The Loma Prietan - March/April 2009

Cooking Green

Curbing Climate Change with Your Knife and Fork

story and photo by Kay Bushnell

This issue's recipe: Creamy Pasta Primavera
This issue's recipe: Creamy Pasta Primavera

Livestock are the source of 18 percent of greenhouse gases, more than all our cars, trucks, motorboats, jetliners, and cruise ships combined. So reports the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. For decades eating low on the food chain has been recognized as a sound environmental practice.

Many people would like to do their part by eating fewer animal products, but are concerned that plant-based meals will be less enjoyable. Al Gore refutes this notion. In an interview in Rolling Stone, he says, "Most of the changes we need to make [to reduce carbon emissions] don't involve sacrifice...they represent improvements to our quality of life."

Here are a few tips for creating peak dining experiences with plant-based foods:

Select whole, unprocessed foods, preferably organic; shop at local farmers' markets; subscribe to a Community Supported Agriculture project; and grow some vegetables and fruits yourself. I feel that I am the luckiest person in the world when I visit the winter farmers' market and bring home cloth bags bulging with lettuce, potatoes, leeks, carrots, broccoli, avocados, apples, pears, mustard greens, garlic, yams, and whatever else goes into my family's meals. If fresh foods aren't available, browse the frozen food section of your market. Frozen fruits and vegetables are often already washed, chopped, and ready to use.

In their book, The Vegetarian Way, V. and M. Messina suggest eating meat-free dinners three times a week. They recommend that you choose meals with familiar ingredients such as spaghetti with tomato sauce, bean burritos, and vegetable stir-fry and simply leave out the meat. If you like a meaty flavor and texture in your food, you can chop in some meatless Tofurky Sweet Italian sausage. Most plant-based cookbooks have excellent meatless versions of traditional, popular foods. Internet sites have a vast number of recipes and ideas (see below).

Meal preparation becomes easy if you cook up a large batch of food that will last for several days. I usually prepare a main dish every three days or so. If I'm baking scones or muffins for breakfast, I make enough for several days. If I am preparing soup, I make a large pot of it. Right now my choice is a Middle Eastern soup with four different kinds of legumes, tomato paste, Moroccan spices, kale, pasta, and lemon juice. The soup is a meal in itself and is very tasty and nourishing.

Recently we had pasta primavera made with five fresh vegetables in a cashew cream sauce with fettuccine. It has lasted three days, and we're hoping to stretch it to one more meal. It is so delicious that we never tire of it. When you make a plentiful amount of the main dish, for the next few days you only have to fix a salad or fresh vegetables to accompany it--which takes very little time and keeps clean-up to a minimum. Most of the recipes that have been published so far in the Loma Prietan can be made in quantity.

You'll find it easy to eat royally as you increase the number of your plant-based meals, thereby reducing the CO2 and methane associated with foods of animal origin. When choosing a plant-based cookbook, look for one that contains 100% plant-based recipes. Recipes that are free of dairy and eggs as well as meat and fish are the most sustainable.

Loma Prieta Chapter member Kay Bushnell has taught plant-based cooking and appeared as The Garden Gourmet in a community-access television cooking series.