Dining and Drinking
A Food Movement for the Sustainable Crowd
Chefs and food lovers have long been some of America's loudest health and environmental advocates. But over the last ten years, farm-to-table dining has spread from the elite tables of Northern California to the counters of national burrito chains. Today, even casual diners are expected to understand their lunch's impact on their health and the health of the planet. That's why we've created a series called conscious cuisine found here and distributed through the Conde Nast Media Network in Bon Appetit and WIRED. This series explores the complex relationship our meals have with the ecosystem at large. Be warned, you may never look at an apple the same way again.
Over the last 45 years, the farm-to-table dining trend has spread from the elite enclaves of Northern California to the country at large. But as the sustainable food movement gains momentum, it's losing clarity. Unlike "vegetarian" or "organic," sustainable isn't a simple label you could slap on your restaurant or your apple. Sustainability is an ideal, informed by an awareness of the relationship between human and environmental health, pursued out of a love of food.
That's why we're calling this movement, which we've observed in five articles, conscious cuisine. Spawned from the environmentalism of the '70s and the conscious consumerism of the '90s, Conscious Cuisine has diners moving past easy labels and becoming better informed about their role in the larger ecosystem of healthy eating. Instead of feeling guilty or deprived, today's gourmands are empowered to make the small changes that fit their values and their appetites.
For an easy way to healthier, greener and tastier eating, you don't even need to leave the house. We're living in the golden age of technology-enabled food delivery services, now serving up sophisticated, chef-prepared meals sourced from local ingredients. We reviewed three of the most-buzzed about food startups.
For a deeper look into the principles of ethical eating, we turned to the Chef's Collaborative, a nonprofit network of people in the food industry helping one another operate more sustainable kitchens across the country. Even if you're not running a restaurant, these tips from renowned chefs and members Rick Bayless and Matt Weingarten can save you money and time in the produce aisle and your own home.
Except when it comes to Honeycrisp apples. The expensive, beloved fruit's meteoric rise (and the decline of the Red Delicious) reveals the extent to which industrial agriculture and savvy marketing have changed the quality, taste and price of even our most basic fresh-produce sustenance.
Take it from the young, growing class of natural winemakers in America. Using grapes grown with ancient techniques, they're forgoing the various synthetic additives that give wines their specific flavor profiles. Instead, these vintners are letting the seasons guide them and discovering the pure experience that can be achieved by letting nature run its course.
Simply out to impress a healthy eater in your life? Skip straight to our sustainable food cheat sheet for quick explainers on the latest in foodie lingo like "flexitarian" and "monoculture." (Bonus: It will give you permission to eat bacon.)
Be prepared to immerse yourself in the new world of conscious cuisine and explore the complex relationship our culinary choices have with our entire ecosystem. But be warned: You may never look at an apple the same way again.
Claudine Ko, formerly a food columnist at Jane, has written about dining and food for the Los Angeles Times and the New York Post. She serves as writer and reviewer for Conde Nast in this series.