Misfits Market: A Cheaper, More Sustainable Way to Buy Groceries

Quirky produce doesn’t have to be thrown out

Markets typically like to display “perfect” produce. Photo by Ja Ma.

Markets typically like to display “perfect” produce. Photo by Ja Ma.

Have you ever felt excited when you found a cute mini potato in your groceries? Or marveled at a cool way that carrots grew intertwined together? Produce with quirks can be fascinating, and not dangerous to eat. However, many supermarkets have become obsessed with finding the “perfect” produce—the picture-perfect produce that customers would want to buy. Therefore, the produce that don’t fit the bill will end up as waste. 

Misfits Market is a service that simultaneously helps the world and your wallet. They collect food from farmers that would normally go to waste, and package it to sell to their customers. The customers get their produce at a markdown of up to 50% compared to regular grocery stores, while the farmers are able to make extra money. So, customers save money, farmers make money, and both Misfits Market and their patrons are working to reduce the 3.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide that are generated annually because of food waste. 

Misfits Market makes life easier by delivering your groceries straight to your door. You can subscribe to the Mischief Box or a larger Madness Box, that can be delivered either once a week or every other week. Misfits Market delivers to a large number of states in the US, but it is growing quickly. The produce varies by season, and is always organic. 

Additionally, their packaging is entirely eco-friendly. The boxes are recyclable and compostable, and the insulation to protect the produce from the elements during delivery is also home-compostable. Misfits Market’s website gives directions for how to compost the insulation at home. 


Check out Misfits Market’s blog to see recipes to make with their produce.



ELIANA DOFT loves to write, travel, and volunteer. She is especially excited by opportunities to combine these three passions through writing about social action travel experiences. She is an avid reader, a licensed scuba diver, and a self-proclaimed cold brew connoisseur. 

ELIANA DOFT.png


What You Need to Know About Beyond and Impossible Burgers

Why plant-based meat substitutes are good for you, and even better for the environment.

Impossible Burger. Photo Provided by Impossible Foods.

Impossible Burger. Photo Provided by Impossible Foods.

There has been a lot of buzz recently around plant-based meat substitutes—especially since Beyond Meat just went public in May at a nearly $1.5 billion dollar valuation. Two of the most popular meat substitutes on the market, Beyond Meats and Impossible Foods, have been astonishing consumers at their resemblance to actual meat. These products look and taste like the meat products they are modeled after. 

What makes them different? 

Impossible Foods’ main product is their burger. And while the Beyond Burger is probably the most well known product that Beyond Meats offers, the company also offers “ground beef,” two flavors of “sausages,” and “beef crumbles.” However, it is possible to mash or crumble the Impossible Burger to create meatballs, pizza toppings, or even tacos. 

Additionally, the products differ in their main protein ingredient. Beyond Burgers’ main protein source comes from pea protein, while Impossible Burgers get their protein from soy protein concentrate. 

The Impossible Burger looks a little more realistic than the Beyond Burger. It appears to “bleed” thanks to the Heme molecule an ingredient called soy leghemoglobin. The Heme molecule is found in every living plant and animal. Since it’s found most abundantly in animals, it’s what makes meat taste like meat. Impossible Foods use the Heme molecule in soy roots. In fact, Impossible Burgers taste so much like actual beef, that some vegetarians and vegans don’t like to eat them because it creeps them out! 

Why are they good for us? 

Meat increases risk of cancer by 16% and risk of heart disease by 21%. By eating a patty that looks and tastes like meat—without the added cholesterol—we can satisfy our cravings without having to worry about health risks.

Why are they good for the environment? 

Aside from the fact that less animals will be killed if more people switch to meat substitutes, plant-based substances are made more sustainably than meat products. 51% of greenhouse gas emissions result from raising livestock and producing meat products. 45% of global surface area is reserved for livestock systems. Imagine the greenery and nature that could be preserved with just a fraction of that space! 

So, for your next summer barbeque, try switching to a Beyond or Impossible Burger. Your guests will barely notice the difference. 





ELIANA DOFT loves to write, travel, and volunteer. She is especially excited by opportunities to combine these three passions through writing about social action travel experiences. She is an avid reader, a licensed scuba diver, and a self-proclaimed cold brew connoisseur. 

ELIANA DOFT.png





Growing Coffee In the Shadow of a Volcano

Timoteo Minas grows coffee in the shadow of an active volcano in Guatemala. Volcán de Fuego has been erupting more frequently in recent years, but Timoteo is not stressed at all. In fact, there’s no place he’d rather be. Both the high altitude—his farm sits 6,300 feet above sea level—and the nutrient-rich volcanic soil are good for his plants and give his coffee a special taste. 

The Earth Group Aims to Change the World Through Education and Nourishment

Newly Certified B Corp Collaborates with UN World Food Programme to Help Children Around the Globe

Kori Chilibeck and Matt Moreau at work for The Earth Group and World Food Programme in Sri Lanka. “ Becoming a B Corp is an affirmation of what we’ve worked to achieve for so many years.”

Kori Chilibeck and Matt Moreau at work for The Earth Group and World Food Programme in Sri Lanka. “Becoming a B Corp is an affirmation of what we’ve worked to achieve for so many years.”

The Earth Group is a Certified B Corporation that supports the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) through donations that provide school meals, drinking water and education to children in the most troubled areas of our world.

To date, The Earth Group has helped fund more than 3.6 million meals to young school kids while helping them get an education in places like Tajikistan, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Bolivia and the Philippines. The B Corp is dedicated to informing consumers everywhere about the power of their everyday marketplace choices. For example, the simple purchase of a bag of Earth Coffee, one of three consumer products sold by the company, provides a schoolchild with meals for an entire week.

