Sustainable Tamales: Full of Memories

Grandparents’ 50th Anniversary

Featured Image by El Arrayán

After a 30-hour drive, my dad pulls up into my grandfather’s garage. As we unpack the car full of luggage, my grandfather drives to the local street vendor to buy a traditional Mexican food. I see the face of happiness he had when he came through the door and me and my brother’s faces grew in excitement. After countless years of travel, I can always expect my grandfather to have fresh tamales at every arrival. Tamales are an essential piece of Mexican culture and especially in my small town of San Miguel el Alto, Jalisco. I have grown up with Tamales being an essential dish at birthdays, Christmas, New Years, and other holidays.

In Mexico, preparing this dish is relatively cheap. Especially since it is made in bulk. The primary ingredients are bought from local stores that specialize in that ingredient. Usually, tamales are made with whatever you have left in the pantry—I think it is comparable to the American pot pie. However, in the case of my mother’s recipe, it is very specifically made with pork mole. As a result, the pork would be acquired at the closest butcher. Therefore, the dish is relatively sustainable and cheap in Mexico since everything is locally sourced.

On my 18th Birthday, my mother made tamales!

I couldn’t help but notice that when my mom was buying the ingredients for my 18th birthday this summer, that most of the ingredients she either bought at a chain store or at the Hispanic store. I also noticed that most, if not all, of the ingredients, were imported from Mexico or other countries. This made me realize how a dish that was originally sustainable in the country it originated from, was very unsustainable where I currently live, but I wasn’t going to give up on this dish that I grew up with. Therefore, I was sent on an adventure to make this dish of memories a sustainable one.

I began by brainstorming the ingredients could possibly be replaced in my recipe.

The only ingredients that I found that could be replaced were the pork and the garlic. According to Green Eatz, Pork has the 4th highest carbon footprint of 12.1 CO2 Kilos. That is equivalent to 28 car miles. Therefore, I decided to switch the pork for chicken which has almost 50% fewer carbon emissions at 6.9 CO2 kilos. That is equivalent to 16 car miles. In terms of the garlic powder, it could just be simply replaced by garlic cloves. It minimizes the amount of processing and manufacturing that the dish has to go through.

Well… what about all the other ingredients? I couldn’t forget about them! I turned to find local versions of most of the ingredients. I remembered that near my house there was a farmer’s market called “Sprouts.” Therefore, I went searching there to see what they offered. Since I couldn’t physically go to the store, I went to their website.

On their website, I had to put the location of my local store and the available products appeared. I was astounded by the number of organic products they had. I believe that most, if not all, of the products, were organic and local. I found that I could get most of my ingredients there, and the best part is that they are all organic. Therefore, it minimizes monoculture. In fact, I was even able to find organic chicken breast! Additionally, Sprouts allows you to buy ingredients in bulk. Therefore, I could acquire as much or as little salt as I want. In this case, the recipe doesn’t call for much salt. This allows consumers, like me, to decrease their carbon footprint.

Unfortunately, there are a few ingredients that are essential to this recipe that I couldn’t find: all of the chiles, masa harina, lard, and corn husks. This is largely because this is a MEXICAN dish. Therefore, it requires ingredients from Mexico. However, I still tried to keep it local by going to the nearest Mexican store to my house. Since they have a butcher in the store, the fresh lard was easy to find. Lard gives the masa the essential taste and texture, so it was crucial to acquire it. Alas, the rest of the ingredients were imported from Mexico.

This process made me think of Wendell Barry’s term of “think little” (80). By attempting to find local versions of ingredients, I am “trying to live as a neighbor to [my] neighbors,” (80) and therefore, I am helping the local community out without compromising the integrity of my recipe. By “thinking little,” I am not only helping the community out by investing in the local economy, but I am also taking into consideration the ecology by making sure that most of my products are organic. This allows the recipe to stray away from monoculture and the high emissions that follow the transportation of monocultural products.

In retrospect, what I like about the changes I made is that the recipe stays true to the original. In fact, my mother has done it this way countless of times, and they taste as delicious as the original ones. It goes to show that with simple changes and by “thinking little” you can make a huge change in the realm of sustainability without changing the appetite of a hungry stomach, and more importantly the memories that follow this dish can continue on.

Original Recipe

Ingredients: (30-35 servings)


  • ½ lb tomatoes
  • ½ lb tomatillos (Mexican green tomatoes)
  • 7 chile de Arbol (also known as “Bird’s Beak Chile” or “Rat’s Tail Chile)
  • 2 chile Ancho
  • 4 chile Guajillo (dried Mirasol Chili)
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • oil
  • water
  • Salt to preferred taste


  • 1 ½ lb Lean Pork
  • Water
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ an onion


  • 2 lb Masa Harina
  • 2 tbsp baking soda
  • ¼ lb Lard
  • Salt to taste
  • Pork Broth


  • Corn Husks
  • Water
  1. Wrap
    1. Put the corn husks in a pot with water filled until it covers the top of the husks. The husks should stand upright in the pot. Leave them soaking until all the prep is done.
  2. Mole
    1. Put the tomatoes, tomatillos, and chiles de arbol in a pot and boil them in water for around 10 minutes
    2. On a skillet, fry the chiles anchos and chile guajillos for around 15 seconds
    3. Put all the prepared ingredients in a blender with ¼ of water, garlic powder, and salt. Blend until smooth.
    4. Take the mixture and fry it in a saucepan
  3. Meat
    1. Put the pork in a pot and boil it in water with salt and ½ of an onion. Boil until fully cooked
    2. Take the pork out and let it cool
    3. Once cool, pull the pork apart
    4. Reserve the water for the Masa
  4. Masa
    1. Put the masa harina in a big bowl
    2. Add baking soda, pork lard, and slowly add the pork broth until the dough is thick but not mushy.
    3. Fold the dough with your hands
  5. Assembly
    1. Take a corn husk and add a ⅓ cm layer of masa on the husk
    2. Add 2-3 tablespoons of pork down the center
    3. Add 2-3 tablespoons of the mole in the center
    4. Fold the sides in toward the center
    5. And fold the tail towards the center and leave the other end open
    6. Place a couple of corn husks at the bottom of the tamale steamer, and make sure to put water into the bottom part of the tamale steamer.
    7. Place the assembled tamale in the tamale pot with the open end up
    8. Continue to assemble until materials run out
    9. Close the lid and let them steam for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Enjoy!

Revised Recipe

I have provided links to make the ingredient searching process easier!
Ingredients: (30-35 servings)





  1. Wrap
    1. Put the corn husks in a pot with water filled until it covers the top of the husks. The husks should stand upright in the pot. Leave them soaking until all the prep is done.
  2. Mole
    1. Put the tomatoes, tomatillos, and chiles de arbol in a pot and boil them in water for around 10 minutes
    2. On a skillet, fry the chiles anchos and chile guajillos for around 15 seconds
    3. Put all the prepared ingredients in a blender with ¼ of water, garlic cloves, and salt. Blend until smooth.
    4. Take the mixture and fry it in a saucepan
  3. Meat
    1. Put the chicken in a pot and boil it in water with salt and ½ of an onion. Boil until fully cooked
    2. Take the chicken out and let it cool
    3. Once cool, pull the pork apart
    4. Reserve the broth for the Masa
  4. Masa
    1. Put the masa harina in a big bowl
    2. Add baking soda, pork lard, and slowly add the chicken broth until the dough is thick but not mushy.
    3. Fold the dough with your hands
  5. Assembly
    1. Take a corn husk and add a ⅓ cm layer of masa on the husk
    2. Add 2-3 tablespoons of chicken down the center
    3. Add 2-3 tablespoons of the mole in the center
    4. Fold the sides in toward the center
    5. And fold the tail towards the center and leave the other end open
    6. Place a couple of corn husks at the bottom of the tamale steamer, and make sure to put water into the bottom part of the tamale steamer.
    7. Place the assembled tamale in the tamale pot with the open end up
    8. Continue to assemble until materials run out
    9. Close the lid and let them steam for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Enjoy!

