With all we know about carbon footprints and greenhouse gases, it should be no surprise that there are cookbooks now devoted to showing us how to be more “Green” in the kitchen. I recently took a look at two such cookbooks, each offering a different perspective, but both containing sound advice for a more eco-friendly cooking experience.
The Green Kitchen by UK Food Writer Richard Ehrlich offers five very good reasons why you should go green in the kitchen. Because it’s good for the environment, it saves you money, saves you time, it’s easy, and it doesn’t mean lowering your standards.
He then continues by sharing with the reader how to equip a green kitchen starting with the basics, making sure you have energy efficient appliances and once you have those appliances making sure that you use them in the most efficient manner. For example, not opening the oven door repeatedly during cooking. A considerable amount of heat is lost during this process and often causes the oven to switch back “on” again to replace it. Or when cooking on a stove top, making sure you use the right pan for the job and the appropriate burner. If the pan is too small, energy will be wasted heating the air or sides of the pan. This book contains many more of these “common sense” rules for cooking, ones that we’ve forgotten about during our rush to get dinner on the table night after night. He also recommends the best flooring and counter tops for a more “Green” kitchen. He lists which small appliances not to buy (juicers & food processors) and reminds us about the benefits of using lids while cooking and allowing meals to finish cooking using residual heat.
Once you’ve read exactly how your kitchen should be outfitted there is a lovely selection of recipes designed especially with greener cooking methods in mind, lidded cooking, microwave cooking, pressure cooking, and no-cook cooking.
Other than a few random facts that I wasn’t aware of, I found that much of what the author discussed I was already doing in my kitchen. At first this made me feel pretty good, but then I became sad as I started thinking about how much is wasted in the kitchen, how people aren’t using residual heat to finish a meal or don’t know to leave the oven closed. And how much those simple practices can better our environment. Are things really that bad? Apparently so. But this book is great for someone who is just moving into their first home and wants to be sure that they are heading toward greener pastures, in the kitchen anyway.
Cooking Green: Reducing your carbon footprint in the kitchen is written by James Beard award finalist and Global Gourmet founder Kate Heyhoe. Unlike "The Green Kitchen" this book is more guidebook, less cookbook, and chock full of really interesting information. It goes beyond the common sense rules of “Green Cooking” perfect for someone who is already practicing some of the green basics, but wants to kick their green quotient up a notch.
She opens the book by discussing what your “Cookprint” is. Quite simply it’s the entire chain of resources used to prepare meals, and the waste produced in the process, which sounds pretty scary when you first think about it. Next you are challenged to an Eco Test “Do you save more energy if you run your dishwasher at midnight, noon or 5pm? Answer, midnight because electricity at power plants is generated more efficiently during off-peak hours. Midnight saves fuel at the source. Then its full speed ahead as she discusses everything from thermodynamics in the kitchen (heat is energy) to saving the planet one cook at a time.
The green cooking techniques she recommends are the same ones that Mr. Ehrlich introduced in “Green Kitchen”. Ms. Heyhoe is also a fan of the microwave, toaster oven and lidded cooking. She provides loads of additional information on topics like budgeting for organic food purchases, and which beans/legumes are faster cooking (that would be the lentil). I have to say when it comes to the green kitchen she is really the Green Goddess. A dynamic combination of Michael Pollan, Alton Brown, and Wonder Woman all rolled into one. After finishing this book you will definitely be convinced that you can help save the planet while preparing dinner every night.
Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.