TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING?
Playing devil’s advocate, Matt Preston examines the efforts to wage war against waste and whether one man’s banana-peel meat is another man’s poison.
THIS TIME last week I was crouching in front of a slow oven, trying to see if
I could make a plausible vegan-friendly copy of bacon using banana peels.
It was a palaver, but I felt supervirtuous (you might read it as unbearably smug) about making something edible from food scraps.
Sure, there are lots of recipes for vegan ‘bacon’ using everything from tofu to eggplant, but my fake bacon (Fake-con™) is the ultimate double play because it’s zero-waste and vegan. Now, while I love that so many of us think about how to minimise the $1,037 of food the average Aussie family throws away each year, I wonder while I’m waiting for my banana-peel to crisp if we’re going too far. Is Sarah Wilson’s banana-peel bread, for instance, worth the effort?
WHEN DOES IT GET WEIRD?
If I didn’t know and love you, when you picked up that leftover avocado from my plate to take home to make bread I’d have thought you a little weird. Weirder still when I try the bread you’ve made with those old browning avocados and it’s heavier than a house brick. Sure, you could eat it, but I can’t help thinking that all the other ingredients could have been employed in far tastier ways. Banana bread and zucchini bread are totally delicious, right? Maybe we need to accept that not everything we’re wasting can be made palatable.
SHOULD EATING BE POLITICAL?
It’s as though restaurants are competing in a game of ‘I’m worthier than you’, setting themselves ever higher bars to jump over to prove they’re more future-focused than the next mediahungry restaurant – cooking without electricity, only using indigenous ingredients (sustainably sourced, naturally). While I accept that eating is a political act, and that us lot in the media love writing about anyone doing anything different so we’re part of the problem, I think that for most, a tasty, affordable dinner is more important than an expensive but ethically pure one. I don’t like admitting this, but
I feel honest, especially since ethically pure dinner isn’t just a matter of sustainability and zero waste. It means little if the produce you’re eating or the mineral water you’re drinking has been shipped from the other side of the world. The politics of food, and of food waste, is far more complicated than just whether you also used the stems and roots of the coriander garnishing the entrée.
ARE FOOD ETHICS A LUXURY FOR THE RICH?
Yes, but that doesn’t make them wrong. It’s just a matter of working out how you want to spend your money. But maybe your time would be better spent doing charity work or cycling to work rather than reading endless blogs on ways to save that stale bread or wilting lettuce. Especially when the kids turn their noses up at your efforts. I’m talking to you, Mr Preston.
THE CONS OF CONSERVATION
Saving food waste at home is often linked to challenging the issues of hunger here or overseas, but while eating more of what we would usually throw away will help the household budget (if it means we buy less in groceries each week) and help with the environmental impacts of food waste, it’s not like there’s a way you can share your leftovers with those in need. So reducing waste only has a social impact if you redirect the money you save into addressing food insecurity by donating that money to a suitable charity.
And when it comes to food waste cons, don’t get me started on those so-called sustainable restaurants that cost $100,000 a year to run.
PRE-PLANNING IS BETTER THAN BACK-PEDALLING
The best way to avoid waste is not banana-peel bacon but just to buy less and cook less food. Plan your meals and what you need. It’s undoubtedly less than you’re cooking at the moment.This is admittedly all a bit boring – it requires you plan each week’s meals in advance and will probably entail more visits to the shops. It will, however, dramatically reduce what you throw away.Then you might not worry quite so much over whether you should be making cider vinegar from your old apple cores and just be willing to compost them instead.
EAT IT WHILE IT’S FRESH
Whether it’s ingredients or leftovers, how about eating them when you first have them and then you’ll never be scrabbling to find ways to rescue them. Maybe even name Wednesday night, say, Leftover Night when the household can eat only leftovers or things made with ageing ingredients. After all ,that crisper-draw minestrone or tired fruit-bowl crumble is more Insta-worthy than any latte art these days.
IS BANANA-PEEL BACON THE ANSWER?
For the record, that banana-peel bacon was pretty delicious – chewy, smoky and marked by that sweet-salt balance that makes maple-candied bacon so delicious. It was a little too sweet to use in a carbonara, but it was great in a vegan BLT and a vegetarian spin on Caesar salad. It doesn’t taste as good as smoked streaky, but if you can’t touch that for ethical, religious or political reasons it will more than suffice.
And this is perhaps the nugget of this whole debate: we each need to decide what matters to us and then act on this personal manifesto rather than follow the fads.
Find the recipe forSarah Wilson’s bananapeel bread at delicious.com.au.