Monday, February 13, 2012

Found food

There are 2 very different trends that have emerged to take advantage of overlooked food sources. I have been aware of freeganism for some time, but only just learned about foraging yesterday. From a surface analysis, the former seems to be more of a political movement, while the latter aims to be more palatable and aesthetic. Let's see if a deeper look bears this out:

Food foraging
1st image) A dish containing steamed new harvest potatoes, cucumber, borage, and ice plant flower put together by chef Daniel Patterson of Coi Restaurant in San Francisco who says, "There are things that have natural harmonies, so we use them together, but in pursuit of something delicious, something meaningful, and resonant."
3rd image) A selection of wild food found in the back lanes of Bressingham, South Norfolk, U.K., which can include feral pears, mushrooms, and bullace. "There are good reasons that people stopped doing this and opted for more convenience," says Richard Mabey, author of Food for Free: A Fantastic Feast of Plants and Folklore.

Food foragers can find fresh, free, natural, healthy, and interesting ingredients in the woods or in an empty lot. The search yields seasonal treasures and demands a careful knowledge of what can and can't be eaten without harm. Foraging has gone from fringe to almost mainstream, with courses offered for 1st-timers. The hunt for wild edibles can be carried out on its own or in combination with other activities, and is said to forge a closer relationship with one's food. They say it tastes better when you have to work for it. Kerri Conan, who blogs for The New York Times, points out, “Ultimately, people want what tastes best. Food that’s fresh, picked at peak flavor and grown without toxins. And wild foods are unusual and interesting. That’s what turns the foodies on nowadays, and that’s why wild foods are becoming popular again.” Food foraging is a culinary movement, to some extent a rejection of machine-based techniques like molecular gastronomy, that is based on finding the flavors in simple natural ingredients. "When you have seen it, picked it, you see food in a totally different way. You understand where it belongs and what you can do with it,” says Rene Redzepi of Restaurant Noma in Copenhagen.

2nd image) A meal put together from food obtained from the dumpster behind a supermarket. "The soil and air are gasping and withering, good water is disappearing. Food waste is a serious issue, an issue of ethics and justice that can no longer be ignored," writes Jeremy Seifert, who is leading a petition against food waste and directed the documentary Dive! Living Off America’s Waste.
4th image) Edible food being salvaged from a dumpster. "It’s 11:45 at night, and I’m bagging and writing off food to throw away. Last night I tossed three garbage bags full of bread products, two with fruits and vegetables, one brimming with meat, and another two with packaged sandwiches, sushi, and convenience meals," writes activist and grocery store employee Molly Roberts.

Freegans - as they are characterized on - are for community, generosity, social concern, freedom, cooperation, and sharing and against materialism, moral apathy, competition, conformity, and greed. The most visible aspect of these values is eating out of the trash, but Seifert (quoted above) lays out some statistics here in the U.S.: We throw away 96 billion lbs. of food each year - 263 million lbs. a day, 11 million lbs. an hour, 3,000 lbs. per second. We discard an unbelievable 1/2 of the food we produce and import. And environmentally, our food waste accounts for 300 million barrels of oil and 25% of our fresh water supply every year. Carolyn Smith and 2 other students at St. Michael's College in Vermont documented the nocturnal adventures of freegans in a 50min film called Best if Used by Freegans. She was pleasantly surprised to see that rather than scrounging through garbage bins filled with half-eaten pizzas, they were pulling an incredible amount of good food from the trash, including fresh fruit and vegetables, intact eggs in cartons, and packaged foods that were not yet past their sell-by dates. "It helped me understand the statement freegans are making," she explains. If the idea behind the movement makes sense to you, but you don't necessarily want to practice freeganism on an individual level, you may choose to advocate the reclamation of groceries and restaurant food that would otherwise go to waste for feeding those in need. When it comes to other necessities, freegans recommend lists like, the free section of, thrift shops, church sales, and freeswaps (where items are traded, not bought/sold) to furnish your house and clothe your body. According to the New York Times, "Freeganism is a bubbling stew of various ideologies, drawing on elements of communism, radical environmentalism, a zealous do-it-yourself work ethic and an old-fashioned frugality of the sock-darning sort. Freegans are not revolutionaries. Rather, they aim to challenge the status quo by their lifestyle choices." The website for sustainable modern design for children calls freeganism "the bastard stepchild of the green movement."

And there you have it. While many practitioners of food foraging characterize it almost as a sport, freeganism is a mindset.

1 comment:

  1. I work at Target, and we now have a program in place where all the food we have to pull from the shelves (at expiration date, damaged packaging, bananas just starting to go spotty, etc) that is still very much edible (just not considered "sellable" at Target's standards) goes to the local food bank.


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