How to make a 7-course meal for 12 people for free

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Posted Feb 9 2013 by Scarlett Penn of WWOOF UK

Recently some friends and I were served a sumptuous seven-course meal with a twist: every single ingredient came from the bin of a top-end retailer. Well, everything apart from the road-kill rabbit spotted on the way home. The mouth-watering menu created courtesy of our freegan chef and the supermarket skip:

Quails eggs, avocado and soft cheese dip, with toasted pitta bread

Cheese and broccoli soup (almost 2kg of cheese-in-the-round was recovered)

Fresh goats cheese and red onion ravioli

Chicken and fresh orange casserole served with stacks of roast veggies

Road-kill rabbit stew (at least he wasn’t wasted)

Forest fruit compote, served with top-of-the-range rice pudding and custard

Fairy cakes, together sweetly spelling HAPPY BIRTHDAY

The meal fed six people and could easily have fed twice as many. And as we sat round the fire afterwards, patting our swollen bellies and gently ruminating, I felt a mixture of emotions. I was grateful that this food had been liberated and given a chance to sustain us all. I was proud that I had friends ready, willing and able to create and share this budget banquet. But I was also felt extreme frustration that it’s considered acceptable to throw these perfectly edible and delicious calories away. I could launch into an array of statistics on just how much food is discarded at every single stage between field and fork – and for the most incredible of reasons – but there are websites (www.feeding5k.org springs to mind) that can tell you that stuff better than I can.

For my part that night, I grappled with two main concerns. Firstly why are there not more measures taken to make sure this precious resources is not used to its highest potential? At least part of the confusion arises because of supermarket labelling. The only relevant date mark which relates to food safety is the ‘use by’ date. ‘Best before’ is simply a theoretical quality indicator relating to taste, texture and appearance. I say theoretical because I’ve often seen under-ripe fruit taken from bins that are past all their date marks. ‘Sell by’ and ‘display until’ are not required by law and simply serve the shop’s own stock-keeping purposes. All they do for shoppers is confuse them. So, to emphasise, the only date you as a consumer need to concern yourself with is the ‘use by’ date. But if this food really cannot be used for human consumption, why is it not made better use of? In South Korea, Japan and Taiwan for example, it is compulsory to give food waste to pigs.

So basically, there is a lot of food in this world. In fact – and it is a fact – figures released this January indicate almost half the food grown in the world is thrown away. To put it another way, again to re-emphasise, there is almost enough food grown to feed our global population twice over. So, why on earth do the biotech industries keep trying to tell us that we need GM to feed the world? It is a complete, utter, unashamed lie which makes me as angry as a girl can be. It is designed, of course, with the one and only purpose of lining their already-bulging pockets. We do NOT need patents on the world’s food supply; costly seeds; crops which can’t reproduce themselves (terminator genes); huge monocultures on huge farms; increased chemical use; more suicidal farmers; a widening gap between haves and have-nots. We do need more organic farming; smallholdings (that produce more per acre than the big farms); diversity; buying local; eating seasonally, simpler and less; a reconnection with the earth and a respect for what it takes to sustain our physical bodies.

It might seem like quite an intense place to end up from simply having partaking in a bit of freegan fayre, but I felt glad of this catalyst for reflection. Our food is so very inter-connected with everything in this world, especially our own emotional well-being. We’ve forgotten our link with the land and what we take from it to put into our bodies. Get out there, I urge you, and remind yourself what it’s like get your hands muddy in the soil, to pay attention to the elements, to grow and forage for your own plate, experience the effort it takes and the joys of the harvest. Occupy your own garden, maybe get a couple of chickens (much more useful than a guinea pig) or join WWOOF and learn about food growing and responsible land stewardship from those already in the know. Because when you do this, I’m sure you’ll feel as I do: that far more value and respect needs to be placed upon that essential resource called food.