Barry, Wendell. “Think Little.” A Continuous Harmony, pp. 71–85.

Sustainable Chicken Pelau

Featured Image by Sasha Gates

My family, as large as it is, comes from a small twin island country called Trinidad and Tobago, which is just off the coast of Venezuela. It may be hard to find on a map, especially if you are not looking for it, but it is a place that is big on culture, tradition, and food. There are so many dishes that I can name that are practically staples of Trinidadian culture such as breadfruit oil down, doubles, callaloo, and macaroni pie, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Despite not growing up in Trinidad, I would constantly visit my grandmother that lives there, and there would be one thing that she would always cook for me: pelau. Pelau is a dish consisting mainly of rice, pigeon peas, and chicken, and it is among the staples of Trinidadian cooking I have listed above. It is something my grandmother would constantly make whenever I went to visit her, and it is one of my favorite dishes of all time. The more sustainable version of this recipe, which is called rice and peas is honestly a more Jamaican dish. Nevertheless, I would always enjoy it when my mother made it and I promised myself this would definitely be something I would make for my own kids.


The ingredients for making pelau are boneless chicken thighs, brown sugar, a scotch bonnet pepper, green seasoning, black pepper and salt, garlic, culantro, green pigeon peas, coconut milk, and parboiled rice. Most of these items can be found at most supermarkets, but some of the hardest ingredients to find may be the pigeon peas, the culantro, the green seasoning, and the scotch bonnet pepper. Green seasoning can be found premade in a bottle, and it is possible to use a culantro cooking base if you cannot find fresh culantro leaves. It is possible to use dried pigeon peas; however, since they have to be rehydrated, the green pigeon peas will save some extra time because they do not have to be rehydrated. I will also say there are many other ingredients and seasonings that can be added to both recipes, but I did not include them so you can add them at your own discretion. This recipe is meant to make a full pot of food, but the cost to make this is fairly dependent on how much the chicken costs per pound.

The revised recipe changes the pelau to rice and peas (which is essentially pelau without chicken), and caters to all aspects of sustainability, meaning it will be environmentally, economically, and ecologically friendlier. The main and possibly only change is the chicken will be cut out because chickens put out a heavy carbon footprint and it is the most expensive part of the dish. Overall, the dish now becomes vegetarian friendly, has a lower carbon footprint, is accessible to more people because it costs less and has a more consistent price than the original recipe since there is no meat to account for. Finally, cutting out the meat


As we strive for sustainability in the United States, there are several obstacles we encounter that are discussed by many authors such as Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma. One of the problems he believes America has is the over abundance of choice. In looking at all of the several choices we have at our disposal, it becomes difficult for us to choose simply what to eat without worrying so much. Pollen believes that a country with a culture “in possession of deeply rooted traditions surrounding food and eating” (Pollen 2), and believes that “…such a culture [would] be shocked to discover that there are other countries, such as Italy and France, that decide their dinner questions on the basis of such quaint and unscientific criteria as pleasure and tradition, eat all manner of ‘unhealthy’ foods, and, lo and behold, wind up actually healthier and happier in their eating than we are” (Pollan 3). This perfectly explains why I chose this specific recipe. People tend to value their culture, and I am no exception. When thinking about foods from my parent’s culture, I was able to name several traditional foods with no problem, and I picked this simply because it is a major part of my culture. I did not have to think so long on what recipe to pick, I just chose something I truly enjoyed and was a traditional dish my family greatly valued. I was not stuck in “the omnivore’s dilemma” because I had solid traditions to fall back on.

Chicken Pelau

10 seasoned boneless chicken thighs (each cut into 4 pieces)

3 tbsps. brown sugar

1 Scotch Bonnet pepper (whole)

2 tbsp. green seasoning

black pepper and salt (to taste)

4 cloves garlic (finely chopped)

2 leaves culantro (finely chopped)

2 cans green pigeon peas

2 cans coconut milk

4 cups parboiled rice




  1. Put brown sugar in an iron pot to burn. When sugar begins to bubble up add 3 tablespoons of water to make browning.
  2. Combine seasoned chicken, garlic, green seasoning, and culantro with the browning in the pot. Ensure chicken is completely coated in browning. Let this cook for about 15 minutes.
  3. Add coconut milk and pigeon peas and bring to a boil.
  4. Add two cups of water to the pot and bring it to a boil. Add the rice and scotch bonnet pepper, and stir. Add the salt and black pepper to taste.
  5. Cover the pot and lower the heat and let it cook, stirring occasionally, until rice is soft and tasty.  Do not let the pepper burst and always keep it on top of the rice.


To make the rice and peas, you would follow the same recipe and just take out the chicken. Since there is no meat to cook, the cooking time will shorten, so keep that in mind too!




Veggie Cauliflower Pizza

Featured Image: Jonathan Cutrer, Pepperoni Pizza

Pizza doesn’t seem like much of an interesting dish when most people think about it, being that it is seen, sold, and smelled almost everywhere on the earth. For me and my family, pizza is a part of life. My father has a history of working as a driver for Domino’s, and I actually used to work for Domino’s as a Customer Service Representative (CSR) for about a year before I came to Georgia Tech. As a worker at Domino’s I have tried and tested many different types of pizzas. My family and I have created many different types of pizzas from the produce of groceries. One day in order to create a healthier alternative to the cuisine that we were so used to, my mom created a pizza made out of cauliflower. It seemed to be the obviously healthier option, but was it sustainable. That is what I aim to figure out now. Although we thought that these pizzas were probably healthier and therefore better all-around, they might not have been as good for ourselves or the environment as we thought.

Regular pepperoni pizzas that my family have made call for the ingredients: tomato paste, dried oregano, dried basil, garlic powder, onion powder, sugar, salt, pepper, all-purpose flour, pizza crust yeast, pepperoni, and mozzarella cheese. These ingredients bring shame to the title of “sustainable”. Pepperoni is made of both beef and pork which are two of the five greatest carbonating foods. Although cheese is technically vegetarian, it does bring a large carbon footprint. According to the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan, there are about 2.5 pounds of CO2 emissions per serving of cheese. Although that is minuscule compared to beef standing in at a whopping 6.5 pounds of CO2 emissions per serving, it still towers over many other foods such as pork (surprisingly), weighing in at about 1.7 pounds per serving, and rice, at about .25 pounds of emissions per serving. The tomato paste is interesting because it is only tomatoes that have been cooked down with the seeds and skins strained out. Of all the main ingredients, fruits and grains are the most sustainable being that they have the least percentage of greenhouse gas emissions from average food consumption. Despite these two ingredients being more sustainable than the others, the pepperoni pizza has much to consider if it wants to be considered “sustainable”.

In order to make the pepperoni pizza more sustainable, my family and I considered an online recipe that took advantage of cauliflower and other substitutes. This recipe takes into account the ingredients: cauliflower, tomato paste, cheese, dried oregano, dried basil, garlic powder, onion powder, sugar, salt, and pepper. Not only is cauliflower more sustainable ecologically (plants only account for 4.9% of all greenhouse gasses), it also touches on all three aspects of sustainability including the equitable and economic standpoints. The pizza is more equitable because of the fact that instead of traveling to a grocery store one might be able to grow cauliflower in their own backyard. This allows for the saving of money when you don’t have to buy your produce but grow it locally. Regular cheese pizza is already vegetarian, so it would be easy to just remove pepperoni from the recipe altogether. However, if someone wanted to be stubborn there are meatless veggie pepperoni slices on sale. Cheese will not be taken from the recipe, however, because it is very difficult to do so and will the dish would be difficult to excuse as pizza.

