When you love fresh ingredients as much as we do, it's hard not to be astounded by all that this planet has to offer. That's why for the month of April, we're going to be diving into the world of eating sustainably. Earth Day is coming up, and it serves as a great reminder that our food choices have a direct impact on our surrounding environment. Being informed about issues like seasonality and clean, fair food helps us to make better choices. We will also be taking a step back to simply admire the beautiful, edible colors and flavors that the natural world provides us with — because when all is said and done, food connects us to our environment, and we really appreciate that.
Today may just mark a great shift in reeducating American people about the direct connection our bodies have to our food. For the first time since 1977, Food Day, a grassroots movement whose "goal is nothing less than to transform the American diet," has a national footprint. At its core, Food Day aims to mobilize the American public to get serious about more sustainable and humane food policies for the future.
While there are more than 2,000 different Food Day events being held around the country, they all share a common, admirable goal: reconnect Americans to their food sources. While many people are aware of the statistics associated with a diet made up of modified foods, they're still under the impression that healthful eating tastes, well, healthful. But Food Day makes the bold and true statement that "real food tastes great." Some of America's most known and loved celebrity chefs have stepped up to the plate. Mario Batali, Emeril Lagasse, and Ellie Krieger have all offered Food Day recipes in support of the celebration! Keep reading to learn about Food Day's specific goals.
As people all over are becoming more connected to their food, they're understanding that it just doesn't come from supermarkets and corner stores. It comes from the Earth. And instead of strawberry picking or apple picking in a designated area at a farm, they've started to get the hang of picking free fruits, vegetables, and other foods growing wild around their local community. This isn't just out in the country; urban foraging is a trend that's on the rise.
The idea of foraging is nothing new, but what used to be considered a survival skill for Grizzly types is now a trend amongst foodies in cities all over the country. Some restaurants are even employing the help of experts to bring foraged foods to their menus to bump up their seasonal bounty. In the Fall and Winter, mushrooms are on the brain, and it's no coincidence that it's one of the best times to seek out wild mushrooms across the country.
I'm curious to know if you'd be interesting in learning about foraging. Would you ever take a class to differentiate between edible and poisonous mushrooms, or try your hand in general at foraging for wild food?
Source: Flickr User furtwangl
Chipotle's furthering its quest to create a more sustainable fast food system. Today the quickservice chain unveiled its new nonprofit organization, the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation, to help support sustainable food practices. It's also debuted a short animated film, which will air prior to feature films in theaters nationwide.
The spot, titled "Back to the Start," is about a fictional farmer's venture into industrial farming practices and his eventual return to a more sustainable way of life. For the short, Chipotle commissioned Willie Nelson to sing Coldplay's "The Scientist." The cover song is available for download on iTunes, with proceeds going to the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation.
The new foundation plans to support organizations for family farms, food education for younger generations, and ranchers and farmers who are working on more sustainable practices. Chipotle will host a free music, art, and food day in Chicago called "Cultivate Chicago," with chefs Michael Chiarello, Richard Blais, Jonathan Waxman, and Amanda Freitag cooking and speaking. Similar events in other US cities will follow.
It's encouraging to see such a large food company setting an example for double bottom line investments; hopefully other fast food chains will take note and follow suit with similar social responsibility initiatives. I'd love to hear more about how the organization will support sustainability, though. What do you think of Chipotle's high-priority initiative? Would you attend a Cultivate event in your city?
If you care about the future of sea life, maybe you shouldn't be eating oysters. A recent study shows over 85 percent of wild oyster reefs have disappeared, thanks to overharvesting and disease. The study, conducted by The Nature Conservancy and the University of California and published in BioScience, examined reefs across 44 ecoregions and 144 bays, excluding Japan, China, South Africa, and the Koreas.
The verdict? Oysters, overall, are in "poor" condition. "They are functionally extinct in that they lack any significant ecosystem role and remain at less than 1 percent of prior abundances in many bays and ecoregions, particularly in North America, Australia, and Europe," the study stated.
Roughly 75 percent of the remaining wild oysters in the world can be found within five North American locations, so that's good news, but maybe that means steering clear of anything that's not a farmed oyster, lest the bivalves vanish completely. Yet another reason to pay attention to sustainable seafood guidelines.
We're not the only ones vowing to take a more sustainable approach to eating in 2011: so is the entire city of London. The city, largely in preparation for its role as host city for the 2012 Olympics, hopes to become the very first to source all of its fish sustainably.
The effort's helmed by The Sustainable Fish City campaign, which is made up of food and conservation groups. The goal? Not only to use only sustainable seafood during the Olympic and Paralympic games, but also to adopt the same standards citywide, applying them across governmental organizations, including the transportation, fire, and police forces. Outside organizations have quickly followed, among them five top London universities, the National Trust, and the D&D group of London restaurants.
Not everyone thinks there's scientific basis for sustainable seafood guidelines, but in my opinion, this is a brave step forward. Could you see a US city following suit?
If you enjoy eating seafood, get excited. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has recently released an updated seafood watch guide. Their popular seafood guide lists three types of fish: those that you should avoid, those that are a good alternative, and a best choice for sustainable seafood. Our friends at Slashfood have all the details on the update. To find out which fish are now safe to eat, head over to Slashfood for the whole story.
On Friday the FDA concluded that, with less than one percent of 1,735 seafood tissue samples testing positive for trace chemicals, Gulf seafood is safe for public consumption. Yet six months after the BP oil spill, fishermen are still struggling. With many consumers unwilling to eat seafood that comes from the Gulf, the price of shrimp has dropped dramatically. In the wake of the FDA's announcement, are you willing to return to eating Gulf seafood? In general, do you pay attention to where your seafood hails from?
In contrast to wine bibles like The World Atlas of Wine, this tome evaluates wineries based on ethical practices in vineyard cultivation and vinification styles. And unlike ratings books such as Parker's Wine Buying Guide, Slow Wine 2011 eschews points-based ratings for a more qualitative appraisal.
The 2011 edition covers only Italian wines, but I think it has the potential to broaden its reach to include so many other wines, too. Would you be inclined to turn to a sustainable wine guide for advice?
At the beginning of the month, I swore that the sustainable seafood trend would explode in 2010. Now it's already going mainstream. Earlier this week, Target announced its plan to stop selling farmed salmon in all of its stores.
The policy, which is part of an effort to make more ocean-sustainable choices, will encompass all fresh, frozen, and smoked seafood offerings, including Target's private labels Archer Farms and Market Pantry and national brands. The company will also stop selling sushi made with farmed salmon by the end of the year.
The eco-conscious decision by Target, a corporation that operates 1,744 stores in 49 states, will undoubtedly send ripples throughout the food retail industry. I'm thrilled Target has gone to such great lengths to take a stance on fish farming practices, and I hope other stores like Costco and Walmart will follow suit. Are you surprised to hear about the company's decision?