Anyone who cooks knows that waste bins tend to fill up at an alarming rate. A delicious homemade apple pie generates a big pile of peelings; a curry leaves us wondering what to do with the plastic container the Thai vegetables came in, and a simple steamed artichoke produces an impressive quantity of uneaten leaves. Not to mention bread that, more often than not, goes stale and ends up discarded. Yet there are plenty of ways to avoid throwing excessive amounts of food waste into the bin or onto the compost.
Béa Johnson’s approach to reduce packaging
Béa Johnson was discouraged by the mainstream lifestyle in the US nurturing the notion of ‘single use’ consumption. She therefore decided to swap the American model for an extremely pared down, some might say austere, lifestyle. In so doing, she has managed to reduce her waste from 240 litres a week to just one litre a year and also cut her family’s spending by 40%. Her book Zero Waste Home is crammed with useful tips and the concept has made her famous around the world. Béa buys nothing in unnecessary packaging, so there is little to go in the bin. She only shops in bulk and takes her own glass jars (she has more than a hundred of them) and reusable fabric bags, which she sewed herself from old bed sheets. Whether she is buying rice, pasta, flour or lentils, everything goes directly into one of her own containers, so she has no need for the plastic trays, sachets and film used to package food. As she totally rejects paper packaging too, she takes her jars to the butcher's to fill them with cuts of meat or sliced ham! She also uses airtight jars to store biscuits, tomato sauce, mustard and much more.
Traditional Japanese cuisine: Eat the whole vegetable
Kansha is a culinary philosophy from the Land of the Rising Sun. Its underlying principle is gratitude for the generosity of nature and to show appreciation for all the cereals, grasses, grains, fruit and vegetables we eat.
Kansha teaches us that we can use everything, even things we would usually throw away. All food, whether leftovers, leafy tops, trimmings or peelings, has potential we can put to good use with the help of specific, centuries-old recipes. The roots of wild garlic add a light garlicky taste to pancakes; kombu is used to make a broth and then reused to make the condiment gohan no tomo1 (a ‘friend for rice’). Okara, a by-product of soy milk production, is the main ingredient of a stir-fried vegetable dish called u no hana2 (cottontail) often served in izakaya (Editor’s note: Japanese gastropubs). Thickened soy milk left at the bottom of the saucepan can be heated and scrambled like eggs, seasoned with sesame and used as another highly flavourful ‘friend for rice’. The Japanese even go to the trouble of saving the water used to rinse rice (togi-jiru) to then blanch vegetables!