Cooking Up Ways to End Food Waste
Book Review: The Waste Not, Want Not Cook Book
Cinda Chavich opens her new cookbook, Waste Not, Want Not, with an astounding fact: nearly 40 percent of the food produced in North America is wasted. The problem begins on the farm where a good percentage of harvested fruits and vegetables are rejected for cosmetic reasons. Once at the supermarket, under the influence of variable consumer demand and a poorly understood “best before” system, much of the food goes out the back door into the trash bins. Food waste culminates in the home kitchen where busy consumers throw away as much as a third of they food they buy. This river of wasted food winds up in landfills where it generates the highly reactive global warming gas methane and increases the problem of global warming. Worldwide, food waste produces as much greenhouse gas as some large nations. If food waste were an individual country, it would rank third behind China and the United States as greenhouse gas producers.
Chavich challenges the problem at the consumer level. The central idea of her cookbook is “to use up what you have in the refrigerator and pantry before shopping for additional food.” To show us how to accomplish this, she divides the kitchen pantry into three parts: fruits & vegetables, staples, and the weekly feast.
The “Fruits & Vegetables” section is an alphabetical list of 27 common kinds of produce—from apples to zucchini. Each food begins with a page that tells us how to buy, store, and serve it, alongside a set of eight to ten “Don’t Waste It” suggestions. For instance, she recommends using extra cucumbers for a quick sour cream and dill dressing, as bite-size cucumber sandwiches, in chutney, in a Thai-style salad, or with mint, lime juice and rum in cucumber mojitos. Each section concludes with a handful of detailed recipes. For cucumbers, it is Cucumber and Shrimp Salad Rolls, Cucumber Raita, and Quinoa Salad with Cucumber and Tomato.
The “Staples” section covers 11 general foods, from bacon and bread to cheese, eggs, corn tortillas, and peanut butter with similar “Don’t Waste It” suggestions and storage tips, followed by recipes. Corn tortillas, for example, feature recipes for Fish Tacos, Chicken and Corn Tortilla Casserole, and Tex-Mex Breakfast.
The final “Weekly Feast” section is built around six proteins: salmon, chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, and pork. Chavich continues with the previous format and cooks her way through recipes from Salmon Pot Pie to Barbecue Pork for pulled pork sandwiches.
In Waste Not, Want Not, Cinda Chavich explores the kitchen pantry from three directions to teach an important lesson. Each fruit or vegetable, staple, or protein can be both a simple entree and the foundation for a group of related recipes. This accomplishes the neat trick of expanding our food choices, while dramatically reducing food waste and stabilizing rising food costs. Waste Not, Want Not then is a cookbook with both a concept and a conscience. Through intelligent ideas and delicious recipes it links a frugal culinary past to a sustainable food future.
The Waste Not, Want Not Cookbook
by Cinda Chavich
TouchWood Editions, 2015
Photos and recipes courtesy of TouchWood Editions.