On Waste (part 2)

*Quick note: the pic above is from Glasgow, circa September 2014. How time flies! This was just after I’d bought that hat. I’ve worn that hat most days since. Great investment. OK, on with the show…

A kid at school questions why I’m constantly bringing half a banana in as my snack. I tell him this story:

Imagine you had a beautiful chocolate cake. You spent ages mixing it, filling it with chocolate chips, baking it and it looks absolutely incredible. Well in the process of moving it from the oven to the bench you drop it, and it lands neatly on its side on the floor. What do you do? Do you throw the whole thing in the bin? Or do you cut it in half and discard the floor side, keeping the delicious non-floor side for your tummy? How close to the floor-side do you cut it? Are you happy to have a 95% non-floor cake? I think we can all agree that taking a kitchen sponge to the floor side of your cake to scrub off the little bits of ick is a step too far (or is it…?)

So most people would happily eat most of the cake, as long as it hasn’t been in direct contact with the floor. Well at home I have a big bunch of bananas. The only problem is one end of each banana has started molding, just ever so slightly. Resourceful me cuts all the bananas in half, throws the moldy bits into the compost and brings the other halves to school for my lunch. Delicious.

A seven year old’s perspective… that makes sense.

I’ve got a friend who gives me bread. She lives ten minutes from my house, and once a week she sends me a message: Do you need bread?

Most weeks I say yes and she sends me back a list of offerings: 2 sourdough, 1 baguette, wholemeal, 1 fruit loaf, some pastries?

I walk to her apartment, send her a message when I’m nearby and she leaves a plastic bag of goodies on the doorstep. COVID-safe restrictions apply, and we don’t ever see each other in passing, just communicate by texts and bags of bread.

The first couple of weeks I was conscious of the amount of bread I could actually eat. I would pick up a couple of loaves, give one to the housemates, keep one for myself. It’s been delightful, having a supply of café quality bread flowing through the house.

One week I make the mistake of accepting all the bread, assuming I’ll be able to get through it. When I arrive it’s literally a waist-height bag, stuffed to the brim. I drop two loaves to Marcos on the walk home, hurriedly message a selection of friends who live nearby, and everyone gets a loaf over a couple of days.

The next week it happens again: I pick up eight loaves and parcel them out amongst the community. I spend my Friday riding my bike around a circle of friends, leaving a loaf on their doorstep. I text a friend to tell her I’m coming past and she leaves a box of goodies for me on her doorstep. I trade a loaf for biscuits from Turkey, for a slab of tomato paste, for a handful of bananas, for two silverbeet plants that get transplanted into my backyard and happily sprout themselves into my soup.

Some friends leave something out for me every week. Some friends don’t leave anything at all, but it’s fine because this is bread I got for free, taken from someone who doesn’t want it to go in to landfill, given to someone who doesn’t want it to go in to landfill. And in the process of saving this bread, we’re building up our community, we’re helping a slew of people who have lost work from COVID, are battling their way through uni or simply like nice bread.

It’s been a pretty amazing experience, seeing how far a backpack full of bread can travel.

I get distressed by food waste (this is inherited from my parents, see On Waste (part one) for a recap), hence by the end of the week most of my meals are a hodgepodge smorgasbord of leftover remnants crammed into an omelette. This week was a pea and pesto pasta omelette (delicious). Last week was an Ethiopian curry omelette served on a hot cross bun (a little dubious). Anything that CAN get re-used, does get re-used. Many things wind up in the freezer for another day, although at some point I’ll have to pay the piper and eat the ends of eleven loaves of bread. That’s a problem for future Nathan, he’ll deal with it I’m sure.

If I had to redesign my life in a post-COVID world, I’m obviously hoping live music returns as fast as possible, but I’m also hoping that I can spend one day a week riding my bike around, leaving bread on people’s doorsteps.

Last week’s Friday with Friends (Episode 7) is with the delightful Kate Lucetta. We tackle a Paul Kelly song. I take a banjo solo. Watch it here:

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