Waste Not, Want Not

In every human language there is a multitude of words for food—types of foods, ways to prepare foods, ways to hunt foods, grow foods, store foods, dehydrate foods, transport foods, well, you get my drift. Hunger dominates every life.

Yet, we treat food carelessly. We allow waste at almost every step of the food production system, especially in developing countries where storage and transportation issues still abound, and waste goods at groceries, restaurants, and our home kitchens as well. Though the location of the “starving children” stories we were told in youth has shifted—now it’s likely children of small holder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa instead of those in India or China—the fact remains. How can families that grow food undergo an annual season of hunger when meals weigh against school fees or medical needs? Dinner and often lunch are skipped for three months or more. Every year. And, as you no doubt know, we have hunger issues right here in Missouri. How is this possible in this age? And, how are we to avoid it in the coming years when population predictions reach one-third more people on the planet than we have right now?

There is another issue—the gap in nutrition. A crevice that cuts potential, both physical and mental, if it happens during crucial childhood development years. Those small hungry bodies never grow into fully contributing members of society without those first years of balanced food. Oddly, this same nutrition gap can cause obesity in developed countries such as ours where too many empty calories from processed food are eaten to fill the stomach without lasting nutrition to really feed the body and mind, or satisfy the appetite.

It’s hard to think about scarcity when we have so much. It feels right to me, though, to really use what we harvest. This, at least, I can do.

One easy step for less food waste is to make use of food scraps. Wash the outside of the potatoes, carrots, and apples you use before you peel them and use the peels to enhance your next casserole. I give this idea two thumbs up for sneaky nutrition.

Ideas from Raquel Fagan, Ten Reuse Ideas for Food Scraps:

-Carrot and potato skins are perfectly edible and actually contain more nutrients than the rest of the vegetable. Just simmer the skins for five minutes over low heat with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Give them a few pulses in the blender to create a “mash” of sorts, and give it a try in your favorite casserole recipe for more taste and less waste.

-Chopped apple skins are great layering components for pork, chicken or tuna casseroles, as they give the dish a little crunch and fruity flavor. If you’re feeling a little more exotic, try pear or peach skins instead.

-For best results, set skins aside immediately after peeling and cover with cool water, squeeze in a little lemon juice and put in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Nina Furstenau teaches food writing in the Science and Agricultural Journalism program at the University of Missouri. She is the author of “Savor Missouri, River Hill Country Food and Wine” and “Biting Through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America’s Heartland.” This column was published January 7, 2014, in the Columbia Tribune newspaper as part of the series called “A Spiced Life.”


About ninafurstenau

Nina Mukerjee Furstenau teaches a Food and Wine Writing for the University of Missouri Science and Agriculture Journalism program and the MU School of Journalism School. Her book, Biting Through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America's Heartland was the winner of the MFK Fisher Book Award and Grand Prize Award for culinary/culture writing and designated as a Kansas Notable Book. She has also written Savor Missouri: River Hill Country Food and Wine, celebrating Missouri foodways. Her essay, "And Then There Was Rum Cake," appears in the 2017 anthology, Pie & Whiskey: Writer's Under the Influence of Butter and Booze. Ms. Furstenau was in the Peace Corps in Tunisia from 1984 to 1986 and then began working life as a journalist and publisher/editor of three construction magazines beginning in 1987. Ms. Furstenau and her husband launched and published these magazines and two others until 2001. She was a month-long resident at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont, in 2008.
This entry was posted in A Spiced Life, Columbia Tribune, food, hunger and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Waste Not, Want Not

  1. Jill Orr says:

    Great ideas, Nina! This piece makes me think about how I cook… lots of room for improvement where waste is concerned. Really good info.

  2. Thanks, Jill! I’m trying to waste less, too. It started off a little rough, but I’m getting the hang of it.

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