The arrival on a screen close to you (motion picture cinema, Apple TV, YouTube on your ‘phone, whatever), of “Wasted! The Story of Food Waste“, on October 13th is an event that I’m really looking forward to. Albeit it’s one that is heavily tinged with — for me anyway — a large dose of melancholy, as it was one of the last things produced by the late, great, Mr Anthony Bourdain. He’s been much mentioned hereabouts in lots of earlier pieces.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the single most common item in municipal landfills in America is discarded food; food that’s not only stupidly dumped by you & I, the consumer, but as well by farmers and suppliers. And so much of this waste occurs upstream in the farm-to-fork pipeline that farmers are sacrificing what is estimated to be around 10 million tons of food before it ever gets shipped out to the shops where we then take it off the shelves. This detail comes from an excellent 2016 report by “Rethink Food Waste”.
Part of the problem is that American consumers — just like those over here — are accustomed to cosmetically flawless produce in shapes and varieties of familiar looking food that they therefore feel comfortable being able to cook.
As examples: fish cheeks — a major delicacy in Asian & Scandinavian food cultures — are binned because a skinned, trimmed piece of fish in easy to manage & handle fillets is more desirable. Beet bulbs and other root vegetables are much simpler to store with stems & leaves removed. Carrots are whittled into bite-sized nubbins, de-greened, and then sealed in plastic bags, removing any trace of their original roots in the earth (sorry about that one).
I saw an equally apposite quote from a butcher today:
“If everyone just eats filet mignon, how many cows do we have to go through?” Adam Danforth
And I’ve ranted before on many occasions about stopping waste. Just hit that Search button up on the top right-hand side of the site to get more background. Recent posts have strayed away from pigs I know, but they don’t exist in a vacuum; everything about our food, its supply chain, the soil, the food-chain, the environment, needs to be looked at. In the round. John Donne’s famous quote could equally have been applied to food; it certainly talks about soil!
The next few pieces I’m writing will speak to soil. And maybe eels. They’ll be on the Salute The Grains site. And Salute The Fish. So, click on the newsletter sign-up links for both of them to get the newest pearls of wisdom dropping into your in-box as well 🙂
I’ve started reading the Bone Daddies book. A full-on ramen (and many other delights) joint where they’re so hard-core that there are even extra pipettes of fat to mainline straight into the bowl, just on the off-chance that having an entire, wrung-out pig in it already, just isn’t quite enough fat & collagen for you.
A book which, in true Japanese manga style, is read wrongly (to Western eyes), from back to front. There’s even a helpful hint on the ‘front’ cover.
This is them making the tonkotsu pork broth; pork bones boiled for anything up to 24 hours (or longer) until every scrap of marrow and fat and collagen has melted into a witches-brew, milky-hued, alchemists’ wonder, thick with flavour and intense with umami.
And this is exactly the process I use. Who knew how exactly on point I was eh? Just slightly less exotic gear in my kitchen. And the quantities aren’t quite of this industrial level. But, those mere quibbles aside, it’s me to a T. Honest guv’.
There’s a series available on Netflix — and the Canadian Food Network if that’s accessible in your particular neck of the woods — that dates back maybe 10 years, but that you should definitely still watch. Called “The Wild Chef”, it features the inimitable Martin Picard of Tony Bourdain (and others) fame….
“Au Pied du Cochon, in Canada specifically, there’s a rite of passage being a young chef and going there. The first time I went, one course was a pot-au-feu, which was just a roasting pan with half a brisket, short ribs, like five quail, and a whole ox tongue. I was just like, ‘What is this? There’s four of us, and this is one course.’ And it wasn’t them even like peacocking; it was them just being like, ‘This is how we cook, and this is how we want you to enjoy food.’ One of the biggest differences about the culinary tapestry of America and the culinary tapestry of Canada is we don’t have soul food, right? And I think the closest thing to soul food that we have is Québécois. Martin celebrates that.” —Matty Matheson
Here’s a sample menu to whet your appetite…
If you fancy knocking up their take on the Canadian national dish, poutine, there’s Hugue’s recipe to guide you …
…and they offer a foie gras cake; made with layers of foie, bread, figs & cranberry jelly, maple butter, apricot jelly, and pistachio bavaroise topped off with an intricate, spun sugar dome.
