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Lucid Food: Cooking for an Eco-Conscious Life

Book Review

Lucid Food: Cooking for an Eco-Conscious Life
By Louisa Shafia
Ten Speed Press (2009)
Reviewed by Amy Jamieson-Petonic, MEd, RD, CSSD, LD, LMT


Words like "organic", "seasonal" and "local" are on everyone's minds these days. How do we integrate food politics into a daily practice that is convenient, affordable and delicious? Sustainable chef Louisa Shafia shows eco-conscious home cooks how to "green their cuisine" by making earth-friendly food choices, sourcing animal products ethically and responsibly, supporting local food and reducing one's carbon footprint through urban gardening, preserving, composting and more.

Synopsis of the Diet Plan

The book is arranged by season and incorporates a number of eco-friendly tips and numerous recipes that offer locally grown and seasonal foods that can be used to make flavorful meals with the environment in mind. Each season offers a variety of edible treats, such as persimmons in fall, red kuri squash in winter, morel mushrooms in spring and berries in summer.

The author offers a multitude of tips the reader can use to be more environmentally friendly, but never comes off as being "above" those who do not share her ideals. As a chef who owns her own catering business, Shafia provides opportunities to become more "green." She would like to make it easier for readers to try new ingredients and cooking techniques while practicing conservation in the kitchen and at the market.

She offers five habits for eco-friendly food shopping:

  1. Shop locally.
  2. Buy organic foods.
  3. Serve seasonal produce.
  4. Choose eco-friendly fish.
  5. Eat less meat and buy responsibly.

The author offers a dozen ways to reduce waste, some of which are common sense, like bring your own bags and containers; others are thought-provoking, such as bring a container for leftovers at restaurant, carry your own silverware and reduce or eliminate paper towel use.

She also discusses why organic is not always the best choice. This is due to the fact that not all small farmers can afford to meet costly national standards to be certified as organic. The author wants to do her part to help keep small farmers on their land doing what they do best. She lists her "must" buy organics: fair trade bananas, pasture-raised small poultry and eggs, olive oil, fair trade coffee, local, in-season berries and unprocessed sugar. It's worth checking out her eco-foodie "words to watch." These are buzzwords that might sound like eco-friendly terms, but may not be due to media influences. A few of these include cage-free, CSA, CAFO and grass fed.

Nutritional Pros and Cons

The author has a wealth of experience as a chef and lives these ideals in her own life, which is quite refreshing. She "walks the walk and talks the talk" for living an eco-friendly life without being preachy. She offers ideas and suggestions, allows the reader to choose how he or she can reduce their carbon footprint and offers tasty recipes to go with her ideals.

Two items could make this a book easier for the reader to follow. One would be to offer recipes with more common ingredients for the beginning 'foodie" or chef. For example, in the recipe for Crispy Yuba Rolls with Lime-Mustard Dipping Sauce, it may be difficult to locate a large burdock root. Another idea that would make the book even better would be a nutritional analysis with the recipes. This would provide the reader additional information regarding each of the dishes.

Bottom Line

I would recommend this book to any reader who would like to know more about how to eat and live a more eco-friendly life. The average reader may have difficulty with the recipes if they are not skilled in the kitchen, but can learn about and taste new ingredients while incorporating a new way of life.