Zero-waste lifestyle: foods I miss…

… but only slightly:

  • M&Ms
  • readily available biscuits
  • gnocchi
  • that trashy pizza that day when you’re upset or exhausted
  • chickpeas/beans/lentils that you don’t have to soak
  • buying chocolate/crisps/bread when being spontaneously invited to a friend’s house

So basically, apart from the M&Ms (yearn), letting myself be unprepared is the thing I miss the most.

 

Developing a “zero-waste filter” at the wrong times

Last week was the kind of week where my brain decided to switch off and go to sleep. I worked crazy hours, came home, dropped everything on the floor, and crept into bed. It was a miracle I left my flat every day having had a shower. I very rarely realise the toll it takes on me to live a week like this; at work, I joke, walk around with a spring in my step and smile. By the time I crash at the end of the week, I need a day of no activity.

I feel guilty every time this happens – I spent the whole day in bed watching a TV series. Today I told a friend about that day, and she said: “that’s what I like about you: that you are so proactive, but that you also have days when you shut down”. I guess I haven’t found my happy medium yet, and at the moment I work very hard, tiring myself out, at all hours, and the trade-off is that a few times a month I have to shut myself off like a hermit to recuperate.

So I watched Freaks and Geeks. I had always wanted to watch that series. The whole series is on Youtube and is hilarious. I loved all the characters, their flaws, their motives, their thought-processes. I loved the soundtrack. I loved the humour, the geekiness and the freakiness.

But I caught myself looking at how they were consuming. At times, I would pick up on their bottled drinks, their packaged food… and then focus back on the narrative.

I strongly believe in culture’s socialising force (especially cinema) – the idea that we take our cues from the movies we consume and learn from them. We analyse the characters’ body language, their attitudes to the opposite gender, their reaction to bad news etc and embed those behaviours in our own. I remember when I began reading up on feminism I would watch a film and sometimes red flags would start waving in my brain (“so he’s saying her worth only lies in her physical appearance??”).  I would be extracting myself from the storyline momentarily in order to privately process the implied messages within movies or series.

In a way, it’s such a shame this happens. I wish I could go back to a time when I would watch a film and enjoy it for what it was – a story. Now, I can’t help but split my consciousness in two, watch a movie with one part, and let the other part sleep until it hears something it doesn’t like (“Hey, what was that? Huh? No way. I’m going to store this for later and be really angry about this”).

Anyway, this was probably my favourite scene in the whole series. I love Bill. But notice the individually wrapped cheese slices? The packaged bread and mustard? I kinda wish I didn’t.

 

Plus, this was filmed over 15 years ago. Me noticing these things isn’t going to change the world. But could we have a movie where there is a zero-waster character? What would that mean? How would that change people’s perceptions of this lifestyle? Of their own?

Past self’s decisions

I have this insane habit of ferociously stocking up on food. It’s like I am terrified of running out of food at a critical moment, or of running out of money and being unable to eat. I don’t know where this comes from. My friends make fun of me and of my piles of food under my bed.

So this is why it is only now that I am finishing a few packets of food that I had bought about 6 months ago (seriously).

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Do you ever feel frustrated about your past self’s decisions? There are big things you can be angry about, like that partner you should have separated from earlier or that letter you really shouldn’t have sent… And then there are the small things, like a comment you made a few months ago that lacked empathy, or buying a £13 cheese when you really need a hairdryer so you don’t go out into the cold with wet hair…

And then there’s a slightly ridiculous habit of having vast amounts of food stashed in ever corner in case disaster strikes.

Needless to say, I will now buy ground almonds from the bulk bins!

Maybe I’ll just have glass jars full of food under my bed from now on… Old habits die hard…

Galette des rois – or when homesickness for another home produces trash

I don’t celebrate any religious festivities – however since a few years I make a galette des rois on the 6th of January (recipe below). Because it is the most scrumptious thing on this planet and I will take any excuse to make a cake, especially in grim and grey Glasgow.

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It’s a French puff pastry-frangipane delight, light enough to eat bucketloads of and tasty enough to make even the meanest kid smile. Normally, bakers add a porcelain figurine somewhere in the frangipane for a lucky eater to find (Peau d’Âne style). Typically, the youngest child scrambles under the table and dictates who gets which piece of galette, so that there can be no peeking. When someone finds the figurine during eating, they become “king” and don a golden crown.

This is the first year when I consciously took stock of how much trash this tradition produces in my household. As you can see in the picture above, the puff pastry came with its own baking sheet. It also came in a plastic wrapper and cardboard box.

This time of year has probably been the hardest so far on my quest to reduce my trash production – and not even because of presents, which we don’t really do in my family. Simply because of all the foodstuffs that I chose to bring back from France or Switzerland (heaps of chocolates) and that sustain me for the time I am away in my other home. A friend often comes back from Italy with 2 litres of olive oil. Another French friend brought lots of raclette cheese back and had a raclette party a few years ago. All of us who have left home to find another home use food as a reminder of what’s left behind, and what we carry with us everyday.

