The Citymeals Blog

Food for Though

What Makes A Meal Sustainable?

Whether you’re an amateur chef, a foodie or an average consumer, creating a healthy and ethical meal can be challenging. That’s why the Citymeals Culinary Circle is hosting Greener Tables this Thursday, July 27th. You’ll learn from socially-conscious chefs and entrepreneurs how sustainability can be more than a marketing ploy – all while enjoying delectable food and wine.

Before the event, I wanted to share a few thoughts on what it means to live a sustainable lifestyle.

I think sustainable eating is all about balance, whether your food is coming from air, land or sea. I am always trying to be mindful of any additives, chemicals and healthy farming practices (no antibiotics, free range and healthy feed).

And creating a sustainable meal doesn’t have to be difficult – it’s all about the ingredients. But, you can't just open your average pantry and expect the right foods to pop out. First and foremost, good planning is the most important part of cooking sustainably – second only to where and how you procure your ingredients.

Learn about the farms you buy your ingredients from and the source of ingredients in any package food you might use. I find it hard to trust package food. I'm not saying there aren't some good sustainable brands, but they are surely the minority. Stay out of supermarkets and get into the farmers’ markets. When planning your meals, seasonality should play a major part and will if you are shopping in the farmers’ market. Ask your butchers and fish mongers about where their products come from, how they are raised and caught. Read packaging carefully.

While on vacation last week, I visited Bartlett's Farm in Nantucket to learn about their sustainable farming practices.

Of course I want to serve local produce, fowl, fish and meats to guests in my restaurant and to my family, but sometimes the local farm ingredients aren't affordable. It’s something I come up against almost every day. I remember a hot sunny August day walking through the farmers’ market and I stopped at a stand selling gorgeous heirloom tomatoes. It was hard to decide which one to buy as they were all exquisite, but I finally did. The singular tomato went on the scale and the farmer said "$9.75 please." I paused, hesitated and finally handed over the cash. I decided my dinner would be that tomato with mozzarella and basil. This was my tipping point, but I adjusted and made that wonderful ingredient the highlight of the meal. The funny part was I could only eat half, so it became a second meal. At last my indulgence turned into two affordable delicious meals. So sometimes a little less of a really good thing is better than more of not such a good thing. 

I look to others for inspiration in crafting sustainable dining experiences, especially Dan Barber from Blue Hills Stone Barns. I also look to see what meals are being served in the vineyards across America and Europe. I find that anyone that works close to the land in a responsible way ends up with great things on their table. Winemakers tend to have great taste too!

I hope you’ll join us this Thursday. The Culinary Circle brings together people from across the culinary world – and it’s always a delight to spend time with people who care about and love food. Greener Tables, like so many of our events, enables explore the topics that are most important to us while we get to meet new people and catch up with old friends. And let’s not forget, it’s also an opportunity to support the homebound elderly Citymeals serves. 

Food For Thought