My family and I goes all the way back to a quote from Wendell Barry that states that “one of the most important aspects of the environmental movement is that it brings us not just to another public crisis, but to a crisis of the protest movement itself. For the environmental crisis should make it dramatically clear… that there is no public crisis that is not also private. In layman’s terms, Barry is explaining that we can’t just publicly speak and say that everyone should be more sustainable in public. In the privacy of our house we must fight to be sustainable and make the world a better place. We can’t just sit around and think about a world that is more sustainable. We must rise to the occasion, seize the day, and create the world we want to live in. Even though we haven’t cut out cheese from the pizza, the pizza has become much more sustainable in and of itself which, in the long run, accounts for a more sustainable world. One pizza at a time.


Original Recipe

  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, or more as needed
  • 2 (.25 ounce) envelopes pizza crust yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1 (6 ounce) package HORMEL® Pepperoni
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, or more to taste

Original Directions

  1. For sauce: Combine all sauce ingredients with 1/2 cup water in a medium bowl; set aside for flavors to develop while making crust. Freeze remaining paste .
  2. For crusts: Combine 2 cups of flour with the dry yeast, sugar and salt. Add the water and oil and mix until well blended (about 1 minute). Gradually add enough remaining flour slowly, until a soft, sticky dough ball is formed.
  3. Knead for about 4 minutes, on a floured surface, until dough is smooth and elastic. Add more flour, if needed.
  4. Divide dough in half. Pat each half (with floured hands) into a 12-inch greased pizza pan OR roll dough to fit pans.
  5. For pizzas: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Top crusts with sauce, pepperoni and cheese.
  6. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes until crusts are browned and cheese is bubbly. For best results, rotate pizza pans between top and bottom oven racks halfway through baking.

Revised Recipe

  • 1 head cauliflower, stalk removed
  • 1 pack of veggie pepperoni
  • 1/3 cup of oil
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten

Revised Directions

  1. For sauce: Combine all sauce ingredients with 1/2 cup water in a medium bowl; set aside for flavors to develop while making crust. Freeze remaining paste
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Break the cauliflower into florets and pulse in a food processor until fine. Steam in a steamer basket and drain well. (I like to put it on a towel to get all the moisture out.) Let cool.
  4. In a bowl, combine the cauliflower with the mozzarella, Parmesan, oregano, salt, garlic powder and eggs. Transfer to the center of the baking sheet and spread into a circle, resembling a pizza crust. Bake for 20 minutes.
  5. Add desired toppings and bake an additional 10 minutes.


Works Cited

Berry, Wendell. A Continuous Harmony: Essays Cultural and Agricultural. Counterpoint Press, 2012.

“Carbon Footprint Factsheet.” Wind Energy Factsheet | Center for Sustainable Systems,

“Cauliflower Pizza Crust.” Food Network, Food Network,

Delany, Alex. “Give Tomato Paste the Respect It Deserves.” Bon Appetit, Bon Appétit, 22 Feb. 2018,

Sayles, Fatima Melicor, and Priscila Sousa. “Homemade Pepperoni Pizza Recipe.” Allrecipes, 14 Dec. 2014,

Chickpea Burger


When I was a kid in elementary school, I struggled to explain the definition of lacto-vegetarian to my classmates. Some of them knew what vegetarian and vegan meant, but the idea of not eating meat or eggs while still consuming dairy products was a novel concept to them. As the Macmillan Dictionary puts it, a lacto-vegetarian is “someone who chooses not to eat meat, fish, or eggs, but drinks milk and eats products made from it” (1). Though lacto-vegetarianism has run in my family for generations, I had not analyzed the environmental benefits of a lacto-vegetarian diet until very recently.

The ‘Chickpea Burger’ is a lacto-vegetarian recipe that my mother made as an alternative to ‘The Classic Burger’ found in many American restaurants. Though it has been years since my mother has made the recipe, this assignment reminded me of my constant (and possibly quite tiresome) requests for the dish when I was younger, as many of the restaurants I went to rarely offered veggie burgers that were even half as delicious. As I discovered from my trip to Publix, in addition to being a much cheaper alternative to ‘The Classic Burger’, the modified ‘Chickpea Burger’ leaves a much smaller carbon footprint due to the myriad of vegetarian substitutions in the recipe and the increased usage of locally grown foods.

As I entered Publix to look for ingredients to my original recipe, I was instantly struck by the different varieties of produce to choose from at the first aisle of the store. The first challenge I faced was finding the right type of onions for my burger. The minced onions in the bag were not locally grown, but the more common bulb onion found on the grocery shelves was actually from Georgia. Although the minced onions would certainly be more convenient, I realized that using bulb onions, which were locally grown, would be much more sustainable in my revised recipe. Locally grown foods, as expressed by Wendell Berry, are usually “fresher, more nutritious, [and] less contaminated,” all of which reduce transportation costs as well as potential human health costs (82).

As I continued shopping for ingredients at Publix, I also noted down the prices of each item to gain an economic viewpoint of the original recipe. The exhaustive list of ingredients, which included a pound of ground beef ($4.69) and mayonnaise ($4.79) as the most expensive items, ended up coming to a grand total of $38.97. This provided conclusive evidence that making the ‘Classic Burger’ from scratch was both economically and environmentally unsustainable.

Fortunately, though, more sustainable options are available if you were ever to crave a homemade burger. My revised recipe substitutes the ground beef, egg, and worcestershire (which are all used to create the meat patty) for carrot, parsley, chickpeas, coriander, olive oil and cumin (which are all used to create a chickpea patty). Though a couple more ingredients are added, we are able minimize the costs since the spices and vegetables do not need to be bought in larger quantities, unlike eggs or ground beef. Additionally, there are more opportunities to purchase the items for the chickpea patty locally, since carrots and parsley can be bought at more local markets such as the Whole Foods Market. Finally, as a minor change, I substituted the mayonnaise for mustard to maintain the theme of the recipe being lacto-vegetarian. As can be seen, each of the abovementioned substitutions were either made to make the recipe lacto-vegetarian or account for more locally grown produce. “Meat, cheese, and eggs have the highest carbon footprint [while] vegetables…have [the least]” (Food’s Carbon Footprint 1). As such, the substitution of the chickpea patty for the meat patty makes the revised recipe much more sustainable than the original one. This revised recipe also maintains the savory taste of a burger through the inclusion of coriander and cumin spices in the patty and by retaining common condiments such as mustard, ketchup, salt, and pepper.

Overall, Berry’s idea of locally grown food being healthier, fresher, and more sustainable is very true. However, food that is locally grown and is lacto-vegetarian has benefits that eclipse even that of just locally grown foods. In addition to being environmentally sustainable, lacto-vegetarian foods that are locally grown “help reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease” in humans and are much more economically sustainable (Lacto-Vegetarianism 1). Lacto-vegetarian foods are not always bland either, as seen in the Chickpea Burger after the addition of spices. If people start eating more food that is locally grown and lacto-vegetarian, we may be able to achieve Berry’s idea of an ideal sustainable world to an even greater degree. Until then, however, we must content ourselves with delicious Chickpea Burgers.

Original Recipe: The Classic Burger
  • 1 pound ground lean (7% fat) beef
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 1/4 cup fine dried bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • About 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • About 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 hamburger buns (4 in. wide), split
  • About 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • About 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 4 iceberg lettuce leaves, rinsed and crisped
  • 1 firm-ripe tomato, cored and thinly sliced
  • 4 thin slices red onion
Directions to make The Classic Burger:
Step 1

In a bowl, mix ground beef, egg, onion, bread crumbs, Worcestershire, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper until well blended. Divide mixture into four equal portions and shape each into a patty about 4 inches wide.

Step 2

Lay burgers on an oiled barbecue grill over a solid bed of hot coals or high heat on a gas grill (you can hold your hand at grill level only 2 to 3 seconds); close lid on gas grill. Cook burgers, turning once, until browned on both sides and no longer pink inside (cut to test), 7 to 8 minutes total. Remove from grill.

