Oh, right... peak oil. What should we eat?
February 10, 2008 1:45 PM   Subscribe

Seeking ideas for healthy, balanced, kid-friendly meals that use local (ideally Ontarioan) ingredients, don't require the expenditure of electricity, and could be made by an 8-year old with minimal supervision?

I'm doing some work for a youth organization, and we're trying to help kids understand the amount of energy that goes into getting food to their door. As a challenge, I want to suggest a few meals (breakfast, lunch, snacks, or dinner) that are healthy, kid-friendly, and extremely planet-friendly. The guidelines:

1. Local- Should use foods that are locally grown (Southern Canada). The foods don't have to be organic- I'm hoping to keep costs down so the recipies are accessible to all income brackets.

2. Accessible- The ingredients should be easy to find- say, even at a rural grocery store- and easy to prepare, not daunting and unfamiliar (no sprouted-spelt-germ type recipes), so that the meal is easily recreatable.

3. Human-powered- To show kids how reliant we are on electricity, I was hoping to find meals that required no electricity to prepare- so no oven, and bonus points if no food processor. But also no campfire- these must be indoor recipes.

4. Healthy- The meal must be balanced, with a good protein source.

5. Peanut-free- Because of the prevalance of peanut allergies, avoiding peanuts is probably best. Other kinds of nuts are probably ok.

6. Kid friendly- Ideally a second-grader (7-8 yrs) could make this meal, almost unsupervised. Using a knife is fine.

7. Tasty- Kids and parents should enjoy eating whatever-it-is.

It's okay if these meals turn out to be big, varied salads, or little tapas plate collections- I've been thinking about this for a few days and that's what I've mostly come up with.

If you feel there's some aspect of "planet-friendly" I could re-examine, I'll welcome your advice on those topics as well- I've done some research, but I don't pretend to be an expert.

Thanks in advance, and I look forward to your suggestions!
posted by pseudostrabismus to Food & Drink (9 answers total)
Does no electricity = no cooking? Do these are meant to be raw meals?

Sandwiches. Local cheese, poultry, hydroponic veggies?
(But of course, commercially made bread is made with heat, so maybe that takes it off your list?)
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:24 PM on February 10, 2008

Best answer: The last time we did healthy food with my youth group (6 - 8 year olds), we made sandwich wraps. I got tortillas and cut them into quarters, and then laid on a whole range of fillings (I don't know what is produced near you, but I'm guessing a lot more than is growing near me at the moment, so I'll let you figure out what to use for fillings). They got to chop and change and experiment with different combinations to see what they liked. Much mess and much fun.

We also made fruit kebabs (stick the fruit on a stick, and then eat it off the stick - 7 year old heaven)

Ohhh, you could make dips - like homous and salsa and guacamole?

Most of my other no cook ideas are sweets, really bad!

Are you doing anything else to demonstrate food miles? I'll assume that you are, and add that one of the coolest activities I've heard about to get kids learning about food was a trip to a small local sausage factory, where the kids got to design and make their own sausages. I'm veggie, and even I think that sounds like fun! The classic food miles activity is to do a food diary for a week and record where your ingredients come from, then mark it out on a map. You could expand that and record how it was prepared as well.
posted by Helga-woo at 2:35 PM on February 10, 2008

Chickpeas (humus) and avocados (guacamole) are definitely not locally grown in southern (or northern) Canada. The human powered rule counts out breads, cheeses, most dairy products besides butter and all meat unless eaten raw.

You're down to fruits, herbs, vegetables and nuts. Perhaps cucumber salad would fit the bill.
posted by furtive at 2:49 PM on February 10, 2008

By human-powered are you ruling out using a gas-powered stovetop too, or only the oven?
posted by peacheater at 3:15 PM on February 10, 2008

Ahhh, see my late Sunday evening brain read Southern California, not Southern Canada. (I did read the Ontarian bit as well, but assumed that there was another Ontario that I didn't know about).

I'm going to bed now.
posted by Helga-woo at 3:16 PM on February 10, 2008

Best answer: Some sort of salad, with cheese or some sort of bean to satisfy your protein requirement, would probably be easiest. A milk/yogurt and fruit smoothie could work if you are willing to use the food processor. If you'll accept bread (wheat is produced in Southern Ontario), then sandwiches are a good possibility. Perhaps you can use corn tortillas (for example, tortillas with fresh salsa) somehow, since Ontario produces so much corn.

You might want to check out some raw food recipes because that is probably the most difficult part of what you are asking here. Are there seasonal restrictions or can we assume that you are willing to use crops that are only available locally in the summer?

Finally, I think eliminating the use of electricity might be counter productive, as it will make it seem like eating environmentally requires immense changes in what one eats. I'm not sure that this is the message you want. I don't have any data, but I can't imagine that the small amount of electricity required to cook a food is very significant in face of the much larger amount of energy expended for tilling, fertilizing, watering, harvesting, transporting, selling, and storing the food.

furtive: Actually, Canada is the world's fifth largest exporter of chick peas. Unfortunately for the OP, chick peas are generally grown on the prairies, though there is some pulse production in Ontario (but I don't know about chick peas specifically). You won't get any Ontario lemons or sesame, in any case, so hummus won't help.
posted by ssg at 5:02 PM on February 10, 2008

Helga-woo: There is another Ontario, in Southern California no less. It's in LA County.
posted by Margalo Epps at 7:18 PM on February 10, 2008

Response by poster: Margalo Epps, that's a great point about how telling kids to eat electricity-free meals incorrectly suggests that environmentally conscious eating requires a vast lifestyle change. I certainly don't want to spread that meme! Thanks for the comment- I'll re-visit the plans to ensure we don't make that mistake. We got on this "no-cooking" theme as a compromise. Originally we planned to say "eat meat-free meals a few times a week", which is actually sound environmental advice. We worried that it was too meddling to promote a major diet change like vegetarianism. On second thought, though, instead I think we drifted away from the original idea and into a weird tangent. I think I'm gonna go back a step, avoid the electricity issue altogether and just say, "eat local produce". Thanks, all, for the advice.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:59 PM on February 10, 2008

Eating more meat-free meals is great advice, and eating more meat-free meals isn't saying "don't eat meat anymore" so I don't see how it's a major diet change (vegetarian is *no* meat not *less* meat, after all!). You could talk about local farming/animal raising practices, how it's worth it to get locally sourced meat and the benefits of that to both the buyer and the local farms; and then how the energy that goes into raising and eating local quality meat means that you'll probably end up eating less of it (the expense of quality foods, etc.)... there's plenty of points you could make there.

Anyway, this is a blog about seasonal Ontario foods: it has discussion about different local foods, and recipes you can browse for ideas.
posted by Melinika at 12:21 AM on February 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

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