I reaaallllly like rice bowls. Particularly this one because it uses leftover veggies + herbs + other greens in the fridge that otherwise may have been composted. Of course, a fried egg on top never hurts either. Oh, and did I mention that the only thing you have to cook in this dish is the rice?! It’s that simple.
But first, a tangent…
Errrggg – I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted. To say that life has been hectic is an understatement, but nowadays, who’s life isn’t all over the place? (If yours is going well, please send me some advice). The truth is towards the latter half of 2020, I lacked motivation to share recipes.
Buuuuut…new year, new… just kidding, haha.
It’s not that I neglected cooking or delving into new recipes – quite the opposite. I experimented more in the kitchen and discovered dishes that are now favorites. However, my relationship with food changed within the past year –
I love food. No, I don’t mean just eating food. I love everything about food. The aroma of the blended ingredients, the cultural roots of each dish, the meticulous process in cultivating key ingredients, the science behind food, etc. Food is extremely fascinating and transcends simple nourishment for our bodies and I’ve learned to appreciate its sentimental and complex nature, and the way food connects us all.
I love the conversations and relationships built during eating & cooking meals together with friends & family. I love the stories & laughter shared over the dining table (or couch) – especially the kind that makes you snort food out your nose. To me, food is intimate. Food is sacred.
But during the past year, I learned so much about the role that food plays in climate change. To love food while ignoring the negative impact of the way we currently produce and consume food harms our environment, doesn’t sit right with me.
Currently, food production counts for one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emmissions1. This includes producing food, transporting it, and storing wasted food2 in landfills. I won’t delve into this issue today as this blog post won’t do enough just, but there are plentiful resources3 if you’re interested in doing your own research.
Yeah, we can blame industrialization, urbanization, the government, and those large corporations who know that our food system is fucked up and still refuse to to anything about it, but I believe that it’s up to each of us, as individuals, to make a change in our consumption habits for the ‘big guys’ to follow suit.
Here’s an excerpt that I really like from a recent Forbes’ article4, which quotes Charles Michel (a chef, food educator, advisor to the World Food Programme, and whose #FoodActivism community I joined on Patreon!):
“I believe the conscious kind of food lovers should lead the charge on diet… We need to educate more intelligent consumers by making healthier foods more sexy, and generate a movement around it.”
“We need everyone to be involved—from soil to gut—consumers, farmers, activists, chefs, artists, scientists, politicians, and entrepreneurs. That means lifting up food and consumption, all across the board, as maybe the most potent acupuncture point to transform food systems to reach the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). Pleasure and beauty are the key, experience is the medium.”
So what does this mean for me as an individual? What can I do to be a more conscious consumer?
Within the past year, I made a consistent effort to reduce my food waste (at home & in restaurants) and I started to compost vegetable & fruit scraps. When I order food to-go, I make a conscious effort to decline plasticware (I have utensils at home!). I bring my own grocery bags to the market and purchase certified organic foods, when I’m able to. My money started going towards more locally-sourced foods & ingredients. I also started to cook with less meat5, and if I do cook with meat, I try my best to only purchase grass-finished beef and pasture-raised chicken & eggs. I recognize that this can often get expensive and mostly only available in higher-end markets, but privilege, in regards to food sustainability, is a whole ‘nother conversation on its own.
Despite these efforts, I realize how much more I have to learn and the work that remains to be done. I am constantly refining my consumption habits. I am not vegetarian or vegan. I occasionally still waste some food that I forget is in the back of my fridge. I still purchase packaged bread. I wish I can grow my own vegetables & herbs in my apartment. But, change comes from a lot of small things done well. The commitment to the solution is the answer to the problem.
Nevertheless, I’m revitalized with a renewed purpose for this blog – to commit to educating others on food. With each post, I want to share with you things that I’ve learned that has helped (is helping) me become a more conscious food lover.
In today’s post, I’ve decided to highlight my favorite part about this rice bowl – the egg – and the animal welfare marketing terms around in attempt to make us feel better about eating it.
Pasture-Raised Eggs vs. Cage-Free Eggs vs. Free-Range Eggs
Pasture-raised, cage-free, free-range – all the rah rah and the blah blah…what does it all mean?! Numerous articles have explored this topic and the research is overwhelming. I will attempt to recap my findings below.
In case you didn’t already know, let me start off by breaking your heart – “cage free” & “free-range” eggs is really just a whole bunch of bullshit. These terms have no legal definition and are purely used for marketing purposes, taking advantage of consumers who are [rightfully so] confused about these labels. Actually, even pasture-raised doesn’t mean anything either!