So how can I produce less trash, whilst still fulfilling this need of mine?

Galette des rois recipe (via)

  • 1 rectangular puff pastry
  • 100 g ground almonds
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 50g butter at room temperature
  • a few drops of almond extract (optional)
  • 1 egg yolk

Heat oven at 210 C.

Cut the puff pastry in half. Put one half aside, and lay the other one on an oven dish. Prick the latter with a fork.

Mix the almonds, sugar, egg and butter (and almond extract) to form a paste. Spread the paste evenly on the pastry. Cover with the other half, and seal the edges well (I see a fork).

Dilute the egg yolk in a bit of water and spread on the surface and edges of the galette. Using a knife, lightly trace decorations on the top of the galette. Prick the top a few times, to let the air escape.

Cook in the oven for 30 minutes (start to monitor from 25 minutes onwards, don’t hesitate to leave it in for 40 minutes if it needs it).

Food haul #3

Funnily enough, here I am talking about peanut butter again. I think it will be a recurrent theme. In real life, few of my friends have the patience to listen to me wax lyrical about peanut butter. My brother does, thank goodness.

We are peanut butter brethren.

I wonder if we were surreptitiously bathed in it as children.

To be honest, I’m in admiration with myself. I haven’t bought a jar of peanut butter since the last Ground Peanut Butter Jar. My determination has not wavered on this point (but it has elsewhere, as you will see). I have held fast through all my cravings, through all my trips to various stores displaying lovely little jars of Peanut Butter Of The Gods. Singing Siren Peanut Butter. Orpheus Music Peanut Butter. Watching A Sunrise From The Top Of A Mountain Peanut Butter. Swimming In The Sea Peanut Butter. Listening To Birdsong In The Morning Peanut Butter.

I went grocery shopping today and prepped some jars:

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(Because I don’t have any cloth bags and have stolen all the tupperware the flat has, to my great surprise. It was only when my flatmates asked me where their tupperware was that I realised I had completely monopolised them. I promptly fessed up and opened my food cupboard for all to see my food stocked in THEIR shiny tupperware. Woopsies. So instead I steal their jars from the recycling bin. I hope they don’t find me too odd.)

WHOLEFOODS HAS THEIR NUT GRINDER BACK.

A NUT GRINDER IS IN GLASGOW.

CLOSER THAN 42 MILES AWAY IN EDINBURGH.

Holy mackerel.

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I was vastly unprepared, having only brought small jars, rather than a 5 kilo one.

I spent all afternoon spoon-feeding myself peanut butter.

It also made me think – once again – about Calvin and Hobbes and the great wisdom within it.

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I’m beginning to have a lot in common with Calvin’s dad: a hatred of over-consumption; a love of camping and an adoration of cycling.

Advertisements and the public space

Perhaps a little off-topic, but here’s a video (in French only – hopefully the English-speaking world will make a translated one soon) about what’s happening with about 3000 advert boards in Geneva’s streets.

Let us not forget

  1. the role adverts play in encouraging a consumerist society.
  2. how much trash is generated by the advertisement industry

Quote:

“We are used to seeing extremely simple messages that impose a life model with a big car, a big salary… So this is both a critique of commercial advertisements and a proposition of reinvesting into the public space, in dialogue with its citizens.”

Some of the messages on the boards:

“Less (images of a tank) in 2017 and more (images of a smiling person and someone on a bike)”

“More ❤ for the Earth”

“When publicity isn’t here, the brain danses”

“We feel better without mental/visual pollution!”

“Mirror, mirror, tell me who has the most material goods!”

Demain (Tomorrow) documentary

It took me a while, but I have finally watched Demain (2015), the film by Cyril Dion and Melanie Laurent. This documentary about climate change looks not at the worst that could happen, but instead focuses on the positive changes already happening across the world. It feels very different to Before the Flood as it’s much more about the local and national initiatives taken in various places.

Watch the trailer here.

A few important quotes:

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“Why I do this is because it’s important to figure out how you make it work, as an alternative to going on to the next place. Because there are no next places.” Ashley Atkinson, co-director of Keep Growing Detroit (Detroit, USA)

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“When people ask us how can you afford to become carbon neutral, how can you afford to become green, I have to say how can you afford not to? Look at the world around us. There is no alternative than going green. But what I see is that cities want to do this work. Cities want to become carbon neutral. I see cities as world leaders today. Where nations fail, cities apparently have to take over.” Morten Kabell, mayor in charge of urban planification and environment (Copenhagen, Denmark)

You can watch the documentary here – it’s in French but most interviews are in English.