I have a pile of books by my bedside table at the moment, many of them from the Wakefield Press. They are mostly about food; food writing, food history, growing food, food security, what we do with food (ie. Recipes!) and how not to waste it. It’s fair to say that the world of food is a bit of an obsession of mine. The stories we tie to eating, the emotional bonds and experience are what fascinate me most; the way my nan’s pineapple tart evokes memories of childhood birthday’s and family gatherings, the way lemonade reminds me of being sick when I was a kid and the way soufflé’s remind me of when Paul and I first got together. It is easy, indeed pleasurable, to romanticise food but the reality is that while we love it, crave it, grow it and fantasize about it, we also waste a hell of a lot of it.
A recent study by the Australian institute found that Australian households throw out on average $5.2 billion worth of food every year, that is to say that for every five bags of food we buy, one is thrown out. When you think about it from an economic perspective it equates to a little over $1000 per person per year, from a humanitarian perspective $5.2 billion is enough meet the shortfall in the United Nations Emergency Relief fund and from an environmental perspective it equates to some 4 million tonnes of waste going into Australian landfill every single year. These are some fairly staggering statistics, enough to make you re-think a lot of things, at the very least whether you really need to buy that extra loaf of bread because you can get two for the price of one.
For many of us raised on a diet of pristine fruit and veg and use-by dates, throwing out food that is looking a little worse for wear is considered a fact of life. Indeed since reading these statistics, I’ve taken a long, sorry look at my own food use habits and was alarmed at just how much food goes into the compost (greenie speak for ‘wasted’) and vowed to try harder, much harder. But where does one start? ‘Making a Meal of It’ by Jane Willcox and Rosemary Cadden, is an incredibly easy book to read that is very on the level about food waste and how we can reduce it in our own homes. There are no long-winded rants about how awful we all are for having high hopes for that punnet of strawberries we bought that never got used, the approach is realistic, user friendly and seeks to educate us about the best ways to buy fresh food, how best to store it and what do with it when it starts to look a little worse for wear.
Some handy tips I took from book:
- Eggs are best stored in the main part of the fridge – leaving them on the counter causes them to age seven times faster. Storing them in the specially designed ‘egg holder’ in the door of the fridge can also reduce their lifespan as they are constantly exposed to fluctuating temperatures when the door is opened and closed.
- If you buy carrots with the tops on you should cut them off before storing as they cause them to age faster.
- A blemished orange (ie. One with a rub mark from a branch) is likely to be juicier than its perfect looking partners. This is because it has had to heal itself by creating more juice.
The book also features some great suggestions about how to use up leftover veg that is fading away in the crisper. These pea fritters are a simple and lovely way to use up a half head of cauliflower, something I often find languishing away at the bottom of my fridge.
- ½ cup frozen peas
- ½ head of cauliflower, roughly chopped
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- ½ cup flour
- 1 ½ tspn cumin
- ½ tspn cinnamon
- ½ tspn turmeric
- Steam cauliflower and peas until soft and then mash.
- Add flour and spices.
- Add the egg and mix well.
- Shape mixture into patties and fry in a little oil until golden on both sides.
- Serve with yogurt and chopped coriander.
Disclaimer: I purchased my own copy of the book and there was no financial incentive for me to write this post. I used the recipe with permission from the publisher, Wakefield Press.
‘Making a Meal of It’ by Jane Willcox and Rosemary Cadden is available online and via good bookstores.