The Loma Prietan - May/June 2009

Book Review

Cool Cuisine: Taking the Bite Out of Global Warming by Laura Stec and Eugene Cordero, PhD

by John Velcamp

Drawing on 25 years of experience as a chef and conservation advocate, Portola Valley resident Laura Stec has partnered with Dr. Eugene Cordero, an atmospheric scientist at San Jose State University, to examine the connections between our food choices and their effects on global warming. The result, Cool Cuisine, is a smorgasbord of well-researched scientific facts and artful culinary strategies. Readers will learn new ways to perceive our climate crisis and to eat well for themselves and for the planet.

Cool Cuisine is a quick and enjoyable read that presents the full cycle of our agrochemical food systems, singling out the heroes of eco-eating and green growing in warm tribute. Stec lays out clear and comprehensive data on just how vast and energy intensive our global food system is, and she culminates each chapter with tips for preparing tasty, nutritious, low-carbon meals.

The hallmark of Cool Cuisine is the advocacy of SLOW (Seasonal, Local, Organic and Whole) foods that enrich our diets and the Earth. Stec urges us to renew our appreciation and wonder for our land and for those who grow our food.

Her cautions against food choices that contribute to global warming are alarming. Consider some of the facts:

• It takes ten times more fossil fuel to produce a calorie of beef protein than to produce a calorie of grain protein;

• We use 22 billion pounds of fertilizer just to grow the grain necessary to feed our livestock;

• Processed food makes up three-quarters of food sales by price and typically requires more energy to make than what we get back when we eat it;

• It takes approximately 17 million barrels of oil just to make the plastic water bottles used in the United States each year.

In counterpoint to these disturbing statistics, Stec offers encouragement. She urges leaders to initiate changes step by step, not to try everything at once. She invites readers to take small steps toward low-carbon eating and to celebrate the origin, the energy, and the very cooking of foods along the way. Our current economic straits may not allow us to buy a hybrid car or to install solar panels, but we can change what we eat and how we evaluate its sources.

Throughout the text of Cool Cuisine, Stec strews helpful and entertaining aphorisms. One that she could easily have added:

"Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little." —Sir Edmund Burke

John Velcamp is a lifetime member of the Sierra Club and a member of the Mountain Lion Foundation.