Purchase one bag of Earth Coffee online or in-store to feed one child for one entire week.

Purchase one bag of Earth Coffee online or in-store to feed one child for one entire week.

When Earth Group founders Matt Moreau and Kori Chilibeck met as fellow employees of a ski shop near the Rocky Mountains 14 years ago, they likely never imagined what lay ahead for them as individuals, new business owners or as proud supporters of the WFP.

Just forging this critical relationship with the WFP seemed daunting enough, but the maze-like process took far longer to realize than anyone could imagine. Eventually, they launched their social enterprise onto the large and complex world stage of fighting hunger, providing clean drinking water and building schools for children where none existed before.

It was at this point that Moreau and Chilibeck realized the real work had begun in earnest for their Canadian B Corp based in Edmonton, Alberta. Seeking to confirm that the aid they worked so diligently to fund would actually make the journey to the end-users, they traveled to Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Tajikistan and the Philippines to see for themselves.

As the photos and videos produced from these expeditions clearly testify, Moreau and Chilibeck landed in their natural element, surrounded by the children and co-workers they had been working so hard to support since creating The Earth Group. The expressions on the faces of not only the children and teachers but of Moreau and Chilibeck and the WFP country managers tell a tale of unselfish dedication.

Kori Chilibeck in Sri Lanka hosted by the UN World Food Programme.

Kori Chilibeck in Sri Lanka hosted by the UN World Food Programme.

Seeing the Progress

The Earth Group maps its path to success through respect for the cultures they are trying to help. In many of these destinations, it is still frowned upon for female children to attend school. By respecting that posture yet also using the intellectual tools at hand, the company funds projects that often furnish female students with an extra helping of food to take home if they attend school, thereby allowing them to obtain an education, the family to benefit from the food, and the attitudes about females attending school to soften.

Schoolyard antics in Sri Lanka with Matt Moreau and Kori Chilibeck of The Earth Group.

Schoolyard antics in Sri Lanka with Matt Moreau and Kori Chilibeck of The Earth Group.

The exhilaration of such remote expeditions reached its peak when the duo traveled to the Philippines, arriving in a volatile region where insurgents had blasted grenades and explosives just the day before. Their in-country WFP handlers changed safety tactics at once, and what was scheduled to be a multi-day trip ended up being a shortened-but-packed day of visiting the children in their classes, touring the school facilities, meeting the support staff and then continuing safely out of this troubled zone.

Back home in Edmonton, Moreau and Chilibeck rolled up their sleeves and focused on making their simple products-with-impact list: Fair Trade coffee from Eastern Africa, Indonesia, Central and South America; glacier-sourced drinking water from Whistler, British Columbia, and Rocky Mountain House, Alberta; and organic Alberta-grown teas, available in as many outlets as possible across Canada and around the world. Their online sales are activewith their triple bottom line—people, planet, profit—always remains in focus.

The Earth Group obtains its drinking water from Canadian glacier spring sources near the communities of Rocky Mountain House and Whistler, and their low-weight recyclable plastic bottles are landfill biodegradable. The Earth Group is also partnered with and supports Plastic Bank efforts to reduce ocean plastic.

Screen Shot 2019-05-22 at 11.16.49 PM.png

Paying their dues during long negotiations with large corporations, Moreau and Chilibeck have now succeeded in signing major chain stores in Canada such as IKEA, Safeway, Sobeys, Whole Foods, Save On Foods, IGA and Metro. They also launched their product line in Japan, another major feat for any business run by two people, one employee and a group of dedicated volunteers.

Chilibeck is just back from the unrivaled adventure of presenting The Earth Group products in Japan to the largest food and beverage show in Asia called FOODEX. A receptive audience was excited to hear Earth Water is already available in their marketplace, with more Earth Group products sure to follow.

Path to Success

During certification in 2018 as a B Corporation, B Lab’s independent Standards Advisory Council confirmed The Earth Group’s three essentials: 1) social and environmental performance, 2) transparency and 3) accountability.

“B Corps values are synonymous with ours and embedded in our culture, so working toward the certification was both a pleasure and a reminder of being mindful of the numerous ways in which our work affects people and planet.”

And so it goes for these two young Canadian entrepreneurs and their “overnight success,” which has only taken them 14 years of collaboration, dedication, no-pay and near bankruptcy to arrive at a point where they can now see the results of their work. Having the blessings of understanding spouses has made it all possible, plus a bit of luck at critical moments.

Business gurus will tell start-up entrepreneurs timing is everything, and while this adage does have merit, the hard work and determination to succeed cannot be underestimated.

When Moreau and Chilibeck hatched their road map to success in a ski shop near the Rocky Mountains 14 years ago to create The Earth Group, at the same time Ben Cohen and Mal Warwick’s book Values-Driven Business: How to Change the World, Make Money, and Have Fun was synthesizing best practices and socially responsible business goals and laying the foundation for what would become the first B Impact Assessment, a process still used to certify B Corps.

B the Change gathers and shares the voices from within the movement of people using business as a force for good and the community of Certified B Corporations. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the nonprofit B Lab.

GREGORY B. GALLAGHER is a Writer, Filmmaker, Musician and Producer.

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON MEDIUM

How Urban Agriculture Can Improve Food Security in US Cities

City Farm is a working sustainable farm that has operated in Chicago for over 30 years.  Linda from Chicago/Wikimedia ,  CC BY

City Farm is a working sustainable farm that has operated in Chicago for over 30 years. Linda from Chicago/WikimediaCC BY

During the partial federal shutdown in December 2018 and January 2019, news reports showed furloughed government workers standing in line for donated meals. These images were reminders that for an estimated one out of eight Americans, food insecurity is a near-term risk.

