A week or two ago we had friends over for dinner, a simple post-movie meal of cold chicken and salads, followed by local raspberries, fruit loaf and ice cream. After everyone had finished, there were a few raspberries left. “Eat them, BD,” one of our friends said, “otherwise, they’ll just go to waste.”
As I assured her they would most certainly not go to waste, but be eaten the next day, probably as part of my breakfast, I reflected on the amount of food that is thrown away. According to The Guardian, thirty percent of all food produced in the world is wasted, and in western countries a large portion of that waste is in the home – food we buy, don’t eat, and throw out.
Why? Well, a very small bit of spoiled food occurs – the tomato sauce that gets shoved to the back of the fridge and forgotten, and has grown a lovely blue mold when you do find it, the cracked egg in the dozen. But those are not that common in the western world of refrigeration and freezers. I think food is thrown out because of a lack of planning; a lack of cooking skills in some cases, and because we don’t value food enough. We want it to be cheap and easy. We forget the purpose of food – to transform the light and warmth of the sun, the nutrients of the earth, the molecules of water – into nourishment for our bodies, through the labour of many hands. When something is that fundamental, that miraculous – and can I say it, as a secular person? – that sacred – how dare we waste it?
We try to be mindful about food, and that means planning. Once a week or so, we draw up a menu, and from that menu a shopping list. And then we stick to it. This takes time, every week, but it’s time well worth it, and not just because it will mean less money spent; it means BD and I talk about what we’re eating, what recipes to try, how long we’ll need to make supper, where to buy the produce. We are, as a result, perhaps more conscious – more mindful – of what food is in the house, and what it’s for.
I shop twice a week for grocery-store perishables like milk and yogurt, in part because our fridge just isn’t that big. (Which in itself is a good thing, since it does mean that there is less chance that half-jar of tomato sauce will get shoved to the back and forgotten.) I shop almost daily for fruit and vegetables during the summer, when the farm stands are open and the produce is freshly picked. But for meats, I shop, roughly, monthly, or perhaps every six weeks, buy in moderately large quantities, divide into portion sizes, and freeze. All this significantly reduces the chances that food will be overlooked or wasted.
But don’t think I’m a paragon of planning. I keep a freezer inventory, and I mean to cross off what is used, but it doesn’t always happen. And so, yes, every so often I find some chicken in the freezer that’s looking a bit freezer-burned. Sometimes the only zucchini I can get at the farm stand is too big for just the meal I want it for. Sometimes one of the apples has too many bruises, or BD forgets to eat his raw carrots and they go soft. So what then? I can’t bring myself to throw out food unless it’s truly gone off.
Freezer-burned chicken, like the carcass when we have a roast chicken, is saved to make soup, a mainstay of colder-weather meals. (I’ll wait until the colder weather arrives before writing more about that – I can’t get excited about soup recipes in the summer.) Soft, over-ripe, or just plain excess fruits and vegetables that don’t freeze well, though, go into ‘garbage loaf’, basically an adaptation of a banana loaf recipe with the same amount of just about any vegetable substituted for the banana. I even mix them – but be sensible about that: tomato and zucchini work together, as do apples and carrots, but I wouldn’t do strawberries and tomato. BD will eat almost any baking, but even he’d draw the line at the last one!
So here’s the recipe for ‘Garbage Loaf’ as I make it. (I probably should have called it Leftovers Loaf, but at least in our house, it’s too late now – Garbage Loaf it is.)
1 cup just about any fruit or vegetable, diced, shredded, or cooked and mashed.. If using carrots or parsnips, grate and steam slightly first.
1/4 cup applesauce (to reduce the fat; if you don’t have it, or don’t want to use it, double the amount of oil.)
1/4 cup light oil – I use safflower, but sunflower, corn or soy works too.
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
4 Tbsp fruit juice (not tomato juice)
1/2 c brown sugar (this suits us; you may like it sweeter. It also depends on whether or not you add chocolate chips or dried fruit.)
1 and 3/4 cups flour: I use whole wheat.
1 tsp baking powder, rounded
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup of any of:
raisins or other dried fruits
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. If using a glass or metal loaf tin, grease it; a silicon one should not need it.
In a bowl, combine the fruit or vegetable mash, oil, eggs, sugar, vanilla and fruit juice. Mix with a heavy fork or a hand mixer until well blended.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and baking soda, and any optional ingredients you are using.
Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry, and mix with a heavy fork or a hand mixer on low; do not over-mix.
Spoon into the loaf pan and bake for 55 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
As I’ve said in an earlier post, BD is a tall and highly-active man, so this loaf doesn’t tend to last long – but it freezes well, and, if by some miracle there is a slice or two left after a couple of days, it also toasts well.
I’ve also added shredded carrots and apple to bread: it makes a denser, moist bread that won’t keep as long – after the first day we slice it and freeze it, and toast the slices; but it’s good with cheese (for me) or hummus.
And dessert at that dinner that prompted this post? The fruit loaf was indeed Garbage Loaf, made with over-ripe bananas and a slightly suspect apple, and it complemented the raspberries and ice cream very well.