Recently, there has been growing concerns on the left in politics about the impact of global food supply chains on local economies in developing countries. Take quinoa, for example. Around 2011, quinoa suddenly started turning up in recipes on health food blogs all over the internet. It was touted as a wonder grain which would end obesity and help people return their bodies to a state of health. And it turned out to be true: quinoa is far more nutritious than many other grains that are staples in the Western diet.
But then in 2013, the Guardian newspaper in London ran with a story about how the West’s obsession with quinoa was forcing the price up and having a damaging impact on the local diet in the places where it was grown. Because of Western demand, prices had surged and buying enough quinoa to last the day was becoming too expensive for natives on low incomes.
This created a crisis in the food blogosphere. On the one hand, people were in love with quinoa because it had the potential to end obesity (or at least they thought). And on the other, it was forcing local people in South America to switch away from quinoa and over to other types of imported grains.
Of course, the farmers themselves did very well from the sudden bump in demand for the crop. They ended up making a lot of money selling tons of the stuff to major outlets like Whole Foods, but the average person suffered.
This has led to the idea of sustainable cooking. People are now concerned not only with whether their food is good for them but also whether it’s helping the communities that produce it. If it damages local economies, then people won’t keep it in their kitchen.
Companies like Kamikoto, which are all about using traditional processes to make kitchen tools, are also part of the movement towards sustainability. People are beginning to realize that it’s not just about the provenance of the food itself, but the choices that related manufacturers make when they build their cooking products. What cutlery and kitchen appliances people use is an important consideration.
Avocados have recently been in the limelight because of their impact on the environment. Like quinoa, the West has become obsessed with this particular fruit, not only because it is healthy, like quinoa, but also delicious. Avocados can only be grown in regions of the world with the right environment, which means that they have to be transported long distances, often involving the emission of a lot of CO2. The same goes for practically every processed food as well as foods which are out of season. Thus sustainability also implies eating foods that haven’t had to travel long distances.
You might think that this would mean no more exotic ingredients in the kitchen. But entrepreneurs are already looking at ways of building vertical farms which will allow any crop to be grown at any location. Indoor, controlled agriculture, slashes transport costs and reduces water and energy consumption to levels hitherto thought impossible.