In California, where I teach, 80 percent of the population lives in cities. Feeding the cities of the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area, with a total population of some 7 million involves importing 2.5 to 3 million tons of food per day over an average distance of 500 to 1,000 miles.

This system requires enormous amounts of energy and generates significant greenhouse gas emissions. It also is extremely vulnerable to large-scale disruptions, such as major earthquakes.

And the food it delivers fails to reach 1 of every 8 people in the region who live under the poverty line – mostly senior citizens, children and minorities. Access to quality food is limited both by poverty and the fact that on average, California’s low-income communities have 32.7 percent fewer supermarkets than high-income areas within the same cities.

Many organizations see urban agriculture as a way to enhance food security. It also offers environmental, health and social benefits. Although the full potential of urban agriculture is still to be determined, based on my own research I believe that raising fresh fruits, vegetables and some animal products near consumers in urban areas can improve local food security and nutrition, especially for underserved communities.

The growth of urban agriculture

Urban farming has grown by more than 30 percent in the United States in the past 30 years. Although it has been estimated that urban agriculture can meet 15 to 20 percent of global food demand, it remains to be seen what level of food self-sufficiency it can realistically ensure for cities.

One recent survey found that 51 countries do not have enough urban area to meet a recommended nutritional target of 300 grams per person per day of fresh vegetables. Moreover, it estimated, urban agriculture would require 30 percent of the total urban area of those countries to meet global demand for vegetables. Land tenure issues and urban sprawl could make it hard to free up this much land for food production.

Other studies suggest that urban agriculture could help cities achieve self-sufficiency. For example, researchers have calculated that Cleveland, with a population of 400,000, has the potential to meet 100 percent of its urban dwellers’ fresh vegetable needs, 50 percent of their poultry and egg requirements and 100 percent of their demand for honey.

Can Oakland’s urban farmers learn from Cuba?

Although urban agriculture has promise, a small proportion of the food produced in cities is consumed by food-insecure, low-income communities. Many of the most vulnerable people have little access to land and lack the skills needed to design and tend productive gardens.

Cities such as Oakland, with neighborhoods that have been identified as “food deserts,” can lie within a half-hour drive of vast stretches of productive agricultural land. But very little of the twenty million tons of food produced annually within 100 miles of Oakland reaches poor people.

Paradoxically, Oakland has 1,200 acres of undeveloped open space – mostly public parcels of arable land – which, if used for urban agriculture, could produce 5 to 10 percent of the city’s vegetable needs. This potential yield could be dramatically enhanced if, for example, local urban farmers were trained to use well-tested agroecological methods that are widely applied in Cuba to cultivate diverse vegetables, roots, tubers and herbs in relatively small spaces.

In Cuba, over 300,000 urban farms and gardens produce about 50 percent of the island’s fresh produce supply, along with 39,000 tons of meat and 216 million eggs. Most Cuban urban farmers reach yields of 44 pounds (20 kilograms) per square meter per year.

An organic farm in Havana, Cuba, that produces outputs averaging 20 kilograms (44 pounds) per square meter per year without agrochemical inputs. Miguel Altieri,  CC BY-ND

An organic farm in Havana, Cuba, that produces outputs averaging 20 kilograms (44 pounds) per square meter per year without agrochemical inputs. Miguel Altieri, CC BY-ND

If trained Oakland farmers could achieve just half of Cuban yields, 1,200 acres of land would produce 40 million kilograms of vegetables – enough to provide 100 kilograms per year per person to more than 90 percent of Oakland residents.

To see whether this was possible, my research team at the University of California at Berkeley established a diversified garden slightly larger than 1,000 square feet. It contained a total of 492 plants belonging to 10 crop species, grown in a mixed polycultural design.

In a three-month period, we were able to produce yields that were close to our desired annual level by using practices that improved soil health and biological pest control. They included rotations with green manures that are plowed under to benefit the soil; heavy applications of compost; and synergistic combinations of crop plants in various intercroppingarrangements known to reduce insect pests.

Research plots in Berkeley, Calif., testing agroecological management practices such as intercropping, mulching and green composting. Miguel Altieri,  CC BY-ND

Research plots in Berkeley, Calif., testing agroecological management practices such as intercropping, mulching and green composting. Miguel Altieri, CC BY-ND

Overcoming barriers to urban agriculture

Achieving such yields in a test garden does not mean they are feasible for urban farmers in the Bay Area. Most urban farmers in California lack ecological horticultural skills. They do not always optimize crop density or diversity, and the University of California’s extension program lacks the capacity to provide agroecological training.

The biggest challenge is access to land. University of California researchers estimate that over 79 percent of the state’s urban farmers do not own the property that they farm. Another issue is that water is frequently unaffordable. Cities could address this by providing water at discount rates for urban farmers, with a requirement that they use efficient irrigation practices.

In the Bay Area and elsewhere, most obstacles to scaling up urban agriculture are political, not technical. In 2014 California enacted AB511, which set out mechanisms for cities to establish urban agriculture incentive zones, but did not address land access.

One solution would be for cities to make vacant and unused public land available for urban farming under low-fee multiyear leases. Or they could follow the example of Rosario, Argentina, where 1,800 residents practice horticulture on about 175 acres of land. Some of this land is private, but property owners receive tax breaks for making it available for agriculture.

In my view, the ideal strategy would be to pursue land reform similar to that practiced in Cuba, where the government provides 32 acres to each farmer, within a few miles around major cities to anyone interested in producing food. Between 10 and 20 percent of their harvest is donated to social service organizations such as schools, hospitals and senior centers.

