Great Ocean Food: Grow it, slow it

March 19, 2020 BY

Like many issues today, the relatively simple problem of food waste becomes incredibly complicated to fix.

The fact is we waste vast amounts of food (about 20 percent of food purchased in Australia ends up as landfill), while at the same time a percentage of our population experiences food insecurity. At a time when food is relatively inexpensive, this situation is quite intolerable.

In recent years, there have been several food bank organisations doing wonderful work in this area. They include Second Bite, FareShare and OzHarvest. If you look at their websites, you will discover a plethora of facts and figures about the crisis and what each organisation is doing to redistribute food to those in need. It is wonderful work done by charities which didn’t exist when I first started in the food business in the early Eighties.

Back then, food wastage was even more rampant. The volume of food I saw discarded always made me uncomfortable. A reaction consistent with my upbringing to abhor waste. All four of my grandparents were born early in the 20th century. They lived through two world wars, a depression and economic upheaval in between. All from different backgrounds but none of them would tolerate waste. There was no need for foodbanks in their lifetime, as people had experienced food rationing and shortages during wars and depression. The system of food retailing and production was also far less complicated.

Most people had a vegetable garden and knew what to do with the produce to use everything they grew. The notion of a weekly shop where a wire trolley was filled to the brim, transported home and stored in an oversized refrigerator was completely nonexistent. This brings me to my humble opinion about the cause of and perhaps some solution to the problem. When I look at the foodbank websites and see the major food retailers boasting their commitment to reducing waste, my “bulldust meter” starts to twitch.

Surely, both the mass production and retailing of food is at the root of the problem? We produce food too cheaply, purchase too much, store too much, cook too much, eat too much and as a consequence of these actions, produce too much waste. Consumers could break this vicious cycle if we once again learned what a precious resource our food is and to enjoy the growing, harvesting and preparation of what sustains us. That may mean life is a little slower, but that couldn’t be all bad. Following is a cobb salad I often make using chicken and any salad and vegetable leftover in the fridge. Make sure you use the chicken carcass to make some stock.

Cobb salad

2 spring onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Quarter cup olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 avocado (sliced)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 chicken roasted with meat and skin removed
2 baby cos lettuce, leaves separated
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
Half small red onion, thinly sliced
Purée spring onions, chives, coriander, parsley, oil, vinegar, yogurt, and quarter of avocado in a food processor until smooth. Thin dressing with water, adding a little at a time, until similar in consistency to heavy cream; season with salt and pepper. Arrange lettuce on a platter; drizzle with half of dressing and season with salt and pepper. Top with chicken meat, fennel, onion, and remaining avocado. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with remaining dressing. You can add an endless array of ingredients you may have as leftovers (celery, corn, potato, carrot, asparagus, tomato etc.)

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