Climate action, one recipe at a time
Crab dumplings made with fonio, an ancient West African grain, or slow-cooked ratatouille with imperfect produce to reduce food waste. These are just a few of the 70 recipes included in the recently launched cookbook titled Cookbook in Support of the United Nations: For People and the Planet.
This book – created in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in consultation with other United Nations entities such as the United Nations Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO), the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the United Nations Department of Global Communications – is an idea of Kitchen connectionan organization that for a decade has forged links between the art of cooking, sustainability and education, and facilitated discussions on the need to transform food systems.
“Knowing that cookbook consumption is on the rise and that people are using them as a source of education and inspiration, we always had in mind to create one,” she explained to United Nations News Earlene Cruz, founder of Kitchen connection and professor at New York University.
But how is this cookbook different?
Le livre est divisé en chapitres qui traitent des systèmes alimentaires, de la biodiversité, de la consommation et de la production durables, du climat, ainsi que du gaspillage alimentaire, offer non only des recipes mais aussi un aperçu de l’empreinte carbone de chaque plan.
“We found that people in the world’s most emitting countries generate, through their food choices, approximately 3 kilograms of CO2 emissions per meal. However, the recipes in this book contain 58.6% less carbon than the average meal from a high-emitting region of the world. This book is dedicated to the planet,” Ms. Cruz said.
The cookbook also complies with World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for macronutrients, making the recipes not only healthy for the planet, but healthy for all of us as well.
But above all, it emphasizes the importance of our food choices and their impact on our surroundings, wherever we cook.
The climate cost of our food choices
Describing a quiche recipe shared by NASA Scientists’ Chef Lisa Johnson in Antarctica, Cruz said, “This recipe contains eggs [de poule]and in Antarctica, [les poulets ne peuvent pas] be in any way in contact with penguins. Chef Lisa therefore had to cook this part of the recipe in a completely separate room. Show cooking challenges in remote areas.
“The bottom line is that wherever we live, whether in the city, in the suburbs, in the countryside or in a remote place like Antarctica, it’s crucial to take into account our food choices and their impact on our surroundings,” he added.
The book offers 75 recipes accompanied by instructions for preparation, but also with reflections and stories, especially of indigenous communities and farmers, who are the basis of the global food production chain.
Kitchen connection also offers an online platform for cooking classes and education.
“Activist, restaurateur and entrepreneur Kimbal Musk also lent his voice and presented this book. Thus, both in the Sioux tribe and in Antarctica, it reflects the realities of our diverse food system and inherent culinary cultures. What was most gratifying was seeing over 200 people come together and sign up to support this cause,” said Ms. Cruz.
Ska Mirriam Moteane, a chef from Lesotho, shared, for example, a dandelion salad recipe that emits 87.58% less carbon than the average meal in high-emitting countries like the US and China.
The dish promotes biodiversity by incorporating dandelion, a nutritious vegetable that grows wild and in the fields around one’s home.
Sustainability is even built into the book: its pages are made from responsibly sourced wood fibers.
“Producing such a book will always come at a climate cost, but we have done our best, from start to finish, to ensure that the book itself, as well as its contents, are sustainable. This book, that is
dedicated to the planet, it is printed on sustainable paper certified by the Forest Management Council, because that’s how cookbooks are traditionally designed in hardcover format,” Ms. Cruz explained.
Why is all of this important?
According to the FAO, food systems contribute to extreme weather events related to climate change, land degradation and biodiversity loss, and in turn suffer the consequences.
Addressing these challenges requires a systemic approach that takes into account the scale and complexity of these phenomena in a comprehensive and sustainable way. Initiatives like this cookbook aim to support this response.
“We can start with questions that help us understand the journey of our food: Where is it grown? And by whom? How did they end up on my plate? As knowledgeable and empowered individuals, we can unite to push for more sustainable practices by agricultural and food companies and demand bold climate policy from our governments,” urged the founder of Kitchen connection.
Ms. Cruz, who is also a member of the United Nations Department of Global Communications Youth Civil Society Representatives, highlighted the need to consume more local and biodiverse ingredients and reduce waste in the kitchen.
“But it also has to taste good. That’s why, for guidance, we need to look to activists, chefs, farmers and indigenous people, who really know how to grow crops and create beautiful recipes,” she added.
Renowned chef Jose Andres, recognized for his culinary and humanitarian work, is another follower and contributor to this cookbook. “By educating ourselves and others about how to eat better for human and planetary health, we can limit the number of people who go hungry, while preventing and stopping natural disasters before they happen. The Cookbook Supporting the United Nations: for people and the planet it’s a wonderful example of that,” he said at the book launch at COP27, the recent United Nations climate conference in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt.
Nature has the answers, because “what’s good for humans is good for the planet – Earlene Cruz
“For example, indigenous chef Rosalia Chay Chuc’s black bean recipe is the least emitting. Beans, when eaten with other grains, provide us with complete proteins, which are great for human and planetary health. They are also soil adapted and don’t require much water to grow. Nature itself offers the best recipe and formula for human and planetary health,” Earelne Cruz explained.
Among other contributors, food systems expert Dani Nierenberg shares a delicious recipe titled Prepare the ratatouillewhich reduces food waste by using imperfect ingredients to obtain a perfect and delicious dish.
Chef Pierre Thiam, meanwhile, has contributed a fonio recipe using a rediscovered grain that has completely revitalized the economy of Senegalese farmers in the region where fonio is grown, Cruz said UN information.
To the future
The cookbook, already available in bookstores and online, will also find new life in 2023 in the form of a documentary series that will include an exploration of indigenous communities and remote areas threatened by climate change.
“There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but when adapted to the local context, we can truly make a global impact through our food choices. We vote with our ballot papers as much as with our taste buds,” Ms. Cruz said.
For her, the book represents the beginning rather than the end of a wonderful collaboration and contribution that she hopes will positively impact citizens around the world.
“We want the book to get into the hands of ordinary people – that’s why we partnered with a mainstream publisher – to touch the hearts and minds of those who don’t know or don’t care (yet) about the strong symbiotic relationship between our food systems and the planet. We don’t just want to sell books; we want to make an impact and send a message,” concluded Ms. Cruz.