Step 3

Lay buns, cut side down, on grill and cook until lightly toasted, 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Step 4

Spread mayonnaise and ketchup on bun bottoms. Add lettuce, tomato, burger, onion, and salt and pepper to taste. Set bun tops in place.

Modified Recipe: The Chickpea Burger
  • 1 1/2 cup chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 carrot, peeled chunked
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 1/4 cup fine dried bread crumbs
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • About 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • About 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 hamburger buns (4 in. wide), split
  • About 1/4 cup ketchup
  • About ¼ cup mustard
  • 4 iceberg lettuce leaves, rinsed and crisped
  • 1 firm-ripe tomato, cored and thinly sliced
  • 4 thin slices red onion
Directions to make The Chickpea Burger

Step 1

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and sauté, for 5 minutes until soft. Remove from heat and place in a large bowl. In a food processor, blend carrot, garlic, parsley, and chickpeas until smooth. Add chickpea mixture to bowl with onions and mix to combine. Add bread crumbs, salt, coriander, and cumin, and mix until fully combined.

Step 2

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet. Form chickpea mixture into four patties. Place on prepared baking sheet and use a pastry brush to brush patties with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until beginning to turn golden brown.

Step 3

Lay buns, cut side down, on grill and cook until lightly toasted, 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Step 4

Spread mustard and ketchup on bun bottoms. Add lettuce, tomato, chickpea patty, onion, and salt and pepper to taste. Set bun tops in place.



Works Cited:

Anusasananan, Linda Lau. “The Classic Burger.” MyRecipes, MyRecipes, July 2005,

Berry, Wendell. Think Little. Whole Earth Catalog, 1971.

Creades. “Recipes Burgers Vegetables.”, Pixabay,

Dhatt, Jaskarn. “Super Value Flatbush Produce.”, Wikimedia, 6 July 2009,

Green Eatz. “Food’s Carbon Footprint.” Green Eatz, WordPress, 16 Mar. 2011,

“Lacto-Vegetarian (Noun) American English Definition and Synonyms | Macmillan Dictionary.” Grassroots (Adjective) American English Definition and Synonyms | Macmillan Dictionary, Springer Nature Limited, 6 Apr. 2009,

“Lacto-Vegetarianism.”, Diet Health Inc., 1 Dec. 2008,

Morris, Katie. “Baked Chickpea Burgers.” Greatist, Greatist, 13 July 2015,

Rizzi, Len. “Hamburger Profile Showing the Typical Ingredients.”, Wikipedia, 17 July 2018,

Sustainable Alfredo

Ever since I was a child, pasta has always been my favorite food. It is extremely versatile,Image result for carbon footprint shrimp as there are hundreds of different dishes that can be made with pasta. I love all types of pasta from red sauce to white sauce to butter and garlic sauce to anything else in between. With such a variety in types of pastas, sauces, proteins, and vegetables that can be mixed and matched to create countless dishes, how is one to ever decide on a favorite? From the numerous dishes that have been made for me growing up, I have found that my favorite has always been the classic Alfredo pasta.

This enticing meal typically combines chopped chicken breast, asparagus, and Penne pasta, though any type would suffice. But, this childhood favorite would be nothing without my mom’s delicious Alfredo sauce recipe. Though just a typical Alfredo recipe, there is always something special about a homemade meal cooked by your parents. The sauce creates a captivating interaction of sour cream, Parmesan cheese, butter, onions, mushrooms, peas, peppers (red or green), garlic, and salt and ground black pepper. Though a family favorite, there are a few aspects of this dish that are not exactly the most environmentally friendly.

Wendell Barry emphasizes the idea that sustainable progress needs to be sought for and achieved individually, on the personal level in society, as he says, “For most of the history of this country our motto… has been think big. I have come to believe that a better 

Image result for penne broccoli alfredo

motto… is think little” (80). To expand on the concept of sustainability on the individual scale, Barry describes it as “The citizen who is willing to think little, and, accepting the discipline of that, to go ahead on his own, is already solving the problem” (80). Various changes could be made to tweak the recipe to become more sustainable environmentally while not sacrificing the taste and integrity of the Alfredo.

The ingredient that is obviously the largest inhibitor to creating a more sustainable dish is the protein. I have decided to switch from the classic chicken that typically goes with Alfredo to shrimp which is locally produced, utilizing less energy in transportation. Though shrimp is normally more expensive than chicken, the extraImage result for sprouts market few dollars spent will be well worth contributing to lessening the dish’s carbon footprint, and who knows, perhaps the price increase will balance out in the other changes. Another simple substitute would be to switch to a whole wheat or multigrain pasta, helping the Alfredo to become more sustainable for both the environment and yourself. A study, which was published in the International Journal of Lifecycle Assessment states that the carbon footprint of whole grain products are 6-7% lower than it’s normal counterparts. This is credited to the fact that around 25% of the grain is thrown away during the production of normal, “white” grain products. The last major change that I will be making to my mom’s Alfredo is substituting broccoli for the asparagus. Though they seem like normal healthy vegetables to compliment most dishes, they are vastly different in terms of their environmental impact. Broccoli requires nearly 8 times less water to produce, as it requires 34 gallons of water per pound, compared to the astounding 258 gallons of water needed per pound of asparagus. On top of the environmental sustainability that is being achieved, broccoli is also a much more economically sustainable decision, as it is a less expensive alternative to asparagus.                                                                                                           


When purchasing the ingredients, I visited a local store: Sprouts Farmers Market. Here, most proteins are organic or grass fed and locally sourced. The produce used for the sauce, 

Image result for fresh produce

as well as the broccoli, are all fresh, healthy, and locally grown. As if all of these healthy and sustainable options aren’t already unbelievable, they are also fairly priced with equivalent products that are sold at larger chains like Kroger or Publix due to the constant deals and sales. It astounds me that more people don’t shop at this gem that is hidden within many suburban neighborhoods. Throughout this process, I was able to make my mom’s homemade Alfredo into a more sustainable, yet still delicious meal in almost all aspects without changing the integrity of the dish and without a substantial, if any, increase in price. If everyone could take Barry’s advice to Think Little and just do some simple research about potential substitutes, they will find that they are able to produce delicious, more environmentally sustainable, and typically healthier dishes, usually with little to no increase in the overall price.


Original Ingredients

Alfredo Sauce:

  • 1/2 stick of Butter
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 cup Sour Cream
  • Pinch of Black Pepper
  • 3 finely chopped Garlic Cloves
  • 1/2 cup chopped Onion
  • 1/2 package of Mushrooms sliced
  • 1/2 box of peas
  • 1/4 cup chopped Red or Green Pepper


  • 1 box Penne Pasta
  • 1 “bundle” of asparagus
  • 3 large chicken breasts
  • Red pepper flakes

Original Directions

Alfredo Sauce

  1. Saute vegetables in butter and garlic (1st onions, then peppers and mushrooms, then peas)
  2. Melt butter in pan over low heat
  3. Add cheese and sour cream and whisk together until sauce has thickened and is smooth
  4. Add black pepper to taste
  5. Mix cooked chicken breast and asparagus into sauce
  6. Season with red pepper flakes to taste

Chicken Breast

  1. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic
  2. Cook on grill, oven, or stove (depending on preference)
  3. Slice into bite sized chunks


  1. Put olive oil in pan
  2. Put asparagus in pan
  3. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic
  4. Slice into bite sized chunks


Revised Ingredients

  • 1/2 stick of Butter
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 cup Sour Cream
  • Pinch of Black Pepper
  • 3 finely chopped Garlic Cloves
  • 1/2 cup chopped Onion
  • 1/2 package of Mushrooms sliced
  • 1/2 box of Peas
  • 1/4 cup chopped Red or Green Pepper


  • 1 box whole wheat Penne Pasta
  • 1-1 1/2 heads of Broccolli
  • 1 1/2 lbs Shrimp
  • Red pepper flakes

Revised Directions

Alfredo Sauce

  1. Saute vegetables in butter and garlic (1st onions, then peppers and mushrooms, then peas)
  2. Melt butter in pan over low heat
  3. Add cheese and sour cream and whisk together until sauce has thickened and is smooth
  4. Add black pepper to taste
  5. Mix cooked shrimp and broccoli into sauce
  6. Season with red pepper flakes to taste


  1. Clean/remove shells from all shrimp
  2. Season with salt and pepper
  3. Put butter and sliced garlic into pan on low heat
  4. Place shrimp into pan and cook each side
  5. Remove from heat and slice in half (if needed)


  1. Cut off of head into bite sized pieces
  2. Put butter into pan
  3. Steam broccoli


Berry, Wendell. (1972). A Continuous Harmony: Essays Cultural and Agricultural. New York, NY: Harcourt.