Yes, I guess you can say that there are certain humane standards6 that differentiate these terms e.g. # of hours of access to sunlight during the day, square footage of indoor/outdoor space where chickens are raised, etc. but again, these terms are not regulated, so anyone can slap on these words on an egg carton and call it a day.
(Other words that don’t mean anything on egg carton labels: vegetarian-fed, natural, farm fresh, fertile, omega-3 enriched, pasteurized)
Wait, so are all of these terms are bullshit?! Why have I been spending double for pasture-raised eggs when they’re all the same?! This is the right question to ask.
The answer is no, it’s not all complete bullshit. The key difference between finding out what is actually real vs. what is not is the presence of an auditing agency. These agencies (e.g. Humane Farm Animal Care, Rainforest Alliance, National Organic Program) charge a small fee to come inspect farms to see if things are up to their standards. When it comes to eggs, it means they’re looking at the chicken’s access to outdoors, sunlight, space to move, etc. If the farm passes their inspection, they’re allowed to use the agency’s emblem on their packaging.
The thing is, the Human Farm Animal Care agency’s minimum standards aren’t too hot either for “cage-free” and “pasture-raised”7. However, in order to get the “Certified Humane” emblem and be allowed to write “pasture-raised” on the egg carton, the farm must meet some pretty intense standards – more intense than organic certification. So if you do see an egg carton with both “pasture-raised” & “Certified Humane” labels, it means it’s the best option out there… besides raising your own chickens in your backyard! Personally, I have access to Vital Farms8 in my local grocery store, and it’s the only eggs I cook & bake with.
This matters to me because I care about ethically produced (& sourced) food, and in general, pasture-raised animals are better for the environment9.
I’m not saying that I never eat eggs that are not pasture-raised. Sometimes I’m in situations where it’s not accessible to me or there are no other options (e.g. eating out in restaurants and/or food that was served to me). However, I do have the ability to only bring pasture-raised eggs into my home, and I will continue to do so.
One thing I’ve learned throughout my #FoodActivism journey is that becoming a more conscious consumer doesn’t mean you need to be perfect all the time. We need more imperfect conscious consumers. It’s the small changes that make a big impact.
I think I’ve rambled enough for today. Let’s make this rice bowl.
Green & Garlicky Rice Bowl with Fried Egg
- 1 & 1/2 cups uncooked jasmine or basmati rice
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Butter or olive oil
- 2 – 3 pasture-raised large eggs
- Small bunch of kale
- Small bunch of fresh parsley
- Small bunch of fresh cilantro
- 2 – 3 fresh basil leaves
- 1 jalapeno
- Handful of small radishes
- 2 – 3 cloves garlic
- Queso fresco
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Furikake seasoning*, optional but highly recommended
- Your favorite hot sauce, optional for topping
- (Other ingredients that you may have in your fridge that would also work: avocado, black beans, diced mango, shredded cabbage, etc.)
- Wash your rice, add about 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, and cook according to instructions. I use a rice cooker. Use whatever your fool-proof method is.
- Meanwhile, finely chop all the veggies & herbs you are using. In my bowl, I used kale, parsley, cilantro, cilantro, jalapeno (seeded & cored), garlic. Go ahead and slice your radishes too.
- Heat up a non-stick skillet with a little bit butter or olive oil on medium-high heat. Crack the eggs on the skillet and cook until golden-brown around the edges, about 2 minutes. Cover loosely using a lid (or aluminum foil) and cook until the whites are just set and the yolks are still runny but starting to set. Season with salt & pepper.
- Once your rice is done cooking, mix in your greens: kale, parsley, basil, cilantro, jalapeno, and garlic. Add salt & pepper to taste (and Furikake seasoning, if you’re using). Make sure you are tasting the rice as you are mixing in the seasoning so that it doesn’t become too salty/garlicky.
- Prepare your bowl: Scoop in rice & veggie mixture first, lay the fried egg on top of the rice, add sliced radishes, and queso fresco. This would be a good time to add in other ingredients you may also have: avocado, beans, diced mangoes, shredded cabbage. Top with your favorite hot sauce, if you desire.
*Note: Furikake seasoning is a Japanese spice blend made with dried seaweed (nori), toasted sesame seeds, salt, spices, and optional bonito.
1. Focus on What You Eat
2. Wasted Food
3. Resources to learn about food’s impact on climate change: Environmental Impacts of Food Production, Kiss the Ground – learn about regenerative farming (Netflix documentary), The True Cost of our Food Systems (YouTube)
4. Why It’s Falling To You—And Not Your Government—To Decarbonize The Food System
5. Environmental Impacts of Food Production
6. Difference between pasture-raised and free-range eggs
7. Consumer Reports on Certified Humane
8. Vital Farms
9. Raising Animals Sustainably on Pasture