The diverse holidays of the next two months are the perfect time to practice seasonal, sustainable feasting— whether at home or in your favorite restaurants. By choosing locally grown ingredients and buying from local businesses, eating sustainably supports the region’s local food system and environment. Visiting restaurants focused on sustainability allows your family to see and taste the movement in action and gain ideas for bringing it all home.
For Megan Erb’s West Seattle family, sustainability and knowing who contributes to their meals has become more important over the years, especially during family celebrations.
A year-round practice
“For us, eating sustainably at the holidays isn’t any different than eating sustainably year round,” says Erb. “We like to make it a point to continue to support our local businesses, especially women-owned businesses in our neighborhood. That’s why we always get turkeys for the holidays and other special events from our local butcher shop in West Seattle. That shows our children that we care about eating sustainably and the environment year-round.”
If sustainable cooking or dining out is new to your family, there’s no better time than November and December to start.“Fall celebrates bountiful food and the farmer,” says Nat Stratton-Clarke, owner of Cafe Flora.
Get kids involves
“Feasts are about food, but they are also about family, so trying to get kids involved in the chopping and mixing always makes the meal taste just that much better.”
Stratton-Clarke says fall is his favorite time to share his passion for food with his twins, while at the same time nurturing the kids’ love of sustainably grown ingredients. Each year, the family celebrates the changing of the season by hitting up their local farmers’ market.There they taste a wide variety of apples grown in Washington. Each child chooses a favorite apple, then the family heads home to make an apple cobbler using different types of apples. Tasting, choosing, and cooking helps build a deeper understanding and appreciation of sustainable farming.
Stratton-Clarke’s twins get to meet farmers, enjoy the delicious tastes of fall fruit, and learn about variety.
Local markets are a great start
“The best place in Seattle to get sustainable and locally grown ingredients is your neighborhood farmers’ market,” says Stratton-Clarke.
“We are lucky to have so many great markets that now go year round and have produce that you are never going to find on a grocery store shelf. To be able to get 16 different kinds of apples makes apple pie taste out of this world!”
Preparing holiday feasts can sometimes be stressful, but Stratton-Clarke reminds families that we are lucky to live in the Pacific Northwest where fall and winter produce are abundant and varied.
“There is so much joy in getting together and sometimes the stress of preparing the feast can take over,” says Stratton-Clarke. “I love the simplicity of roasting root vegetables, or sauteing gorgeous fall mushrooms and putting them over polenta.”
Fall is mushroom season
Cafe Flora has thrived with this same spirit of variety and curiosity for more than 32 years. The Madison Park restaurant is a stalwart of locally-sourced vegetarian eating in Seattle. That commitment and a strong community vibe keeps families coming back, says Stratton-Clarke.
The restaurant’s menus are constantly evolving to reflect what is growing right now.
Now in mid-fall, mushrooms are plentiful. Stratton-Clarke loves showcasing vegetables in new and intriguing ways — for example, LobsterMushroom and Peach and Saffron Risotto — and encourages customers to try making similar dishes at home.Mushrooms, Stratton-Clarke points out, “are a unique thing that grows here. They are special to us.”
Cooking by their values
Sustainability is also at the heart of Humble Pie, a pizzeria at the center of the Rainier Valley. Architect and entrepreneur Brian Solazzi is a skilled forager and loves featuring mushrooms on Humble Pie’s menu.
“Chanterelles are the most common,” says Solazzi. “But Oysterhead mushrooms are the most sustainable.”
When Solazzi first started Humble Pie, he wanted to live his values by creating a restaurant that not only grows some of its food on-site but also has a sustainable footprint. The restaurant doesn’t spend any money on electricity and has no food waste, which is unusual in the food industry.
“One of the best ways to shop for local sustainable foods is by subscribing to a CSA,” says Solazzi. “CSA’s allow farmers to cut out middlemen as well as helping them to plan what to plant and harvest. They are also a great way to get a large variety of foods without shopping around. Plus they deliver!”
One of Humble Pie’s favorite CSA’s is Small Acres Farm.
Sustainability means helping local farmers thrive
The CSA has won awards for its innovative sustainability practices. The farm is powered by on-site solar panels and wind turbines.Chris Weber of The Herbfarm in Woodinville agrees with the importance of helping local farmers and producers stay sustainable, while a also growing part of the restaurant’s food onsite. Weber suggests that families who want to create sustainable feasts at home start small.
“When it comes to food, find one really great ingredient that has a story to tell at the table,” says Weber. “It’s such an easy way to spur conversation and see where it goes. Make the effort to know from whom that one ingredient is coming and make a connection with that person. For Thanksgiving, choose the turkey from a small farm. Plan ahead and grow something for Thanksgiving. If it [grows] you’ll have your own personal connection to share.”
‘Eating sustainably is getting easier in the PNW’
Megan Erb, the West Seattle mom, says her family follows that advice. Their daily and holiday meal ingredients are found by visiting Seattle’s many farmers’ markets. Even when traveling over the holiday season, the family likes to explore local farmers’ markets in search of locally-grown food.
“Eating sustainably is getting easier in the PNW,” says Erb. “More grocery stores are starting to buy their food locally, giving more families the opportunity to eat local without the effort of googling which farm has what to offer during the holiday.”
She also noted that sustainable food options can be as simple as growing a few herbs in your garden, as her family does. Invite your kids to harvest the herbs so everyone has a hand in making a family feast.