If you care at all about what’s on your plate and feel that we waste too much food in this country, I am seriously nagging you to watch ‘The Great British Waste Menu‘ on the BBC iPlayer. It’s essential viewing, illustrating the scary fact that one fifth of all food in the UK ends up in the bin because we’ve become a nation of picky consumers. One fifth!!! And given that we’re in the middle of a recession and that millions worldwide are underfed, this makes my blood boil. I am furious…
The programme charts the progress of four top chefs (Angela Hartnett, Richard Corrigan, Matt Tebbutt and Simon Rimmer) who have each been given the challenge to assemble the very best restaurant dishes for a banquet of 60 diners using waste ingredients only. They have to scavenge perfectly edible food from supermarket bins and beg for other produce from farms, fishermen and dairies that are forced to throw away mountains of food because the supermarkets won’t accept it for cosmetic reasons.
It makes very sobering and fascinating viewing. Three point six million tonnes of food each year in England and Wales is binned – and most of it is totally fine to eat. When the chefs embark on their task, they are all horrified by how much waste food they have access to. Matt Tebbutt visits a lettuce farm where the farmer tells him that any lettuce that isn’t the correct size or slighly blemished has to be discarded and ploughed back into the field – on one day alone 30,000 ‘non uniform’ lettuces are shredded and composted, most of which are beautiful specimens but demmed too large or small for the supermarkets. Richard Corrigan visits a fisherman who can’t sell his catch of slip soles because they are considered ‘too small’ and ‘too fiddly’ to cook and have to be discarded or sold abroad. He also visits an egg farmer who has to throw away thousands of eggs every week because they are slightly smaller than average – the supermarkets tell him that people apparently only want to buy big eggs. What total madness!
(Unrelated to this programme, my husband recently met a farmer who had such a bumper crop of potatoes last year that he couldn’t sell them due to the glut and was forced to re-compost them, costing him £200,000. I think it’s outrageous – people are going hungry and food isn’t sold or distributed in the right way.)
Anyway, I don’t want to give away what happens in The Great British Waste Menu – so make sure you watch it. It’s available on the iPlayer for two more days until Wednesday this week. Watch it here.
C’mon people – I want to hear your thoughts on food waste…are you a sell-by-date junkie? Are you fussy about the size and shape of fruits and vegetables? Do you throw away food because you buy too much? Would you buy a smaller egg?
Love Food Hate Waste : useful tips on how to waste less food. Get involved!
Why I love bin-diving – Alex Renton, The Guardian
Watching those lettuces being ploughed back in was heartbreaking. Especially when I have spent all summer hoping for a decent lettuce in the EvilTesco by my work. Romaine hearts? No thank you, give me the whole damned lettuce. And the eggs, the tomatoes, for goodness sake! The stores steer what consumers want, not the other way around. If they only stock perfect specimens, people get used to that and get scared of anything else. I found it telling that only Co-op and Morrisons sent representatives and the Morrisons man made me cross. Of course the courgettes are soft you eejit, they've been hollowed out and roasted!This is a very good thing, and they sent a representative to the banquet. http://www.fareshare.org.uk/People need to get out there and have the cojones to ask suppliers for their excess. There is a group of people that go around collecting all the unwanted fruit from trees in London. What a marvellous idea!People need to learn how to cook again. Sweetcorn not as sweet, marinate it and roast it. Strawberries and raspberries soft? Purée, jam, sauces, ice cream.Take the odd overblown blueberry out of the pack, and use the rest! Lordy it makes me cross when so much gets thrown away. Sell by, use by, display until – people should learn what those really mean, and see just what dates on package are just deigned to make us buy, then throw, then buy again more quickly.Okay. I'll stop now.
So many cooking programme and celebrity chefs bang on about cooking with 'the finest ingredients' and using 'only the freshest'. I think this is one of the reasons we're out-of-touch with food. While 'high end' cooking has its place, we're losing the art of 'making do'. After all, so many iconic national foods (Nasi Goreng in Indonesia; damper in Australia; bread & butter pudding, yorkshire pudding, bubble & squeak in the UK; Po' Boys and Woopie Pies in the USA) are based on using leftovers or cheap ingredients to make something filling. So, in the name of national pride and innovation I bring you: Pippa's Bottom of The Vegetable Drawer Smoothie!
Lisa and Pip – you are ladies after my own non-food-wasting heart. Yesterday I visited Dalston's Ridley Road market at closing time (which incidentally the chefs in the programme had visited), and looked around to see what had been shoved in the bin. I came away with 9 bags of fresh mint (only a few leaves were brown) and 4 bags of perfectly fresh rosemary. It's such a waste – surely the shop owner could have sold it for less money to someone? Anyway, have spent all day making mint chutney and frozen mint ice cubes for future mojitos! And am drying the rosemary out on newspaper for future roast potato moments…apologies to my husband N who looked mortified as I rootled through the bins, and then even more so when the dustmen passed me my bags of herbs!