Last Friday I went along to the Food Writers New Zealand Conference at Villa Maria with fellow food bloggers Ari from Ari Eats and Rhi from In Rhi’s Pantry. The goodie bags were AMAZING. I have to admit, we’ve already eaten almost half the goods so Tofu the bunny models just a portion of the goodie bag goodies for you today.
There were a couple of other food bloggers there, and of course, food writers, chefs, and others in the food production, education and community sectors. The keynote speaker was Jonathan Bloom, journalist, consultant, writer and blogger over at WastedFood.com talking about wasted food.
As a food blogger – and I’m sure I am not alone in this – I’m often gifted food that I wouldn’t normally purchase and the majority of gifted food doesn’t end up on this blog. If I’m not going to eat it myself, I always do my best to find that food a new home. I know the diets and preferences of friends and family and I’ve yet to come across something I couldn’t give away. I’ve already given away some of the goodies from my goodie bag.
I’m a big fan of restaurant leftovers. It may be a cultural thing, growing up in a Cantonese family we always ordered as many dishes as there were diners and we took home packed containers for lunch the next day. There’s no snobbery in asking for takeaway containers at a Chinese restaurant but there can be some in other cuisines. This needs to change.
One time after my friends and I had just finished stuffing ourselves at a Dominion Road dumpling house, a man walked past, asking for change. I gave him our noodle and dumpling leftovers and he was super grateful. In hindsight I should have gone back and grabbed some cutlery for him too as I saw him later eating noodles with his bare hands. I know I may have enjoyed those leftovers later but knowing someone who really needed it enjoy a warm meal was a million times better.
Even though I have no problems taking leftovers home, these days we prefer to order the right amount of food. I’m not sure if this is a growing trend or just how we roll. Ordering the right amount of food is a bit of an art form though and it can be hard to judge when dining somewhere new where portion sizes are unfamiliar.
Leftovers and doggy bags are receiving some much needed PR treatment. In Europe, leftovers are being encouraged at restaurant level with rebranding exercises and prettied up bags and containers. In Italy, it’s called a “family bag” instead of a doggy bag to avoid embarrassment and new laws have been put in place to reduce food waste.
One of my favourite ways of tackling food waste is to forage a meal using only what we have already. This morning for example, I looked into my fridge and pantry and I could see the fixings of a killer breakfast burrito. An old tortilla, brought back to life via a minute in a frying pan, along with avocado, tomatoes, scrambled eggs, fried chorizo and onion topped with grated cheese and chipotle sauce. Not bad for a fridge-foraged breakfast. Not bad at all.
I’ve talked passionately about food waste on my blog before and It’s good to see people offering solutions rather than simply throwing around blame. Everyone needs to address wasted food. Complaining is a start but it’s only the beginning. Whether you are a company, chef, food writer, blogger or consumer, we can all do our part. Stop waiting for others to participate. Stop blaming others. You can do something now.