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Food and Waste

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I had a hard time figuring out which blog to post this entry in. I mostly write about food things (not having to do with sports nutrition) on my other blog,choyinthehale, but thought this would be the right place for this topic. As runners we eat to sustain our ability to run. Every meal serves to provide us with energy and to prevent injury. We eat plenty, yah? Since food (and what we spend for food) concern us, the show should be of some interest…and this blog gets way more traffic than my other one.

Food Network produced a special called “The Big Waste.” It’s a combination social documentary, educational, and food competition show. Bobby Flay, Michael Symon, Anne Burrell and Alex Guarnaschelli were tasked with cooking a meal for 100 guests using only waste food (food that can’t be sold or those that are thrown away or on their way to the trash). The 100 guests are people of influence in the food industry. They get a great meal and get schooled on the issues that lead to food waste.

The one thing that stood out after watching the show is the amount of food waste as a result of fruits and vegetables not deemed worthy for purchase. These are produce with imperfections. To blame are consumers who want that perfectly shaped avocado or a tomato with no dimples. Major groceries don’t want to purchase produce their consumers won’t buy. So what happens to the crooked carrot and the cabbage with loose leaves? It mostly goes to the trash!

Then there are grocers such as Super King who offer deeply discounted fruits and vegetables because they purchase the ones the big name groceries refuse to buy. From personal experience, these food items don’t taste any different than the ones you buy from Ralph’s or Pavilions. The difference are the small imperfections (hardly noticeable). I juice a lot and it doesn’t matter the shape and color of the things I put into the juicer, it all comes out with the same taste and nutritional value as Grade A (at least aesthically speaking) fruits and vegetables. When I cook, it’s really about the taste and not the appearance of any particular vegetable. It all gets chopped up anyway!

An it’s not just produce being wasted. Meats, dairy, and seafood are also being thrown out. Next time try braising tougher cuts (and less desirable) cuts of meat. Experiment with your cooking and you’ll find out for yourself how the fatty and less used parts of pigs and cows are more flavorful. We need to create a demand for “throwaway” cuts. They’re also cheaper so you save money. Ever taste beef stew with sirloin and beef stew made with shank meat? They both taste the same! Add flavor and depth to your soups by adding a hock during the simmering phase.

So, watch the show and do what you can to reduce food waste. No, I’m not asking that we all start to dumpster dive. Maybe start off by shopping at farmers market or discount produce shops. Have Iron Chef type competitions among friends only using things that are about to go bad in your fridge. Plan your weekly meals and only buy those items needed for those meals? Family of four? Cook for a family of four.

Here’s a link to fan reactions to the show. Some ideas to reduce waste: http://blog.foodnetwork.com/fn-dish/2012/01/11/the-big-waste/



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