To paraphrase the brilliant Dan Barber from the episode I recently watched of The Chef’s Table (Netflix show) in which he was featured:
Great cuisines of the world come out of hardship, and from less than hospitable places where peasants had to negotiate a relationship with the land. That didn’t happen in America. Here there’s abundance. The story of American cuisine is not great ingredients in large abundance.
This problem of abundance is still reflected in the way we regard food (and its inputs) as an expendable resource. How water in drought-stricken California is being used to grow lettuce and other greens that go directly to a landfill rather than a kitchen table. How we we eat high on the food chain by consuming huge quantities of beef. How the retail supervisor at my corporate food service job explained to me that she was obligated to provide the same customer experience to someone regardless of whether he or she walked into one of our cafes at opening or five minutes before closing time, and since the bakery display had to be still fully stocked at five minutes to closing, pounds and pounds of edible food was regularly tossed.
In my own small way, I take leftovers from the cooking school where I work a few shifts a week, and repurpose those ingredients where possible. This week I combined leftover green beans and onions into a sauté side dish to take to a potluck.
After all, as Barber so aptly put it at the end of the episode:
What’s the connection between nutrition, ecology, farming, culture, and more? A plate of food.