Cook90 has launched its 5th year January challenge of cooking 90 meals in 30 days. This is my 3rd year participating. Each year I it reenergizes my cooking. As an experienced cook, it’s not that it teaches me brand new skills: more like it sharpens skills that got a dull edge during the year and perhaps even some rust during the holiday binge season. But I have picked up new tricks like DELIBERATELY planning to cook more of something for “nextovering:” extra cooking prep for new meals later in the week. Or making better use of the sheet pan to cook a whole meal in the oven.
This year’s #Cook90 focus is on sustainability and I have some THOUGHTS.
Interestingly I’ve been considering blogging about this for a while, like six years of thinking to be more precise. In that time my cooking, eating, and life habits have changed a lot. I have been off *doing* things with food: just not documenting them very well, definitely not stopping to note directions, quantities, or quality. There are pros and cons, but one is it doesn’t leave much room for the sort of blog I started with years back writing up recipes. Let’s see where the January challenge takes us.
While revamping the blog’s About page, I mention our omnivore household and the sustainable farms we buy from. We’ve evolved so much over the years in eating and shopping practices. And the landscape has changed! I’ve been vegetarian, vegan, low carb, paleo, super low fat and sooooo many sizes. We’ve reduced pesticides and chemical use. Recently, I’ve found that eating a controlled calorie, lower sugar, lower glycemic (but not low carb) omnivorous diet has worked better to keep my health issues in check, for now.
We have worked to be very thoughtful about eating, and meat eating in particular. We buy from local farms who use sustainable farming practices whether they are selling me sunflower sprouts in a returnable glass jar, organic chicken, or a grass-fed beef share.
This NYT article sums up the issue and digs a bit into the problem specifically with beef: greenhouse gas emissions due in part to raising beef fed in feed lots and cows on industrial sized dairy farms. Turns out that letting them graze on grass and using careful land management techniques can reduce methane and the impact of animal farming (though it’s not yet clear to what levels). This would require significant changes in cattle production, processing, and in consumption and consumer preferences. [If you don’t subscribe to NYT This opinion piece in USA Today covers similar material on the differences.]
So, should one eat meat or not? I don’t think there are easy answers despite articles and studies saying a plant based diet is the best thing you can do for the environment. I think giving up products and services that are contributing to deforestation, water pollution, and global warming are the right thing to do, and that requires you as a consumer to take a HARD look at your life, what you consume, and what you contribute. Are you going to stop using air travel or driving? Make a commitment to curbing planet overpopulation or overdevelopment by having fewer children? Live in a more compact residence in an area so you can live with and electric car or without one entirely? What about other consumer products like phones and tvs that use difficult to mine commodities and quickly become obsolete – are you committed to keeping your phone for a decade or more? Or is it not just us and our individual choices that’s the issue?
The reality is that eating a plant-based diet is an economical option many people could choose when looking at ways to contribute on an individual level. Without major shifts in income equality, government intervention, and cultural and societal change to transportation, job choice, access to walking, rolling, or bike friendly communities, individuals have a difficult time accessing the global climate change drivers that studies suggest would help the most such as switching to alternative fuels, buying electric cars, opting into alternative electricity generation, walking/rolling/biking to work (or telecommuting) and more importantly creating global economic change needed to eliminate harmful emissions. Overpopulation is also a significant contributor to global warming that we aren’t necessarily talking about because that starts to make us uncomfortable. I don’t fault anyone for looking at food choice as an option, and I hope people don’t judge us for thinking deeply about the issues surrounding the problem and looking beyond just plant-based diets.
Perhaps food is a gateway into the next conversation about what else we need to change. Here are things I’ve made an effort to do. You don’t have to be perfect to be better.
- Eat and shop local, where possible
- This reduces the impact associated with your food from fossil fuel emissions due to transport.
- Look for producers who focus on sustainable practices
- Ocean products should be harvesting/selling products that are considered sustainable, ethically and safely harvested, farmed or fished. https://www.seafoodwatch.org/
- Grass-fed and pasture raised products should be using good land management practices.
- Organic, pesticide-free: because of regulations, in the US this can mean different things and your local producers may be able to go pesticide free or reduced easier than going certified organic. In some cases, pesticide free may involve less chemicals than organic. Talk with your farmer.
