In the flurry of big news stories at new year — Ukraine, of course, the deaths of Pope Benedict and Barbara Walters, and more — this was an easy story to miss in the New York Times on New Year’s Day: How Central Ohio Got People to Eat Their Leftovers. It was an important piece of reporting, though, once again reminding us that each of our individual actions contribute to carbon emissions and global warming.
The story focused on how the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio (SWACO) was trying to change behaviors in its region to reduce food waste coming to its landfills. Why? It turns out that one third of the food Americans buy is thrown away. Households throw more food away than restaurants, grocery stores or farms. All of the rotting food in landfills emits about double the carbon that commercial aviation emits. Cutting this waste stream could not only save precious space in landfills but also contribute significantly to minimizing climate change.
SWACO is effectively swaying behavior through various means of public education, including teaching people how to shop more efficiently and to use leftovers deliciously. It has been particularly successful in using an army of influencers to change household behavior. Who are they? Kids, who learn in school about both the pernicious effects of food waste and how yummy leftovers can be, and who then wage highly insistent food conservation campaigns at home.
The story made me smile. I have long been a devoted antagonist of food waste. In early adulthood, I fought food waste chiefly through voracious eating. If I couldn’t finish a particularly delicious dish, I would put it in the fridge and begin grazing on it a few hours later, and periodically every couple of hours, until it was consumed.
Alas, you can’t eat that way forever. I was fortunate, therefore, to meet my late partner, Peter, who liked to put leftovers away and transform them the next day. When Peter’s kids would visit him for the summer they went into revolt when the rice left over from dinner became the basis of rice salad for the next lunch, and the leftovers of that went into something else the following day. But for him it was a matter of both principle and economic necessity. And I loved the rice salads, which I continue to make, middle Eastern style, to this day.
I love that in this respect Eric bears a strong resemblance to Peter. It pains him not to use leftovers, and I am at times astonished at his skill in doing so. Last week he somehow cleaned out 5 or 6 different tupperware containers of leftovers in the fridge, combined them into a lunch melange that he heated in the microwave, and produced a lunch that I would gladly eat again, if only that combination of ingredients could ever be reproduced.
There are, of course, inevitably going to be food scraps that we find unpalatable or leftovers that, through negligence or bad placement in the fridge, get left behind. For some of these I have specific uses, such as coffee grinds that I spread around the rose bushes. For other items I had planned, when contemplating this bulletin, to recommend employing pigs.
Pigs are omnivores. They like virtually everything we like, and then some. They will eat, with gusto, apple cores, meat bones, wilted lettuce, corn cobs and the glop at the center of a pumpkin. In my years of raising pigs I learned what they won’t eat (e.g. citrus, leeks), or what makes them sick (avocado pits and peels, uncooked potatoes) but it’s a pretty short list.
Some of you may recall that in 2009, the Egyptian government culled all Egypt’s pig herds, ostensibly to forestall an outbreak of swine flu but, some suspected, motivated in part by a desire to rid the country of pork, which to Muslims, like Jews, is a forbidden food. The cull affected not only the Christian minority who ate pork, but also a caste of people, the Zebbaleen, that collected trash in order to extract the food waste and feed it to pigs they kept. Trash began to pile up in the streets; the government could not afford to take up the trash collection. Belatedly, Egypt Spots Flaws in Wiping Out Pigs (New York Times, Sept. 9, 2009). Soon enough, even if not officially approved, the pigs were back.
I have relied to a huge extent on Possum, my old remaining sow, to take care of my food scraps. And knowing how she appreciated variety in her diet, I expanded by reaching beyond my own household. I took piggy bags home from restaurants or from dinner at friends’. My friend, Tom, brought bags of frozen Possum goodies he saved in the freezer. Though it’s undoubtedly no solution for you urbanites or suburbanites, for country-dwellers a domestic pig could serve as another means of making food waste disappear.
I had planned to make this recommendation, but events got in the way. Possum died two days ago, quite suddenly. We buried her this morning. And I’m pretty sure I’m not going to replace her. When your consumer of food waste is also a sentient being and the relationship has other dimensions, you can’t consider her food consumption role in isolation. I may myself now turn to composting my food waste.
But I still believe wholeheartedly in not letting edibles go uneaten. In that spirit, I make my annual plea to those of you who have unsprayed Christmas trees you are about to dispose of. Consider bringing them over to the farm, where my sheep will find the tree needles to be a delightful plate of leftovers.
WHAT’S AVAILABLE THIS WEEK:
Just a few things. Eggs are in hiatus until these new girls get a bit bigger. The old girls are producing just a couple a day.
Lamb is sold out but I’m preparing to send 5 or 6 more off to market. If you want to order a whole or half lamb cut to your specifications at $7/lb hanging weight, please let me know.
Salad turnips, $2/bunch
Email us your order at email@example.com, and let us know when you’d like to pick up your order. It will be put out for you on the side screened porch of the farmhouse (110 Lasher Ave., Germantown) in a bag. You can leave cash or a check in the now famous pineapple on the porch table. Because I’m now here full time, we’re abandoning regular pick-up times. Let us know when you want your order any day between 10 and 5, and unless there are unusual circumstances we’ll be able to ready it to your convenience. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to call or text at 917-544-6464 or email.