Similarly, Bay Area urban farmers might be required to provide donate a share of their output to the region’s growing homeless population, and allowed to sell the rest. The government could help to establish a system that would enable gardeners to directly market their produce to the public.

Cities have limited ability to deal with food issues within their boundaries, and many problems associated with food systems require action at the national and international level. However, city governments, local universities and nongovernment organizations can do a lot to strengthen food systems, including creating agroecological training programs and policies for land and water access. The first step is increasing public awareness of how urban farming can benefit modern cities.

MIGUEL ALTIERI is a Professor of Agroecology at the University of California, Berkeley.

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THE CONVERSATION

Cultivating Japan’s Rare White Strawberry

In Japan, there's a specialty fruit craze sweeping the nation, from square watermelons to grapes the size of Ping-Pong balls. Still, the crown jewel of the luxury fruit basket is the white strawberry, bred to be a whole lot bigger and a whole lot sweeter than its classic red counterpart. We took a tour of Yasuhito Teshima's farm in Karatsu, Japan, to find out why so many people are spending a pretty penny for a taste of these famous white berries.

The Border Restaurant That Makes Asylum Seekers Feel at Home

The Mexican border town of Tijuana is home to thousands of Haitians. Most are asylum-seekers, stuck in administrative limbo as they await potential entry to the United States. To help them feel more at-home, Fausta Rosalía—owner of a popular lunch spot—decided to switch up her traditional offerings of tacos and quesadillas to better serve the city’s new residents. Now, she’s cooking Haitian food in the hopes that a taste of home will make life a little bit easier for so many.

Spicing Up Hungary For 200 Years

Adoringly known as “red gold,” paprika is the undisputed spice of Hungary. The 200-year love affair started when, seeking an alternative to expensive black pepper, people in the Szeged region of the country began grinding a readily available red pepper fruit into a delightfully hued seasoning. Today, it’s become a cultural touchstone, with museums and festivals dedicated to the spicy stuff, and new generations of top chefs securing its place in premium gastronomy.

This Mega Kitchen Serves 40,000 People Each Day

With one of the largest kitchens in Asia, the Shri Saibaba temple in Shirdi, India, prepares, cooks and serves quantities of food that are nearly unimaginable. The kitchen dishes out as many as 40,000 meals per day, every day, all year long. It takes 600 people working in two daily shifts to prepare all this food. Yet despite all the effort, meals are free to the public. Why? The temple believes that those who are hungry deserve to be fed, and those who are thirsty deserve to be given a drink.

France Banned Food Waste in Supermarkets

Millions more meals can reach those who need them.

Produce at a market in Nice, France. M-Louis.  CC BY-SA 2.0.

Produce at a market in Nice, France. M-Louis. CC BY-SA 2.0.

In 2016, France banned supermarkets from destroying or discarding unsold food products, requiring them to donate instead to food banks or local charities.

The law was written by Parliamentarian and former food industry minister Guillaume Garot, who believes that food waste is a national health and safety issue, akin to wearing a seatbelt. The campaign itself was the product of a grassroots movement by anti-poverty and food waste activists which eventually became a petition, lead by local councillor Arash Derambarsh.


Now that food waste has been outlawed in French supermarkets, Derambarsh has set his sights on European and ultimately global policy revisions around the issue. “Food is the basis of life, it is an elementary factor in our existence,” he told the Guardian.

While Derambarsh became a councillor to help people, he reports being called “naive and idealistic” because of the policy he hoped to implement surrounding food waste. “Perhaps it is naive to be concerned about other human beings, but I know what it is like to be hungry,” he said.

“When I was a law student living on about €400 a month after I’d paid my rent, I used to have one proper meal a day around 5pm. I’d eat pasta, or potatoes, but it’s hard to study or work if you are hungry and always thinking about where the next meal will come from.”

Now, grocery store managers in France with a 400 sq meter or larger footprint must sign contracts with local charities and food banks promising their edible expired items, or face a €3,750 ($4,500) fine per infringement.

According to Jacques Bailey, head of Banques Alimentaires, a network of french food banks, 5,000 charities rely on food banks, who in turn, receive almost half their donations from grocery stores. Under the law, these food banks are receiving larger amounts of better quality food products, enabling them to better reach the the people they serve. According to Bailey, an increase as small as 15% in donations from supermarkets will result in 10 million more meals served every year.

 

And yet, required donations are not the only way that France is fighting food waste. In 2014, Intermarche, one of the country’s supermarkets began selling produce that was deemed too “ugly” to sell at other markets. These “ugly” or misshapen produce are perfectly safe to eat, but have blemishes make them less marketable to consumers, resulting in their disposal before even seeing the grocery store isles. This initiative is particularly effective, as fresh fruits and vegetables are the most difficult items for charities and food banks to come by, and are necessary to a healthy diet. Intermarche’s initiative reached 13 million people after only one month of being implemented.

 

About a third of food produced is wasted worldwide. France has narrowed the food it wastes to 66 pounds per person every year. In comparison, Americans waste 200 billion pounds of food per year - 40% of all food produced in the country. The waste problem in America is partly due to the lack of regulation surrounding expiration dates, which are often selected at random and do not always reflect when items are safe to consume.

 

The rest of the world has a lot to learn from France’s policy. NPR writes that communities and governments worldwide are now reaching out to Garot, hoping for information that would help them reproduce France’s law in their own countries. Ultimately this change needs to be made, because, as Garot emphasized, supermarkets are not just businesses, they are places where humanity must be respected.




