Book Review: Cool Cuisine – Taking a Bite Out of Global Warming


This ambitious book sets out to do a lot:

1.    Introduce people who are new to the idea that there is a connection between food and climate change.
2.    Lay out all the science in a very detailed manner.
3.    Tell readers how they can personally lower their impact through diet.
4.    Provide recipes and lifestyle tips telling readers how to do it.

Considering how much the book tries to do, I think Cool Cuisine – Taking a Bite Out of Global Warming by Laura Stec with Eugene Cordero, Ph.D. does a good job. However, I wasn’t sure if I was reading a cookbook, a science book, a lifestyle book, or book on how our food system works. This lack of focus made me think that the book would have been better as a series of books focusing on different topics.

Then again, maybe the authors are aiming for the type of reader who gets most of his or her information from the Internet. Going back and forth from topic to topic made my brain feel like it was on the computer or in a pinball machine: a chart here, a graphic there, a sidebar with more detail, a photo, a list of things to do, movies to watch and a recipe-all within a few pages.

The book lays out the facts about global warming, and the ways human activities contribute, including the main diet related factors: meat production, food waste, nitrogen fertilizers.

It’s a fairly complete primer on how our food system works, addressing such topics as agribusiness, subsidies, monocropping and more. It’s a lot to absorb.

That said, the findings are well documented and from what I know, the science seems solid.

The most useful parts of the book for me were the sections that help people lower their impact. Particularly good was the section that gives readers Stages in Cool Cuisine – from baby steps to medium steps to total conscious eating. I think this sort of information is helpful for the eco-overwhelmed.

I also liked the “small things matter” sections with suggestions like making orange juice from local oranges instead of buying it packaged and shipped. So much tastier and easy to do.

The section on building a compost pile was particularly good. I learned some new things from the chart detailing which crops depend most on pollination from bees. It certainly explained why certain crops in my garden do better than others.

And I liked the cooking tips sprinkled throughout. One particularly good section talked about building a condiment plate with naturally tasty items like Gomashio, Umeboshi Plum Vinegar and Sea Vegetable Seasonings. (Though I can’t quite imagine cooking from this book because the recipes are overshadowed by all the information.)

If you want to gain an understanding of how food contributes to global warming along with the science details and tips to help you lower your impact, this book is a good choice. As a cookbook, this book is less successful. One simple fix would be a separate Table of Contents for the recipes with page references. That would go a long way for those people hoping to use this book in the kitchen.

Vanessa Barrington

Vanessa Barrington is a San Francisco based writer and communications consultant specializing in environmental, social, and political issues in the food system.