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.

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Weekly Planner - MATT PRE­STON @mattscra­vat @MattsCra­vat

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.

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