Like most people… I love to eat. I love everything about food from the artistry of a masterfully balanced meal to the comfort of a home-cooked feast. Anyone who actually believes in “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” is in serious denial and probably is about to binge in the next 48 hours. All that being said, I find myself surprised at how easily I take food for granted. I don’t consider myself a wasteful person, especially since I grew up in an Asian household where not finishing your meal was seen as unappreciative and even disrespectful. However, when I saw Food Network’s “The Big Waste” on TV, I felt loads of awful.
“The Big Waste” is a Food Network special where FN stars, like Bobby Flay, are challenged to create a meal for 100 using only “waste” products. At first you wince, but as the show goes on you realize that the definition of “waste” is a cultural and economic byproduct of our consumerist culture. With less than 48 hours to find all of their key ingredients (veggies, meat, etc), all four chefs found treasure troves of perfectly good food bound for trash and compost. How does this happen, you ask?
When you’re at the grocery store, which apple do you put into your basket? The best-looking one, right? Well it’s precisely this “I only want fruit that’s not bruised and meat that looks perfect” mentality is exactly what forces grocers, farmers, and retailers to waste everything that doesn’t meet the consumer’s high standards. I can’t blame anyone for wanting good-looking produce since I’m certainly guilty of that.
My favorite segment of the special introduces a freegan – yes, FREEgan – to illustrate a method of resistance to the American consumer culture. Freegans reclaim food that’s been discarded and in effect are protesting the idea that food not sold is food unwanted.
It’s easy to say that this unwanted food should be donated to starving children in third-world countries, but it takes a humanitarian with the resources and funding to coordinate that sort of effort. Until then, the best we can do is spread the knowledge: waste not, want not.