Wednesday, March 04, 2015


If there was ever an issue designed to bring out self-satisfaction, it would have to be food waste. If you'd been simmering with the urge to shame people who throw away broccoli stalks or carrot tops, the NYT is offering not one, not two, but three comments sections where you may do just that. Now's the moment for your Sunday pot of lentils, which you virtuously distribute into your and your family's meals for the week, to make its big-media debut. And the "tips" article is especially... I mean, if your main food waste concern is that you throw away kale stems, you might as well just bask in the Gwynethy green-juice glow of your smug.

Or perhaps what I'm objecting to isn't even sanctimoniousness, so much as the fact that other people seem able to eat foods I think I'd have trouble getting down. A NYT reader: "Every now and then I’ll have a couple of tablespoonsfull of a dish leftover. I’ll pulse it and add it to a sauce or soup for some extra depth and flavor." See, I would not do this.

The sad truth is that I'm responsible for some not-insignificant percentage of the kale that's gone uneaten in this country over the past five or so years. I feel good about myself for buying it, but unless I have a very specific plan for using it (and I inevitably use other vegetables first, because they're more appealing, but I'll defend this as, because kale keeps), it eventually turns yellow and much of it ends up in the trash. Kale-discarding guilt is a special kind of food-waste guilt - and yet it's the very ingredient I'm most likely to toss. I can already hear the recipe-suggestions - garlic and olive oil! sausage! shred it and make one of those City Bakery-type salads! kale chips! - and it's like, you can know all of this, but it's still kale, and the answer's clearly just to not buy it in the first place.

The only way I know of that works to avoid food waste is to treat food the way you treat other household products - that is, to buy the same things over and over again, and use them up. Buy only the things you actually like to eat. Don't expand your repertoire beyond one or two cuisines. Don't assume that because other people (claim to) enjoy defrosted legume puree night after night, you'll do the same. Have a preferred cereal and milk at breakfast, and have dinner be pasta plus (say) arugula, tomatoes (canned and turned into a sauce or fresh and raw), and parmesan. Buy some kind of fruit that keeps (clementines, apples), and... done. You probably won't get scurvy, and you'll definitely appreciate meals out.

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