Hold up, the Middle East are actually thinking about sustainability. I know right?!
The Middle East has never been a particularly suitable region for agriculture, after all, it is mainly desert. Thanks to the growing population, there is now a serious need for more food, hence the region is starting to look at sustainable alternatives to their food supply to ensure a longer-term solution to the ever-growing requirement. Despite not having the perfect conditions for growing food, Middle Eastern food is among the most delicious cuisines – using many herbs and spices to create wholly flavoursome dishes.
The use of herbs, spices and nuts in Middle Eastern cooking has been passed down through many generations, from way back before sustainability was on the radar. Way back when the ingredients could be sourced from anywhere in the region without concern. This style of cooking has barely altered over time and the same key ingredients remain, but the view of sourcing the ingredients has also barely altered, thus leaving the region in a little bit of a dilemma. It is thought that the Middle East will need to double it’s food production sustainably to prevent a population wide hunger and famine by 2050.
Last weekend, as an early Christmas treat my mum and I got tickets to a “taster” brunch for just 10 people with chef Dan Doherty of Duck & Waffle fame who creates many of his dishes with Middle-Eastern inspiration. Dishes include griddled bread with dukkah and shakshuka with zhoug, ingredients I confess I hadn’t heard of until I went to Honey & Co. in 2014, a Middle Eastern cafe and restaurant in London.
So with this delicious food in mind, how can the Middle East continue to consume food like kings? Well, that’s simple: affordable diets that offer improved nutrition with minimal adverse environmental and social impacts of course! Hmm, yes, you’re right – not so simple.
My suggestion? The Middle East needs to begin incorporating sustainability into every day life and education much like the rest of Europe has. The underlying obstacle lies in the political and social issues but with global businesses who source a multitude of products from the Middle East there will be a growing pressure for the region to provide sustainable alternatives. With a recent surge in sustainable development in the construction and building sector we can hope that the previously proven leadership and resilience to challenges that their commitment to making this change with food and nutrition will pull through.