It’s Earth Day, and as always, a good time to take a look at how each of us can do a little better by Mother Earth.
If you want to do more to protect the Earth, recycling, driving and flying less, and planting pollinator gardens are all good places to start. But if you want to have a powerful impact on the health of the planet, the lives of animals, and more, you might want to eat more plants. That’s the underlying message of the new book Eat Meat Less, from the Jane Goodall Institute.
Full disclosure: I had the honor of working on the book, and developing the recipes. All the proceeds from book sales go to fund the Jane Goodall Institute, so if you buy a copy, you’ll be supporting good work.
Jane Goodall is My Hero
When I was a little girl, I was crazy about animals. Our family watched nature shows together, and it undoubtedly dates me to say that we watched Marlon Perkins’ Wild Kingdom and the Jacques Cousteau shows. We also got to know Jane Goodall along with the rest of the world, as she quietly and patiently studied the apes. There was a woman, showing little girls her fearlessness, and it impacted a whole generation of women like me.
It’s hard to even quantify how radical it was for a young woman to do what Jane Goodall was doing. She had no degrees that gave her expertise to analyze animal behavior. It was with a beginner’s mind that she observed and recorded intimate and previously unknown activities as she lived among primates in their natural habitat.
The “experts” tried to dismiss her, and claimed that she was making up the social structures and bonds between these “beasts,” previously dimissed as simple brutes. But she made a career out of turning the status quo on its head, and proving how complex the lives of our closest relatives really are.
A Passion for the Environment
Along the way, Jane Goodall became a voice for the environment, as well as the animals. Human activity puts the apes and many other species in constant peril, so she was on the front lines, seeing it up close. Working in Africa, she’s also very conscious of the detrimental effects that conventional agriculture and the animal foods industry have on developing nations and the poor. She’s been a respected, global presence in the environmental movement for many years.
As a long-time vegetarian, Goodall is also very outspoken about the links between our food choices and the environment. Sustainability is a part of her work:
“The Food and Agriculture Organization defined a sustainable diet as one with ‘low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security, and to healthy life for present and future generations’, and one that is affordable for all while optimizing both natural and human resources. A sustainable diet can be measured by its level of nutritional adequacy, environmental sustainability, cultural acceptability and affordability.” Jane Goodall
In the book, her positions on the use of pesticides, fossil fuels, and other issues are explained, with quotes from Jane Goodall from her many speeches and writings on the subject. It’s a concise handling of a big subject, and very readable and easy to understand.
Eat Meat Less
Goodall also wants you to have some fun eating local, plant-based food, and the recipes are there to help you along.
“An easy way to get started is to eat one local, seasonal meal a week. Make a social occasion of it, invite family and friends to help, organize a seasonal foods potluck where recipes and resources are exchanged.” Jane Goodall
In the spirit of Earth Day, here is one simple recipe from Eat Meat Less, for you to try.
CREAMY CASHEW PASTA PRIMAVERA
If you’re craving creamy pasta, this cashew-based sauce will more than satisfy. Use the
unsweetened nondairy milk of your choice, and build in some umami and cheesy flavor with
miso and nutritional yeast. Whole-wheat pasta is a most healthful pairing with this sauce,
and because the bran and germ in whole grains slow digestion, you will stay full longer.
Raw cashews, 1 cup (5 oz/140 g), soaked overnight
Vegetable broth, 1/2 cup (4 fl oz/ 120 ml), plus more as needed
Unsweetened nondairy milk, 1/2 cup (4 fl oz/120 ml)
White miso, 1 tablespoon
Nutritional yeast, 1 tablespoon (optional)
Extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon
Yellow onion, 1 large, chopped
Garlic, 2 cloves, chopped
Vegan white wine, 1/2 cup (4 fl oz/120 ml)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Whole-wheat fettuccine, ½ lb (225 g)
Asparagus, 1 lb (450 g), tough ends snapped off, spears cut into 2-inch (5-cm) pieces
Carrots, 2 large (5 oz/140 g total), peeled and diced or julienned
Cauliflower florets, 2 cups (4 oz/115 g)
Frozen peas, 1/2 cup (2½ oz/90 g)
Grape tomatoes, 1/2 cup (3 oz/85 g) halved
Fresh flat-leaf parsley, 1/4 cup (1/3 oz/10 g) chopped
MAKES 4 –6 SERVINGS
- Drain the cashews well, then place them in a blender or food processor. Blend to a paste. Add the broth, nondairy milk, miso, and nutritional yeast (if using) and blend until smooth. Set aside.
- In a large sauté pan, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally and reducing the heat to prevent browning, until the onion is golden and very soft, about 30 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Scrape the onion mixture into the blender with the cashew mixture. Add the wine and process until very smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the fettuccine and cook according to package instructions, adding the asparagus, carrots, cauliflower, peas, and tomatoes for the last 2 minutes. Drain well.
- Transfer the contents of the blender to the empty pasta pot and heat, stirring, over medium heat. Add the hot pasta and vegetables to the pot. Stir and toss and if it seems thin, cook for a few minutes longer to thicken the sauce; if the sauce seems too thick, stir in a little broth or water 1 tablespoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve right away.