A note on Sustainability
And Vegan Cacio e Pepe!
I have wanted to write about sustainability for a while now, if only to clarify my views for myself. It has been a journey for me, and I’m sure my thoughts will continue to evolve. Here is a summary.
Why it’s important, for us
We are made of what we eat. And to a great extent, what our foods eat.
We feed ourselves packaged, processed food with ingredients that our ancestors (and often we) wouldn’t recognize.
We feed animals food that they aren’t meant to eat. Conventional farming practices include feeding livestock with grains (instead of grass) to fatten them up cheaply or growth hormones to make them grow faster, and then antibiotics to treat them when they fall sick as a result of a poor diet.
A diet based on such products is not nutritious or sustainable and is often the root cause of inflammation that has been linked to chronic diseases.
Why it’s important, for the planet
Industrialized animal agriculture or factory farming that produces meat, poultry and yes, even dairy is a huge contributor to global warming and climate change.
Forests are being cut down and freshwater supplies depleted to provide for livestock, to meet demand for animal products. Animals are raised in conditions that are deeply disturbing.
This is industrialization in excess and is not sustainable.
Choosing organic is usually better, but often comes with its own carbon footprint when transported all over the world, and does not solve the deforestation problem.
Food is deeply personal
I am a lacto-ovo vegetarian (eat eggs and dairy).
There are also vegetarians that eat fish, or dairy but not eggs, and vegans who don’t eat any animal products. There are flexitarians who consume meat occasionally and omnivores, that consume meat more often (but sometimes just white meat).
I used to be somewhat militant about vegetarianism but have grown to be wiser and accepting of all food choices. It's hard (and often not necessary) to give up foods you enjoy.
Animal products are still whole foods and important sources of nutrition for many populations.
But whatever your food preferences are, it’s hard to argue with the fact that everybody should eat more plants.
Or that we should save our planet.
Better choices start with awareness.
"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." - Michael Pollan
What we can do to eat more sustainably
For ourselves and the planet
Eat less processed foods (including processed grains, flours, sugar and pasta).
Eat more whole foods and complex carbs – vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts and legumes.
Eat organic when you can, and if you can afford it.
Try to consume animal products moderately, or as a treat, not as the centerpiece of every meal.
When eating poultry, dairy and meat, try to select pasture-raised, grass-fed products.
Eat more local and seasonal foods to reduce carbon footprint.
Support regenerative farming (buying from local, small farms that practice this).
Do your part
I believe that as demand for eating sustainably increases, supply will have to adjust. Both governments and corporates must do their part in supporting regenerative farming techniques and make them commercially viable.
I try to do my part by making healthy food interesting, so that it's an easy choice to make. The path to this is , unsurprisingly, rooted in flavor.
You might also notice an uptick in the number of vegan recipes.
This is a complex subject and I have barely scratched the surface. I'm sure my views will evolve as I learn more.
What does sustainability mean to you?
Comment below or reply to this email! I would love to hear from you.
And now, a vegan Cacio e Pepe!
I was experimenting with nutritional yeast for my cookbook and had to share this one!
1.5 tbsp olive oil
1 lb/450g zucchini/courgette (3 medium or 2 large zucchini spiralized to bucatini or fettucine size - thicker than spaghetti works best)
1 tsp cornstarch, mixed with 1 tsp water to make a slurry
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
3/4 tsp salt
1.5 tsp cracked black pepper
1.5 tbsp vegan bechamel sauce (click on link for recipe)
Heat a non-stick skillet on medium high and add oil. Add zucchini and cook for 5-8 minutes. The zucchini will release water, let it cook off and mostly evaporate (another 5-6 minutes). When most of the water has cooked off, (but a tablespoon or so still left at the bottom of the pan), add the cornstarch slurry, the nutritional yeast, salt, pepper and bechamel sauce. Stir continuously to combine until the sauce thickens and melds together.
Note that the zoodles will be soft in this recipe. If you prefer an al dente texture, just add zoodles at the end (after turning off the stove) and mix. You can add 1/4 cup water instead of zucchini water for the sauce.