Seek Sustainability

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Last week, we were at a friends’ house for dinner when talk turned to the Cooking for Solutions conference I was headed to at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. “It’s about exploring ways to create a more sustainable food chain,” I said. Brows went up. Heads tilted. And finally the question was asked: “What, exactly, does sustainability mean?”

seek-sustainability-radishesThe answer, it turns out, isn’t so easy to pin down. Over the past few years I’ve come to think of sustainability as a system of practices that is healthy for the environment, economically viable and a positive influence on the community that can be sustained over the long haul. Admittedly, it’s not cut and dry. But maybe, as Wes Jackson, president of The Land Institute, suggested at the conference, it isn’t meant to be.

Wes suggested that “sustainability,” like “justice” and “health,” is a value term. While we may not be able to pin down precise meanings for these words, we nonetheless organize entire societies around the concepts they embody and fight tooth-and-nail to defend them. I’d argue that a core ideal of sustainability is making sure we do things in a way that will preserve something for future generations.

That can all sound vague and stern and solemn, but bring sustainability to the kitchen and you’ll find color and life and flavor. When I make this sandwich with spring radishes and arugula from the garden and everything else sourced locally, for instance, it brings an added depth of pleasure to know that I’m nurturing the earth and supporting my local farmers . . . and you can’t get much more economical than bread and cheese.

My challenge this week isn’t about buying local or buying organic or anything that dogmatic. It’s simply about encouraging you to look at the effect your food purchases have–on the environment, on your community, on your budget. Because ultimately, sustainability has to be about what you value if it’s to have any value at all.

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Radish and Goat Cheese Baguettes

Everything about this sandwich makes me happy. The radishes–so vibrant and colorful–come straight from our back yard, the bread from our local bakery, and the goat cheese from grazing goats just a few miles away. Even the olive oil comes from a local producer. The radish offers a peppery hit that’s lovely against the creamy, pungent cheese.

Radish and Goat Cheese Baguettes


Prep Time: 10 minutes

Yield: Serves 4

Radish and Goat Cheese Baguettes


  1. 2 ounces soft goat cheese
  2. 1 baguette, halved horizontally
  3. 8 radishes, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
  4. 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt (like Maldon)
  5. 1 cup arugula
  6. 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil


Spread the goat cheese on the bottom half of the baguette and layer with radishes. Sprinkle with salt and top with arugula. Drizzle oil on the top half of the baguette and cover, pressing down firmly. Cut into four pieces and serve.