Nearing kick-off time for the Los Angeles Times Food Bowl, we were able to tag along with Noelle Carter, Test Kitchen Director of the LAT, around the Santa Monica Farmers Market yesterday morning. We talked about a subject she is passionate about – food waste.
The market was popping, with the fresh colors and smells of spring. Carter led the way, around chefs with carts full of produce and throngs of people waiting in line for carrots or strawberries or the first cherries to ripen in the Northern Hemisphere (really).
Taking refuge among piles of beets in deep red, gold and orange she picked up a bunch to inspect. “There’s really no need to waste any part of this,” she said. “The leaves, the stems, the peels, everything.” What to make out of the stuff that usually gets tossed? She went on to talk about gathering the peels up in a cheesecloth or coffee filter, tied at the top and dropped in boiling water to make a flavorful broth. The hearty stems can be used in stir fries. The beet greens can be sautéed or chopped to toss in a salad. “It’s really possible to use the whole thing.”
She’ll be attending many of the events during the first annual LAT Food Bowl, which starts on May 1st. It’s a monthlong festival that celebrates the cities cutting edge food scene, promoting awareness about food waste and hunger. Dining events, panel discussions, culinary collaborations, classes, volunteer projects and exhibitions will be happening all over Los Angeles throughout the month. She suggested the following events at Food Bowl, if you’re particularly interested in food waste.
Food Waste: Solutions Informed by Science Chef Massimo Bottura, UCLA professor Jenny Jay, zero waste consultant and “Waste Warrior” Amy Hammes moderated by Evan Kleiman UCLA | May 2, 7 p.m. ($25)
Feeding the 5000 Top chefs prepare feast made entirely from fresh, quality food that would otherwise go to waste Pershing Square | May 4, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Free)
Food for Soul Forum presented by San Pellegrino Massimo Bottura, Mario Batali, Roy Choi, Dominique Crenn and Mary Sue Milliken moderated by Jonathan Gold The Theatre at Ace Hotel | May 5, 8 p.m. ($35)
Harvest for the Hungry: Harvesting LA’s Historic Orange Groves Orcutt Ranch Horticultural Center & Community Garden May 21, 8 to 10 a.m. & 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (Free)
The Farmer & The Chef Festival 10 local chefs will be partnered with 10 farms to create seasonal, consciously sourced dishes Manuela | May 28, 4 to 9 p.m. ($235)
Sustainable Seafood Dinner with Michael Cimarusti Providence | May 30, 6:30 p.m. (Tickets coming soon)
Leaving the shade of the tent, and walking into the bright sunshine, she explained that those beets were just a small example of the types of things that can be done to reduce waste. In a story she wrote on the topic, she included the following list of food tips for reducing food waste in the home:
Shop smarter. “Primarily it’s shopping smarter. Not bringing too much into your own home so you doom yourself to waste food. We squander 25% of the food we bring home.” — Jonathan Bloom, author of “American Wasteland”
Try to use every part of a food item you buy. “We cherry-pick certain ingredients we want to eat instead of the whole thing. Waste should become gastronomic invention.” — Dan Barber, chef, author and creator of wastED
Don’t just look for perfect produce in the stores. “When you’re grocery shopping, you can buy imperfect or buy the stuff no one else is going to buy. You can start that right now.” — Grant Baldwin, “Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story” filmmaker
Love your leftovers. “Save and actually eat the leftovers. You’d be amazed how many people are so careful with packing everything up to get it into their refrigerator, only to let it rot once it’s there.” — Bloom
Avoid wasting meat, especially. “The single biggest thing you can do is avoid wasting any meat at all, because the amount of water and land you’re wasting through this is disproportionately massive. Eat the whole thing.” — Tristram Stuart, author of “Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal” and founder of the environmental charity Feedback.
Manage your refrigerator. “We don’t need to fill our refrigerators front to back.” — Baldwin
Befriend your freezer. “Use it as a way to avoid waste. Pretty much every food item can be frozen.” — Bloom
Treat expiration dates as a guide. “Trust your senses, not the expiration date. It’s not the ultimate arbiter of when a food should or shouldn’t be eaten.” — Bloom
Push for your store to donate leftover unsold food. “Grocery stores are realizing they need to do something about it. I think at some point, people will pressure them with what they expect, just as they expect to see local and fair trade food. They’ll expect to see they’re donating food.” — Baldwin
Order only what you’ll eat at restaurants. “When you’re out, maybe just say, ‘I don’t need full portions.’ If you don’t need fries because you’re on an Atkins Diet, then don’t have them placed on the plate.” — Baldwin
Compost. “Composting has a role. It’s great keeping that stuff out of the landfill, and it has a real role in raising awareness in how much food we’re throwing away as a household and as a society.” — Bloom
Consider your place in the global food system. “Once you connect your daily food choices — what you buy, where you buy it, whether you eat it all or throw it away — to the global phenomenon and you accept it, it’s not so much what you do. It’s really who you are.” — Stuart
She also sent along a link of recipes made from food scraps:
For more information and a schedule of events: www.lafoodbowl.com