This month’s Canadian Food Experience Project focuses on resolutions. I could have used my culinary bucket list as my contribution, but I don’t do proper resolutions and felt this was a bit of a cheat. Then I rethought things.
I’ve been wearing blinkers. The word “resolution” has more than one meaning. I was stuck on the first, most common meaning: “a firm decision to do or not do something.” As a flighty, distractible, creative type, done or not done is all too black and white for me. Once I fail, what’s the point? Then I looked at the second definition: “The act of solving a problem, dispute or contentious matter.” Now problem-solving? That’s definitely in my wheelhouse.
I started this blog to solve a problem. Okay, I didn’t solve the problem I initially intended, but I’m glad I gave it a try. In a way this blog’s very existence is a resolution. Moving beyond the blog, I created the Kitchen Disasters & Fixes App to solve a problem (or many culinary problems, to be precise). It’s yet another one of my resolutions. And so, I am taking this opportunity to solve one of my biggest, most frustrating, ongoing problems — Food waste.
This isn’t a one-off post. I know I will never eliminate food waste completely. This isn’t a done/not done type of problem. However, if I can save one half-used piece of ginger root, a few lemons, or the odd slice of pineapple from a premature trip to the compost heap? Then I just might get some satisfying checkmarks in my win column.
My Food Waste Problem
While I can I can pull pretty nearly any dish from the brink of destruction — over-salted soups, burned roasts, sunken cakes — leftovers stump me. Almost weekly, on Garbage Eve, Andrew and I try to identify the potentially toxic food stuffed in the far, dark corners of the refrigerator. In the past few months, we’ve tossed carrots that looked like they were wearing furry, spotted leopard skins, fermenting pineapple that was so strong you felt drunk with one whiff, and something so far beyond recognition a DNA test wouldn’t help.
How does this happen? We have a microwave. The items are labelled. No one has left town for long stretches at a time. And yet each week we toss at least one plate’s worth of food.
Yes, we have a space issue. Our small apartment-sized fridge does lead to cramming items wherever they fit. But part of my problem is my attitude. Calling them “leftovers” makes them sound unwanted. So I’m taking a note from Mary Rolph Lamontange and her book EATS: Enjoy All the Seconds. She intentionally makes extra vegetables and/or fruit and turns them into new dishes. Only she calls them “Seconds.” Strawberries start out marinated in balsamic and find new life in tiramisu, a quick-cook jam or a vodka-spiked lemonade. Roasted butternut squash reappears in spring rolls, tarte tatin or a lentil-filled vegetarian version of shepherd’s pie called bobotie. With the “leftovers” already planned for, there’s no waste. Brilliant.
Lamontange is a Canadian living in South Africa and cooking at game lodges. She trained at the Ritz Escoffier Cooking School in Paris and uses her skills to turn out approachable, delicious food that speaks to guests from around the world. Because food was delivered only once a week she learned not to waste anything. The results are practical, innovative and inspiring. Each of the 27 fruits and vegetables covered includes buying and storing tips, as well as cooking options.
Andrew isn’t big on cauliflower, so I tested Lamontagne’s system with this vegetable since I knew there would be
leftovers seconds. I adored the main recipe (roasted cumin-scented cauliflower) one day and happily slurped Thai cauliflower the next. If there had been any left, I’d have tried her cauliflower pakoras or mac & cheese. Maybe next time?
What food do you find you waste? Maybe I can help resolve the problem?
The Canadian Food Experience Project is a monthly series of themed posts from participating Canadian food bloggers across the country. By sharing our personal stories and regional food experiences, we hope to answer the elusive question, “Just what exactly is Canadian Cuisine?”
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