- Water and waste management practices are important too. Hog waste is huge problem for large companies who are unwilling or unable to put in new waste management tools that raise costs.
- Eat what’s healthy for YOU
- Not all foods are healthy for all people. Soy is a great example: it’s *not* a health food for me and triggers other problems, for some it has great benefits. Be less judgmental toward others for what they eat: strive to have conversations.
- I’ve added in more plant based meals, and tried out alternatives at home like making my own energy bars and nut based “cheese” to also avoid additional packaging.
- Reduce single use plastics and waste
- Plastic Free July and the Zero Waste movement have a lot of great ideas about where to start. We started with fewer plastics to reduce fossil fuel use (and plastics really aren’t recyclable), and then moved on to things like bamboo paper products for the home.
- Compost (indoor and outdoor options are available), find a compost program in your community, advocate to start one in your community if there isn’t one.
- Look for products and programs using clean fuels
- See if Arcadia Power* is available in your area. It connects your energy bill to clean energy providers.
- Ask questions and do your own research.
- Spend some time learning about where your food comes from, climate change issues are happening, what is being suggested from various viewpoints to curb emissions and repair damage. Join an advocacy campaign.
- Raise Hell
- No, seriously. Eating differently can help, but we need better people in elected office who are going to shift companies and government in this country to act differently around climate change right now. I’m convinced that we are being told it’s just an *us* issue as consumers (i.e. we need to change) when really it’s an ALL of US issue (the producers of products need to change, government needs to change). Most of the greenhouse gas in the US comes not from agriculture (9%) but from industry (22%) electricity production (28%) and transportation (29%) [Note that global numbers look different, and these numbers to change year to year]. The way we are going to turn this ship around is with alternative forms of energy and stopping emissions from fossil fuel and. Then go beyond that and create more equity so that the idea of products that LAST for decades and have affordable and replaceable parts isn’t out of the reach of average people, farmers, etc.
- Write your members of Congress and your local elected officials (where applicable). Work on electing better ones. Get in touch with me if you need help getting in touch with them.
- Leadership matters, not party. Decades of work have been turned back under the current administration, but that’s not an issue that, in my opinion, is about political party. It’s about recognizing the fundamental need to lead on this issue regardless of who is in office; science and innovation, something that American has stood for with pride, must drive policy.
And one final comment on sustainability: caring about the climate and environment shouldn’t be a privilege, but if you’ve read the above carefully, it is. After making these changes over 5-10 years, I can attest that it’s time consuming, expensive, and frankly exhausting, to avoid pesticides, plastics, fossil fuels, eat healthier, be healthier and care about anything other than day to day living. This from an educated, middle class, white person. Imagine what barriers are in place for someone else. This isn’t just about changing consumer values: if it is, we are screwed. Most of the world cannot buy their way into this change. See #RaiseHell: Advocate.
And because this blog is still about FOOD: Sign up for Cook 90. Cook and eat some new things. Oh, BTW, I also made some food, like I usually do on my blog. Yum.
Cook90 2020 Day 1
We live in the South so there is no New Year’s Day without some form of black-eyed peas and greens. This year I used the Splendid Table recipe that turns portabella mushrooms, instead of bacon, into umami bombs in this easy dish.
Does this not look like little lardons?
Be sure to substitute some coconut aminos for the soy sauce if you are soy averse.
Also, I have a miserable, eye watering, nose streaming, taste nothing cold. So, when the recipe for feta and greens came up on Day 2, as interested as I was in the simple recipe with lemony yogurt, I longed for the comfort of the tomato based version I made often last winter in David’s book (and I had tomato sauce to use up). The link is missing a link to the simple tomato sauce, so you should really buy David’s book. 🙂
I added extra onions and garlic to the dish, and some extra chili flakes. I am trying to kill this cold with fire.
Until next post – be sure to check my Instagram where I post all the meals from Cook 90 2020!
[*Full disclosure: I am an Arcadia Power customer and after 10 referrals I do get a bonus from Arcadia on my bill. You get a thank you discount for signing up using my referral link. This is not otherwise a paid sponsorship; I got the same deal as you when signing up through a friend – I’m just extending my offer to you!]