Breyer, Melissa. “8 Easy Food Swaps That Help the Planet.” TreeHugger, Treehugger, 7 Mar. 2018,

Cowan, Shannon. “Eco-Impact of Wild Seafood Less than That of Poultry, Beef.” Eartheasy Guides & Articles,

“Tread Lighter with Whole Grain.” Alginate | Stabilizing, Thickening or Gelling Agent for Food – DuPont | Danisco,



The Better Burger?

The good old fashioned American bbq bacon cheeseburger.  Nothing could be better than sitting and watching it sizzle on the grill as the smell starts to waft through the air.  What could possibly be wrong with it other than its obvious health issues?  This question can be answered with a simple one word answer: sustainability.

First we must start with the contents of such a great burger.  I am a very plain guy so my burger usually just includes the buns, patty, bacon, cheese, and bbq sauce.  These items themselves sound good, and together they are even better, but not for the environment.  The buns themselves are usually pretty sustainable, but they can be made with a more sustainable ingredient that will be shown later on in this article.  On the other hand, the burger patty is quite the opposite.  In the UK, a burger patty bought must only contain 62% beef (Reynolds).  What does this mean?  It means that the patty will be made up of random ingredients for the other 38% that include but are not limited to: onions, fat, and flour (Reynolds).  This sounds good from an overall standpoint because the less beef the more sustainable, right?  Actually, the beef itself produces a large amount of carbon emissions, but what people don’t know is how much beef goes to waste.  The carbon emissions from the beef are produced through the production, so once the beef is produced, it really doesn’t get less sustainable.  Staying on the topic of the UK, about 13% of beef never gets eaten (Reynolds).  This means that the rest of the beef is not used, and a lot of it is thrown out.  This is a complete waste of the carbon emissions that were produced anyways from the beef.  It actually comes out to about 1.4 million tons of excess carbon emissions.  That is just from the burger patty itself.  Ouch.  Regarding the other ingredients, the bacon is generally pretty sustainable, the bbq sauce is sustainable depending on the spices used inside, but the cheese is another non-sustainable item.  The cows needed to produce the cheese and meat end up producing a large amount of methane which is even worse for our environment than the carbon emissions!  So, now the task at hand is to create a burger that is more sustainable than its base form.

The new burger will have a few things changed.  We can change the buns to make sure that they incorporate a more sustainable flour.  The burger patty itself could be changed to any type of veggie patty, but this would actually be worse for the problem.  We need to incorporate 100% beef patties to ensure that no extra carbon emissions are emitted for no reason through waste of beef.  Let’s be honest, not everyone in this world is going to switch to a veggie burger, so there would always be a production of beef that would eventually lead to high waste.   Next is the bacon.  The only way to make this more sustainable would be to make sure that it is sourced from local pigs and to make sure that the pigs are raised in environmentally friendly conditions.  The bbq sauce can be either completely taken out, or a homemade bbq sauce using local ingredients may be used.  Lastly, the cheese can be sourced from companies such as Cabot that claim to be more sustainable than other creameries Cabot Creamery.

By changing these ingredients, we “will have begun to make fundamental and necessary changes in our minds” starting with the way we think about food (Barry).  This is an essential step to start to get the world to be more aware of the food that we are consuming.  By getting people to think about something as common as a burger, we can start to apply these principles to all foods that we consume.

Original Ingredients

  • Store bought beef patty
  • Any brand of buns
  • Bacon
  • Slice of cheese
  • BBQ Sauce

Revised Ingredients

  • New 100% beef patty
  • Buns that use sustainable flour (may have to be homemade)
  • Local bacon
  • Cabot cheese
  • Local BBQ sauce (optional)



  1. Take patty and apply to grill at 450 degrees (Christensen)
  2. Take patty off of grill at desired cooked level
  3. Put patty on the bottom bun
  4. Place cheese slice on top of patty
  5. Put bacon crossed on top of cheese
  6. Use as much BBQ as desired

Works Cited

Reynolds, Christian. “Why I’m Obsessed with Making the Most Sustainable Burger Possible.” SBS PopAsia, SBS News, 23 Mar. 2018,

“Sustainability in Our Creameries.” Cabot Creamery,

Christensen, Emma. “How To Grill Really Juicy Burgers.” Kitchn, Apartment Therapy, LLC., 26 May 2018,

Berry, Wendell. A Continuous Harmony: Essays Cultural and Agricultural. Counterpoint Press, 2012.

Nigerian Jollof Rice

Featured Image: Ev’s Eats


Nigerian jollof rice is a staple for Nigerian culture, and it is popular all over the world. Growing up in American with Nigerian born parents, it was difficult for me to connect with my Nigerian culture on certain levels. Around the age of 10, my mother started to let my older sister and I help her in the kitchen either making food for our family or for events. This allowed me at a younger age to make a connection with my Nigerian culture in a new way. Culture allows people to feel like part of a community, and Bell hooks mentions, “ a positive understanding of what it means to know a cultural belonging, that cultural legacy handed down to me by my ancestors ” (13). This means a person’s culture allows them to feel connected to family they probably had never heard of or encountered before. Now as I look at my young life, I cannot even imagine how much Nigerian jollof rice I have consumed. Its recipe is a classic and easy for even beginners to make. There are few limitations for me when I look to make this dish for my family. The main ingredients are rice, a tomato-based stew, and spices. These all sound pretty sustainable, and you can argue that there are some ways this recipe could become even more three E friendly.

Even though Nigerian jollof rice has few harmful ingredients, there are still changes that can be made for it to become even more sustainable. Most ingredients for this recipe are spices that are sold for usually under four dollars with some exceptions, but it is really easier to buy all the ingredients for Nigerian jollof in bulk because then it is not as expensive. Furthermore for the everyday individual, the ingredients for Nigerian jollof rice are mostly accessible. When purchasing the ingredients for this dish, there is no need to use name brand products. Typically, my mom purchases the store brand, so that allows this recipe to be more consumer friendly.There are a few special ingredients that can be bought at various African stores, but only Nigerians usually know about this. For my family personally, the closest African store is at least a thirty minute drive which is a major inconvenience, and I cannot even imagine the walking time. Also, my recipe could be considered healthy because of the spices and vegetable base that it contains. When we visited Publix, I immediately went to the spices aisle because they are such an important aspect to this recipe. On the other hand, if you look at the environmental aspect, then my recipe is sustainable. The use of vegetable oil and rice provide a solid base for the meal with little glaring concerns about the environment. The processing of tomatoes that would allow for making the recipe to be more convenient causes some issues. The three E’s of sustainability are evident in the ingredients and the in the making of Nigerian Jollof Rice.

When it comes to my recipe, I would make some small changes to make it more sustainable. One subtle change I would make is using fresh roma tomatoes instead of the large tin cans with already diced tomatoes. Also, using an unsalted vegetable stock instead of the cooking chicken stock will benefit the consumer and the environment. All in all, I would make very few changes to the recipe because it is a good example of how a staple for a culture is sustainable without changing its identity.

