Gifts

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I’ve been given a few food items recently and I’m not at Bea Johnson’s stage of refusing medals from mayors  and refusing even the smallest of gifts is difficult. So I accept and guiltily eat away.

To anyone who has been living zero-waste for a long time, I’m sure it’s easy peasy to refuse things like the above. But for me, it is so counter-intuitive and against everything I have ever learnt – to refuse a gift (and especially a gift to me as a host) (and especially food).

I tell myself that I’m still a newbie and still transitioning relatively quietly i.e. not shouting about it on the rooftops, therefore it’s up to me to make the decision of when to alert people to my lifestyle.

Veg box week 1

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On Friday, I went to pick up my first veg box from Locavore. Veg boxes are seasonal produce grown from Locavore’s farms, as well as other local organic farms. Each week I will pay £5 and will receive something different.

I have been researching farmers markets in Glasgow for a while, but couldn’t find anything conclusive or satisfactory. Since I live close to Locavore, I decided to trust fate and subscribe to a veg box.

This means that I don’t get to choose what I am given; I simply have to make do with what I receive. This pleases me, as it will enable me to discover new vegetables, think up new recipes, and explore my culinar-adventurous side. Certainly in a few weeks, when my work load will have cranked up, I will be damning the kohlrabi or cabbage I’ll receive. But for now, I plan to have a great week of fun dinners.

And obviously, I like knowing my food doesn’t have any air miles; that I am supporting local farmers; that setting up a direct debit means I don’t produce receipts; that I can bring the plastic bag back next time; that I walk to Locavore and back…

This week, I received potatoes, carrots, a cabbage, onions, and sprouting broccoli.

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.

 

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).

Back from home to home

This time of year always leaves me completely exhausted and doubting everything about myself.

I left Glasgow in mid-December and switched off. My mother’s house is my younger self’s house and bittersweet to go back to.

I also knew that I would be entering a household that is my mother’s. It goes without saying that I wasn’t going to traipse through her cupboards pointing out how we could do things differently.

ANYWAY. Before I left I saw Buzzfeed had done a short video about the zero-waste lifestyle. With Buzzfeed’s reach, this is excellent news. If you look at the comments in the video, you can also see some interesting things popping up: someone mentioning that at least the girl in the video recognises that she has the means to transfer to a zero-waste lifestyle; someone mentioning that what matters most is trying, or taking small steps, rather than being perfect; someone saying they’ll try to adopt some of the steps described in the video.

 

My second day at home, we went to the Divonne market (with about 100 stalls) and I salivated and yearned and whimpered the whole way through. Eventually I started questioning my decision to move away from the French/Swiss border, with its delicious bread, wild choice of cheeses and yummy fruit.

How easy it would be to lead a zero-waste lifestyle with stalls like these.

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One thing my mother has always been insistent about has been shoes. “Your feet carry you your whole life” kind of thing. So when my trainers were giving up their soul (falling to pieces) I began researching alternatives that I didn’t know about. After a few hours of trawling, watching and reading, I decided to buy a pair of vegan Veja shoes (have a look online at what they do!). I was planning on ordering a pair online. A day after my decision was taken, I happened to walk by this shop in Geneva and decided to enter (despite the clear indication that this was the kind of shop OTHER PEOPLE enter – namely people who grow their own vegetables, have lots of rings on their fingers, weary purple felt hats etc etc… prejudices once again). And BAM! there were Veja shoes! They had them in stock only since a couple of days. I bought a pair there and then.

I also discovered posh coffee shops in Geneva have bulk options. Huh.

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Another day, my mum and I went to Nyon, a neighbouring town that we both love. We each ran our errands and I remembered the health food shop there (Lilly’s Green Market). I entered and BAM! There were bulk options. I sneaked up and took a few shots before a helpful sales assistant came over to chat to me. Once again, these had only been installed for a couple of days, and she was getting feedback from customers. I was personally very jealous of their choice of pasta, the fact that they had candied ginger, chocolate and cocoa powder. The sales lady told me the wall behind the chocolate in the image below was going to be used for bulk items as well, but that they were asking what their customers wanted before building it, in order to fulfil their market expectations (and not produce any unwanted waste due to customers not buying what’s on offer).

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“New in Nyon! The consu-respondable gesture. With my container, I consume organic produce, and only what I need. I stop wasting packaging and buy in bulk!”

Finally, I want to talk a bit about the difference between buying for me vs buying for someone else, epitomised in the picture below.

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On the right is some Christmas tea bought for myself, on the left some chocolate orangettes I bought for my Mum (because I happened to be in a chocolaterie. Ahem.). I’ve seen the blog posts about wrapping Christmas presents (1, 2, 3) but what about when you just want to give your mama a nice little thing and you had only planned for tea and you’re a total sucker for these chocolates too and all you want is chocolate in your mouth and the smell of your mum? SIGH. Lesson of the story, be prepared.

Over and out. Happy 2017.