This week we discussed the role technological innovation plays in fighting climate change from within the food system. Students reflected on ways technology has improved our lives and also how technology has hurt us. We watched a short video about local company Impossible Foods and its plant-based burger, which promises to deliver the taste and protein of a traditional beef burger without the devastating environmental impact. We also heard from California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris about eating whole foods for health. After reading aloud the ingredients of the Impossible Burger (many of which are difficult to pronounce and nearly impossible to find in a common grocery store), we started to embrace the complexity of food tech products: their design likely makes it easier for more consumers to choose plant-based foods more often, but the Impossible Burger and others like it on the market are still highly processed foods, which our bodies aren’t necessarily designed to eat.
Ms. Stuti’s climate change burger celebrates real potatoes instead of “potato protein” and real tofu instead of “soy protein isolate!” Some of the ingredients were new to students, like amchur (a powder made from unripe green mangoes) and tamarind chutney (which we all agreed contributes a sweet-tart flavor not unlike the more familiar condiment ketchup), but they represent old human technology (harvesting fruit from trees, drying, grinding, simmering). Making the burgers was a highly tactile experience, and the end result is deeply flavorful and satisfying. At the end of one class, a student remarked, “As a professional vegetarian, I give this climate change burger my stamp of approval.”