Looking back, I would never imagine myself examining Nigerian jollof rice and its contents in an effort to make it more sustainable. I know that my childhood and future adult life has been shaped by this dish in more ways than I can even consider right now. After examining the sustainable aspects, I am even more excited to prepare this dish knowing its positive and few negative benefits. I am grateful to my mother for allowing me to develop my roots in my Nigerian culture at a fairly young age. Overall, it is very exciting to discover aspects of sustainability and overall future betterment in a simple dish with great meaning to me, my family, and my Nigerian culture.

Portion: Family-size pot

Prep time: 30 min

Cook time: 1 hr 30 min

Original Ingredients:

4 cups uncooked long-grain rice (not basmati)

6 cups stock (vegetable, chicken, or beef) or water, divided

2 400-gram tin of tomatoes

6 fresh, red poblano peppers (or 4 large red bell peppers), seeds discarded

3 medium-sized red onions (1 sliced thinly, 2 roughly chopped), divided

3 Scotch bonnet peppers to taste

⅓ cup oil (vegetable/ canola/coconut, not olive oil)

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon (heaping) dried thyme

2 dried bay leaves

3 dashes Salt, to taste

5 chicken bouillon cubes

Revised Ingredients:

4 cups uncooked long-grain rice (not basmati)

6 cups unsalted vegetable stock

6 medium-sized fresh roma tomatoes

4 large red bell peppers

3 medium-sized red onions

3 scotch bonnet peppers

⅓ cup vegetable oil

2 cans of tomato paste

1 heaping teaspoon of dried thyme

4 dried bay leaves

3 dashes of iodine salt

5 chicken bouillon cubes


1. Rinse the rice to get rid of some starch then parboil: Bring the rice to a boil with 2 cups of the stock (or water) then cook on medium heat, covered, about 12 to 15 minutes. Rice will still be hard, a bit “white” (not translucent) and only partly cooked. Remove from the heat and set aside.
2. In a blender, combine tomatoes, red poblano (or bell) peppers, chopped onions, and chile pepper; blend till smooth, about a minute or two. You should have roughly 4 cups of blended mix.
3. In a large pan, heat oil and add sliced onion. Season with a pinch of salt, stir-fry for a minute or two, then add the tomato paste, dried thyme and bay leaves. Stir for another 2 minutes. Add the blended tomato-pepper-chile mixture, stir, and set on medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes so the mix cooks and the raw taste of the tomatoes is gone. You might feel your eyes sting with onions.
4. Add 2 cups of the stock to the cooked tomato sauce, 1 teaspoon of butter, and then add the parboiled rice. Stir, cover with a double piece of foil/ baking or parchment paper and put a lid on the pan. This will seal in the steam and lock in the flavour. Cook on low heat for 15 minutes. Stir again, adjust seasoning to taste, then add the remaining 1 cup of stock. Stir, cover with foil/ baking or parchment paper and let cook for another 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so to prevent burning and till the rice is cooked and the grains are separate.
5. Don’t be afraid to add some more stock or water—by the half-cup, stirring gently—if you find it a bit hard. When it’s cooked, take off heat and remove the cover of the pot. Put a tea cloth over the top and leave for half an hour or more, till ready to serve.

Additional Instructions for Parties:

6. To make Party Rice, you’ll need one more step. Now Party Rice is essentially Smoky Jollof Rice, traditionally cooked over an open fire. However, you can achieve the same results on the stove top. Here’s how: Once the rice is cooked, turn up the heat with the lid on and leave to “burn” for 3 to 5 minutes. You’ll hear the rice crackled and snap and it will smell toasted. Turn off the heat and leave with the lid on to “rest” till ready to serve. The longer the lid stays on, the smokier. Let the party begin!

Works Cited

Adeniyi , Esther. “Nigerian Party Jollof Rice.” Nigerian Party Jollof Rice, 2017,

hooks, bell. Belonging: A Culture of Place. 1990, Routledge, New York.

Nigeria, Information. “Nigeria Is the Best Country in the Whole World.” Nigeria Is the Best Country in the Whole World, 2018,


Red Pepper and Olive Pasta

Featured Image: Luca Nebuloni,

The Recipe


1 box(pound) / spaghetti pasta

2 tbsp / olive oil

2 tsp / minced garlic

8-10 Kalamata olives

¼ cup / roasted red peppers


The recipe I chose is a red pepper and olive spaghetti dish. This dish is made with just 5 ingredients; roasted red peppers, Kalamata olives, olive oil, minced garlic, and spaghetti in the amounts shown above. The
simplicity of this recipe might explain why this was the first real meal I learned to cook. This recipe allows for a quick and easy meal at a low cost. The ingredients are very widely available in many grocery stores. While this meal is certainly accessible to people at any level of cooking expertise, is it a sustainable recipe?


Numbers in grams of carbon dioxide emitted

One of the largest factors of sustainability is often thought to be the environment. To get a baseline of how much of an impact the recipe has, we need to find out how much our ingredients emit greenhouse gases. In a document from The World Pasta Congress, they note that a kilogram of pasta will produce about 1.9 kilograms of carbon dioxide with certain companies, like Barilla, producing only 0.85 kilograms of carbon dioxide per kilogram of pasta. This document also notes that a liter of olive oil produces about 3.1 kilograms of carbon dioxide. While this might seem like a large number, remember that we’re only using a couple teaspoons for the recipe. Fruits and vegetables are listed as emitting around 0.5 to 0.8 kilograms of carbon dioxide per kilogram of produce. For simplicity, we’ll say the peppers, olives, and garlic all produce 0.8 kilograms of carbon dioxide per kilogram. I’m choosing to use the higher end of the spectrum because some of the ingredients we’re using are pre-processed. For example, I chose to buy a jar of garlic that had already been minced and bell peppers that had already been roasted.

Now that we have our base numbers, we can figure out how much carbon dioxide we’re producing with this recipe. If we used an entire kilogram or liter of each ingredient, we’d be emitting a total 7.4 kilograms of carbon dioxide(kg CO2). Of course, we’re not actually using an entire kilogram of each thing. To make the recipe, we’d be emitting about 1.1 kilogram of carbon dioxide to make one batch of pasta. The breakdown for this 0.86 kg CO2 for the generic box of pasta, 0.092 kg CO2 for 2 tbsp of olive oil, 0.086 kg CO2 for approximately half a cup of olives, 0.045 kg CO2 for the peppers, and less than 0.01 kg CO2 for the garlic.

This seems pretty good, but can we do better? A simple thing to do would be to switch out the generic pasta we used for the more environmentally friendly Barilla pasta. This brings the carbon contribution from the pasta down to 0.39 kg CO2. This reduces our overall carbon emissions to 0.63 kg CO2. This is an easy to make substitutions that doesn’t really change the outcome of the dish at all.

While it is important to consider the environmental impact of our dish, this isn’t the only factor in making a sustainable meal. In The Omnivore’s Dilemma, author Michael Pollan notes that

There exists a fundamental tension between the logic of nature and the logic of human industry […] A great many of the health and environmental problems created by our food system owe to our attempts to oversimplify nature’s complexities. (9)

It’s this industrial desire to oversimplify the food production process that makes certain foods so bad for the environment. This plague of simplification is primarily driven by economics, another pillar of sustainability along with the environment. This is why a more generic pasta, like Publix’s brand, has a higher rate of carbon emissions and can be offered at a cheaper price of $1.00 per pound. Barilla, however, works to better there practices to have less of a negative impact on the environment. This effort increases their pricing, with a pound of Barilla spaghetti costing $1.65.

When using the generic brand, purchasing all the necessary ingr
edients costs $11.26. Using Barilla, the total comes out to $11.91. Each of the ingredients can be used to make multiple batches of the meal. The pasta is the only item that needs to be purchased for each meal. For $10.26, you can get all the multiuse ingredients. Then you have to face the pasta decisions. This trade-off between environment and economy is what’s discussed by Pollan.

