As the primal way of living starts to seem more appealing to increasing numbers, it begs the question, why not be conscious of something beyond the way we eat? Let’s look at what we miss out on eating. Our ancestors did it right, they generated very little waste, and this little was biodegradable as well.
The amount of food thrown away now, before it even gets cooked, is atrocious, not to mention what happens to leftovers.
With chefs bringing back the nose to tail approach when it comes to meat, the food revolution has been brewing for a while. This too, isn’t something new, as humans have been doing it for years before things like prime cuts and the coveted hanger steak became ways to mint money. With just a possible maximum of 1.5 lbs of hanger steak per steer possible, it makes no sense to base entire menus on it. The same is true when it comes to many fruits and vegetables; the possibilities of utilising the scraps that end up in the landfill nearest you are like the landfills themselves – endless!
If the idea of eating waste seems unappealing, let’s start with taking that word off the table. Much of what we throw away is, in fact, not waste at all. All it takes is a bit of awareness, an open mind and passion in the kitchen. Even things not classified as food can be delectable if treated right, take dandelions for example, every part of this plant is edible – root to flowers, raw or cooked. From making wine, salads, and frying the entire flowers, this weed is legal. And delicious. With a slightly bitter flavour reminiscent of radicchio or endive, it is low in calories and so good for you. Most likely, a delicious addition to your cooking repertoire lurks in your garden right now!
There is probably already a world of possibility in your refrigerator, especially if you shop at the farmer’s market where they retain the leaves, stalks and roots of the produce. Go have a look in your fridge, have broccoli in there? Next time, save what you usually throw, peel the outer layer of the stalk, slice it up and take a bite. What you’ll find is a nutritious crunchy snack without the need for a dip even. Alternately you can add the sliced stalk, along with the leaves to your stir fry. The leaves can be treated the same way as kale, crisp them up in the oven, and you have a snack from what would have ended up of no use to anyone.
Most root vegetables, such as carrots, beets and radishes have green tops beckoning you from their roost at the market, yet they’re promptly snapped off and thrown into the compost heap once you get home. These greens are delicious additions to salads and pastas, and can even be used to make pesto. The thing to keep in mind is flavour, for example, turnip greens are probably best cooked, while you can munch on raw beet greens in a salad as you do some deep thinking.
With so many cooks and chefs embracing vegetables and fruits in their entirety, inspiration is just a click away. Onion skins can be used for colour and flavour in stocks. Speaking of stock, it is the best way to get the maximum out of your meat and veggies in one go. Bung in the bones collected from a few sunday roasts (they can be frozen until you have enough), add in peels from vegetables, add roots of herbs, basically almost everything you’d have swept off the kitchen counter. Then just add water, as they say. What you have is a massive punch of flavour, any day of the week. A top tip is to freeze stock in ice cube trays to allow a meal for one to be as easy and accessible as it should be. Cook your quinoa in it, add a cube to a quick stir fry, be creative.
There are even options which may seem outrageous at the outset, such as egg shells. With a good scrub, crushed and baked in the oven, they can be your next source of calcium. Don’t worry though if it sounds unpalatable at this point, as with everything, it’s best to start somewhere. Try the broccoli stalks. The choices are astoundingly vast, all it takes is a healthy bit of research and you could be well on the way to eating much better for half the price!