Sometimes, eating your fill is not just about filling your belly.
Though it may not be the first thing that springs to mind as you inhale a morning bowl of cornflakes or succumb to the salt and vinegar temptation of a post-pub bag of chips, eating is, as author Michael Pollan has said, both an environmental and a political act, “for how we choose to eat represents our most profound engagement with the natural world.” Ah yes, you can always trust Michael Pollan to pile on the weightiness when it comes to food and food matters.
Still, the man does have a point. We do not eat in isolation – even the most mundane-seeming meal may be the end result of a complex global production chain and has a bearing on more than just our personal feeling of fullness. As it happens, there are two far from mundane events taking place in Dublin later this month which aim to both fill our plates and get us thinking about how that food got there and what food got left behind.
Next Sunday, November 18th, sees the SPUDS.ie Tastefest at The Fumbally in Dublin 8 – where folks who have grown naturally blight resistant varieties of potato will bring them for tasting – while on the following Saturday, November 24th, those in the vicinity of Dublin city centre are invited to avail of a free meal, as well as plenty of food for thought, at the Feeding the 5000 event, which aims to highlight the global issue that is food waste, and is being held in Wolfe Tone Park in Dublin 1.
Four pounds of cheese.
No, despite my near addiction to all things dairy, I am not actually referring to the amount of cheese that I am likely to consume in a single sitting. What that weighty amount of dairy goodness does represent is the amount of cheese thrown out by the average American over the course of a year, according to an article in the July, 2011 issue of National Geographic, entitled How to Feed A Growing Planet. That article, in turn, inspired my friend Jenni to start the Four Pounds of Cheese project – an experiment where participants would document, for a week, just what it was they were wasting, food-wise. Having been brought up to the tune of my mother’s “waste not, want not” mantra, I am programmed to abhor waste. That doesn’t mean that I’m not capable of wasting food with the best of them. It does, however, mean that I’ll feel dreadfully guilty when I do. Needless, to remark, I was keen to join in.
Last Monday, the week of waste watching began and it didn’t get off to a great start.
I ate out for lunch and the salmon I ordered was served in the classic Irish manner, meaning it came with two kinds of potato (mashed and roasted, in this case). Despite a valiant effort, I didn’t manage to clear my plate, so, to my shame, the very first thing I managed to waste were some of those selfsame spuds. And then I did what I suspect many of us do: I ordered dessert anyway. Different compartment, right? Surprise, surprise, I couldn’t finish that either. Sheesh. Waste 1, Spud 0.
Too many potatoes, even for me
I do not like throwing food in the bin, I do not like it one little bit.
It feels like a defeat (boo!) when my perishables expire before I can put them to good use and, conversely, a victory (yay!) when I have successfully cooked and/or eaten my way through the latest contents of the fridge.
A recent survey conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tells me that I am by no means the only person who feels this way. 97% of people, when asked, said that they were bothered by food waste. Thing is though, almost half of those people confessed to doing little or nothing to prevent it. So, really, they can’t be that bothered by it, can they?
Perhaps the EPA’s Stop Food Waste campaign, which aims to heighten awareness among consumers and provide commonsense tips on how to avoid food waste, will prod more people into taking action.
At the launch of the campaign this week, some familiar foodie faces were on hand to lend both their support and their use-it-don’t-lose-it recipes.
Rachel Allen, with a little help from TV3's Aidan Cooney