Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Big Waste

Before I begin, let's get one thing straight. I am not in any way a part of Food Network (I wish!). Last week, my husband and I watched the Food Network Special "The Big Waste." The plot of the show was that four all-star chefs; Alex Guarneschelli, Anne Burrell, Bobby Flay, and Michael Symon; had to cook a meal in teams (boys against girls) for 100 people. But that meal had to be made exclusively with food that was wasted from grocery stores, markets, restaurants, and farms in and around New York City.

During the beginning of the show, Alex said : "I hope we have enough food to feed 100 people." Many viewers probably shared her sentiment. But I've worked in a restaurant before. I've seen what gets thrown away. I've wished I could take it home. The pairs visited farms where the compost heap of thrown away vegetables was bigger than my backyard. They visited restaurants throwing away boxes of fish and meat that filled a room larger than my office. They found a chicken farm where the eggs were thrown away if they were too small, because people wouldn't buy them, and extra large ones because they wouldn't fit in a carton. The chickens themselves were eventually sold too, but not if their wings got broken or their skin was torn during processing.

It was appalling how much food was thrown out. Not only did the chefs find enough food to feed 100 people; what was wasted could have fed every homeless person in New York City for at least a day! I hope that people see this and are called to action:

  1. Don't be quite so picky when you are choosing produce at the grocery store. It's ok to buy a bruised apple- it tastes the same. 
  2. Don't throw out your own scraps either. Save the ends of the vegetables you cut off when using them and make a stock. Make stock with ham bones and beef bones and chicken carcasses.
  3. Learn to can and preserve your own fresh produce from a garden, make jam that can be enjoyed all year long from things that would otherwise be wasted. 
  4. Buy local- find the farmers' markets, and the farms themselves. Ask to see the things they are going to throw out. Ask if you can have them for a discounted rate.
  5. Lastly, don't buy things that you really don't need. Is it really necessary to purchase an entire pack of chicken if all you need is one breast?

Maybe this show will inspire someone to collect all this wasted food and open a restaurant with it. Better yet, distribute it methodically and on a regular basis to homeless shelters and food banks. Teach children about not wasting food. Maybe then we'll learn the lesson this depression should teach us- waste not, want not.

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