The portable leftover saviour
Food waste does not stop when I am leaving my kitchen. It is also impending when I am out and about. A little while ago I went for a Vietnamese with friends. I find that at Asian restaurants there is always quite a bit of rice leftover after the meal. The portions of the mains are often so generous that I end up eating only a little bit of the rice that gets served alongside. I have been aware of this waste for some time and often asked at restaurants whether they could wrap up the rice for me to take home.
So at the lunch with my friends we also had rice leftover and asked if we could have a doggy bag. We felt good about not wasting any food, however we were appalled to see how it was wrapped up. The rice came in a polystyrene bowl, covered with an aluminium lid and a plastic bag to carry it. Triple death! We had the best intentions to save the rice from being thrown away and ended up with a lot of plastic and aluminium that is only good to use once. It did not happen for the first time, but I am also getting concerned how much waste I am producing, especially plastic and aluminium. In the past I would have told myself that it all goes into recycling anyway. However we have all seen the media coverage of shores being swamped by plastic waste. Bringing our plastic and metal to the recycling posts does not ensure it is handled responsibly by the people in charge and don’t even get me started on the detrimental effects of these materials on the environment.
Back to food waste: rice is obviously not the only leftover that occurs when I am eating out. I am also wondering what happens to all the bread in the bread basket that goes back to the kitchen. Several times I have felt like asking the waiters when they take it away. Do they sneak it into the bread basket that goes onto the next table? I bet they wouldn’t tell me the truth. However I feel that it might be best to wrap it up and take it home. That way you can ensure that it is not ending up in the bin. A few slices of bread may be turned into french toast the following morning.
Carrying a food container with you is also handy when you visit friends and there is a lot of food left after dinner or a brunch. I often find people struggling to bag something after entertaining.
But it’s not only good for leftovers. If you are getting a take away, hand over your food container to the staff at the restaurant ask them to fill it in there. We often do that at work when we go to an Indian restaurant. Oftentimes we get compliments from the other guests that we are so mindful of reducing plastic waste.
Which brings me to the topic of material of the food container. I am slowly replacing my plastic food containers with metal ones. Metal is more sturdy and will last a lifetime. The old plastic containers I will continue to use until they break (which they inevitably often do after some years). Once that happens I will bring them to recycling in the hope that they will be turned into another product and serve another purpose. Out with the old, in comes the new. The new will always be a metal container. They are more environmentally-friendly and widely available now at wholefood shops, zero-packaging shops (which have been popping up over the last 5-6 years) and via the internet.
Finally I want to say to you: don’t be shy about taking food that is leftover home with you. There are some snobbish people out there who belief that eating leftovers or cooking with them is only for those who are really hard up. They haven’t realised how much fun there is to be had. Being organised and carrying an empty food container with you at all times won’t make you look uncool or like a scavenger. I don’t have time for people who seem to be taking pride in throwing away food. It’s absolutely abhorrent when you think about it: something has been grown, harvested, distributed, stored, cooked and eventually part of it gets discarded. We shouldn’t be the people who feel ashamed for taking out our food container and filling it with food that is perfectly good to eat the following day(s).