Funny Solutions to Sustainability – wastEd and Hungry? Watch What You Throw Away

by Freddie Bruhin-Price

Over the Atlantic in New York City, Greenwich Village specifically, a small yet significant project in the name of sustainable cooking is taking place over the last two weeks of March. WastED, a project curated by chef Dan Barber, has seen him transform his family’s Blue Hill restaurant into a pop-up project designed to champion the use of ingredients that would ordinarily be thrown in the bin. With the help of several high–profile New York chefs, Dan has seen the project, entitled wastEd, attract attention from sustainability campaigners around the world.

Dan’s philosophy is based on beliefs about worldwide cuisines, which he says have,effectively,
“incorporated waste into their everyday diets, but they don’t call it waste.” It is in this process of using other cuisines’ undesirable commodities that they become sustainable. In conversation with food blog MUNCHIES, he explains “that’s why these cuisines have lasted 2000 years. For example, a rooster is a tough bird that’s almost impossible to roast. In the US, we make dog food out of it. But in France, you braise it in wine and tenderize it for several hours, and you make coq au vin, an iconic dish.”

The project is a self-aware effort to promote sustainable kitchen habits, but Dan maintains that across the world, chefs make use of what might otherwise be food waste.
“What’s new about what we’re doing is that we’re calling it what it is: We’re wearing it on our sleeves that it’s waste. But in those cuisines you never called it waste, because it just became a dish. So three-quarters of this is old news.” So why now? Well, it’s simple. In the United States, food waste is a massive problem, at both industrial and domestic levels.

Dan aims to start a conversation about the use of neglected ingredients that are thrown away at the industrial processing stage. The “butts” of cucumbers and pickles, cut off before the ingredients are packaged, have been included in his menu. His hopes that we begin to recognise the flavour potential of “butts” is admirable, but (!) we can take his example and look at our own domestic habits with a view to making a change.

The situation in the UK, according to friends of Futures friends LoveFoodHateWaste, is less than desirable. They say that more than half of domestic food wastage is food we could have eaten. On average, waste costs each household in the UK around £60 a month. The vegetables and fruit which are most wasted could be nourishing hungry mouths. However, the good news it that we are moving in the right direction, with wastage down 21% between 2007 and 2012. We just need to make sure that number keeps falling.

In the UK, as Dan Barber has made apparent in the US, the important thing is the increasing of awareness of food wastage, and ways that we can combat it. LoveFoodHateWaste have lots of great suggesting, including par-cooking vegetables, then refrigerating them, which can increase their shelf life by up to four days! Be vigilant, home cooks!

More details on solutions to food wastage are available here

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