Monday, October 31, 2011

The Great Waste

Julia Hofer wrote a very good three-page article on the subject of food waste called “The Great Waste” (German “Die grosse Verschwendung”), published in the October issue of Annabelle, a Swiss women's magazine. I'm featured in a side-box at the end of the article as a dumpster diver. It's a relatively fair report but it seems that she misunderstood me a couple of times (and perhaps didn't receive my e-mail correcting her draft). I certainly don't decide if I'm going to make tiramisu based upon the “taste” (or even the smell) of an egg, then again I don't ever make tiramisu and rarely consume raw eggs. If I did, however, I would rely on the lay date that is stamped on every egg in Switzerland in addition to my knowledge about the form of a fresh egg yolk. The second error is about money. I certainly don't save over a thousand francs a month by dumpster diving (although one could, I'm sure). I started saving a thousand francs a month in food costs by becoming a vegetarian one year ago. We now eat a lot of beans and legumes for our protein and even organic beans are extremely economical. We also consume almost no convenience food. That quickly accounts for my savings of a thousand francs! I'll be doing a calculation about costs of food waste, including my own detailed dumpster diving experiences, in a future article.

I found it very difficult to translate Julia Hofer's work from German to English because she pieced together some of my words and statements out of an hour-long telephone conversation. So there's a lot taken out of any context and pieced back together. It's hard not to try to correct it or fill in missing information. But I'll bind myself to my duties – herewith a direct translation of what I (more or less) said:
Mmmh... trash?! 
Fay Furness, a resident of Basel-land, feeds her five-person family with food that she finds in the trash – about 50% of what they eat is found in containers. She says, “It takes courage to lift the lid of a container in broad daylight and fish around for food. Once a grocery store employee wanted to send me away. I explained to her that I'm not breaking the law as long as I don't break open any lock. A lot of people are embarrassed or shocked. But we eat extremely health consciously. I've learned how to judge the freshness of food. I'll decide whether I'm going to make a tiramisu or an omelette based upon the form or taste of an egg yolk. What's really changed is the way I cook. I need to be flexible and cook ripe tomatoes or fruit promptly. On the internet I exchange experiences with other dumpster divers. I go dumpster diving three times a week and save over a thousand francs every month. But I don't just do it for the money. I want to work against the trend of food waste. Yesterday evening I found the following foods in two dumpsters: 200 g Nescafé Gold, 500 g green beans, a can of cat food, 6 onions, 7 red bell peppers, 4 lemons, 36 taco shells, 18 chocolate rolls, 250 g potatoes, 5 eggs, 300 g grapes, and 57 plums.

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