Behind the Plate


March 11, 2016

You might know her as @etsummer—Emily is a food lover extraordinaire! Her love of food and her professional expertise in sustainable agriculture go hand in hand, and certainly bring about many a delicious creation and compelling conversation on Foodstand. And now that she has transplanted to Northern California, we have a San Francisco expert!

Tell us about what you’re working on right now.
I’m currently working on finishing my MA in International Environmental Policy. My focus is in business, sustainability and development, and my specific interest is in sustainable agriculture and food systems. I’m hoping to make a career for myself in the space where those two intersect!

How do you define good food?
Good food is good for your body, good for your community, and good for the environment. (Of course it tastes good too!)

March is National Nutrition Month. What’s one good-food aspect of your diet that packs some nutritious punch?
I always have sweet potatoes. They’re super good for you but also feel like you aren’t being too healthy when you’re in the mood for something comforting and cozy. My favorite way to eat them is to slice them up into rounds, bake until crispy, then top with black beans, avocado, cilantro & jalapeño vinaigrette, and a bit of feta. It’s kind of like nachos but still good for you.

What’s one of your first (and most memorable) interactions with food?
My grandparents are from Mississippi, and my Nana’s southern cooking is always something that I remember from my childhood (and I’m still enjoying it today!). She taught me how to make biscuits, just like her mother did, and I’ll always love and cherish that memory. It was also always a hoot when we would go back to Mississippi—the fact that I’m a vegetarian would baffle everyone, especially in a place where ham makes an appearance in almost every vegetable dish!

What is your go-to dinner party dish?
Lasagna. It’s nurturing, and you want people to feel nurtured when you’re cooking for them.

Do you have a favorite food trick?
Peel a banana like a monkey! Pinch the bottom and peel from there, not at the top with the stem. Also, I eat the skin of kiwis which a lot of people don’t do. Try it—I know it looks hairy and uncomfortable, but it’s really not bad.

What was your biggest #foodfail?
Ridiculously enough I’ve done this more than once. I make a smoothie and upon the first sip realize that I didn’t rinse the soap out of the blender well enough beforehand. No thanks to soapy smoothies.

If you are making a food resolution this year, what is it?
I want to engage with farmers and food-makers more. Food has such a story to tell, whether it’s a piece of fruit from the market or a loaf of bread from the bakery, and I want to hear the stories of the people this food is coming from—how they got into the food industry, what they love (or don’t love) about it, what their vision is for the food system in the future.

What’s your favorite meal-on-the-go?
A quick cheese “plate”! Fruit, nuts, crackers, and a yummy soft cheese like brie is easy to pack up and eat basically anywhere. Sometimes I throw it together to bring to work for lunch. Makes a Monday feel a bit more glamorous 😉

Is there any food that you can’t stand?
Yogurt, pudding, and jello. It’s a texture thing.




What’s your go-to breakfast?
The always simple and never disappointing avocado toast! I like mine with a fried egg on top, with madras curry powder and black sesame seeds.

Food issues have not quite made it into the campaigns for President. If you could ask the future President to consider a food issue that needs to be addressed, what would it be?
I would ask the future President to consider the soil! 2015 was the International Year of Soils and a lot of great things happened around that, but I want that momentum to keep going. Not only does healthy soil produce nutritious and delicious food, but it also sequesters carbon! It’s one of the keys to reducing our climate impact and it is very worth taking care of, not only for the future of farming but for the future of the the entire planet.

Top three herbs, in order of importance?
Cilantro, cilantro, cilantro. I LOVE it.

What have you been dying to make recipe-wise, but haven’t yet?
I want to make pink pasta! Colored with beets. How fun is that? Just need to find some time…

What’s always in your fridge?
Olives, peanut butter, and beer 🙂

What is your food inspiration?
My food inspiration right now is the city of San Francisco. I just moved here, but everywhere I look is full of beautiful food, and the beautiful people who work with it. There are so many cool things surrounding good food going on here. I’m blown away.

If you were a food, what would you be and why?
An avocado. I eat enough of them I probably should have turned into one by now.

Most underrated spice?
Smoked paprika. Is it still underrated? I feel like people still don’t know the magic—this spice works on so many things. Such smoky goodness!

Favorite cuisine?
Thai. I could eat Tom Kha soup every day.

If you could get the general population to change one aspect of their eating habits, what would it be?
I want more people to realize that a plate doesn’t need meat to be a complete, substantial meal. That mentality is so frustrating to me. I think people are getting better about it, but I can’t tell you how many times I get the question “what do you eat?” when I say I’m a vegetarian. There are so many foods out there that don’t come from animals that are full of protein and are nourishing and filling.

Food related pet peeve?
When people won’t even try new foods. And when knives are dull.

What’s your favorite indulgent treat?
Green tea mochi ice cream.

Your good food wish?
I want people to be produce literate! There are so many cool fruits, veggies and herbs, etc. out there that many people aren’t familiar with and/or don’t know how to prepare. It can make for such a limiting diet. Teaching eaters about all of these foods and flavors can open so many doors and start a conversation about good food and better choices for health and the planet.

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