Make harvest grain bowls with cookbook author/activist Maria Reidelbach at Kingston’s Old Dutch Church

The Kingston Winter Farmers’ Market will host another Seasonal Eating Workshop in the kitchen of the Old Dutch Church this Saturday with artist, author and activist Maria Reidelbach at the prep table. “I’m going to talk to people about the ideal ratios [of ingredients]: heavy on the leafy greens, heavy on the veggies, less protein and less whole grains,” she says, showing an illustrated pie chart. “The idea is to teach people to look at their food in a different way: very different proportions than what we’ve been taught by endless food pyramids, ones devised by a government office that is heavily influenced by Big Ag commerce.”

On the back of the pie chart, readers will find lists of which vegetables would fit the bill to achieve the most in nutrition, including optional proteins. Reidelbach notes that she doesn’t promote a strictly vegetarian or vegan diet, yet the key to her “climate change menu” centers on choosing more foods that are produced with a smaller carbon footprint than industrial meat production.

Another colorful chart spells out the difference between being a total meat-lover and a vegan, and all stages in between. For example, at maximum carnivorous consumption, the Standard American Diet pumps out 3.3 tons of carbon per year. By cutting beef and lamb off your grocery list, you’re down to 1.9 tons. A switch to veganism cuts that total by about a half-ton. It’s interesting to note, according to Lindsay Wilson’s data (see ShrinkThatFootprint.com), that a diet that includes chicken, fish, pork and dairy products measures only slightly higher in CO2 emissions than vegetarian fare, depending on how the veggies, beans and grains are grown.

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Reidelbach’s recommendations are adaptable to an individual’s preferences and specific needs, such as having to avoid gluten or dairy products. She wants people to try new options rather than feel put off by being told what they shouldn’t consume. Attendees to the Seasonal Eating Workshop, along with participants in her cooking group at the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County (CCEUC), are exposed to new menu concepts and ingredients gently. She wants them to be inspired to make healthy changes.

“We’ll be making harvest grain bowls,” says Reidelbach. “People will have different jobs in the kitchen: cutting, dicing, slicing, arranging. Almost all the ingredients will be sourced from the next room – the Kingston Farmers’ Market – including a combination of cooked, fresh, pickled and cured ingredients (including meats and fish). Also, ‘sprinkles’ – crumbled bacon, sprouts, microgreens, grated cheese, nuts and seeds – the confetti of the food world, and a homemade dressing. We will learn how to create a grain bowl that is both kind to the planet and very healthy. Interestingly, what’s good for the planet turns out to be good for us, too. It’s a win/win in terms of diet.

“All the recipes I’m making for a new cookbook – you slot in whatever ingredient you have for that category. So, in a fruit crisp recipe, you make it withwhatever fruit you have on hand, and whatever grain you’ve got. Then you can use butter or vegetable shortening or oil, nuts or no nuts at all. It’s like a formula. Again, on the back [of pages], you have different choices and ideas, ways to make it even greener. So, what I’m doing is – these are all draft recipes. I’m putting them out and asking people to try them at my cookbook club over at the Cornell Extension.”

Reidelbach is on a mission. Currently collaborating with the CCEUC on the new cookbook, titled Turning the Tables: Cooking to Thrive in the 21st Century, she advocates for community-based education that’s centered on finding solutions to the potential problems facing us all with climate change. She has worked with local farmers through the Rondout Valley Growers’ Association for 15 years; you might have seen her “Stick to Local Farms,” an interactive map featuring small farms throughout the region, or read her work, The Yardavore, a column about eating locally foraged and cultivated food.

“I got involved in the Transition Town movement in Marbletown and learned a way of approaching climate change that worked for me, which is to organize on a community level. Individually, there are things we can do, like recycling and not buying very much, getting a car that has better gas mileage. But we’re not powerful enough. And the government’s not doing anything. It’s on the community level that we can take the biggest step.”

She mulls over the fact that most of us are aware of climate change, but are basically disconnected from each other when it comes to acting on our concerns. “In the last year or two, people have woken up about this. They’re not in denial anymore. They’re not talking to each other, but they’re thinking about it. I felt like the time was right for a cookbook like this. I checked out other climate change cookbooks printed in the last couple of years, but most of them were either vegan or weirdly fussy, like recipes that called for very specific ingredients. Or half of the text is about how climate change is happening – so much more than even I want to know. So I wanted to create a cookbook for people who had sort of fallen out of the practice of cooking or who had never learned to cook in a way that is flexible, incorporating different ingredients on the fly, which is what you get if you have a garden or shop at the Farmers’ Market. It also helps you avoid waste.

“What we can do is organize at the community level to localize everything possible, have a potluck and get to know your neighbors, learn how you get your water and all those services and just have fun. We have to make this joyful, or people are not going to do it. The most resilient communities do this. Localized farming is a big deal in the Transition movement. And we have farmers growing rice in Ulster Park! I’ve been eating local rice all winter. So fresh!”

Reidelbach invites locals to reserve a spot at the chopping block this Saturday at the Farmers’ Market in Kingston. Check out a veritable smörgåsbord of winter vegetables – butternut squash, kale, rainbow radishes, potatoes, carrots, beets, Brussels sprouts, eggs, lentils, beans, apples, herbs, microgreens and nutty whole grains – and compose your own harvest bowl. Bring an apron, a hat or other implement to hold back your hair and a jar to take home extra dressing. Then enjoy a hearty local lunch.

Seasonal Eating Workshops, Saturday, Feb. 15, 11 a.m.-noon or 12:30-1:30 p.m., $10-$15 donation, Old Dutch Church, 272 Wall St., Kingston; info@kingstonfarmersmarket.org, http://kingstonfarmersmarket.org.