, other obscure foods

Actor and author David Moscow speaks at a recent Vail Symposium event. Moscow's work explores how meal ingredients reach the plate.
Vail Symposium/Courtesy image

Actor and author David Moscow visited Vail Sept. 6-7 to discuss “From Scratch,” his book and television program of the same name, which was recently renewed for a third and fourth season.

The show’s premise is to depict Moscow attempting to procure all of the ingredients in a meal which he would enjoy in a nice restaurant, exposing the unknown complexities that lie within the modern food-supply chain.

The show could also be called, as one of Moscow’s field producers succinctly put it in his book: “If you want this food, try getting it yourself.”

Moscow’s book goes into further details than the show, and in Vail, Moscow went into even further details than his book.

Moscow was a childhood actor, best known for his performances in “Big” and “Newsies,” but said he is currently living a nomadic lifestyle, with his wife and two children traveling the globe with him in search of obscure ingredients.

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“When we got picked up for season 3 and 4, my wife, who was a VP of a digital company, she quit and we put all our stuff in storage,” he said. ” So we have no home.”

In his travels, Moscow details for viewers the fascinating histories behind the ingredients that go into everyday meals, journeying to exotic locations like Malta, Kenya and Peru. But his journeys in the Mountain West were the subject of much of his talk in Vail.

In Utah, Moscow encountered the 11,000-year-old Four Corners potato while shooting an episode for season 2 of “From Scratch,” a discovery he called “transformational.” The Four Corners potato is native to Arizona and New Mexico but is believed to have been transported to the Four Corners region of Colorado and Utah, making it the oldest domesticated plant in the Western U.S.

Recently, the Utah Dine Bikeyah’s Traditional Foods Program has worked to bring the Four Corners potato back to Dine life, Moscow said, and the potato has become available to restaurants and consumers in small quantities. Moscow attempted to use the potatoes in a trout piscatore with James Beard award-winning chef Galen Zamorra, who introduced Moscow to the Four Corners potato and suggested it as a pairing with trout.

“We have an incredible ingredient right here that is from time immemorial, and if you haven’t tried it, try it,” Moscow told the crowd in Vail.

Moscow also traveled to Wyoming, where he met Native American Chef Antonia Armenta-Miller of Bonafide Food Truck, named by Food Network as Wyoming’s top food truck. Moscow attempts to replicate a grilled elk with horseradish cream and buffalo berry/wild plum sauce meal made by Armenta-Miller. He sets out to hunt elk with a bow, but ends up instead hunting deer with a crossbow, commenting on the intersection of urbanization and wild lands while hunting on private property 30 feet from the kitchen window of a nearby home in Sheridan, Wyoming.

“My heart pounded in my ears as I raised my crossbow only to see a next-door neighbor on his lawn mower drive through my sights just behind the deer,” Moscow wrote in his book.

Since publishing the book in October, Moscow has been on a non-stop tour shooting season 3 of his show and giving talks to various organizations. In Vail, he detailed a bit of what viewers will see in season 3, which includes bison hunting in New Mexico on lands that belong to the Pueblo of Pojoaque.

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Moscow said the director of the Pueblo of Pojoaque’s bison program, Phil Viarrial, had bestowed upon him the honor of taking a shot at a female bison which had been selected to be culled, something Moscow described as a spiritual experience.

“She turned sideways, I took the shot,” he said. “She dipped her head and the bullet hit her horn and flew.”

The third season of “From Scratch” will premiere Oct. 18 on Amazon Prime and Direct TV.

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