December 30, 2013

Southwest cuisine and sustainabilityIf you’ve taken Texas cooking classes and want to make your living in the food business in or around that state, you’re in luck. The Southwestern United States has quickly become one of the centers of the culinary arts in America, and it has done so with a combination of traditional regional cuisine and modern sustainable sourcing techniques.

Border-inspired cuisine
The U.S.-Mexico border is a cultural melting pot. It is a place where people from many different backgrounds mix freely with one another, exchanging ideas, traditions and especially food. But it’s not just about the kind of Tex-Mex cuisine that people in other regions of the United States, or even the world, imagine. Chefs are integrating newer cooking and sourcing practices in with their centuries-old traditions to fuel their creations and cook them in an environmentally conscious manner.

The mission at the La Semilla Food Center, which has two locations in southern New Mexico, is to educate the community about issues like food justice and sustainability. Beginning with a community garden in 2010, the center’s founders – Aaron Sharratt, Cristina Dominguez-Eshelman, and Rebecca Wiggins-Reinhard – built a hub for eco-friendly, healthy cooking in the Southwest.

“They took on a task that seems monumental to me, but because people in our region are so unfamiliar with food justice issues and food systems. It takes a lot of education,” said Catherine Yanez, La Semilla Program and Outreach Coordinator. “We’ve already seen a difference in the people that we’re engaging; we’re seeing that light bulb turn on.”

The center has managed to extend its influence throughout the region by holding numerous community outreach programs, in-school educational seminars and working with local farmers.

Austin sustainability
Eating and drinking locally is one of the prime tenets of the food sustainability movement, and few places take that idea more seriously than Austin. Anyone who has already completed, or is contemplating taking, an Austin culinary program has to take advantage of the Edible Austin Eat Drink Local Week.

The most recent week-long Edible Austin series of events was held from Dec.7-14 this year. It helped to raise awareness of the sustainable, local food and drink innovations that are taking place all around Austin, and beyond. Urban farms and farm-to-table restaurants were the focus of this year’s event, with some proceeds going to help the Sustainable Food Center, which is dedicated to advocating for sustainable sourcing practices.