Earth Day 2015 – Cooking in a Drought

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

Today is the day set aside to remind us how important it is to take care of the planet that takes care of us. Seems silly, perhaps, even granola, but the reality is that ours is a delicate ecosystem, developed over millennia, and with our newfangled technology, we sometimes forget how very dependent on that system we are.

Especially when the Earth is portrayed by the super strong, crazy talented Bette Middler!

One reminder of that has relentlessly dogged those of us living in the southwestern part of North America for the past four years. I speak, of course, of our ongoing, catastrophic drought.


I’m sure that at this point there are folks who are just plain tired of hearing about it (is drought fatigue a thing?), and wish those of us continuing to talk about it would just shut our yaps. And I can certainly appreciate that we are starting to sound like a broken record. It’s hard, though, not to sound like a broken record when the issue is so vital, and we’re still not doing nearly enough to tackle it.

The prevailing argument I hear on the “pry my swimming pool and long showers from my cold, dead, and extremely dehydrated hand” side of things is that because agriculture in California uses most of our water, conserving on a residential level won’t make a difference. I take a different attitude. If I save one cup of water today, then that’s one cup of water that’s still available for tomorrow. If 100 of us save one cup of water, then that’s 100 cups. If the entire population of Los Angeles saved just one cup, that would be nearly 4 million cups of water being saved every day. That adds up. It may not be enough to eradicate the drought, but it gets us 4 million daily cups of water closer to the next decent rainfall, and I think that can only be a good thing.

"I’m gonna stay in here until I look like Grandpa!"

It’s really not all that hard to conserve, even if the idea might be scary at first. There are small, easy changes we can make to the way we live our lives that can spare well more than that cup-a-day. Here are a few places where we can save water in our kitchens.

Someone Else's Beans and Rice

When cooking things like rice and beans, do so in broth instead of water. If you’re like me, and you make your own broth, then it is almost always the byproduct of having cooked a hunk of meat. So reuse that braising/poaching/pressure cooking liquid as broth. Then, assuming you’re not saving it for soup, use it a third time down the road to rehydrate your legumes and grains. Not only does it save that precious H2O, it also brings extra flavor to your dishes.

If you’re going to use a store bought broth or stock, do a little Googling and make sure that it’s manufactured outside the drought zone. No sense in buying our own depleted water back from a major corporation. (Nestle, I’m looking at you!) One good example I found in my search, based solely on location, is Swanson, whose factories are located well outside the afflicted area.

Not necessarily an endorsement, just an example

If you do use water to rehydrate beans or if you cook pasta, don’t toss it when you’re finished. Bean water is perfect for making soups, pasta water can be used to cook rice, and both are great to water plants with. (More on that later.)

If you want to pitch in on the agricultural front, a great way to help save agua is to cut down on the amount of drought-guzzling ingredients you’re cooking with. If that sounds like a daunting prospect research-wise, take heart. There are loads of folks who’ve already done that work for us!

From the LA Times:

Note, they made one mistake with chickpeas, which my research tells me are actually quite drought friendly. Don’t let this one snafu deter you. It’s still a super helpful infographic.

From the Huffington Post:


For the super swotty in the crowd, check out this 42-page report called, “The Green, Blue, and Grey water Footprint of Crops and Derived Crop Products; Volume 1”

And lastly, if you’d prefer to do a little less of the legwork yourself, some chefs, like Nathan Lyon and “Super Sous” Sarah Forman, are developing drought friendly recipes, like this smoky, warming, and incredibly craveable Eggless Shakshuka. I ate mine with a baguette, as specified in the instructions, and when I ran out of bread, I spread it on buttery crackers like a tapenade. Mmm!

Oof, on that note, my stomach is burbling at me. Best tame it with some lunch and save the gardening portion of this Earth Day tribute for my next post. Stay tuned!

Next: Gardening in a Drought




Earth Day 2015 – Cooking in a Drought — 1 Comment

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