"The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found."
- Calvin Trillin, American writer
I just looked in my refrigerator. It’s full of food that I don’t want to eat. The weather is wretched, and I have no desire to go out and shop. My sinuses are packed with something that only a jackhammer could clear. Basically I don’t want to cook.
This is another one of those dismal situations that almost everyone has experienced. Yeah, I already am hearing the snarky remarks: “What?! A food blogger that doesn’t want to cook? What kind of blogger are you?” While most days I aspire to be the Superman of the kitchen, today I am perfectly happy with being Clark Kent – and I am sure Clark Kent would love to order some pizza with lots of olives and anchovies on them. But in the interests of sustainability and well, really, cheapness, I can’t bear to throw food out of my fridge.
Americans waste about 300 million tons of available food each year. According the UN’s FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), 1 billion persons a year go hungry. Americans waste about 1,400 calories a day: approximately 27% of the food available for consumption. Those same calories could feed 200 million people.
Americans are not the only ones to blame (even though it is so tempting to do so). The British dispose of about one-third of their food into the rubbish bin. Even the ever-so environmentally correct Swedes throw out one-quarter of their food into the soptunna (Zee Svedeesh Cheff needs a lessun in threefftiness!). The conclusion is clear: We, in the developed world, waste a @#?!-load of food. And what your mom said is true. There are people starving in Africa.
Oh, if mom didn’t get you with the guilt trip, the environmental consequences of wasted food will. The food wasted in the US alone expends 300 million barrels of oil in farming alone. This figure doesn’t even include the amount of oil used in transporting all that food. On the other end of the cycle, the amount of methane produced by all that rotting food is 25 times the warming potential than that of the carbon dioxide produced in eating all that food. If that wasn’t bad enough, 25% of our freshwater supplies are used in both creating and destroying all that food.
Before you place yourself in the Environmental Hall of Shame, I am going to suggest a far-less painful penance. First of all, buy less food. Second of all, be creative with what you have got. Often with a bit of imagination, you can make some great meals with leftovers. Rice? Kheer. Roast Chicken? Make stock and then use it for risotto. Freeze the rest for sauce. Cheese bits? Throw them into the best adult macaroni and cheese you will ever eat. You recycle your papers, tins and plastic. That’s good, but you can do better. Recycle your food.
Danes eat potatoes every day. My husband is Danish. Therefore, we have potatoes. I usually reuse whatever potatoes we have in the house into tortilla española, a yummy omelet, and patatas bravas, potato cubes crisped in duck fat. The original recipes use raw potatoes, but if you have left-over boiled potatoes, you basically cut the cooking time in half. Get some sherry, aioli and a salad and say Salud!
6 tbs. oil (olive oil or any other neutral flavored oil)
2 pd. of boiled potatoes, diced into 1/3 in. cubes
21/2 c. onion, chopped (about 3 medium onions)
1 tbs. salt, preferably coarse sea salt
10 large eggs
1. Heat 4 tbs. of oil in a 12-inch non-stick pan over medium heat until hot. Add potatoes and onion, and half of the salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are heated through and the onion is soft, but not browned. Take potatoes off heat and cool for 5 minutes.
2. Beat eggs in a large bowl. Gently stir in vegetables, 1 tbs. oil, salt and pepper to taste.
3. Heat 1 tbs. of oil to the non-stick pan and add egg mixture, pressing potatoes onto the eggs. Cook over low hear, covered, until almost set, about 12-15 minutes. Turn off heat and leave on stove, covered, for 15 minutes. Shake the skillet to make sure that the eggs are set and are no sticking to the pan. Invert tortilla unto a plate and place back into skillet, bottom side up. (Or, if you are as clumsy as I am, loosen the edges with a rubber spatula and slide unto a plate. Invert the pan over the tortilla and flip plate over the pan.) Smooth over top and cook over low heat for 15 minutes, or until set.
4. Slide tortilla unto a plate and serve either immediately or at room temperature.