Chris Elam is program director of Meatless Monday. Chris describes himself as a curious carnivore, happy to eat meat but curious to learn about the health and environmental benefits of cutting back just a little.
Why is living organic important to you?
The word that immediately comes to mind is “responsibility,” whether we’re talking about the stewardship of our lands, the health of our farmworkers, or the health of our next generations. All I need to do is look into my 4-year old son Augustus’ eyes, and know that we as parents, but more as citizens of the globe, need to stand up and demand governmental protection of organic practices in the face of biotech’s relentless bullying.
What was your favorite food growing up?
Tuna fish casserole. I would crouch down and look through the oven window, watching the cheesy sauce bubble at the edges, the tuna and bread crumbs turning a rusty brown. My mother would lift out the big ceramic casserole bowl, and I’d sit at the table waiting for the top layer to cool. Finally, she’d scoop out a heaping helping and place it on my plate—I always got first dibs. I’d dig in. As I grew older, there were seconds, even thirds. In fact, one of the best things about tuna fish casserole was that the more my mother scooped, the more there seemed to be in the bowl waiting. Talk about bounty!
I call it Lazy Pasta. If I come home late or I’m tired, or both, I boil some water, and reach for whatever dry pasta we have at hand. A few minutes later, I dump the cooked pasta in a bowl, and pour on cold pasta sauce—my favorite is Classico vodka sauce. The contact heat warms up the sauce just enough (I’m not picky). And voilà, a bowl of pure comfort!
What’s the one thing in your kitchen you just couldn’t live without?
Granola. Blissful homemade granola. On Sundays, usually while an English Premiership soccer game is on the telly, I rifle through our cupboards, and gather whatever nuts we have available. Into a big metal mixing bowl go the oats, assorted nuts, wheat germ, cinnamon, and grated fresh ginger. In a smaller bowl, I pour applesauce, agave nectar, and a little canola oil and whisk. I dump this into the larger bowl. Then my official mixer, Augustus, takes over. I try to minimize the spatter (safety goggles recommended). Then it’s into the oven, stirring it occasionally, driping on more agave now and then, and you have a week’s worth of bliss. (By the way, if you’re looking for kid-friendly recipes, we’ve got ’em at our recently launched The Kids Cook Monday).
What magazine, website, book, album, or product are you most obsessed with right now?
My Xootr. It’s sort of an industrial-strength scooter. I live in the East Village of New York City, and its flat terrain and quietish streets are perfect for a Xootr (also my longboard skateboard, but that’s another story). Every morning, I take Augustus to school on the Xootr—he rides in the front holding onto the bars, and I’m behind pushing. It’s a blast and a joy to zip down the sidewalk (avoiding the ice patches and straying kids, of course). Ten blocks later, we’re at school. Quick drop-off, then I’m back on the street, winging my way up to Meatless Monday headquarters. I highly recommend it!
What’s the most important news story today that you think we all need to pay more attention to?
The specter of defunding. If we’re talking about national food policy, the two biggies are last year’s Child Nutrition Act, which aims to improve school food, and this year’s Food Safety Modernization Act, which will hopefully make food safer. The problem: Congress’ current mania for budget cuts is putting the effectiveness of these measures at great risk. Already, the Food Safety Act has been defunded, with more potential slashes on the horizon. If these issues are important to you, get informed at Food Safety News, and get active at Food & Water Watch.
Where do you get your news?
The New York Times online, exclusively. Yeah, I know it’s wise to get your news from different sources, diversify the portfolio, and so forth. And I do take a daily cruise through the Huffington Post Food page (though I often feel slightly soiled after having strayed onto the HuffPost homepage). But for me, TNYT online has everything I need. Illuminating domestic and international news, inspiring op-eds, more than enough cultural coverage to keep me informed. It’s a voice, and a source, that I trust implicitly. I’m happy to pay, where do I sign?