SAVING THE WORLD FROM MY KITCHEN (A TO-DO LIST)

Alright: I have a confession. I have no less than three (3) astrology apps on my phone, all tailored to my exact time and place of birth, that give me “insights” into my interactions with the world on any given day. Do I really, truly believe in them? No. Do I lowkey love diving into the narcissistic practice of analysing my every personality trait and blaming external forces for my flaws? Oh heck yes.

Anyway, the point is, one of my apps told me yesterday to “make a distinction between taking responsibility and feeling guilty”. Regardless of whether or not that advice came from the stars or just an AI algorithm, it really resonated with me. Since my “ecophany” (a term I first saw used and explained by Dr Alison Green in this article and that I wrote about in my last post), I have been having frequent and sometimes quite debilitating attacks of guilt surrounding my personal carbon footprint and the fact that I’m not doing everything I could be to reduce it. I see plastic waste everywhere I look and I feel a sick twisting in my stomach whenever I hop in my car and think of the emissions (don’t even talk to me about plane travel). And sometimes I’m really really tired and lapse into an old behaviour – like ordering takeaway instead of cooking, a completely random example that has nothing to do with the pad thai I am stuffing into my face right now –  and instead of enjoying the indulgence, I feel absolutely guilt-stricken. 

Green veggies drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt, pepper, paprika and sumac then roasted at 180C for 15-10 mins make me feel better about almost every aspect of my life.

But this guilt isn’t helpful. It doesn’t drive me to action, because I only feel it when I’m doing something that I can’t avoid or have already done. It’s overwhelming and leads to paralysis – like what’s the point in doing anything at all when you can’t manage to do everything? When it feels like almost everyone around you is doing nothing at all? But that kind of thinking isn’t going to save the planet. I’ve seen a few articles floating around recently about eco-grief and eco-anxiety and hoo boy, I can tell you, these things (unlike my horoscopes) are very very real. When you realise the enormity of the problems we face, and worse, that you and your loved ones are actively contributing to them, it can be difficult not to want to cry and scream and shake people by the shoulders to get them to realise too.

In the last few months I’ve changed my mindset and a lot of my behaviours – I make conscious decisions every day to try and help fight the climate crisis. I’m aware. I’m learning, and very open to learning more. I have a heck of a way to go and lots of puzzling problems to solve. When people ask me what made me become (quite suddenly) so passionate about these things, I have to tell them: information. I read. I listened. But what has actually driven me to act is being inspired by the actions of other people. Hope, not guilt. And I too want to inspire people to do what they can to help fight the crisis. There’s no point screaming at people that the world is ending (even if it’s true) – because the only reaction you will get is people sticking their heads even further into the sand. People have to want to make changes, not feel forced or guilted into it. I know – I was exactly the same. 

Breakfast for dinner, one of life’s most underrated indulgences. This isn’t super relevant (though it is plant-based!) but I didn’t think you would want a picture of me ugly crying while looking at pictures of ocean plastic waste.

It’s hard. It’s really really hard. You think you’re finally getting the hang of the whole work/life balance thing (by which of course I mean work/life/social-life/nutrition/exercise/self-care/mental-wellbeing/creative-pursuits/horizon-broadening/TV-show-bingeing/meme-browsing balance) thing, and then you learn that there’s this whole massive other catastrophe that we have to deal with. No guys, I’m not thrilled about it either. 

Now I know what you’re thinking: “Gilly, you’ve been waffling on for ages and have barely MENTIONED food. Have you remembered you’re a food blogger? Make with the yums.” So here is my to-do list for making my eating habits as planet-friendly as possible. Some things I’ve already done, some things I’m working towards. And as a note: I do not intend to compromise on the deliciousness of the things I eat or serve to my friends. I believe getting people to make their lives more sustainable will only work if that lifestyle is also appealing – I am no exception.

