By Mia Sherin - June 24, 2020
Habits 365 values the practice of positive, healthy habits, 365 days a year. We are interested in how making commitments to healthy habits can determine success in all kinds of spaces, from the gym to the classroom, and even to the kitchen. I had the opportunity to interview Joel Gamoran, an esteemed sustainability chef who has traveled the country raising awareness about eating simply and waste-free, all while creating a cooking show and a cookbook, both centered around the importance of saving and cooking with food scraps.
I first asked Joel about basic, good habits we can all start practicing in the kitchen. His first suggestion of a positive routine was to cook from scratch. He explained the importance of this practice through an ingenious analogy: “If you look on the back of boxes for things like frozen foods, there are so many ingredients that you can’t pronounce. But if I said, ‘Here’s a bottle of medicine. Take this pill,’ you would probably ask, ‘What is it? What’s inside of it? What’s it going to make me do?’ That’s because it’s going in your body. But when it comes to food, we don’t ask those same questions.”
When many people think about cooking from scratch, it sounds daunting. Joel assured me that this practice does not need to be complicated; just as cooking from scratch is a healthy habit, so is cooking simply. Choosing four or five ingredients, and knowing what those ingredients are, can be easy and delicious.
Joel also encourages people looking to form healthy habits in the kitchen to take up another key practice: eating seasonally. “Certain things grow in certain times of the year. Tomatoes grow in the summer, lemons grow in the winter. So I believe that we should be eating tomatoes in the summer and lemons in the winter, for many reasons,” Joel explained. “One is, it’s a lot easier for the farmers to get us those foods when they are in season, so it’s a lot less of a strain on the environment. Also, the food tastes way more delicious when it’s in season.”
Joel and I then began to think about the bigger picture. Habits 365 undoubtedly has a younger audience, one filled with college students like me who, when considering the phrase “healthy habits in the kitchen,” would probably first think of buzzwords like dieting, fasting, and juice cleanses. After an eye opening conversation with Joel, it was clear that positive eating habits can, and should, mean so much more. As he said, “When I think about healthy habits in the kitchen, I think about healthy choices for the planet.”
To help me visualize this point, Joel used the example of a carrot. “It takes 9 months to grow a carrot. It takes a lot of water, it takes a lot of resources, and it takes a lot of love to grow that carrot. So when I get a carrot, I don’t just take the tops off and throw it away. I think, ‘Well, what can I make with them? What can I do with those carrot tops, because the farmers spent so much time growing them?’
“I feel like it is our duty, as home cooks, to carry the last five percent of the torch that the farmers carried for the first 95%. So to me, the healthiest habit you can have in the kitchen is to respect the food as a whole ingredient, rather than just a little thing that you see in the grocery store.”
With the help of sustainability chefs like Joel, we can begin to define healthy eating as not just good for our bodies, but good for our planet. Goals centered around dieting and nutrition are not meant to be discouraged, but it’s important to recognize that our eating habits are bigger than ourselves; it is also about the farmers, the environment, and the health of our world.
If you feel empowered to start cooking sustainably but aren’t sure where to start, Joel’s got you covered. “The next time you cook,” Joel advises, “instead of throwing away all of your food scraps, I want you to freeze them. Another day, you’re going to get hungry, and you’ll think, ‘Wait a second. I froze the bottoms of these mushrooms, or I had all these chicken bones.’” Then, you can just let Google take it from there and lead you to recipes that include your food scraps. And of course, if you are ever short on recipes, direct yourself towards Joel's cookbook, Cooking Scrappy. Practicing healthy habits in the kitchen can hold unique meanings to everyone, but we really appreciate Joel chatting with us about some of his personal favorites. Small steps towards eating consciously can lead to consistent habits, 365 days a year.
Joel joined Habits 365 to make his amazing Miso Guac and chat more about healthy eating habits. Check out the video on the Habits 365 instagram!