Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Flavours asks: Should we turn to the Italians to learn about ending food waste?

I guess no one was shocked by Tesco’s announcement that in the first six months of 2013 it dumped 30 000 tonnes of food. But I am guessing the chefs on Flavours Italian cookery holidays would have a few stern words to say about this appalling statistic.

When you consider that during the Second World War people lived on a fraction of what we consume today and used up every single scrap this figure is not something to boast about. We should feel ashamed at what we are doing. The most recent figures published by the Waste and Resources Action Programme(Wrap) in 2011 indicated about 15 million tonnes of food is being ditched each year in the UK. Is this acceptable? How can we ever claim to be poor, when we simply waste money buying food we will never eat?

One of the products that has come in for a lot of criticism has been the bagged salad. Much has been said about this relatively new addition to our daily diet. It crops up regularly in studies regarding pesticides and just how hygienic its semi moist conditions actually are. But apparently 68% of salad sold this way is thrown away without having been touched and only 35% of the blame can be laid at the consumers’ door. So much for growing your own which is not so difficult to achieve.
We do badly in terms of general fruit storage and bakery items. Our harvesting and storing skills have almost vanished. No longer does a community go out hunting mushrooms then drying or storing in olive oil. Looking around at the world’s ever expanding waist lines we do wonder what would happen if we consumed all we wasted on top of the huge number of calories we tuck away daily.

So what’s to do? Should we wring our hands and tuck into another jam donut 6 pack or do we sit down and make some changes? After all we have come so far from the self-sufficiency model many in Portugal and Italy, for example, still hold dear. If you expend energy tending crops, picking them and growing essentially healthy things inevitably we waste less and improve our diets and exercise too.

Flavours’ blog onchestnuts last winter demonstrated just how much the humble chestnut sustained whole populations in times of hunger. You can add chestnuts to soup, roast them, burn their shells for fuel and dry these flavor bombs to then grind into flour. This is the knowledge and skills we have lost under fifty years of supermarket domination and pretty passive consumerism.

Having lived in Italy and experienced a number of  Italian cookery holidays I now revel in the variety any turn of the season brings. I don’t want blueberries every week. I positively look forward to cherries during June; Pomegranates in October; the return of the humble chestnut in Autumn and citrus fruits during the winter. A tangy clementine is like a burst of sunshine in the mouth on a dull day. I greet seasonal produce in the same way as the arrival of an old friend. Having satiated myself with melon and grapes recently it’s great to ring the changes and eat dates, dried figs and walnuts.

But it’s not just this we have to consider. How many possess the skills of cooks from generations past who knew just what to do with leftovers? How do you make something very tasty out of pulses, garlic and the odd vegetable or two? 

We need to have periods of austerity, of privation. It is unrealistic to expect our shops to be filled to overflowing every day of the week. We need to make time to cook, prepare and plan food and if you need some inspiration it might be worth booking a Flavours cooking holiday and learn just how the Italians manage to create sumptuous banquets from the very basic of fresh ingredients.

The Flavours blog, has been running for years and there you will see frugal tips, traditional Italian dishes and ingredient profiles which all add to a passionate and useful knowledge. This will prevent this shocking travesty the newspapers outlined today. Tesco is going to offer tips on reusing stale bread. But what about this recipe?

We must each do something about this food waste right now. Learn to store, prepare correctly and buy local. If there’s one thing our Italian cooking courses have taught us is the importance of using your local food-producing community. It underpins everything and changes how you think, buy and use food for the better.

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1 comment:

House of Flavours said...

As a food flavouring supplier in the UK countryside, it's interesting to read about Tuscan flavours in the local foods. Fantastic article!