EMMA BRUCE is an undergraduate student studying English and marketing at Emerson College in Boston. While not writing she explores the nearest museums, reads poetry, and takes classes at her local dance studio. She is passionate about sustainable travel and can't wait to see where life will take her. 

emma bruce.png



Savor Japan’s Deep-Fried Maple Leaves

Maple leaf tempura, also known as “momiji,” is a snack native to the Japanese town of Minoh. Battered and deep-fried to a golden crisp, making momiji is a delicate process that takes about a year to prepare. Just ask Setsuko Hisakuni—she’s been making them for over 50 years, carrying on a tradition that began in the 1300s.

Pounding Mochi With the Fastest Mochi Maker in Japan

Mitsuo Nakatani is a mochi master, and to watch him do his work is a genuine thrill. Turning sticky rice into Japan’s traditional soft and chewy treat requires pounding, flipping and smashing the glutinous rice at high speeds in perfect coordination with a team. While visitors come to Nakatani’s mochi shop to taste the best, they stay to watch him make it.

Reasons to Decrease Your Meat Intake

What you eat affects your world.

By Michael McCullough. May 1, 2010.

By Michael McCullough. May 1, 2010.

Due to the advent of trendy vegan and vegetarian restaurants it is easy to dismiss the vegan diet as little more than a food fad — a here-today-gone-tomorrow movement with little scope beyond the instagrams of teenagers. And yet, this popular misconception allows many to dismiss the movement without ever really considering the many ethical reasons for going meatless. The truth is that the meat industry, especially in America, is a contributing factor to many of the environmental problems we face today.

Much of the problem lies in an overconsumption of meat. According to the New York Times, Americans eat about 8 ounces of meat a day — almost twice the global average. Americans also consume 110 grams of protein per day (75 of which are from animal protein) which is twice the level recommended by medical professionals. This overconsumption does not come without a cost. According to the UN’s food and agriculture organization, 30% of the earth’s ice-free surface is now dedicated to livestock production. The same study also says that the livestock industry is responsible for a fifth of the world's greenhouse gases, more than the entire transportation industry.

The meat industry also uses far too much water. One cow can drink up to 50 gallons of water per day and it takes 2,400 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. (Compare this to the 244 gallons of water needed to produce a pound of tofu.) Run-off from factory farms is also a significant factor in river and pollution within the United States. Often factory farms dispose of animal waste by spraying it in a mist over fields, allowing the toxins and pathogens in the waste to permeate the surrounding environment.

In addition, while 800 million people worldwide suffer from hunger and malnutrition, most of the corn and soy grown goes to feed chickens, pigs, and livestock. This is despite the fact that it takes 5 times more land and 12 times more water to produce animal protein as opposed to plant protein. If meat production were decreased and crops of plant based proteins increased, hunger could be reduced.

There are many possible solutions to the meat problem. A good first step would be to eliminate the government subsidies which make up 31% of the global income of livestock companies. Another step could be to reduce meat intake by simply by eating less of it. It should be stressed that it is not necessary to become a vegetarian to reduce meat-related emissions. Merely cutting back on our daily meat intake can have a powerfully positive effect on the environment. Researchers at Oxford have found that reducing meat intake to levels prescribed by dietary professionals could help reduce food-related emissions by a third by 2050, while vegetarianism could cut emissions by 63%.

In America’s capitalist society, the best way to vote is with your money. By becoming a vegetarian, or merely reducing your meat intake you have the power to create a healthier, greener planet. Dr. Marco Springmann, lead author of the Oxford study put it best when he said, “We do not expect everybody to become vegan. But the climate change impacts of the food system will require more than just technological changes.” Adopting healthier and more environmentally sustainable diets can be a large step in the right direction.

EMMA BRUCE is an undergraduate student studying English and marketing at Emerson College in Boston. She has worked as a volunteer in Guatemala City and is passionate about travel and social justice. She plans to continue traveling wherever life may take her.

Screen Shot 2018-07-03 at 7.24.39 PM.png

 

 

Bringing Indonesian Cuisine to New York, One Table at a Time

Every Tuesday, Indo Java in Queens, New York, turns into the hottest spot in town for traditional Indonesian cuisine. And the best part? You’re always guaranteed the best seat in the house. With only one table, Warung Selasa is one of the smallest restaurants in the city, located inside a tiny, two-aisle grocery store. Owned and operated by Dewi Tjahjadi, Warung Selasa has been spreading the flavors of Indonesia in Queens for the past 10 years.

TURKEY: Black Sea Soul Food

The staff of Emice'nin Yeri, with Nezahat Hanum in the back, photo by Paul Osterlund

The staff of Emice'nin Yeri, with Nezahat Hanum in the back, photo by Paul Osterlund

Everyone seems to feel at ease in Emice’nin Yeri. It’s the kind of place where workers come after their shifts, families and couples dine, single men drink their tea and watch football matches on the TV, and women too are comfortable eating alone. But it’s not just a welcoming place – Emice’nin Yeri also happens to be one of the best Black Sea restaurants around.

The emice part of the name comes from the Laz language and means “uncle,” or amca in Turkish, so can be translated to “Uncle’s Place,” a fitting moniker for the restaurant does have a certain avuncular charm. There are the wooden hamsi, which were hanging from the ceiling when we first started coming here (although they disappeared after a new ceiling was put in), a collection of toy cars, pictures of bucolic Black Sea towns, flags of regional favorite Çaykur Rizespor Football Club on the walls, and gourds hanging in the kitchen – all create a homey feel. Yet the modest, eclectic setting doesn’t quite let on how good the food is.

