Friday, February 10, 2012

The Big Waste: A Big Eye Opener

The Food Network offered up a special last weekend called The Big Waste.
In it celebrity chefs Bobby Flay, Michael Symon, Anne Burrell and Alex Guarnaschelli were charged with the task of creating a multicourse gourmet meal for 100 discerning guests using only food that was going to be sent to the trash.

The waste that they showcased was enormous and must be multiplied by most grocery stores, fish mongers, butchers, bakers, farms and food producers in the country.
Every Day Grocery stores discard many bags of less than perfect produce along with meat, deli and dairy products that are approaching their "use-by" date.

Some examples from the show: 
Meat ends (we are talking about $24/pound prosciutto) that had to much fat in them...became discards.
Oysters returned by a customer that ordered too many...couldn't be resold.
Cheese that had reached it's use by date...out the door.
Bruised tomatoes, peaches with a blemish and lumpy pumpkins all in the compost heap.
One produce farmer that was interviewed stated that 40% of his crop was "waste".
I was appalled by the waste that was brought to light. One of the most enlightening statements from the show was something to the effect of:  Americans through advertising have been taught to expect only perfection. We choose each piece individually for it's lack of blemishes. 
It was easy to be angry, to rage that "There are people starving in this country!" and "Somebody needs to do something?"
The Food Network is a lot of somebody's drawn together by their collective love for food and food preparation. The network used their platform to showcase a problem that many of us realized on some level but had not personally seen. 

I applaud the Food Network's decision. 
They have been slapped by many critics for using a "competition" format and for serving the dinner to "foodies" and not the hungry.  I say to them: This wasn't meant to be an obscure documentary and who better to present a problem to, than those who have  the power and connections to do something about it. 

Bottom line: A lot of waste was identified. Waste not because of wanton disregard of our resources but because of the way we think about our resources.
We as responsible consumers need to learn to use and appreciate food that we may previously identified as less than desirable. To rise to the challenge of finding a way to turn those foods into delicious meals.

We need to learn to cook what is locally available to us instead of planning a menu and then going shopping.
During the broadcast Chef Bobby Flay suggested to a restaurant supply butcher that he have occasional classes to discuss the use of less commonly used cuts and organ meats in order to elevate them to gourmet status.
A good suggestion and one that we can all benefit from. There are many food blogs and recipe web sites that are available online. One of my favorites is It is a user added and user rated recipes that are searchable by ingredient. As an example my refrigerator has leftover chicken and zucchini that needs to be used. AllRecipes gives me a choice of 82 recipes. I have the ingredients in the house to make 5 of them.
I can turn  leftover mixed vegetables into soup, curry or pot pie.
Cheese ends into enchiladas, risotto or breaded Parmesan chicken.
Stale Oreo's into cookie bark.

You get the idea, now use your imagination.......Hmmmm.....I wonder what I can do with that leftover Cabernet? :)

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