T: The New York Times Style Magazine

  • March 30, 2010 9:45 pm

An eco-travel package I wrote for T came out on Sunday. Eco-Tripping: The Little Green Book.

Asking Questions, Getting Tough Answers

  • March 30, 2010 9:42 pm

In The Conscious Kitchen and in The Complete Organic Pregnancy I urge people about a zillion times to “ask questions” when shopping. Being a conscious consumer is a sure fire way to get conscious goods. But most people don’t entirely know how to put this into practice. Or what to do with the answers.

A woman I know who runs a local mother’s group near me in New York has been going through her own green transformation lately. It has been really fun for me to watch and hear about it as she goes greener every day. She has a great methodical approach and is both skeptical and outraged. She’s doing her own research. And she has made a lot of excellent changes that will affect her family and the earth. She has come a long way since I first met her. Her transformation is her own but I’m proud and honored to have influenced her in any way. She emails me from time to time with questions or just to let me know that she’s made big strides. I love these emails.

Last week she wrote me very disappointed. While shopping at her local Whole Foods, she asked what kind of plastic wrap they used in their cheese department. She wrote down their answer and researched it once home — an excellent thing to do with an answer!! — only to find out it is PVC containing the plasticizer DEHA. She wanted to know if I knew about this. PVC is a highly toxic material, from manufacture to disposal, and not something that should be around our food. I do mention in The Conscious Kitchen that some plastic wraps can be PVC while the majority of the ones on store shelves these days are plastic #4 (safer). I don’t use plastic wrap at home, but it can be hard to avoid taking it home from a store when shopping, especially with something like cheese.

The point of avoiding plastic at home is to minimize exposure to potentially hazardous chemicals. It’s also to avoid involvement with the environmental impact associated with its manufacture and disposal. Instead of throwing up her hands and giving up, this mom contacted the powers that be at her Whole Foods, made them aware of her dismay, circulated the information to other local moms, and even got a petition up online asking Whole Foods to stop using the PVC wrap. There is power in (pissed off parent) numbers and I suspect she will get the store to change what they’re doing. I hope so. And I hope anyone reading this will ask their supermarket what they use around their cheese, meat, and other plastic-wrapped items, and demand similar action if it, too, is PVC.

Now the question is how to get this stuff off all cheese everywhere. That’s harder and involves legislation. But concerned consumers can also influence their elected officials. I suspect we’ll get there sooner rather than later, especially with moms like this educating themselves and pushing us in that direction.

Making "Conscious" Egg Dye

  • March 25, 2010 8:09 pm

When I picked my daughter up at nursery school today, she had a handmade basket with two dyed eggs perched precariously in it. She was extremely proud of them and insisted on carrying them on our walk home. I gently told her to be careful.

Disaster struck one block later. The first one (purple) tumbled out and cracked, Humpty Dumpty-style. I tried to snatch it up before she noticed. No such luck. But she did let me place the cracked specimen back in the basket. A few blocks later, the second one (orange) literally rolled out in tragic slow motion and…into a gutter. We live in New York City. I didn’t dare retrieve that one. Enormous tears were shed. She wailed the rest of the way home. Needless to say I promised we could make more. As I made our lunch, I sent out a tweet asking for good DIY dying tips. Friends responded with a few craft-themed website suggestions.

I have written two books now with recipes in them but don’t tell anyone: I’m not big on following recipes. These craft sites are so intense. I don’t have time for all of those steps. Even if I followed them, my results are always messier. It’s just who I am. Instead, I made dye out of what I was already prepping for dinner. I put up some beets to boil, and harvested some of the ensuing red water. And I used the scraps of what was going into a split pea soup — onion skins, carrot and parsnip peels — to create a yellow-ish liquid. I splashed a little vinegar in both (someone on Facebook said it sets the dye, and I vaguely remembered this from childhood Easter egg kits). Thrilled to have saved the day, I called my daughter to the stove to see what I had been up to. Rookie mistake; the tears flowed again when we took the eggs out of the fridge and realized that our multi-hued farmers’ market dozen only contained one white egg! Oops.