With its bright red color and neon sign, Emice’nin Yeri cheerfully commandeers a corner in the Fıstıkağacı neighborhood of the Asian side’s Üsküdar district, about a 10-minute walk uphill from the ferry terminal on the Bosphorus. The restaurant is the work of Kemal Teker, who opened it in 2009, though he came to Istanbul much earlier, from Çayeli in the Black Sea region, in 1976. He had a store for some years before turning to the restaurant business because, in his own words, “I like to eat.”

black sea soul food 2.jpg

He is joined in the kitchen by his aunt Nezahat Teker, who takes over in the evenings from the daytime cook, Ayşe Amaç. It’s not a stretch to say that their warm, hearty smiles are what make the food so delicious and taste reliably homecooked.

Chatting between orders, Nezahat Hanım shared with us that in a former life she had been a housewife but had always been known for her desserts. Finally she answered the call to the restaurant because the owner didn’t think anyone else could make her kabak tatlısı (pumpkin dessert) as well. She then spent eight years preparing only desserts but was informally apprenticing as a chef all that time. So, when the former cook left a year ago, she took over in the kitchen.

It’s an inviting kitchen, directly to the right upon entering the door, the food upfront and simmering in pots on the stove. So while there is a menu, there’s usually no need to look at it. We quite literally just see what’s cooking and decide.

Something about the Black Sea’s butter-rich dishes warms the soul.

The fare typically consists of a dozen or so regional classics like muhlama, a cornmeal porridge with melted cheese that’s the culinary equivalent of a warm, fuzzy sweater; karalahana sarması whose spice-infused rice, minced meat, and tangy collard greens are perfectly complemented by the housemade yogurt on the side; Rize kavurmasi, a dish of tender pieces of beef in a savory broth and, of course, at this time of year, hamsi, or Black Sea anchovies.

The arrival of the hamsi seems to trigger a response, as it’s the time of year when the temperature drops, the air turns crisp and golden crackly leaves congress, that a real hankering for Black Sea food sets in. Something about the Black Sea’s butter-rich dishes do not just fill the belly but warm the soul, the perfect counterpoint to cold, drizzly weather.

The hamsi tava are indeed tasty. Breaded and crispy, they are plated in a kind of anchovy-mandala, the cornmeal crust nicely offsetting the briny, savory meat of the fish.

black sea soul food 3.jpg

But the real reason we keep coming back is the Çayeli kurufasulye, the Black Sea kitchen’s take on baked beans. Creamy, thick and oozing flavor, the kurufasulye owes its goodness to two key ingredients, according to Nezahat Hanım: the beans that come from İspir in the Erzurum region, and the smacking-good butter delivered fresh from Rize. Then it must be slow-cooked in a copper pot in the oven.

Whenever we come there’s not even a question about ordering this dish, while we have slowly eaten our way through most of the rest of the menu. During a recent visit, we had just finished spooning down another portion of kurufasulye and were in the middle of a conversation with the owner when he suddenly turned and said, “Oh the bean delivery has arrived.”

Then he went off to heave sacks of beans over his shoulder with two or three other men helping. They went by again and again, in a veritable parade of bean sacks, carrying them to the depot downstairs. Turns out that a full ton of beans was delivered that night, enough for the whole year.

While the beans came in, some butter from the kitchen went out that night. After our raving about the flavor of the kurufasulye and being told about the importance of the butter and then wondering where one might find such butter, the cook wrapped up a half-kilo for us to take home.

 

culinary backstreets logo.png

This article originally appeared in Culinary Backstreets, which covers the neighborhood food scene and offers small group culinary walks in a dozen cities around the world.

AUTHOR

ZAMIRA SKALKOTTAS

PHOTOGRAPHER

PAUL BENJAMIN OSTERLUND

Paul, one of Culinary Backstreets' Istanbul correspondents, is a freelance journalist and writer who has called Istanbul home for over 5 years. He completed an MA in Turkish Studies at Sabancı University, and has written for Al Jazeera, The National, The Atlantic's City Lab, Middle East Eye, Roads and Kingdoms, Deutsche Welle, and others. He loves exploring the far-flung reaches of Istanbul and plays guitar in the band Foton Kuşağı.

 

The Restaurant Where Grandmas Cook to Share Their Cultures

pexels-photo-175753.jpeg

A New York City restaurant does more than serve home cooking from around the world. It prepares each dish with the love that only a grandmother can provide.

After losing his mother and sister within the same year, Jody Scaravella was struggling to figure out life without the matriarchs of his family. His grandmother had died seven years before, and he was desperate for an outlet to transform his pain into healing.

Scaravella was raised in an Italian American household in Brooklyn, where his mother, Maria, and his grandmother, Dominica, made sure to sprinkle a dash of love into everything they cooked. In the same kitchen where they prepared traditional meals, Maria and Dominica also passed down their Italian heritage.

Scaravella turned back to his upbringing for solace, and nearly 11 years ago opened restaurant Enoteca Maria in the heart of St. George, Staten Island’s historic district. His intention was not just to serve up hearty Italian meals passed down from previous generations, but to bring together the Italian grandmothers of New York to cook them. Each dish is prepared with the love that only a grandmother can give.

“It was all grief-driven, really. I guess I was just trying to recreate that comfort,” Scaravella says.

Since then, Italian grandmothers with little to no professional training have come into Enoteca Maria to cook their own menus on a rotating schedule. The next logical step, Scaravella says, was to expand the restaurant’s concept and invite grandmothers from different cultures.

“So many of the people who came and celebrated our Italian nonnas were not themselves Italian,” he says. “I wanted this to be inclusive.”

Since expanding the concept in 2015, Enoteca Maria has attracted grandmothers from Brazil, Japan, Argentina, Syria, and more.

“These women really represent their culture. They are the vessels that carry this culture forward,” Scaravella says.

