It's the end of Fall and we are rounding the corner to the start of Winter and the end of 2022. But, before we get there, we will take a wonderful diversion into the world of "Thanks" at Thanksgiving! While Halloween is my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving has made a place for itself as a close second for it's simplicity. Sure, dinner is grand (as grand as you might make dinner all year), but it does not have to be stressful, harried, or dreaded to get to that grandness. It just takes a little finesse and some planning!
I've said it before, and I'll say it again, and again, and again (if that's what it takes), Americans could use more planning when it comes to their food choices and subsequent execution on reducing wastes. Most of the meals I make are planned on the weekend, and then simply executed on the weekdays. We use leftovers, and I minimize our food wastes each week by making a plan, sticking to it at the store, and also actually making what I planned during the week.
Sustainability Spotlight: Thanksgiving is the meal that most Americans pre-plan and buy, so this should be our time to shine on reducing wastes, right? We start shopping and cooking days before the holiday and always execute on the plans we shopped for turning out elaborate dishes, and spectacular desserts.
Ironically, though, despite all that pre-planning which should help reduce wastes, Thanksgiving is the meal will still generate the MOST excess waste from food in the United States. In fact, the Center for Biological Diversity estimates that "(a)bout 200 million pounds of turkey will be thrown away at Thanksgiving. More than 150 million pounds of potatoes, green beans and other vegetable sides will never get eaten. Bread baskets will be filled with an estimated 14 million pounds of dinner rolls that will simply be dumped after the big meal." Yikes...
"When food goes to the landfill, it’s similar to tying food in a plastic bag. The nutrients in the food never return to the soil. The wasted food rots and produces methane gas." (www.epa.gov) With 50% of landfill gas comprised by methane, and methane being a potent greenhouse gas (28-36 times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere over a 100-year period), our food wastes is meaningful towards the sustainability of the planet. Landfills are the third largest source of methane in the United States (www.epa.gov), and any / all discussions on how to reduce the impacts of climate change on this planet starts with the end of global warming brought about by greenhouse gases (like methane).
But that's not all to think about when it comes to Thanksgiving resource use / wastes. Take the following for example: "Production of this food generates more than 1.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, which is the same as driving 169,000 cars for a full year. More than 1 billion gallons of water go into producing this amount of food; the same amount of water used by everyone in New York City for three and a half months." (www.agfunernews.com)
Alright, so Thanksgiving, with it's excess and resource use / waste is a "problem" right? YES! What can we do about it? Consider the following:
Plan ahead - not just a list of ingredients and what you want to make, but really plan for how many people you are inviting / having over for Thanksgiving. Only make enough for those guests and edit your meal planning if you find you just "have" to have another side dish or an extra dessert (Psst, you don't!)
Use Leftovers - when you are planning Thanksgiving, think about what you can use leftovers to make / recreate later. For example, this dish, I plan to blend with some ginger and some vegetable stock and turn it into a hearty soup where I'll dunk some split and slathered roasted garlic dinner rolls. My Holiday Potatoes can be mixed with some plant-based cheddar shreds and green onions to make crispy potato cakes served alongside a quick salad made of leftover celery, carrots and parsley. My Raw Cranberry Salad will be transformed into breakfast chia puddings and blended for smoothies. The ideas are endless if you really think about it!
Go Vegan! - this isn't a sustainability blog if we don't mention that most of the wastes are from turkey and that turkeys are a concentrated animal feed operation (CAFO) source of methane in and of themselves. Removing any animal-based products from your meal will certainly offer a better opportunity for you to reduce wastes this Thanksgiving (see all the stats above!)
For my Thanksgiving, I'm ready to rock and roll with multiple uses of the vegetables on my list for preparation and armed with an arsenal of ideas on how to use the leftovers and reduce the wastes I can (but won't!) contribute. In the meantime, I'm giving "Thanks!" for all those that will try and consider their impacts from the meal on Thursday. Your choices will make the difference!
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp mustard seeds
1/2 cup water (divided)
1/2 medium sweet potato (cubed - no need to peel)
1 parsnip (cubed - no need to peel)
1 celery root (peeled and cubed)
3 handfuls baby carrots (cut into bite-sized pieces)
1 package vegan bacon (I used Hooray brand found at Whole Foods)
1/2 Spanish onion (large dice)
1 tbsp packed brown sugar
6 tbsp vegetable stock (not broth, must be stock)
1/2 tsp smoked salt
1 handful flat-leaf parsley (chopped)
Add vinegar, mustard seeds and 1/4 cup of water to a small saucepan. Bring to a quick boil, and then reduce heat and to a simmer. Simmer for ~10 minutes adding up to another 1/4 cup water to keep the pan from drying out during that time. Seeds should have doubled in size and be nice and plump; remove from heat and set aside.
Meanwhile, add sweet potato, celery root, parsnip and carrot to a steamer basket set over 4 inches of water; cover and steam ~25 minutes or until soft but not mushy.
While your veggies are steaming, dice bacon and add to a dry pan over Medium-High heat. Saute stirring infrequently for ~5 minutes. Now, add onion and saute another 5 minutes or until starting to become golden
Now, add reserved mustard seeds, brown sugar and vegetable stock to the saute pan with the bacon / onion mixture. Stir and heat for ~30 seconds till sugar melts and incorporates and the mustard seeds start to pop. Remove from heat and set aside.
Once veggies are done, remove the steamer basket, drain the water (reserve to cool and water indoor plants later!) and return veggies to large pot; coarsely mash (~8-10 smashes with a masher).
Add the 1/2 tsp smoked salt, bacon and onion mixture along with the chopped fresh parsley and stir to full incorporate.
Serve now if ready or, transfer to a serving dish of your choosing, allow to cool, then cover with foil (don't worry, you can recycle it later!) and store overnight in the fridge.
Warm up (covered) in a 350 degree oven for ~45 minutes or until warmed through - note, for all those that are eating with omnivores (or are omnivores themselves and just want to make some sides vegan, put this in the oven while your turkey rests and it will be ready to go piping hot on the table when the feast is ready).
With love and hope for a better future for all of us - Jamie