A lot has happened to the way we eat. Five years ago the word “locavore” didn’t exist and your local farmer wasn’t among the “in crowd” of restaurateurs. But today, chefs run their own dairy farms (like Alex Seidel of Fruition). Friends are getting into CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture). And we’ve started to act on the environmental footprint our food makes on the Earth.
A champion of the sustainable food-Earth-body cause is Mark Bittman, New York Times “The Minimalist” columnist and author of “Food Matters” and “The Food Matters Cook Book.” His mantra has become one of personal responsibility for your health and your world.
In Levi’s and Birkenstocks, Bittman recently spoke about his new cook book and the mission behind “Food Matters.” With an unapologetic NY attitude, Bittman scoffed at the fact that Americans use 22.2 acres per person for food consumption, as compared to most of the world at 4.4 acres. We are destroying our agriculture and culture by ignoring the function of food: nourishment. That’s not to say you cannot enjoy food, but Bittman hammers home that it is easier to eat a raw carrot than drive to McDonald’s and order a burger and fries.
Though his own diet is now 2/3 vegan, he maintains that he’s preaching “less meatism” and more vegetables and therefore, sustainability. Bittman’s meals of vegetables, fruit, nuts and beans may sustain him, but meat is the American dinner table staple. He believes that in 50-100 years from now all of us will be eating a plant-based diet. While there won’t be a mass exodus of boneless, skinless chicken breasts from our grocery stores anytime soon, Bittman is telling us to change our ways for the betterment of our own health and that of our Earth.
“You change your light bulbs, why not eat a frickin salad?”
But how do you do it? The answer is feed yourself, Bittman says. Raw food is the easiest meal, no prep: nuts, fruits, vegetables. Invest the time in prepping before your busy week by peeling and cutting veggies and spending more time in the produce aisle than the middle of the grocery store. Take it a step further and buy local. “100 years ago everyone was a locavore,” Bittman says. Avoid packaging with overly aggressive health marketing: If you have to label something healthy, it isn’t, he says.
Among Bittman’s other points were a tax on soda, because in his mind, it is as much a mortal danger as cigarettes. And soda companies have full freedom to advertise to today’s youth, who are leading the obesity epidemic. It’s simple: Weight gain is deadly. A recent report says that “Diabetes may affect as many as 1 in 3 Americans by 2050.” The complications of diabetes cost people their limbs, lives and the U.S. economy millions of dollars. Read the news here.
“Naiveté no longer excuses,” Bittman says. And if we don’t make a change, he nonchalantly claims the end may be nearer than we think: “Earth’s sixth extinction is not hyperbolic.”
What will it take? Would you cut out 50% of your meat if it made you feel better and in turn benefited the Earth? Or do we go on with our ways and see what happens?
I took the first step and bought “The Food Matters Cook Book.” So far the mac & cheese with pureed cauliflower and apple slaw have graced my dinner table. I’m making a resolution for 2011 to focus on the “less is more” in my family’s meat consumption, too.
Bittman also briefly addressed my question of where beer or wine fits into the Food Matters diet. His response, “Are you proposing a beer-only diet?”
Turns out Bittman broke his own rules, just slightly. He enjoyed a local Great Divide Hades (Belgian Strong Pale Ale) for lunch, but of course, with veggies at Denver’s Watercourse.