Humanity has placed a lot of emphasis on the environment over the last few decades. There are those who believe that global climate change will be the end of all life on Earth and that humans and our technology are entirely to blame for this. Others would have us believe that these changes are part of a natural cycle and that the Earth can sort itself out without our help. There is some truth in each of these arguments, but each side engages in plenty of deception as well. Maybe deception is a bit harsh, but there is at the very least some misdirection.
Anyone with even a limited education in astrophysics knows that the destruction of our planet and indeed the entire universe is assured. There is no avoiding the inevitable. This is probably (hopefully) not right around the corner, but all life on Earth will eventually cease to exist.
On the other hand, there’s no reason why we should artificially encourage this effect. There are measures that we can all take to limit our impact on the environment. These measures are not the usual suspects. Despite the attempts of government agencies, international committees, and environmental groups pollution continues virtually unabated. One of the biggest culprits is the faith in this panacea known as recycling.
In contrast to the Industrial Revolution, recycling is a relatively new concept. This is because previously recycling was unnecessary. The invention of polymers and mass production of metallic compounds as well as increased dependence on paper pulp has brought about this modern phenomenon. Various governments would have us believe that recycling is the answer to all our problems, but I stand in defiance. When I see recycling bags in front of my neighbours houses the first thing I notice is the abundance of food packages and tins. I see unrestrained consumption and lazy consumerism. I see a culture that has forgotten how to cook from simple ingredients and exchanged quality for convenience.
The only way to slow down the process of destruction for which we are all inexorably destined is to reduce our use of resources. This isn’t anything to be afraid of because there are some really simple ways to achieve this goal without experiencing too much discomfort. Four important measures: buy locally, buy sensibly, use almost everything, and compost.
Buying from local producers not only supports a local economy, but also reduces reliance on supermarket chains. This has the knock-on effect of reducing fuel used for shipping products as well as the additional environmental impact of displaying and cooling food on supermarket shelves. As an added bonus, you get fresher food from sources you know.
Sensible buying is easy. Don’t buy food you’re not going to eat. Don’t buy food which weighs less than the packaging it comes in. Buy ingredients rather than prepared foods. If you follow these rules, you’ll generate less waste. Obviously you won’t be producing as much packaging waste, but by cooking from scratch you have greater control over portion sizes meaning you won’t be throwing food out.
Using almost everything speaks for itself. There was a time when this was the norm. This was the result of necessity. It would have been foolish to throw out half the meat from a chicken in times of famine, but it’s just as foolish in times of prosperity. Extra meat and vegetables can easily be made into soups, casseroles… We strip all the meat off a chicken and make soups, gristle and cartilage make a healthy snack for the dogs, and the carcass is used for stock.
Finally, compost scraps. Most of the waste we produce ends up in the compost bin. Carrot peels, egg shells, coffee grounds, teabags, and potato peels are probably fifty percent of the waste we generate and it all gets composted.
In the spirit of this post and because ultimately this is a food blog, I want to tell you about a local source of free range eggs we’ve recently found. It was just a fluke, but one day while taking a shortcut between Earls Colne and Sudbury we drove past a farm near Colne Engaine. There was a table out front with eggs and a container for change. We bought a dozen eggs and then drove very slowly past the outdoor pens where a lot of very happy chickens were wandering around pecking at the ground and looking extremely content. We made pasta with these eggs and then we were hooked! We now make the five minute trip there every weekend. A little way up the road from there we’ve bought black walnuts and tomatillos, of all things, from another similar little farm.
So, instead of putting out a recycling bag full of Heinz Weight Watchers Chicken Tikka boxes and looking smug because you’ve eased your conscience, eat smarter and look smug because you’re actually making a difference.
We have a tradition in our house. Every couple of weeks, usually on a Saturday during the Dr. Who omnibus, I go through the fridge and find any vegetables that are nearing the end of their usability. I chop them up and throw them in a pan along with a bit of chorizo and then add a couple of my favourite ever eggs. I mix it all up, add some cheese, and serve it up on flour tortillas. There is no recipe because it’s always different. They’re not always great, but they’re always good and it’s one less trip to the compost bin for me. (And there’s no picture because it’s not very attractive.)
The second recipe is in the same spirit because it uses elderly vegetables, but it’s a bit more structured because it’s based on one of my favourite childhood foods. The key ingredient is Kielbasa and fortunately a polish friend named Peter went home for Christmas bringing me back some great Kielbasa.
Sausage with Root Vegetables
250g Kielbasa or Kabanos
3 large potatoes cubed
4 carrots sliced thickly
4 celery stalks sliced thickly
1 onion cut into eight chunks
1 stalk of spring greens or similar chopped
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp water
Melt half the butter in a pan, add Sausage and fry over medium heat for about five minutes. Add all remaining ingredients except butter and stir briefly. Cover and simmer on low heat for 40 minutes. Remove the lid and add remaining butter. Let melt over vegetables and reduce any remaining water over high heat. Taste for seasoning. Serve.
P.S. If you’re reading this and you’re from the farm in question, please leave a comment with proper directions to your location.