Tuesday, January 11, 2011

On Food Waste (Again)

On Sunday, we went to the Trader Joes.

I'm not sure what it is about Trader Joes, but going there always inspires in me this desire to buy, buy, buy. I can't tell you the number of times that I've gone in there to pick up one solitary item, and ended up with about two bags full of groceries. Something about Trader Joes simply awakens my consumeristic instinct, and because it's food, I let myself go crazy. Sure, why not buy some mango chutney and some Thai red curry sauce and some little cranberry bran muffins. It's food!

Except, of course, that when we buy too much food. Food that we probably cannot consume before it goes bad.

But I didn't care on Sunday. I was hungry (which is a bad time to shop) and I was at Trader Joes! I love Trader Joes! We only come here once a month or so! And so I bought, and bought, and bought as my fiance looked dubiously at our cart. "Put that back," he'd sometimes say. But I didn't.

As we waited to get rung up, he muttered under his throat about all the vegetables we'd have rotting in our fridge at the end of the week.

I felt indignant. I can eat all those vegetables! I will show him!

So, I made dahl. Used up some tomatoes and onion. Ended up with an enormous pot of food (seriously, how does one cup of lentils turn into a week's worth of food? People who say you cannot feed a family nutritiously on the cheap have clearly never seen the power of lentils.)

I ate carrots with hummus. Snow peas with nothing. A whole box of crackers (okay clearly that wasn't supposed to happen.) I emptied a bag of mushrooms into our pasta sauce last night.

And I am pleased to say, that I think I am winning. Ruchi: 1, Rotten Vegetables (and cynical fiance): 0. (The fiance actually forgot to eat his dinner last night and left his bowl of pasta on the table uneaten all night long, but that's not my fault.)

I am pleased that I have managed to succeed (so far) in my war against rotting food, but I also feel exhausted. The sheer weight of trying not to waste is tiring.

And yet, you know, I think this is important stuff.

A couple days ago, Andrew Revkin posted an interesting conversation on Dot Earth about the future of food. In it, he featured two thinkers, almost diametrically opposed to each other. One (Lester Brown) believes we will soon be unable to produce enough food for the world, the other (Vaclav Smil) patently disagrees. Yet, as Revkin points out, both "agree that today’s norms for food in developed countries won’t hold up in decades to come. These include a disregard for waste and a seeming inability in many countries to divert from overindulgence without seeing that as some kind of sacrifice."

What does that tell you? Doomers and non-doomers alike agree that we can't continue on the path of America. We must learn to waste less, to eat less meat, and to not stuff ourselves sick.

So while my constant scheming to keep our vegetables from rotting may seem over the top and require too much energy, I'm going to keep it up. It's important.


Anonymous said...

The slowly browning broccoli in the bottom drawer of my fridge is JUDGING me now, Ru. Thanks a lot.

I don't generally eat vegetables, which is both less healthy and stupid. But since I've moved into my own apartment, I've tried to be very careful to not buy crappy food at the grocery store and instead focus on ingredients for recipes. I notice that when my cooking experiments go well, I tend to either eat all of it over the course of a few days or freeze the leftovers and actually eat them later. So perhaps a small solution is to cook more? I have no idea. It seems to be working for me, at least.

ruchi said...

Sorry, yo. I think cooking can be a solution ... for some people. But restaurants are not bad options either from a waste perspective. Because they serve so many people, you can bet that broccoli isn't going to die a slow death in a restaurant fridge. But then you have to eat your full meal, which, given the enormous portions at many American restaurants, might be hard to do.

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

Sorry, but how can you forget to eat dinner?! I don't think I've ever done that in my whole life, or seen anyone else do it. Weird! :)

SustainaMom said...

You've probably seen this, but just in case:

Sudha said...

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take care

Don said...