An extra 65 cents seems like a small price to pay for nearly half as much carbon dioxide emissions but it can be a hard decisions for some to make. Most people will probably consider their own financial situation before worrying about their environment. As Pollan points out, so will industries. However, Barilla shows that for a small financial sacrifice, we can have less of a negative impact on the environment. Economics and the environment both play in to sustainability. It’s left up to each person to choose which aspect they value more.


Boil water for pasta. While the water boils/pasta cooks, cut up olives and red peppers in to small chunks. After pasta cooks, drain in to colander.

In a small wok/saucepan on the stove, add olive oil and garlic. Cook on medium heat while stirring. Wait for garlic to start to brown. Turn heat to low and add olives and peppers, stir. After mixing, add pasta and stir until mixed.

Makes about 4-6 bowls. Serve with cheese(optional).


Pollan, Michael. The Omnivore’s Dilemma. New York, The Penguin Press, 2006

Ruini, Luca. Pasta & Sustainability. Milan, World Pasta Congress, October 2015


Local Taco Salad

Local Taco Salad

I absolutely love Mexican food, way more than your average American cheeseburger. My mom and I share the same affinity for a dish called taco salad. We love to make it together, probably because we both eat the ingredients while attempting to make it, and we both love to stuff our bellies full of that savory salad. The ingredients include onions, avocados, lettuce, tomato, tortilla chips, rice, cheese, ground beef and taco seasoning, a squeeze or two of lime, and of course some salt and pepper. The dish is mostly composed of fresh produce, with a little protein and seasoning added in as well. However, as I went to Publix one day to purchase these ingredients, I was reminded of Wendell Berry’s argument that as citizens we should be “willing to Think Tittle” (80). Walking around in one of the largest-volume supermarket chains in the world, I did not feel that I was employing the ideals of Thinking Little. Berry calls us to be men and women “trying to live as a neighbor to [our] neighbors” in order to understand “the work of peace and brotherhood” (80). Feeling like I needed to make a difference in the world, or mostly just guilty, I left the ever-convenient and coupon friendly Publix in search of the neighborly brotherhood Berry spoke of.

On my ride home that day, I came across a little family owned market tucked away in a shopping center, about seven minutes away from my house. I had heard of the market but had never been inside to explore. I usually just pass right by and use the Publix 500 feet outside my neighborhood entrance. Reluctantly, I pulled off at this shopping center and decided to conduct a little experiment. I knew the shop, named Nature’s Pick Market, prided itself on only selling local or fully organic products. So, I thought there was no way this little store could compete with the variety and availability Publix offered. I wanted to see if this family owned and operated business would offer everything I needed for my usual taco salad in a more sustainable fashion. Needless to say, I had my doubts.

When I walked into Nature’s Pick Market, I was again reminded of Wendell Berry’s neighborly based thinking, because I was immediately met with a table and chairs emphasizing the local community elements I was trying hard to ignore.  The bright and inviting colors I encountered as I entered the market started to change my tentative attitude. 

Friendly employees welcomed me into the store, a stark difference from the beer stand that greeted me at Publix, and even the owner came to ask if I needed help finding anything. I told her I was interested in making a recipe more sustainable by having all of my ingredients locally sourced. She took on my project and proceeded to show me around her market, shattering my disbelief. She began by stating that all items sold here were locally grown or organically produced in the United States… well, of course.

We started in the produce section where she showed me the organic ingredients I needed that were grown here in Georgia such as onions, lettuce, and tomatoes. Next, she picked out a ripe avocado from a family-owned farm in California and a juicy lime from a small farm town in Florida. None of the produce had any artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors, and none of them were genetically modified. While all of this was good news for my experiment, it felt a little too good to be true. Surely they sold no meat which met all these conditions.

Wrong again.

Nature’s Pick Market partners with different types of agriculture and cattle farmers all across Georgia to offer the same meats and dairy you would find in a large grocery store, like Publix. The owner led me right to the ground beef I needed for my taco salad which came from Carlton Farms in Rockmart, Georgia. They also sold organic cheese. With a few clicks on my iPhone, I was able to learn a lot about where that beef and cheese originated and how it got to Nature’s Pick Market.  Carlton Farms focuses on sustainable agriculture through humane treatment of their plants and animals in order to create organic, healthy fruits, vegetables, dairy, and meats for their consumers. I also learned that Carlton Farms would deliver their products right to my front door if I chose to use that service. Amazingly, their much healthier and more sustainable beef cost less than the organic option sold at Publix.


Next, I needed the grains for my taco salad. I found a “Non-GMO”, organic sea salt tortilla chips. Additionally, I purchased organic, whole grain rice from the Lundberg Family Farms in Sacremento, California. The farm is a member of the Sustainable Food Trade Association and considers itself an early leader in sustainable farming, renewable energy, and other environmentally focused practices.

Lastly, the spices had to be bought, and boy was there a lot to choose from…


Instead of buying a pre-made package of taco seasoning, the owner brought me to their spice stand where I could buy any amount, pounds, ounces, or a pinch, of any spice I wanted. Together we were able to create a baggy of special made taco seasoning without being wasteful by buying individual plastic packets. We mixed ground chili flakes (powder), red pepper flakes, oregano, paprika, cumin, ground sea salt and black peppercorns to create my own seasoning for the ground beef flavor. However, as I stood by the spice stand, I was easily distracted by the brightly colored mini-restaurant to my right.


Intrigued by the cheery space, I asked the owner what other secret charms they were hiding in their delightful store. She then began to tell me this was what they called The Juice Bar. Here they sold juices, smoothies, and yummy treats all made from ingredients found right there in the store. She told me if I could find it in the store, they could put it in a smoothie! So, I decided I wanted to try one of these delicious treats. But, since I had little time, I chose a smoothie off the menu. I know, boring, but still so yummy!


By the time I left Nature’s Pick Market, they had my heart, my stomach, and my wallet. Shopping here was far more sustainable and enjoyable than Publix. Most of all, it allowed me to Think Little and be a good neighbor to the local business owners and local farmers, which boosts the local economy.

Think Little. Shop Local.


Berry, W. (1972). A Continuous Harmony: Essays Cultural and Agricultural. New York, NY: Harcourt.

Sustainable Seafood Spaghetti

Seafood Spaghetti with Mussels and Shrimp

Featured Image: Chelsie Craig, Seafood Spaghetti with Mussels and Shrimp

Waking up to the sweet aroma of my mother’s cooking, I rush down stairs to witness what she is whipping up. As I walk down the stairs, she greets me with a bowl of spaghetti. My mom’s spaghetti was never consistent whenever she made it. She would often mix up the ingredients to create different variations of her delicious dish. Some days she made seafood spaghetti, while other days she would make a healthier spaghetti or even a meat lovers spaghetti. Although I had plenty of other dishes when I was young, spaghetti was and still is one of my favorite dishes to eat. One downside to spaghetti is how incredibly unsustainable it is. Of all the different variations my mom made, the least sustainable would be her seafood spaghetti.

The ingredients required to create my mom’s seafood spaghetti includes: extra-virgin olive oil, finely chopped onions, diced garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, tomato paste, dry white wine, a can of diced tomatoes, salt, spaghetti, mussel, shrimp, unsalted butter, parsley, and lemon juice (Baraghani). Plenty of these ingredients are not sustainable to the environment. Many people believe that in order to be sustainable or environmentally friendly, they have to completely change their dish. However, most of the ingredients for this seafood spaghetti can be altered to create a more sustainable dish without changing the identity of the platter.

The carbon footprint that foods leave behind show the amount of carbon dioxide emitted during the production of a particular dish. This helps people determine whether the dish is sustainable or not sustainable. By reducing or eliminating the ingredients that have high carbon footprints, we can help protect the environment and prevent global warming.

