18 Questions: Mark Scarbrough

by Leesa Raab

Each month we will ask a new eco-maven 18 questions about his or her life, occupation and advice for other like-minded people. This month we caught up with the cookbook author Mark Scarbrough!
1. What is your name (and age)?
Mark Scarbrough (52)
2. What is your occupation?
I am full-time cookbook author and food writer.
3.Do you have a “green” memory growing up?

I spent the summers with my grandparents—and so I spent a lot of time on their farm in rural Oklahoma. Although they didn’t practice organic forming back then—I’m not even sure anyone did—they were very concerned about the quality of the soil, even more than the crops growing on it. I was charged with the one-acre potato patch most summers, which meant I did the weeding. Once, as a laze thirteen-year-old, I asked if they’d spray the patch with herbicide. They handed me a hoe.
4.What’s your favorite meal?
In general, a big pot of soup, stew, or deeply braised fare—which means I’m really partial to the way whole grains can stand up to long-cooking. They don’t turn to squish like many vegetables. (I’m sort of dreaming of the Turkish red lentil and bulgur soup in our book right now).
5. Who/What inspires you to be more “green” in your life?
Bruce and I live in rural New England, far from any whiff of a madding crowd. We’re acutely aware that everything we put on the ground ends up in our well (and thus our water supply). My gardens this year are full of frogs—and I consider that a stellar accomplishment!
6. Where on the “green scale” do you fall?
I’d say we’re pretty far over. We don’t eat meat unless we can shake the hand of the farmer who raised the animal. We almost always eat certified-organic fare. We belong to a local CSA. I won’t use anything in my garden that’s not certified for organic gardening. Mostly, I still use that hoe!
7. What are the most rewarding and most challenging parts of your job?
The sheer task of keeping creativity vibrant. Bruce and I have written twenty-two cookbooks in thirteen years, not counting those ghost-written for celebs. He’s the chef; I’m the writer. And we find that nurturing creativity is the most important part of every day: bucking up each other’s ego, moving tasks around so that too many similar ones don’t pile on top of each other, finding downtime to read a novel unrelated to food! You can’t craft over 10,000 original recipes without figuring out strategies to keep creativity alive and well in your home.
8. Where’s your “greenspot”: food, bodycare/beauty, oceans, home or neighborhood, explain.
Given what we do, it’s gotta be food. We’re in the kitchen all day—and see the pressing problems of what we’re doing to our food supply first-hand. We see how easy it is to buy the non-organic mushrooms when we can save several bucks a week on them. We feel the pressure to ramp up the processed ingredients given the time crunch most American families feel in the kitchen. So far, we’ve resisted and insisted that everything we do include real food, no fakes.
9. Where do you turn for your news?
I’m a news junkie! I read the New York Times, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle and the L. A. Times every morning—and then check various online political blogs and sites as the day progresses.
10. What is one environmental change you vow to make in the next year?
We’re pretty committed to exploring an alternate way to heat our New England home: mostly solar panels on the roof, although we’re investigating geothermal methods as well. Nothing in stone yet, but we’re thinking hard about it.
11. If you could trade places with one person from any time in history (past or present) for one day—who would it be and why?
I’d like to go on a journey with Lewis and Clark, or maybe Francis Parkman. I’d love to have seen the American west in its pristine day.
12. You have a meeting with the leader of every country in the world. You have 30 seconds to tell them anything you want. Go!
The most short-sighted action you can take is the one that’s in your own best interest. All the transformational leader in world history have stepped out of their own moment to see that the best action is one not made for the purposes of power but actually against them.
13. You have the chance to send one tweet to all the tweeps in the world. Let’s hear it in 140 characters, or less!
Let the big boys have their pigs in spits. Whole grains are the gourmet ingredients hiding in plain sight!
14. If there was one industry/product that you could make more eco-friendly, what would it be?
Restaurants. While many use organic of local products these days, the carbon footprint of most restaurants, the amount of heat and water used to cook meals for hundreds during the course of a day is astounding. I’d love to begin a conversation of how to make restaurants more eco-friendly—not the foods they serve but the business itself.
15. Where in the world would you most like to be right now?
On the beach in the National Park on Prince Edward Island. You gotta see it to believe it.

THE UNLIKELY PILGRIMAGE OF HAROLD FRY by Rachel Joyce. It’s the gorgeous story of a man who walks the length of England to see a friend dying of cancer. It’s also about doing with much less in a world of lots more.
17. What makes you cringe?
Eighteen questions at once!
18. What do you want your legacy to be?
I’d like to think Bruce and I are moving the discussion of food in the United States just a few points to the better. No, we can’t make over the culinary scene. But we can keep saying, over and over, that no matter what you make, from ice cream or whole grain soups, you can make it with real ingredients, dropping the chemical signature of what you eat in order to find more satisfaction in every bite. And everyone has to expand their culinary horizons just a tad. The research is pretty solid: to eat less you have to eat more things. A monochromatic diet leads to mindless eating. Mustard greens, anyone?

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