Meatless Monday: On Food Day, What Can You Do For Your Food?

We are two days away from Food Day, and two weeks from a presidential election. So ask not what your food can do for you, ask what you can do for your food.

Using the model of Earth Day, Food Day has been created to celebrate and share the abundance we have and to raise consciousness about making food healthy, affordable and sustainable. These three little words carry a great big impact, big enough to change the world, or at least this country. The issues affecting America are the same things showing up on your plate.

You wanna talk health care? Then eat more produce, less processed. Processed food is loaded with fat, sugar, salt, chemical additives and GMOs. If genetically modified food matters to you (and it's been linked to causing tumors, it should), support California's Proposition 37, which mandates labellng GMO products. Politicians like to talk about education, right? So they should feel good about educating consumers. What's in our food shouldn't be a mystery. But until the labelling law is in effect, choose organic over conventionally farmed produce. It's the only way to be sure there's no GMOs lurking in your food.

Yes, this election is about jobs, but what kind of jobs? The job of feeding the country falls to our farmers. If you want to invest in jobs, in the future, in the economy and in having something worth eating, look no further than small businesses -- small family farms. Organic farming is an economic growth sector (you should pardon the pun), so invest in it. Support your local organic farmers. Buy -- and eat -- what they grow.

It's also Fair Trade Month, and showing your support is as easy and rewarding as swapping your usual cocoa for a fair trade version -- same great chocolately taste, and by helping give foreign labor a fair wage, there's no guilty aftertaste of knowing you're having fun at someone else's expense.

If you care about sustainability, if you care about the environment, you care about what we eat. It takes 15,000 liters of water to produce a kilogram of beef. You can grow a kilogram of greens for only 130 liters. And you know you should be eating more greens. Livestock production is also a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. Half a kilo of lamb generates over 39.2 kilograms of emissions. Half a kilo of lentils generates .9.

As I say in my forthcoming book "Feeding the Hungry Ghost: Life, Faith and What to Eat for Dinner," food is one of our most primal points of connection. If you care about your health, the economy, the environment, education and jobs, if you care about connecting with the issues, connect with what's on your plate. Be part of Food Day, from rocking the vote to having a pot luck dinner with friends. Fixing our broken food system is going to take all of us, vegans, omnivores, liberals, conservatives, Republicans, Democrats, undecideds, the 47 percent and the fortunate others. We are all human and we are all hungry. We all deserve healthy, affordable, sustainable food. It is time to reach across the aisle. Or better, reach across the table. Because our food system needs you.

Red Lentil Soup with Indian Spices

Made with lentils and greens, here's a sustaining and sustainable soup, rich with warming spices for cooler nights.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Pinch of red pepper flakes
2 large onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 thumb-size piece fresh ginger, minced
1 1/2 cups red lentils
5 cups vegetable broth
One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
Juice of 1 lemon
2 handfuls fresh spinach or kale, chopped -- add an additional handful if you're a greens freak like me
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

In a generous-size soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the cumin, coriander, turmeric, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring often, until the oil darkens and spices turn fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the onions, garlic, and ginger, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions soften and turn translucent, a few minutes.

Add the lentils and cook, stirring, for a few minutes more, until the lentils deepen in color and glisten with the spiced oil.

Add the broth and the tomatoes and their juice, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice.

Gently stir in the spinach and cilantro. They will wilt into the soup. Season with salt and pepper.

The soup keeps several days in the fridge.

Serves 6.