Sarah Elton’s latest book launches on Earth Day, I sent her a few questions recently to inquire as to how she maintains her food activism in her daily life. She replied with some answers that we can all learn from. Read more about “Consumed” here.
Sarah Elton is a celebrated author, food activist and the food columnist for CBC’s Here and Now
What are some things that we can do around the house to offset the dire future you look at in Consumed?
There’s lots we can do at home because the choices we make will have an impact on our future. First of all, we should eat less meat. This is a very easy way to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions. And when we do eat meat, we should be eating only meats raised by farmers practicing sustainable agriculture. That means animals that come from small farms and not the intensive production systems of the industrial food system.
In Ontario we’re lucky to have Local Food Plus
certification. Choose products that have this certification–you’ll find the LFP logo on some products at the grocery store.
Plant a garden to grow food or nurture the biodiversity in our city. Plant a mulberry tree or a raspberry bush and skip imported berries!
grow your own berries & avoid imports
The oven is one of the most energy intensive appliances in your home so use it mindfully. When you turn it on, cook more than one dish to maximize the heat. And try not to use it too often.
The last part of my book focuses on the cultural shift we need to take place to support truly sustainable food systems–rather than green washed food systems. We can help bring on this cultural shift by talking to our friends and communities about our decisions and our values. Instead of feeling the social pressure to serve meat when people come over, why not explain why you’re serving vegetarian instead! (Because the livestock industry is responsible for at least 18 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions.) When it comes to food, we have to be like those first people who would have asked their friends back in the olden days not to light up their cigarettes in the house. We need to create new social norms that support sustainability.
Meat is one of the thorniest subjects in food, the environmental toll it takes coupled with mass production and factory farming all make it hard to justify eating a lot of it. When you eat meat, how do you source it? What do you look for?
We don’t eat any industrially raised meat. Ever. And we don’t eat that much meat. I get my meat at various places in the city where I know they stock meats that have been raised by farmers who practice sustainable agriculture. I also buy eggs from small farms. What I look for are meats from animals raised without antibiotics. I want to eat grassfed beef. When it comes to chickens, I buy free range, organic. Needless to say, this is much more expensive than industrial beef. We eat a lot of beans and lentils and tofu.
just say no to Fruit Loops
When you’re at the grocery store and your kids are begging you to buy Fruit Loops and Pocky, how do you persuade them to accept locally sourced muesli and organic kale chips?
My kids always bug me for Fruit Loops. They call them coloured circles. My younger daughter once came home from kindergarten and said to me “I’ve asked my friend and the place you go to get those coloured circles is called Blahblahs.” This is a true story. But yes, they have to be satisfied with homemade organic granola (I bake it in large batches, along with other baked goods to maximize my oven usage!) and kale. We talk about sustainability and health a lot. Kids understand that they are nature and nature is us–more than most adults so they understand why we don’t eat processed foods from the supermarket. They understand how important it is to be kind to the earth.
What does a typical day of meals look like in your house on a busy weekday? And then on a leisurely weekend day?
I cook from scratch every day. I have a kid with Celiac disease so there are few short cuts we can take anyway. I make a lot of soups, bean stews, and leftover miracle dinners whereby I turn whatever I can find in my kitchen into something that usually tastes great. But picky eaters are not accommodated! As they say in daycare, you get what you get. I cook all sorts of different cuisines–lots of Indian, Thai, French, Italian–with local ingredients. Some are more popular than others around here. Weekends are not that different from weekdays.
Book launch details, when and where?
The book will launch on Earth Day and we’re celebrating at 6:30 p.m. on Bay Street at Ben McNally Books!