Posts Tagged ‘laura stec’

Cool Cuisine Author Advocates Green Grub to Save Globe

January 14, 2010

Laura Stec combines her passion for the planet with a love of food in her efforts to promote green cuisine — eating healthily and well while treading lightly on Mother Earth.

And she’s got the cred to back up her good intentions.  Laura trained at the Culinary Institute of America, School of Natural Cookery, and (now closed) Vega Macrobiotic Study Center, and did stints at several restaurants before launching her own Bay Area-based personal chef/catering business.

Her green-cuisine clients include Google, Harvard University, Ralph Nader, and the Environmental Defense Fund. Kaiser Permanente Medical Group hired Laura as a culinary health instructor and she’s worked for more than a dozen years with Acterra, a local environmental organization.

Laura believes that we can help our fragile planet by paying attention to what’s on our dinner plates. In classrooms and corporations she educates eaters of all ages on how to make eco-friendly food choices.

Last month’s book giveaway Cool Cuisine: Taking the Bite Out of Global Warming generated lots of entries; I thought readers might like to learn more about the author’s philosophy and how to limit their carbon footprint in the kitchen.

1. What exactly is a cool cuisine?

Cool cuisine reduces your overall impact on the earth’s ecology by using less animal products, processed foods, bottled water, and food and packaging waste, and using more fresh, organic, seasonal, and locally grown foods such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

2. What prompted you to pen Cool Cuisine?

I had an “NPR driveway moment” in 2006, when I heard about a report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, called Livestock’s Long Shadow. I learned that conventionally raised cattle are responsible for 18 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, making livestock a substantial part of the global-warming problem. I couldn’t get out of my car until I heard the whole report.

Then the words, “Global Warming Diet” popped into my head. I ran into the house to Google the term and found only one reference.

3. Many readers already take environmentally-conscious measures on the food front — buying from farmers’ markets, growing their own, composting, recycling, carrying a reusable tote, and eschewing bottled water. What can people do to step it up a notch?

A lot of people are over-educated about this issue and undernourished. By that I mean most people’s culinary knowledge is limited, so I recommend that they focus on learning more about what and how TO eat, such as how to cook different whole grains, instead of getting caught up on what NOT to eat, like eliminating meat from their diet.

Learning techniques such as how to cook vegetables correctly to maximize taste and nutrients, which means keeping water far away from vegetables, so roast, grill, or saute rather than boil or steam, can help increase motivation, satisfaction, health, and culinary joy.

It’s also important to learn how to flavor foods with herbs, spices, artisanal salts, and other seasonings in place of animal fat. And experiment with less common whole grains like quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, or millet and different cooking methods for these grains, such as baking, toasting, or pressure-cooking.

Stock a condiment plate with seasonings such as toasted sesame oil, nori shakes, nutritional yeast, green Tabasco Sauce–whatever you like. I call a condiment plate salt and pepper with a college education.

4. What’s your biggest eco-unfriendly guilty pleasure?

Travel by airplane.

5. Can you care about the future of the planet and still eat meat?

Absolutely. Hooved animals have a vital role in the health of the environment. I was a vegetarian for 17 years and I basically still am for environmental reasons. I rarely eat meat but I don’t judge others’ choices. I do recommend people cut their meat consumption and buy local, grass-fed, pasture-raised meats and dairy products for their health and the health of the planet.

6. Where do you see hope that we may actually be able to, as you say, take the bite out of global warming?

The average eater is motivated by pleasure. As unfortunate as it is, many of us don’t like being involved in environmental or political issues, but ALL of us like food. Not everyone votes, but everyone eats.

By choosing cool cuisine, people are getting better tasting, more nutrient-dense food, with a side dish of environmental caretaking. Food is a powerful tool. Having said that, people do feel a broader connection to the earth and their role in protecting it these days. Both these things give me hope for our future.

7. Any final advice for folks interested in adopting a cool cuisine approach to eating?

Don’t guilt trip yourself — or anyone else — out of doing things; instead explore cooking and eating in new ways. And “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” wise words from French philosopher Voltaire.

Take small steps when making changes in your diet as you learn what foods you enjoy eating and cooking, two of our most primal human pleasures. Along the way, you’ll get even more satisfaction knowing it’s good for the earth as well. Have fun with it.

Readers: Would you agree?

Book Giveaway: Cool Cuisine

December 30, 2009

Here’s a concept: Eat well and help prevent climate change at the same time.

That’s the premise behind Cool Cuisine: Taking the Bite Out of Global Warming, an easy-to-digest account about our overheating planet that focuses on solutions to the problem and includes culinary tips and techniques designed to mitigate global warming.  Written by environmental activist and chef Laura Stec, with climate change scientist Eugene Cordero, Cool Cuisine could come in handy for folks who want to begin the new year by eating better and impacting the earth less.

The guide (think manifesto rather than cookbook) includes recipes of the “eat more plants” variety, such as Grilled Persimmon Salad with Maple-Spiced Walnuts, Spinach, & Frisee and Spring Barley Risotto with Asparagus, Dill, & Fresh Artichoke. Each chapter includes a practical page with ideas designed to trigger discussion for book club or potluck purposes, along with field trip suggestions, film and book recommendations, and tips for taking small steps towards eating and cooking in a more environmentally-friendly manner.

Cool Cuisine also has helpful hints on making a basic sauce, stocking a condiment plate with lesser known items (gomashio and umeboshi vinegar for starters), selecting salts, and cooking with whole grains you may not have heard of like hato mugi (Job’s tears) and emmer (farro).

Read a review here.

It’s naive to think changing your diet can stop global warming, of course. But limiting or cutting out beef consumption, buying local, seasonal, organic produce, drinking tap versus bottled water, reducing food waste, and increasing food-scrap composting can help lower your food-related carbon footprint — and is better for you to boot, say the authors.

Tell me one thing you do on the food front to help fight global warming to be in the running to win a copy of Cool Cuisine.

Submit your entry by 10 p.m. PST on Wednesday, January 6, and I’ll pick a winner at random from the suggestions shared below.

Full disclosure: Lots of chatter in the blogosphere of late about freebies, and even rules and regulations on accepting swag from the FTC.

So here’s my ad hoc policy on such matters, in case you were wondering: I give away books because I’m an avid reader and firmly believe in the good karma inherent in sharing the printed word with others.

Some books come my way as comps from publicists or agents, some I buy, some are gifts from author friends. For a book to meet my giveaway criteria it needs to be a terrific read, explore a compelling concept, and/or offer innovative recipes.  In short, I only offer contests for titles I think my readers (that’s you) may find useful, entertaining, or both.

Oh, and my bias, if I have one: You’re unlikely to see bestsellers in the giveaway mix, since you can find those tomes easily enough yourself and I prefer to showcase writers who may fall under the radar.

That work for you? Thought so, feel free to enter below.

Update: Sorry to keep you all waiting, been a busy couple of days. Loads of great comments by folks doing their bit to help the environment. A copy of Cool Cuisine, chosen at random, goes to Sue Hutchison.  Sue I’ll email you to get your snail mail details.  Check back later this month for more from author Laura Stec and another book giveaway. Thanks to all for playing — and for your excellent ideas.