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The evolution of “sustainable” and vegetarian recipes from manuscripts and cookbooks to online: Their environmental impact, and what this means for the future.

Reynolds, C. ORCID: 0000-0002-1073-7394 (2022). The evolution of “sustainable” and vegetarian recipes from manuscripts and cookbooks to online: Their environmental impact, and what this means for the future.. Paper presented at the Amsterdam Symposium on the History of Food Food and the Environment: The Dynamic Relationship Between Food Practices and Nature, 11-12 Feb 2022, Amsterdam, London.


This contribution examines selected historic and contemporary “sustainable” and vegetarian recipes and cookbooks over time. Specifically, it investigates how the ingredients, methods, and environmental impacts of the food have been changing, and what this means for the future. We will first provide a literature review of the development of European “sustainable” and vegetarian cookbooks, linking the publication of these texts to wider global events and societal trends since the 1600s. Our project uses pilot digital humanities methods to explore digitised historical recipe texts from cookbooks, magazines and websites in English, Dutch and German. Using the natural language processing tool GATE [1] we automatically extract ingredients, quantities and units from modern/contemporary recipes, and examine historical recipe composition and ingredient inclusion. Through this analysis we highlight how “sustainable” and vegetarian cookbooks and recipes have changed. Through this resource, we then explore the environmental impacts of vegan, vegetarian and non-vegetarian recipes if we were to cook these recipes using contemporary ingredients. To do this we link the extracted recipe ingredients to a database that contains the environmental impacts of 4,500 food ingredients. This provides us with the information on the environmental impacts of each recipe if it were cooked today in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, water footprint, and land use per recipe/portion etc. This paper concludes by examining what future diets may look like based on current trends. [1] GATE is an open source software toolkit for automated text processing

Publication Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Lecture)
Additional Information: Copyright, 2022, the author.
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
T Technology > TX Home economics
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Healthcare Services Research & Management > Food Policy
[thumbnail of CFP_Reynolds_Amsterdam_2022.pdf]
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