He’s big, big, big on (as in his own avoirdupois and equally, his love for) foie gras. And butter. Fuck, when Bourdain ate there the first time during one of his “No Reservations” shows — that’s the video at the head of this piece — Picard’s instructions to his team were very simple: telling his chefs to randomly pick items from the extensive foie gras menu and send them out to Bourdain “and when he dies, stop”. And after a few minutes, as the foie gras sweat droplets appeared on Bourdain’s forehead, you could see that he knew that he’d been setup for this “hit”. He survived. After 16 courses of foie-gras dishes. But even had he died, he’d probably have succumbed a happy person.
I found this a striking image from one of the episodes; again, no punches pulled, the dish contains dead, cooked birds. Of that, there’s no doubt…
“The Wild Chef” is full on carnivore; it’s not for vegetarians nor is it for the faint of heart. But — said before elsewhere on this site — part of the problem with the modern foodways is the huge disconnect between the animal, its death and its journey to the plate. No such disconnection or hint of ambiguity here.
In Season 1, Episode 6 (called “Pig”) Picard looks distinctly green around the gills when the pig is slaughtered. But this is what has to happen for that pig to wind up, in some shape or form, on your plate. In another episode he serves a traditional 6-layered Quebec cipaille — pronounced “Sea Pie,” as it derived from an old English dish, Sea Pie, which was a layered meat or fish pie, served to British sailors in the 1700s — made with wild goose and garnishes it with the gooses’ head. Although one critic (and full marks for knowing how they taste) did claim of this dish
“…contained a piece of meat that tasted like squirrel intestines, but was probably hare.”
Picard says he’s not trying to shock — he uses every piece of whatever animal it is he’s killed and cooked — but he does like to experiment. Although, rather surprisingly, he’s the first to say
“Believe it or not, I am not so warm to the idea of cooking horse.”
I have to confess that I’m not 100% comfortable with the whole thing; some parts of it grate as just a little too hairy-chested, hunter man, macho and seem to say “we’ll eat this because we can“, not because we should or because it’s a great (sustainable) item. That said, if you ever find yourself cold, alone & stranded in the back-waters of the Quebec wilderness, he would be a good person to have by your side. He takes their (gas fulled) oven into the depths of the countryside and they both cook in some pretty shitty weather conditions.
This series documents their travails — he’s accompanied by his sous-chef Hugue Dufour — around said backcountry, hunting, fishing and killing their catches, then cooking them. This piece is going to be picture heavy — you’ve been warned.
It’s further enlivened by some rather fun cartoons by Tom Tassel and Vincent Scotti that are much more Ralph Steadman in “Fear & Loathing…” or Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers than Disney.
OK, let’s take a spin through that episode devoted to pig. The captions are pretty self-explanatory, so, for some, I’ll not say anything more.
Celebrate the pig
Finally, to counter all this MEAT. How about grains? As well as being a new research interest and a new site (soon everyone, soon), there’s a short but interesting BBC piece on the latest non-meat foods that could help the planet. Well worth a read…
The food system is broken. Food is not a commodity. Cheap shouldn’t be king – cheap has a price; for humans, animals & the environment. @martharoberts
I keep banging on this same drum, sounding out that how the food we eat and the choices we make about what types of food we choose to consume, affects both us and the environment we all have to live in. This is how factory farmed pigs are housed. This is the pig equivalent of Guantanamo.
The way they’re caged & their waste treated has a huge impact on the water table, polluting rivers & waterways, damaging soil & the ecosystem around and causing health problem for people unfortunate enough to be living close by. The stench is unreal. It has to be experienced (once!) to realise just quite how eye-wateringly, throat clenching, breathing impacting it is. And that is aside from the very real pain, suffering and mental anguish caused to the poor animals constrained in these multi-story prisons or death factories.