SAVING THE WORLD FROM MY KITCHEN – A TO-DO LIST

  1. Stop getting takeaway for lunch. This will cut down on packaging, energy use and emissions-heavy ingredients (more on these another time). Meal prep, baby. It’s back and it’s here to stay. If I MUST get takeaway, I will take my own container. I’m that person now.
  2. Cut down on meat (done, been vego for 18 months now, guys it’s SO easy, again we’ll talk about this another time) and dairy (…yeah, not so easy. Curse the person who invented cheese. Still working on this one). 
  3. Make sure the meat/dairy I do consume is ethically sourced if possible. 
  4. Make my kitchen as close to zero-waste as possible. This will take some time but can definitely be done! I am still in the very early stages but see Zero Waste Chef and Tassie Girl Zero Waste for some great inspo.
  5. Drastically cut down on my food miles. Did I hear locally grown? Did I hear… farmers’ markets? Oh baby. I’m ready for this.
  6. Start composting. Which leads me to…
  7. Start gardening. I’m going to start small, with a herb garden. Then hopefully expand from there. Do I like dirt and bugs and manual labour? Not so much. But I’m a big girl and I’m ready to don a pair of gloves for the sake of the planet! I’m going to need lots of help though so hit me up if you have tips..

So these are my first seven steps to work towards. Over the coming weeks I’ll dive into them a bit more, and provide the research I’ve done that’s made me choose these things to do – hopefully you find it as compelling as I do! I’ve been doing other things out of the kitchen too – writing letters, supporting a few awesome groups (check out Carbon8 and the Intrepid Seaweed Project) and starting to get involved with my local activist scene. The more I do to help the cause, the easier I find it to calm myself down after a climate-panic-attack. That includes writing this blog!

To reward you for putting up with my therapeutic sharing of panic, here is a delicious, easy, plant-based staple.

HEARTY PLANT-BASED BOLOGNESE

I’ve posted a spag bol recipe here before (in my first ever post! Take a stroll down memory lane here), which could quite easily be made vegan. But this one has a few new fun additions!

INGREDIENTS:

1 x large onion

2 x large zucchini

3 x med-large carrots

2 x sticks celery

1 x large jar passata (or homemade if you’re eleven steps ahead of me)

1 x bunch fresh basil (one million points to Griffyndor if you grew it yourself)

2 x tins lentils, drained (or dried ones soaked overnight)

700g mushrooms of your choice (by which I mean white, button, flat or brown. Not… other kinds)

1-2 cups of red wine (depends how much is left by the time you get around to adding it, really)

Olive oil, salt, pepper

Pasta of your choice (I went for spelt spirals today!)

Nutritional yeast for sprinkling

  1. Finely chop the onion, carrot and celery and fry over a medium heat in a large, deep pan or saucepan for a few mins until soft and fragrant. Remember what this is called? Yes! A soffritto! If you answered correctly, reward yourself by opening the wine early. 
  2. While it’s frying, chop the zucchini and mushrooms, quite small. Add them to the pan when the soffritto is ready. 
  3. Add the passata, chopped basil leaves, some salt and pepper and a big slug of wine. Stir, bring to a simmer then turn the heat down low. Chuck the lid on and leave for 30-40 minutes. Just enough time to read a really distressing article about the glaciers melting and have a cry.
  4. Stop crying! We haven’t put the water on for the pasta yet. Do that now. 
  5. At the same time you put the pasta on to cook, put the lentils into the sauce and stir through. Add more wine if it’s looking a little dry, leave the lid off if it’s looking a little wet. Normally I would find a dirty joke to insert here but I’m still fresh off the glacier article and feeling a little fragile, sorry. 
  6. Drain the pasta after cooking to packet instructions, serve with a hefty sprinkle of nutritional yeast on top. It’s delicious AF and full of B vitamins!
  7. During or after dinner, have a read of something hopeful or funny. Remind yourself that you’re doing everything you can right now, and you have plans to listen and learn and do more. Be kind to yourself. Then pop the leftovers in tupperware containers to take to work for lunch. You’re a superhero. 

Please leave any ideas/questions/thoughts here, I'd love to hear them!