No matter. That lonely egg is now deep pink. The dyes will keep overnight in glass jelly jars. And we already have a plan to seek out white eggs after school tomorrow.

News:

*Week #2 of The Conscious Kitchen Challege is now up at TheDailyGreen.com. It’s all about where to shop for conscious food.

*I’m speaking next week Thursday April 1st at 92Y Tribeca. If you’re in New York City, come out and say hello.

*Also next week Thursday: New Mexicans can tune in to hear the amazing Deborah Madison interview *me* (pinch me!) on her radio show. I will post station and time details as soon as I have them.

*I have added a few more Conscious Kitchen items to my OpenSky shop. Check them out.

The Conscious Kitchen Challenge

  • March 20, 2010 6:37 pm

I’m doing an 8 week (give or take) Conscious Kitchen challenge at TheDailyGreen.com. Check in every week to join me. Don’t forget to chime in in comments. There’s safety and comfort in numbers and community.

The Huffington Post is also linking to the challenge.

The Conscious Kitchen Challenge at TheDailyGreen.com

  • March 20, 2010 5:19 pm

I’m doing an 8 week (give or take) Conscious Kitchen challenge at TheDailyGreen.com. Check in every week to join me. Don’t forget to chime in in comments. There’s safety and comfort in numbers and community.

The Huffington Post is also linking to the challenge.

The Indy Star

  • March 20, 2010 5:14 pm

The Conscious Kitchen is mentioned and Alexandra Zissu is quoted in this Indy Star article on going green in the kitchen.

The Environmental Working Group's Enviroblog

  • March 20, 2010 5:11 pm

The EWG staff tries to live a week without canned food to avoid BPA and asks Alexandra Zissu for tips on how to do it.

The Montreal Gazette

  • March 20, 2010 5:06 pm

The Montreal Gazette calls The Conscious Kitchen “concise” and “eminently readable.” Read more here.

Fast Food, Conscious Style

  • March 9, 2010 6:12 pm

Things are pretty busy in my apartment these days. I have a 4-year-old daughter. I’m trying to spread the word about The Conscious Kitchen. And I’m also writing two new books. But I refuse to give up on family meal. The adorable teenager who lives across the hall and plays with my daughter left moments ago and I haven’t given any thought to dinner yet. I open the freezer and see a glass jar of split pea soup. I made too much a few months back (dried split peas in pressure cooker — couldn’t be faster) and had stashed the surplus in the freezer. I grab it, stick it in a bowl of warm water to loosen it up enough to dump it in a pot on the stove. While that heats, I wash farmers’ market salad greens, dice up a beet I pressure cooked a few days ago, dress it, toast (organic whole grain) bread from the farmers’ market, and grab a wedge of local cheese (also from the farmers’ market) . It’s sitting on our counter warming up as I write this post.

Shopping — and even cooking — to set yourself up for the whole week (those beets!), and making large batches of whatever you’re making then freezing leftovers means family meal can still happen even if you’re busy. Doing all of these things saves me time, not to mention money.  Making my own soup from dried beans means we avoid the BPA-linings found in most cans of beans and soups.

Gotta go. Dinner’s ready.

What’s Conscious?

  • March 3, 2010 4:00 pm

I'm getting asked that question a lot lately. An email just popped up in my inbox that describes it really well. Read this and then apply it to food and kitchens. And that's what a Conscious Kitchen is!

"When we talk about being "conscious," we're referring to a greater consciousness that allows us to view the world as an endlessly interconnected system and thereby see the unintended consequences of our actions. Consciousness requires reflection, self-awareness, and the constant questioning of our assumptions and beliefs."

– Jeffrey Hollender co-founder Seventh Generation
Think about the interconnected system of the spray on a conventional apple, or really question what a claim on food packaging might mean. Natural might make you feel like you're getting something, well, natural. But questioning this assumption is crucial to locating conscious food. Educating yourself about what labels really hold any meaning means better access to the good stuff. I talk about this a lot in The Conscious Kitchen.