The restaurant is divided into two kitchens: The downstairs kitchen is reserved for Italian grandmothers, while upstairs is for grandmothers with other heritage.

“On the first day that the new nonna cooks, we have one of the other nonnas that’s already cooked come in as an advocate to walk her through,” the process, Scaravella explains. “The advocate acts as the go-between and shows her how this all happens.”

Despite language barriers, the grandmothers always manage to create a truly unique and special experience.

“It’s obvious where all the knowledge is. Food is definitely part of it, but it’s more about culture being brought forward.”

“I’ve seen situations where they didn’t understand any words but they had a great time and connected,” he says. “Everyone is just cooking together in the kitchen and sharing culture.”

Like Scaravella, many of the grandmothers who come into Enoteca Maria share a similar desire to connect and nurture their own loss, whether it is a loved one or leaving behind their homeland.

After losing her husband, Greek grandmother Ploumitsa Zimnis was introduced to the restaurant by her daughter, Maria, in an effort to help her through her grief.

“I was on the internet one day and saw an ad looking for grandmothers from different cultures. I saw that Jody was using this as a way to connect to his culture and the love that he felt when he was young,” says Maria Zimnis.

With assistance from her daughter, Ploumitsa has made it a tradition to come in at least once a month and cook for guests.

“I make moussaka first day. Sometimes calamari salad. Octopus with wine and onions. Baklava for dessert,” Ploumitsa says.

Ploumitsa and her daughter may have stumbled upon Enoteca Maria online, but it seems more like fate.

“On our first day we coincidentally noticed that the restaurant was located in the town of St. George. My mother and father were both born in St. George Sikousis village on the island of Chios in Greece,” Maria says. “So we thought it was definitely a sign from above, from my father. We were meant to cross this path.”

The memories of home-cooked meals made by women who have passed down their heritage generation to generation evoke a nostalgic feeling that awakens a desire to connect to our roots, Scaravella says.

“It’s that moment when the grandparent is passing down this knowledge about how to prepare a traditional dish, and she’s passing it forward to the next generation. You’re really watching history,” Scaravella says.

In 2015, publishing company Simon and Schuster partnered with Enoteca Maria to launch Nonna’s House: Cooking and Reminiscing with the Italian Grandmothers of Enoteca Maria, a collection of recipes and stories. Scaravella is now working on a follow-up, Nonnas of the World, which will feature an extensive collection of recipes from grandmothers around the world.

“It’s obvious where all the knowledge is. Food is definitely part of it, but it’s more about culture being brought forward,” Scaravella says. “It’s really all that we are, and it’s so basic. It’s like breathing.”

 

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON YES! MAGAZINE.

 

SHAIMA SHAMDEEN

Shaima is a solutions reporting intern for YES! She is passionate about cross-cultural and interfaith dialogue. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

 

A Refugee-Run Restaurant in Lisbon's Mercardo de Arroios

Mezze: Rebuilding, with Food

mezze 4.jpg

In a market as diverse as Lisbon’s Mercado de Arroios, where people from all over the world shop, Mezze doesn’t seem out of the ordinary. But the small restaurant deserves a closer look: it’s not only one of Lisbon’s few Middle Eastern restaurants, but, more importantly, its staff is almost entirely made up of recently arrived Syrian refugees. For them Mezze represents both a link back to the country they left behind and a crucial aid for putting down roots in their new home.

The idea behind Mezze is one that’s being tried out in other countries. Refugees, particularly those fleeing the war in Syria, are given the chance to earn a living and get established by sharing their culinary heritage, either by opening or working at a restaurant or catering business. The benefit is not just for the refugees, who are able to earn some money while at the same time preserving a taste of home, but also for their new communities, who can support those displaced by war and gain insight into their cultural heritage through the universal language of food.

Mezze’s start, though, was motivated by something simpler – the desire for bread. Alaa Alhariri, a 24-year-old Syrian woman who came to Portugal to study architecture in 2014 after a brief time spent studying in Egypt and Istanbul, was missing the flatbread she used to buy back home. “Bread is the beginning of everything, it exists in every culture,” she says. “In the Middle East it means family, it means sharing. Syrians open bakeries as soon as they arrive in Turkey and in other countries as well.”

mezze 1.jpg

Alaa is one of the four founders of the non-profit Pão a Pão, which means “Bread by Bread,” a name inspired by the Portuguese saying “Grão a Grão” (“Grain by Grain,” which has a similar meaning to “step by step”). The organization was the brainchild of Alaa and Francisca Gorjão Henriques, another cofounder and Pão a Pão’s current president. Francisca and Alaa met by chance – Alaa was living with Francisca’s aunt. Pão a Pão was originally created with the intention of opening a bakery.

“Refugees [from Syria] started to arrive in Portugal in 2015 under the European Union program to relocate them,” explains Alaa, whose eyes shine with enthusiasm when talking about the project (while she’s heavily involved in behind-the-scenes work, she doesn’t work at the restaurant). “They only receive state assistance for two years, after which the funds stop.” The aim of Pão a Pão is to help young people and women, in particular, integrate into the work force. “Some of these women have never worked before,” says Alaa. “They’ve been housewives all their lives.”

But the team at Pão a Pão began to think bigger; the bakery plan was scrapped and their new aim was to open a restaurant. They organized a series of successful test dinners in December 2016, which took place in an old covered market that had been converted into an events space. Buoyed by the positive response, Pão a Pão felt confident in taking the plunge. They were able to crowdfund just over 23,000 euros (around $30,000) – almost 10,000 euros more than the initial goal – over the course of 2017, with the restaurant finally opening its doors in September, serving such classic Syrian dishes as moussakakibbeh (fried balls made of bulgur, minced meat and walnuts), kabseh (rice with vegetables and chicken) and baba ganoush.

