The Obon season is traditionally a time of reflection for those who have passed before us. As
Mokuren realized years ago that attachment and want of material things may set us on a path of
eternal suffering, we do need to reflect on what is truly important. Family, friends, community.
Or the one simple mission statement that I personally try to follow: To leave this planet a better
place than when I made my entrance into it.
Admittedly, yours truly hasn’t always followed that maxim whether it’s consuming fattened
duck liver and wild salmon (and their roe) or whether that means driving a crossover vehicle that
only gets 20 miles per gallon or if constantly using my propane fueled gas grill and its
subsequent liberal release of greenhouse gases means that someone will have to constantly
perform the Bon Odori to liberate me from the World of Hunger after my passing.
Making Those Baby Steps
A first step in healing the environment can be in reducing the consumption of beef. Supposedly,
raising animals for consumption is a greater contributor to greenhouse gases than all the
vehicles we drive. Roughly a tenth of the carbon dioxide produced from human activity comes
from livestock production. And that’s not the only nasty gas produced. Beef and sheep account
for roughly a third of the methane produced by human activity. And you thought you
produced a lot of methane after that big bowl of chili-n-beans (actually most of human flatus
is simply swallowed air). Just don’t light a match near a cow’s nether region or you will see that
Livestock production is also a major contributor to ammonia production which can result in
acid rain and a major contributor to nitrous oxide which has a 30-fold Global Warming
Potential compared to carbon dioxide.
Reducing livestock consumption also reduces water demands. It’s estimated that it takes
anywhere from 13,000 to 100,000 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of beef.
The same amount of wheat only uses 1000 to 2000 liters of water.
Finally, along with reducing water demands, reducing livestock consumption also reduces their
daily contribution to the globe. No, it’s not their flesh which is the final ultimate contribution.
It’s that daily contribution – almost as if it’s their revenge for their ultimate fate. Their poop.
Livestock waste has been estimated to be 130 times what is produced by humans. And unlike
our waste, livestock waste isn’t treated through the county sewer system. Just don’t purchase a
house downstream from a livestock yard!
If you can’t bear to part with your daily hoofed protein, how about changing the way you cook
it? A very energy efficient method of cooking is induction cooking. Basically, an induction
cooker uses electromagnetic energy to directly heat the metal in your cooking vessel which then
transfers to the food in said vessel. The U.S. Department of Energy rates induction cookers at
84% efficiency (so only 16% of the energy is lost) versus gas or electric burners are less than 50%
(more energy is wasted than used for actual cooking) which translates to less greenhouse gases.
Induction cookers can be as simple as portable pan units to built-in high wattage professional
units (simply type “induction cooker” in Amazon or any search engine and you’ll see the whole
gamut of cookers available). Since induction cookers only heat the bottom of the cooking
vessel, your kitchen won’t feel as warm so you’ll never have to “get outta the kitchen” because
of the heat. This also means that simmered items won’t build up as much of that “crust” at the
water line since the sides of the cooking vessel never really builds up heat to cause the “crust” in
the first place.
The only caveat with induction cookers is since they function on electromagnetic energy, the
bottom of your cooking vessel must be magnetic. Certain grades of stainless steel and cast iron
are perfect though aluminum, copper, glass and ceramic won’t work at all.
Cooking Without Electricity
I know exactly what you’re thinking “I’ve done that before, it’s called eating something raw”.
Well, not exactly in both cases. This method of cooking does take some initial electricity
though even less energy used in an induction cooker but the food is actually cooked, not raw. It’
s called a thermal cooker and works on the same premise as a thermos. Except in this case, the
“thermos” is a stainless steel, double walled, vacuum sealed vessel that holds a large stockpot (4.5
to 8 liter capacity).
Once you bring your soup or stew up to boiling temperature, the cooker insert is simply placed
in the outer insulated jacket and covered. Because of the “thermos” effect, the residual heat in
the inner pot is maintained for quite some time, almost like slowly turning down the setting on
your burning to a constant simmer, all sans electricity (and no greenhouse gases). No worries
about leaving the house for a quick errand while leaving the burner on or scorching the bottom
of your stew due to a faulty slow cooker that just can’t get down to that simmer range. Best
yet, several models of thermal cookers have built-in safety latches to prevent inadvertent
spillage during transportation. Start your soup or stew at home, place in the outer insulated
jacket and seal to continue simmering, load into the vehicle and even if that soccer game goes
into overtime, your dish will still be steaming hot with minimum energy. Environmentally
conscientious, energy efficient and simple to boot. Your only worry is your own seasoning.
Gomenasai but the only model that does that is called the personal chef and those are really
No Animals Were Injured During This Production
During this Obon season, whether it’s your personal inner reflection on the sanctity of all life –
past and present, whether you simply decide to choose meatless or if you’re simply trying to
reduce dietary saturated fat and cholesterol, try this vegan vegetable barley soup. It uses both
induction and thermal cooking technology. Along with being high in flavor, fiber and guilt
free, the cooking means are at least 95% energy efficient. Plus we want our ancestors to dance
simply to express joy for life and not because they have to liberate our souls for our excesses.
Low Emission Vegetable Barley Soup
1 tbsp olive oil
½ lb green beans cut into bite sized pieces
1 small onion roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and quartered lengthwise then cut into bite sized pieces
4 stalks celery, halved lengthwise then cut into bite sized pieces
1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise then cut into bite sized pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can white beans, rinsed and drained
1 can chopped tomatoes with liquid
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp Italian seasoning
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 cup pearled barley
1 quart vegetable stock
1 cup water
Place inner pot of 4.7L thermal cooker on induction cooker. Spray bottom of inner pot with
non-stick spray then set induction cooker to high. Add olive oil. Add chopped vegetables and
garlic and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes.
Add rest of ingredients, cover inner pot and bring to boil. Boil for 1 to 2 minutes, turn off
induction cooker then place inner pot of thermal cooker inside of outer thermal jacket and close
the lid. Let sit for 2 hours.
Serve with slices of toasted whole grain bread.
A Time for Reflection