Whenever I start on a new recipe, an accompanying level of uncertainty lurks in the background. Anyone from the best chefs, home cooks, or dabblers in the kitchen all have some ideas of what does and doesn't taste well together (at least to their palate). But it's not just how you combine flavors or ideas, it's how you execute them that can make or break your meal / the dish.
Starting on this pasta, I wasn't sure if it was going to taste amazing or totally flop. Cajun can be a beast of flavor, and I'm not very fluent or proficient in the flavor profiles. So, when combining my seasoning and mushrooms, I was apprehensive. As soon as I threw in the "holy trinity," (onion, bell pepper & celery) and it sizzled in the pan, though, the aromatics of the dish rose from the stovetop and my shoulders relaxed. While I still wasn't sure if it was going to be a great recipe, I knew it wasn't going to be awful at least! In the kitchen, there is nothing more defeating than creating a dish that is DOAT (dead on arrival to the table). You can put the very best ingredients, layer flavors, and still have a DOAT if you don't execute the dish well.
Sustainability Spotlight: Much like my fear of DOAT, sustainability metrics require positive execution or they are Dead On Arrival Too (DOAT). A current example of DOAT for me in the sustainability of the planet is the electric car. Yes, I know, I should LOVE and support that we are moving away from petroleum resources. I am, but not with the current execution of the electric vehicles.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), a projected 145 million electric vehicles (EVs) will be in circulation worldwide in just 8 short years. Boosted by the international energy and climate goals set by the Paris Acord, the use of EVs seems to be a large part of the reduction in carbon dioxide into the atmosphere reducing pollution to the air and thereby reducing contributions to green house gases and thereby reducing climate shift acceleration. Sounds good, right? All the ideas are there / set for a great migration from petroleum on (at least ground) transportation.
Except...not really. The production of EV batteries can produce more green house gases. "Just to build each car battery—weighing upwards of 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) in size for sport-utility vehicles—would emit up to 74% more C02 than producing an efficient conventional car if it's made in a factory powered by fossil fuels in a place like Germany..." (Industryweek.com). The execution matters because how and where it is made impacts the environmental footprint of the EV into which the battery resides.
Lithium, cobalt, and other rare earth elements are the non-renewable resources being used to create the lithium-ion batteries to power the EVs. Mining cobalt produces tailings and slags which (like coal) can leach into the environment and cause human health considerations (as a metal, aggregation in a human body; especially children, are a concern). Extraction of the metals from the ores requires smelting which emits harmful air pollution (like sulfur oxide). Lithium mining is problematic because of where the deposits reside; in places where water needs to be pumped out of the brines in order to extract the resources. This pumping method reduces the groundwater and surface water availability of surrounding areas causing changes to the water table and water cycle. Some of the resource deposits are laced with radioactive substances and mining in those locations can cause radioactive water or dust to be released to the surrounding environment.
The recycling of the batteries at the end of their use for EVs becomes challenging when you consider the highly flammable nature of lithium-ion batteries, PLUS the fact that, if you don't dismantle them correctly, they become explosive. And what can douse the flames? Oh, only aqueous fire-fighting foam (AFFF) which is a part of a class of chemicals that are causing massive litigation in the U.S. for environmental justice; called PFAS (see my Informed Choices: PFAS to learn more).
More disturbing than the "how" is that in reality, the batteries aren't really being recycled at all. In fact, it estimated that only 5% of lithium-ion batteries are currently recycled. "(W)hy aren’t more batteries recycled? The reason is that recycling plants don’t get much for scrap — about $100 per ton. This is by far superseded by logistics costs involved in collecting, sorting and transporting it. " (MarketWatch.com).
So, now that I've shared all the reasons that EVs can be DOATs, how about I sprinkle a little bit of that hope that you get when you know that there is still time to change your execution and make a potential disaster, a masterpiece or a Greatest of All Time (GOAT)?
Ready? Here's a bit of good news, "Various automakers, including Nissan and BMW, have piloted the use of old electric vehicle batteries for grid storage. General Motors has said it designed its battery packs with second-life use in mind...If done properly, though, used car batteries could continue to be used for a decade or more as backup storage for solar power, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found in a study last year." (NYTimes.com).
As with so many sustainability concepts, our execution can be better. If we challenge the ideas of what new technology means to be sustainable, then we can in fact reach better levels of execution. No system will be perfect, but we can demand better on the execution to make it more than just an idea of doing better, but actually being better. Finding that idea that really is the GOAT for sustainability.
Just like your sustainability efforts at home, change and challenge your execution. Make this vegan dish instead of an animal-based version and see how easy it is to change direction away from DOAT to GOAT.
6 oz whole wheat linguine
2 tbsp avocado oil (divided)
2 tsp Old Bay seasoning (divided)
2 tsp Aleppo pepper (divided)
8 oz shiitake mushrooms (sliced thin)
1/2 red onion (chopped)
8 garlic cloves (chopped)
1 bell pepper (chopped)
3 stalks celery (sliced down the middle and then thinly sliced)
1/2 cup oat milk
1/2 tsp arrowroot powder
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp salt
2 bay leaves
(1) 14.5 oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain (keep water to cool and give your indoor plants a nutritious drink).
While your pasta is cooking, combine 1 tbsp avocado oil, 1 tsp of Old Bay seasoning, 1 tsp Aleppo pepper, and mushrooms in a small bowl - toss to coat evenly.
Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat, and add mushroom mixture. Saute ~2-3 minutes until mushrooms become fragrant.
While your mushrooms saute, combine oat milk and arrowroot powder in a small bowl mixing vigorously to incorporate. Set aside for now.
Now, add the other 1 tbsp of avocado oil, onion, garlic, bell pepper and celery to your cast iron skillet. Saute another 4-5 minutes.
Add the other 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning, 1 tsp Aleppo pepper, thyme, salt, bay leaves, and tomatoes; stir. Now, add the oat milk / arrowroot powder mixture and bring to a simmer.
Simmer for ~5 minutes (or until slightly thickened).
Remove both bay leaves and discard, then, stir in pasta directly into the cast iron skillet. Heat for another 1-2 minutes to warm through and incorporate pasta into the sauce.
Serve immediately in bowls with fresh blackberries
With love & hope for a better future for all of us - Jamie