“The people working here feel like they’re doing something useful. So the more people we can help feel this way, the better.”

“People’s reactions have been amazing, it is better than we could expect, we’re always busy,” says Francisca, who recently left her job as a journalist at the Público newspaper to concentrate on her work with the organization. “We have improved a lot since our first test dinners, especially considering that 90 percent of the team had no prior experience.”

Mezze has also been extremely well received by the Mercado de Arroios’s neighboring shops and stalls, which supply the restaurant with its ingredients. Everything Mezze cooks with comes from the market except the meat, which is sourced from a halal butcher in Almada, south of Lisbon.

Perhaps more significantly, the refugees employed by Mezze take pride in their work. Serena, a 24-year-old from Palestine who has been living in Lisbon for one year now, loves the atmosphere at the restaurant. But, more importantly for her, she values the chance to show that refugees are the same as everyone else: “We work hard, we love life and want to be part of society as much as anyone.”

While we talk, she welcomes people to the restaurant and explains the menu. “The Portuguese ask a lot of questions because they don’t know these dishes but everyone loves the food,” she says. Although she finds the language difficult, she considers Portugal to be her home now. “It’s my home, where I find myself,” she explains. “It still has traditional a family structure, family bonds, and at the same time, more freedom of movement and speech.”

mezze 2.jpg

Rafat Dabah, 21 years old, has been in Portugal for just under two years, after being relocated with his family from Egypt, where they first moved after leaving Syria. “My father had a restaurant in Syria and in the school holidays I would work there with him,” he tells us. “Here in Portugal I worked in a kebab place in a shopping center.” This experience seems to have served him well. He began working as a waiter at Mezze, but is now the restaurant’s manager – he eagerly explains the improvements they have made at the restaurant and the positive feedback they’ve received from diners.

Originally from Damascus, he lives in Lisbon with his younger brother and his mother, who also works at Mezze. His older brother, 24, lives in Turkey. His father died in the war. Living in Loures, a suburb north of Lisbon, Rafat can’t image going back home to Damascus anytime soon. “It’s tough there. Sadly things are still dangerous.”

As for life in Portugal, he doesn’t feel quite at home yet, although it’s getting better. He tells us how he’s enjoying learning so much, including the Portuguese language. “To integrate you need to learn the language, I’ve learned a lot and I’m practicing more now,” he says. “Once I could communicate, life became much easier.”

This isn’t the first time refugees have made Portugal their home. Because of its neutrality during the Second World War, the country saw a large influx of exiles from other European countries as well as North Africa. Likewise, hundreds of thousands fled to Lisbon after the independence of Angola and Mozambique in 1975. More recently, 1,659 refugees took shelter in the country as a result of the Balkan wars in the early 1990s.

In the last two years, 1,507 refugees (mostly Syrians but also some from Iraq and Eritrea) were relocated to Portugal from Greece and Italy, according to the Portuguese Council for Refugees. The Portuguese Government announced recently that they would receive 1,000 more currently residing in Turkey (again, mostly Syrians but also some from other Middle Eastern countries). Although small in number compared to the massive number of refugees being sheltered in the countries bordering Syria, they are being welcomed warmly. The extraordinary success of Mezze speaks to that.

mezze 3.jpg

The support of the Portuguese people has been fundamental to the realization of this project, which leads us to wonder if this openness would have been possible, say, even 20 years ago. “Maybe 20 years ago, without social media amplifying this disaster at the gates of Europe, this wouldn’t be possible,” admits Francisca. “At the same time, today’s Lisbon is much more cosmopolitan than it was 20 years ago. Diversity is now a prime feature in some parts of the city, like in the Arroios neighborhood.”

The ongoing support of Lisboetas, many of whom felt a wave of solidarity with the refugees after Europe initially bungled the refugee crisis, has inspired Alaa and her colleagues to think bigger. “We’re thinking of opening another location. The Portuguese love to eat and we’re lucky that they love our food,” says Alaa.

Francisca confirms the plans to open another place. “We’ve developed this project with the hope of replicating it in Lisbon and other cities in the country. We’re still starting out and we want to improve, but we think we might be able to open in other locations in a year. We also hope to expand our current Mezze to include a take-away and catering service.” They also have plans for debates and workshops, with Pão a Pão hosting a conference on integration at Mezze on Friday, January 26.

According to Alaa, the people working at the restaurant “feel happy, they feel like they’re doing something useful. So the more people we can help feel this way, the better.”

 

culinary backstreets logo.png

This article originally appeared in Culinary Backstreets, which covers the neighborhood food scene and offers small group culinary walks in a dozen cities around the world.

 

AUTHOR

CÉLIA PEDROSO

Célia, CB’s Lisbon bureau chief, is a freelance journalist, writing mostly about travel and food, and is the co-author of the book "Eat Portugal", winner of a Gourmand World Cookbook Award. Her work can be seen in such publications as The Guardian, Eater, and DestinAsian. In 2014 she started leading food tours in Lisbon through Eat Portugal Food Tours and now does the same with CB. She wrote the Portuguese entries for the book "1001 Restaurants you Must Experience Before you Die" and keeps searching for the best pastéis de nata so you don't have to.

PHOTOGRAPHER

RODRIGO CABRITA

Photographer Rodrigo Cabrita was born in Oeiras, Portugal in 1977. He started his career at the daily newspaper Diário de Notícias in 2001 and has worked at a variety of publications since then. He is now a freelance photographer and takes part regularly in exhibitions. Rodrigo has won several photojournalism awards, most notably the Portuguese Gazeta award. You can see more of his work at his website and his Instagram page.