April 26, 2009 by New Green
Kate Heyhoe answers questions about her new book…
What do you mean by “shrink your cookprint”?
Your “cookprint” measures the entire environmental impact you make on the planet when you cook or eat—whether you cook the meal or someone else prepares it for you. In other words, your “cookprint” is the entire chain of resources used to prepare meals, and the waste produced in the process. So essentially, Cooking Green is a lifestyle manual for shrinking your “cookprint.”
The cookprint starts with food, in your garden or at the farm; it travels to your kitchen (or a restaurant kitchen) and takes residence in the fridge, freezer or pantry. The cookprint also includes the food’s packaging, transportation and refrigeration demands along the way. Then, the cookprint grows larger every time heat or fuel is added, from a cooktop, oven, or small appliance. Discarded resources, whether they’re organic produce trimmings, plastic packaging, or water down the drain, further color the cookprint. As do the implements you cook with and the way you store leftovers. Understanding your cookprint helps put the cook squarely in charge of just how big, or how green, that cookprint will be—in ways that include yet extend beyond buying organic or local, or eating meat or not.
Is this book just for cooks?
Cooking Green is for any one who eats. President Obama has committed to a green economy, and on every level, being “green” has established itself as a national priority. Adopting greener lifestyles doesn’t have to be tough, and this book focuses on ways to be green without feeling deprived. Chapters highlight which types of foods are lower-impact, and tips address water heaters, garbage disposals, barbecuing, shopping, restaurants and each link in the food chain, so it’s of value to every one who eats, even if you don’t cook.
And if you do cook, you’ll discover that the kitchen is ripe with opportunities for going greener. It’s the place where people can make real choices, and take direct control of their impact—without letting the family feel deprived, hungry, or stressed. In fact, everyone will feel better just knowing they’re helping the planet. With the book’s step-by-step model recipes, they can do it one bite at a time.
What inspired you to write this book?
Buying organic is a great green practice, and as a cook, I knew we could do more to combat climate change. Lots more. The result: A treasury of eating, cooking and shopping habits that are as simple as changing light bulbs, and integrate just as easily into daily life. Collectively, they’re a whole new approach to cooking the basics. They include fuel and water conservation, and the strategies go from farm, to food, to fuel, to fork. They push the concept of “green cooking” into how we cook, including cooking methods and cookware, appliances, and water usage.
What makes this book different from the rest?
Many green living books require such a major commitment to lifestyle change, I think they push mainstreamers away. They provide great advice on green construction and buying composting worms, but often they don’t address common day-to-day tasks, like cooking and eating.
My book connects the gap between buying greener foods and greener ways to cook them. What really sets this book apart from other culinary or green living books is that my message includes, but goes far beyond, organics, composting, and recycling—because it also scrutinizes the physical ways we cook. My book asks (and answers) such questions as:
- Can the way I cook my favorite meatloaf truly make a green difference?
- How can I be more fuel-efficient when it comes to baking, broiling, or doing dishes?
- Why is grilling with hardwood less polluting than using charcoal briquettes?
- Is it really so easy to be greener when I shop, cook, and clean? (Yes, it really is.)
So my book is about every aspect of energy-efficiency—shopping, cooking, eating and cleaning up. In ways not instantly thought of as “green.”
- …Like certain benefits of small appliances (including rice cookers and electic tea kettles, not just toaster ovens or slow cookers)
- …It’s about foregoing the bigger-is-better mentality (do you really need a double-wall oven in your next house? A toaster oven is a better second choice)
- …And making better use of the tools you already now (did you know convection ovens produce 30% less greenhouse gases than conventional ovens? Maybe it’s time to figure out how that convection setting works.)
- …It’s carrying an ice chest with freezer packs in the car so you can do a full day of errands at once, without the food going bad, thus saving on mileage, gasoline, and time.
- …Or neat tricks to keep lettuce and other perishables fresh an extra three days, so you can eat better and shop less frequently.
And it’s realistic: Baking and roasting in winter naturally make more sense, but sometimes a cook just needs to use her oven, no matter what time of year. So this book tackles summer baking with green options that avoid ratcheting up the AC. Eating lower on the food chain is also important, and the book recommends consuming less meat, but it also suggests greener meaty options, like stretching out portions of grass-fed beef, for die-hard committed carnivores.
What’s an “ecovore”?
Our planet’s food resources can shift in abundance amazingly quickly. A fish species that thrived last winter may be in short supply this year, or a plentiful crop (like corn) can inadvertently increase global hunger when it becomes a biofuel. Ongoing drought can limit what’s available and increase the prices we pay. I believe it’s important to be mindful of our food supply even as it changes. Food is impacted by climate, and also by our own actions, which can have both good and unintended consequences. An ecovore watches, reads, and pays attention to global food conditions, and makes choices based on what’s happening now. It’s conscious eating with a “to-the-moment” awareness.
You say this book speaks to short attention spans. What do you mean?
The opening chapters detail the concept of “New Green Basics” and preview the strategies. But overall, chapter-by-chapter reading of this book is optional—it’s meant to be absorbed in snippets, sidebars, and quick hits, ideal for new-media-minds. Flip through it whenever you have time, and you’ll find something handy to absorb. For instance, there are sidebars and tactics presented in lists, tips for water conservation, and a “Green Meter” introduces each recipe with bullet points on the basic green strategies being used, when the dish is most seasonal to make the most of local ingredients, estimated prep and cooking times, and special conveniences for the cook.
What exactly are the “New Green Basics”?
They’re the basic rules of everyday cooking, but updated with the planet in mind. How you cook is as important as what you cook. Without abandoning your favorite recipes, you can bake, roast, broil, grill, and fry in vastly greener ways, saving fossil fuels, reducing greenhouse gases, and shrinking your carbon footprint. Cooking Green (the book) shows you how, and you’ll find more recipes and strategies here at NewGreenBasics.com.
For other interviews with Kate Heyhoe about Cooking Green, check out Celebrity Chef Chat at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel online and, in print, It’s Easy Being Green in the April issue of Austin Monthly (Austin, TX).
Buy Cooking Green