This clip below is taken from videos shot by activists…
Then there’s the huge question of what species can safely & sustainably be eaten without causing a possibly disastrous drop in population numbers. I don’t necessarily think all the dodos killed were eaten by humans; but it took less than a century for all of them to disappear totally from the face of the planet. We’re even better at mass-destruction nowadays…
I’m going to be writing a whole lot more on eating sustainably, ethically, responsibly, humanely. And with minimal waste. As a start, at the foot of this post, I’ve listed the various fish species divided very easily into two sections; one labelled “Eat Me”, the one other labelled “Don’t be a selfish dickhead”.
There are a number of organisations already effectively working in this area. In this piece I want to highlight three that I’ve not previously mentioned before.
Firstly, there’s the Real Junk Food Project; they divert surplus edible food destined for waste and make it accessible for human consumption. They say
“We believe it is a human right to have access to food and the scale and senselessness of food waste has to stop, and it needs to happen in our lifetime, to ensure the next generation do not suffer from our ignorance.”
There’s a video of one of the team talking about how they want to feed the world and save waste that’s well worth watching
Secondly, there’s FareShare, who similarly collect food that would otherwise be dumped and, via a nationwide network of volunteers, deliver it to partner charities who then in turn distribute meals to those most in need
and then lastly there’s chef Massimo Bottura’ Refettorio Felix, in St Cuthbert’s, London that fights against food waste ‘in support of social inclusion and individual well-being’. It’s part of his Food For Soul project that he setup in Milan in 2015 with subsequent projects following in Brazil (Refettorio Gastromotiva) and then two more in Modena and Bologna. Each of these projects shares the common themes of using surplus food, working with local artists, to create engaging dining spaces and serving dishes to vulnerable local communities.
That we still need these initiatives in England, a country that claims to be the 5th richest in the world, in the year 2017, is, quite frankly an obscene, festering, national disgrace. That said, the amount of food wasted around the world is also a similar obscene disgrace, so, swallowing my bile and pure, simple, unalloyed hatred of the Tories and the neo-liberals and their “austerity” measures, I urge you all to support at least one of these.
And lastly? A reminder that WASTED! The Story of Food Waste, which stars Massimo alongside Mario Batali, Dan Barber and Danny Bowien — Anthony Bourdain is its executive producer — is an 85-minute film about the food waste crisis and those working to combat it, is showing in a special screening on 23rd June at the Curzon Chelsea in King’s Road. It’s followed by a panel including director Anna Chai, Justin Byam-Shaw, chairman of food waste project The Felix Project and food waste champion Patrick Drake.
Tickets for the screening cost £12 which includes a booking fee of £1. Profit from the ticket sales will be donated to The Felix Project. For information, go to londonfoodmonth.co.uk. Go and see it!
Figures from the United Nations indicate that 1.3 billion tonnes of food produced for human consumption is wasted around the world every year. Ten million tonnes goes to waste in the UK alone.
And finally? Finally, here’s that list of fish I promised you earlier. These in the first group you can eat with a clear conscience:
Wild Striped Bass
Soft Shell Crab
Pacific Rock Fish
Farm-Raised Abalone, Arctic Char & Barramundi
Pacific Cod (Alaska only)
Spiny Lobster (Mexico only)
Farm-Raised Scallops (wild is an okay alternative)
Farm-Raised Shrimp (wild is an okay alternative)
Farm-Raised Rainbow Trout
Wild Albacore Tuna
Wild Skipjack Tuna
Wild Yellowfin Tuna
Black & Red Grouper
But steer clear of these below. Change your buying habits, encourage your friends to do the same and, importantly, tell chefs & restaurants that you won’t eat fish from this group so won’t eat at their places until they’re on board with this idea and have stopped serving these species:
Farm-Raised Salmon (because it’s hugely polluting & screws up the other water inhabitants!)
Cod (Atlantic, Russia, Japan)
Crab (Asia and Russia)
Spiny Lobster (Belize, Brazil, Honduras, and Nicaragua)