Meat and seafood have one of the highest carbon footprints. In the article, Food’s Carbon Footprint, the production of 1 kilogram of beef is equivalent to 27 kilograms of carbon dioxide or 63 miles of driving. My mom’s dish is meatless, but it does contain seafood like mussels and shrimps. Mussel emits one of the least amount of carbon dioxide. The Food Climate Research Network, or the FCRN, proves that mussels only produce 0.324 kilograms of carbon dioxide for half a kilogram (Carbon). Compared to beef, mussels produce nearly 42 times less carbon dioxide for every kilogram, making it the most sustainable ingredient in this dish. Shrimp, on the other hand, produces the most carbon dioxide; it produces nearly 7.6 tons of carbon dioxide (George). According to Tom Philpott, the carbon footprint of shrimp is nearly 10 times the carbon footprint of beef. By completely eliminating shrimp in the seafood spaghetti, the amount of carbon dioxide is reduced significantly.

All of the vegetables in the seafood spaghetti do not have to be eliminated or replaced with other ingredients. The technique used to obtain and use them in the recipe, however, can definitely be changed to make the dish more sustainable. The vegetables like onions, tomatoes, garlic, red pepper, and parsley can all be grown instead of purchased at the market. Wendell Berry believes, “A person who is growing a garden, if he is growing it organically, is improving a piece of the world.” Jane Richards also supports the idea that growing your own food is not just healthy for you, but it is healthy for the environment. Pre-cut vegetables require industrial processes to cut and package them into containers for the consumer to buy. Not to mention. they need to be washed with bleach. People are able to cut and clean their own vegetables when they grow them. Tomato paste also requires a large amount of energy to create and emits a huge quantity of carbon dioxide. Tomato paste can be completely removed because it does not add a benefit to the dish. This makes the dish healthier to the consumer and healthier for the environment.

An ingredient that can be replaced is the spaghetti noodles itself. The process that goes into making spaghetti noodles consumes a lot of carbon dioxide; it requires mixing, cutting, and packaging. The amount of technology that is required to create spaghetti noodles is immense. One way to replace the spaghetti noodles is by replacing it with zucchini noodles. Zucchinis are easy to grow and do not require any processing. People just have to shred the zucchini into a noodle shape, and it would easily replace spaghetti noodles. The amount of carbon dioxide emitted will significantly decrease with this change.

By altering and eliminating these ingredients, the dish will become more sustainable by obtaining a balance between environment, economy, and social equity. People will be able to save money if they eliminate shrimp from their dish and grow their own ingredients. As mentioned before, the carbon footprint of each of these ingredients will significantly decrease with these revisions. The environmental issues like global warming will be improved with decreases in carbon emissions. The public health of people is also increased due to less pollution in the air. People will be able to live a healthier and more profitable life by trying these alterations to the seafood spaghetti recipe.

Original Ingredients

  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • ¾ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup of dry white wine
  • 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 2 pounds mussels, scrubbed, debearded
  • 2 pounds large shrimp, peeled, deveined
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Lemon wedges (for serving)

Original Directions

  1. Gather ingredients
  2. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium.
  3. Cook onion, stirring occasionally, until golden and softened, 8–10 minutes.
  4. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and season with salt. Cook, stirring often, until fragrant and garlic is softened, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly darkened in color and starts sticking to bottom of pan, about 4 minutes.
  6. Add wine and cook, stirring often, until the smell of the alcohol is almost completely gone, about 4 minutes.
  7. Add tomatoes and juices, crushing with your hands, and increase heat to medium-high.
  8. Cook, stirring often, until sauce thickens slightly, 8–10 minutes. Taste and season sauce with salt.
  9. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente, about 3 minutes less than package directions. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.
  10. Add mussels, shrimp, and ¼ cup pasta cooking liquid to sauce.
  11. Cover and cook, shaking pot occasionally, until mussels open, about 4 minutes. Using tongs, pick out shrimp and mussels and transfer to a large bowl, discarding any mussels that have not opened. Loosely cover with foil to keep warm.
  12. Add pasta and another ¼ cup pasta cooking liquid to sauce and stir to coat.
  13. Reduce heat to medium, add butter, and continue to cook, stirring and adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until sauce coats pasta, about 4 minutes.
  14. Remove from heat, return shrimp and mussels to pot, and carefully toss to combine.
  15. Mix in parsley and lemon juice.
  16. Transfer pasta to a platter and serve with lemon wedges for squeezing over.

Tomato-Basil Steamed Mussels with Pesto Zucchini Noodles

Although the dish does have some slight differences that makes it seem completely different, the dish is still a pasta that contains most of the original ingredients.

Revised Ingredients

The pesto

  • 2 cups of fresh basil leaves
  • garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ⅔ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

The Mussels

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 1 pound mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • ¼ cup fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper

The Noodles

  • 2 zucchini
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ cup water
  • Salt and pepper

Revised Directions

  1. Gather ingredients
  2. To make the pesto, combine the basil, garlic cloves, and pine nuts in a food processor, and pulse until fine.
  3. Add ½ cup of the oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth.
  4. Season with salt and pepper, and mix in the Parmesan. Note: if using all pesto immediately, add all the remaining oil and pulse until smooth. Transfer to a bowl. If freezing any of it; transfer to an air-tight container and drizzle remaining oil over the top. Freeze for up to 3 months.
  5. Keep the mussels refrigerated until ready to use. Once ready, if the mussels have not been scrubbed or debearded, place them in a large bowl of ice cold water.
  6. Scrub the outsides of the mussels and remove the string by using a paper towel to pull it out.
  7. Discard any mussels that have already opened.
  8. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  9. Add the garlic and medium onion and cook until lightly golden.
  10. Add the white wine and chopped tomatoes, and bring to a boil.
  11. Once boiled, add the mussels and stir for about a minute.
  12. Then cover the skillet and cook until all the mussels have opened, about 5-6 minutes.
  13. Garnish with the chopped basil and salt and pepper, and stir the mussels well so the broth makes it into the shells.
  14. While the mussels are cooking, cut lengthwise slices from zucchini using a vegetable peeler (or spiralizer or mandolin), stopping when the seeds are reached.
  15. Turn zucchini over and continue peeling until all the zucchini is in long strips; discard seeds. If desired, slice the zucchini into thinner strips to resemble linguine.
  16. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  17. Stir the zucchini noodles in the oil for about a minute, then add the water and a dash of salt and cook until zucchini is softened, about 5-7 minutes.
  18. Toss the noodles with the pesto, and stir in the tomatoes.
  19. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with the steamed mussels, adding a little of the broth from the skillet to the dish.
  20. Garnish with Parmesan cheese and chopped basil.
  21. Serve immediately.

Works Cited

Baraghani, Andy. “Seafood Spaghetti with Mussels and Shrimp.” Bon Appetit, Bon Appétit, 7 Dec. 2017,

Berry, Wendell. A Continuous Harmony: Essays Cultural and Agricultural. Counterpoint, 2012.

“Carbon Footprint of Scottish Mussels and Oysters.” Food Climate Research Network (FCRN) | Knowledge for Better Food Systems,

“Garlic Zucchini Noodles.” Kirbie’s Cravings, Kirbie’s Cravings, 6 Mar. 2018,

George, Russ. “Seafoods Carbon Footprint.” Russ George, 27 July 2014,

“Pexels.” Free Stock Photos,

Philpott, Tom. “Shrimp’s Carbon Footprint Is 10 Times Greater Than Beef’s.” Mother Jones, Mother Jones and the Foundation for National Progress, 25 June 2017,

Richards, Jane. “Food’s Carbon Footprint.” Green Eatz,

Thomas, Michelle Embleton. “Tomato-Basil Steamed Mussels with Pesto Zucchini Noodles.” The Secret Ingredient Is, 4 Feb. 2015,

1 2