the domino effect
"Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year - approximately 1.3 billion tones - gets lost or wasted." This is a quote from the Food and Agriculture Organization and the first time I read it I was sure I had gotten something wrong. Or that they had gotten something wrong. "The numbers must have been mixed up with some other statistic, there is no way this is true", I thought to myself.
I guess this is classic human behaviour: when someone tells us something we don't want to hear, our first instinct is instant denial, without any actual thinking or reflecting. "No, you are wrong", we all think. But just as the words are coming out of our mouths, the reflecting and the thinking begins. We start to think about the lettuce bought a week ago, lying at the back of the fridge, about the half rotten potatoes in the pantry and the stale bread that you should make into breadcrumbs and the knowledge that that isn't going to happen.
We are all guilty of too much waste but unless someone gives us a shocking statistic, we just take it for granted and don't stop to think about it. That is why I chose to start today's story with a statistic. It's there, we all feel guilty, so now let's do something about it!
Let us imitate our grandparents in the management of our food supplies at home and practice, at least every once in a while, what I have just decided to call "The Domino Effect". Someone more practical and less talkative would just call it "use your leftovers", but bear with me, read further down because this is not just using some left over food, this is changing the way you think about menu planning at home. You will waste less (food and money), you will shop, cook and wash less, you will eat great food and you will feel really good with yourself.
Ok, so what is this "Domino Effect" that I seem to have just come up with? As I said before, it is a new (or old) way of thinking about meal planning. Instead of thinking about separate independent meals, once you are in your "Domino Effect" mindset, you will start to think about meals as a chain of events where each one leads up to the next one and is derived from the one that came before.
Let me explain with an example. A couple of weeks ago, taking advantage of the holidays and spending more time at home, I decided to practice the domino effect. The starting point was to be a roast chicken, but as in the chicken and egg story, I'm not so sure the chicken came first. Truth be told, what I really wanted to make was chicken stock, so I applied my new mindset and started to come up with the meals that would come before and after that fateful broth.
I will give you the recipe for the roast chicken in the next few days because even though you might think the world doesn't need another recipe for roast chicken, it does. Sometimes you cook as you have always cooked, without thinking of what you are doing and sometimes you find a new technique that actually makes you think of why you follow certain steps to achieve certain results. That is the case with this roast chicken, but more on that when the recipe comes.
As in most weekend meals, our chicken did not come to the table by itself. There were some mashed potatoes and a refreshing salad I have been making a lot during the last few months to keep it company. Three of us sat at the table, but both the chicken and mash were enough to give us at least four portions, so I was just on track with the Domino Effect: I had plenty of leftovers - not just in quantity, but in variety. The project was looking good.
After day one, came day two (doesn't it always?) and I felt like a true domestic goddess as I shredded the meat that was left on my chicken, saved it up for later, and set about making chicken stock with the carcass of my chicken. That's right, you don't need a fresh chicken to make good stock. You can use a fresh, uncooked chicken, but a chicken carcass can serve you well. You just have to ask your guests to restrain themselves from licking the bones and to leave said bones in a pretty platter. Some vegetables, water, time and voilà, chicken stock practically free of charge and guilt. Ok, I threw some cooked vegetables in the bin after they had given all their goodness to the stock, but let's just assume that is justified waste.
Amidst all that broth making, lunch for day two was still an unresolved issue. I might have been really proud of myself for reusing the chicken carcass, but I was quite hungry by the time the stock had just started bubbling, so let's just say soup wasn't an option. I did however have some garlic, onions, leftover mash and some eggs, so I set about making lunch for one: onion garlic and potato cakes with a fried egg and a small, but refreshing parsley and red onion salad.
Day three came along and my chicken stock was safely bottled up and resting nicely in my freezer for further use (actually useS because I used my biggest pot to make it), and I still had some shredded chicken in the fridge. Some more onions, carrots, basmati rice and soy sauce, and I had a meal for three. I even crisped up some small bits of chicken skin I found amongst the shredded meat. That, along with some parsley went on top of the rice.
We enjoyed the roast chicken with its crispy skin, the silky soft mash alongside it and the sweet and sour salad, but I think that what I enjoyed the most was being able to open the fridge for the following couple of days, see what was in there, some of the ingredients already half-cooked, and make something delicious in no time. Sometimes what you make from those leftovers tastes even better than the original dish and takes half the time because it is already half cooked. All I have to do now is think about all the things I can cook with all that tasty home made chicken stock waiting for me in the freezer.