It all begins with breakfast 

Go for a smaller meal-print with food concepts from the past

click to enlarge PHOTO BY LESLIE KWOK / COURTESY OF NITA LAKE LODGE - great garden Josh Kelly in the pesticide-free garden on the roof at Nita Lake Lodge.
  • Photo by leslie kwok / courtesy of nita lake lodge
  • great garden Josh Kelly in the pesticide-free garden on the roof at Nita Lake Lodge.

Yes, folks, the climate protests march on, and now the interesting part begins. Taking part in any protest or rally is not action—it's a call to action. And that's where the fun really starts.

Taking a line from best-selling author Jonathan Safran Foer—well, the subtitle from his latest book, We Are the Weather—where we can begin is breakfast. There's something so immediate and doable about the idea, why not start there?

In case you've been off the face of the Earth for a while (even hanging out in the International Space Station doesn't count—they get a lot of Earth news there), a lot of us are really trying to reduce our carbon footprint here on home ground. And while what we eat isn't the be-all and end-all, it is one of the easiest, most approachable entry points.

Foer's latest book follows up on his 2009 best-seller on factory farming, Eating Animals, (with a few, ahem, critically acclaimed novels along the way). A critique exploring why we're so loving with our dear pets and so otherwise with the animals we consume, Eating Animals was written in collaboration with Farm Forward, a not-for-profit that promotes sustainable farming and more traditional animal husbandry. (A doc of the same name is narrated by Natalie Portman, if that makes you more interested. It gets mixed reviews.)

We Are the Weather picks up from there and breakfast is where it starts—sans bacon, of course.

Actually, breakfast is pretty easy to figure out without meat. In Jokha al-Harthi's Celestial Bodies, which won the Man Booker International prize, Azzan starts his day, every day, with dates and coffee. Many Canadians also go for the fruit (dried and otherwise), and the yogurt, the toast, and the cereal and porridge, including rice porridge or congee.

It's the rest of the meals that can daunt us meat-eatin' Canucks, who've been raised on ideas and old habits from parents and pioneering grandparents, and lots of advertising from industry lobby groups—dairy, beef, chicken and more.

But Josh Kelly, senior sous chef at Nita Lake Lodge's Aura Restaurant, has some pretty cool ideas for getting us beyond breakfast. He also understands why it's important.

"It's 100 per cent proven—there's nothing left to debate," says Josh, a fellow Albertan from Red Deer, one of Canada's beef and dairy heartlands. "Raising animals for consumption is an extremely large investment of resources in general. It produces a large amount of carbon and the animals do as well..."

Other than at work, where he has to taste everything, Josh hasn't eaten meat since he was 14. He stopped eating all animal products, including butter!, 10 years ago, when most people hadn't even dreamt of the link between eating animals and our failing climate.

Josh, like me and tons of other Canadians, grew up with "three-things-on-your-plate" eating—meat, potatoes and a veg. "That's where so many people struggle to make the adjustment," he says. If you simply substitute your steak with a salad it's not going to work, especially the nutritional angle.

"When you change from a more traditional, Canadian diet to a more plant-based diet, realistically, it's the format for creating a meal that changes." In many cultures, where the cuisine has developed over a long time, you'll find interesting, meatless options often with only one component, like curry.

"So many other cultures already have a vegetarian or vegan diet as part of their culture, naturally, " he says. "In Western cuisine it's so easy to think that we're taking something away (when we go meat-free), but so many other cultures have something good—there's lots of beautiful Mexican dishes or India, of course, has lots of really nice vegan dishes."

If those ideas aren't easy enough, check out Meatless Mondays at Aura. You won't have to lift a fork, except to your mouth. Aura started three-course vegan menus years ago, before meat-free was on-trend, then resurrected them last spring. You get to choose from selections like roasted butternut squash with a farro risotto (farro is a grain-food popular in Tuscany) and a vegan banana sundae made with brulee bananas and homemade winter-spice vegan ice cream, all for $39. Yum. Aura's regular menu features meatless choices any day—including a new vegan banana bread French toast for brekkie.

In the meantime, Bloomberg reports that changes are happening in agriculture to reduce its carbon footprint—there's better soil management and livestock have been bred with digestive systems that produce less methane (read: cow farts).

It's a start, but barely a smidgen. Livestock still account for 60 percent of agricultural emissions; fields are burned for pastureland; and inorganic fertilizers, which release methane and nitrous oxide, are used extensively. (One more reason to buy organic.)

Here in the developed world, meat consumption is dropping faster than expected and crops like peas, soy and mung beans are on the rise. That's of little comfort in light of our growing population worldwide, which the UN forecasts will increase by 40 per cent to 9.8 billion by 2050, and hit 11.2 billion by 2100. (There are now 7.5 billion of us on the planet; there were 4.5 billion when I bought the Whistler Question from Paul and Jane Burrows, and 2.5 billion when I was born.)

Also, as people in places like China, India and the Middle East—cultures with those wonderful, traditional cuisines that are vegan or vegetarian that Josh highlighted—earn more money, they eat more meat.

Overall, economists predict we're on track to eat 60 per cent more animal products by 2050. So hang tight, and figure out what you're going to have for breakfast—and lunch, and dinner—tomorrow.

Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning journalist who had a big bowl of teff for brekkie—the staple grain of Ethiopia and Eritrea since ancient times.

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