Lemony fields of flittering flowers make for happy road tripping. The mustard seed is still blooming as we time-travel back to mid-April in Napa Valley.
– Photo by Creative Commons
It’s Earth Day season and the start of the Global Plant-Forward Culinary Summit. Hosted by the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at Copia, a “foodie wonderland” of cooking classes and culinary events for industry and the public. Best-Blowup-Earth-Ever greets us, swaying playfully above the garden terrace. The 78,632 sq. ft center houses theatres, classrooms, restaurants, a gift shop, a culinary museum and one huge commercial teaching kitchen. Stop by the next time you are in Napa as many of the areas are open daily to the public. It’s a gorgeous location to learn more about food.
The Food Party! is here to cover another impressive culinary show, 3-days filled with great food, ideas, recipes, cooking, networking, science-backed info and inspiration. Global Plant-Forward is a ‘relentless unapologetic pursuit of deliciousness, at the intersection of health sustainability, culture and innovation.” Industry leaders are here to envision what a plant-forward future looks and tastes like and learn ways to incorporate this style of eating into their eateries – university & corporate cafeterias, grocery stores and restaurants near you.
The first attendee I meet is a farmer from Idaho. (What a coincidence – Idaho is our next Travellin’ Solo adventure.) From the port town of Lewiston, Northern NezPerce County, Doug Moser launches in on his homeboy schtick.
“What state borders 6 states, a foreign country and has a seaport? That’s Idaho. I was raised in Lewiston, the lowest part of the state (700 ft elevation). My father started a farm after World War II and I have been involved in leguminous production from alfalfa, lentil, pea, and particularly chickpeas (garbanzo) for over 40 years. This area has 5 million acres of contiguous green or gold hills that can be farmed, depending on the time of year and what’s planted. Formed of volcanic topsoil what’s really special is the area relies on natural rainfall to irrigate its extraordinary crop production.”
– Idaho farmland, photos by Judy Moser, Country Roads Photography
“What are you doing at Global Plant-Forward?”
“I’m here to educate and promote plant-based food and chickpeas; from an environmental standpoint as well as the consumer benefits. With Fresh Nature Foods, we are developing “Garbanzo, Plant-based Food Products” such as tater tots, chicken nuggets, pastas, dairy (milk) replacement, spreads and dips. Chickpeas are an exceptional plant for the environment you know -they take gases out of the air and fix valuable nitrogen into the soil, they allow for better water percolation through an aggressive tap-root system to replenish and purify aquifers, and naturally fumigate the land for subsequent crops. And they only use a fraction of water compared to most every other crop. In contrast to livestock, chickpeas purify the atmosphere and aquifers. They are non-GMO (compared to soybeans at over 90% GMO), lactose-free, gluten-free, nut-free with a high protein content and resistant starch, known to lower glycemic index and blood-sugar.”
Doug and I enjoy snacks prepared by the CIA, then head to the main theatre where the conference begins.
Zeytinyagli Artichoke (vegan, gluten free)
Senior Advisor for Strategic Initiatives Greg Drescher welcomes the group of a couple hundred attendees. “We’re here to discuss culinary strategies, not just menus and recipes, for a new way of feeding America. Plant-forward encompasses many styles of eating; vegetarian and vegan yes, but it’s more a big tent approach – part of the Flexitarian diet that many Americans are adopting.”
A flexitarian approach is not an elimination of anything, but more a shift away from animal-based foods as the center of the plate to plant-based foods. Some days you might eat animals products, some days you might not. This style of eating offers better health to people, animals, and our planet, with much less environmental impact. Ultimately, better flavor too. Eating higher-quality animal products less often, blending plants with meat, and new plant-based proteins are all part of the trend and on-show at the conference.
Finless “Tuna” with Charred Lemon Aguachile (vegan, gluten free)
Potato, Beet, Portobello Slider
Tindle Thy Lotus Leaf Bao (vegan)
After introducing new accredited programs offered at the CIA, including a Masters in Sustainable Food Systems, the first presentation begins. World of Spices and Aromatics – learning ways to elevate vegetables and pulses, is led by Christina Arokiasamy, chef from Kent, Washington, and author of The Malaysian Kitchen. She mentions the complexity of Malaysian food is still not well-understood in the U.S. Origins began in 15th century Malacca, a port town where merchants came to barter and trade spices. Over the years some merchants stayed, and a cuisine developed combining all the cultures into the same dish. Chinese, Indian, Malay and Portuguese – Malaysian food borrows a little something from each.
“Peanut sauce is serious business in Malaysia. People will travel the country to find their favorites. The spice base is what makes the difference. We start with a wet spice base of fresh chilies, galangal, garlic and herbs. Then we roast fresh raw peanuts to make the sauce; we never use peanut butter.” Galangal is a cultural favorite root related to ginger and turmeric with a complex citrusy flavor. “If you can’t cut through the galangal, just change the direction of your knife.”
Global Plant-Forward offers a blend of new foods from food producers the world over, combined with traditional techniques and dishes from world cuisines. “We feel strongly there is a lot to learn from traditional plant-forward cultures,” reports Drescher. “Latin America, African, Asian and the Mediterranean. Antonia Trichopoulou, a colleague from Greece, MD and President of the Hellenic Health Foundation says it this way, ‘We don’t like vegetables any more than Americans do. The reason we eat so many is because of how we prepare them.’”
– Multigrain Crepe with 9 Delicacies
The Food Party! will be doing a few posts on the conference, featuring recipes from and food served at the event. Please view the extensive resources and conference webcast here to learn more about the growing movement of plant-forward cooking and eating.
– Oat milk Panna Cotta
Chocolate Black Bean Peanut Butter Swirl Muffins
CIA at Copia
500 1st St, Napa, CA 94559
Monday – Tuesday (11 AM – 5 PM)
Wednesday – Sunday (11 AM – 9 PM)
– photos by LSIC unless noted
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