This recipe is a classic case of planning one thing and ending up with something much, much better.
It all started with small video clip that I can’t get out of my mind: a man standing behind a giant pile of beautiful, yellow bananas, all perfectly edible, with a big note saying “rejected” on them – rejected because they are the wrong shape or size per supermarket regulations. What led us to this place where perfectly good food gets tossed away because it’s not cosmetically perfect?
This led me down a new trail to researching food waste. I had been perusing food news as I often do – winding down just before bed. I came across something I had somehow missed until just now: a trailer for a documentary that aired on April 22nd for Earth Day by a Canadian couple Jen Rustemayer and Grant Baldwin. The film, Just Eat It covers a year in the life of the couple as they spend the year eating only food that would otherwise be thrown away and researching the why, how and where of the incredible amount of edible food that is simply thrown away every day. The statistics shared in the short clips I saw made me want to get my hands on the entire documentary so that I can watch and learn a whole lot more. Take a look:
Here are a few highlights from the clips that made me think again about the value I place on food and ideas we all have about what constitutes good food vs. less appealing or inedible:
- 40% of the food grown in America gets thrown away (btw: in the UK the number is estimated to be 50%)
- 30% of the food grown in America gets thrown away at the farm – for cosmetic reasons: too large; wrong shape; minor defect (i.e. slightly different color on skin or growing mark)
- the average American family throws away 25% of the food they purchase – a fact brought home with a clip of a woman leaving a grocery store with 4 grocery bags, dropping one from her hand, and continuing to walk on…
- food wasted in grocery stores and restaurants mostly doesn’t get composted – it ends up on the landfill, where it proceeds to release methane gas into the atmosphere
- 15 million American families struggle to get enough food every month
All this combined with things we may already be aware of: the world has a water crisis; climate change heavily impacts the ability to grow and store food in many parts of the world; the world’s major health problems are mostly diet-related – caused in many cases by eating food that is highly processed with a shelf life of “nearly forever” – implying that some of the food being wasted could be used to replaced the unhealthy stuff in people’s homes so that they could make better choices.
So I turned on the oven and went about making eggplant into something I thought I’d add to dinner, later. But as ‘way leads on to way’ (Robert Frost), I turned a corner when I pulled out the Za’atar and serendipitously created a snack I’ll be coming back to again and again.
So pull out a knife and your small, ripe eggplants, and get cooking. These are amazing and eggplants are really good for you. The eggplants are cooked to the point where they just begin to dry out but are still pliable. The savory combination of salt, olive oil and Za’atar coupled with the smooth, tart yogurt is simply perfection. And you don’t need to wait until your eggplants are on their way out, either: just choose the smaller, younger eggplants so they aren’t bitter, and get cooking!
- Jonathan Bloom’s website Wasted Food
- Jen and Grant, creators of the Just Eat It film, have a blog: Clean Bin Project
- Kudos to the city of Seattle: it’s now against the law to throw food in the trash
- Food Rescue in DC is using food that would be wasted to feed those who need it
- France gets rid of “best by” label on dry food goods and has appointed a committee to reduce food waste nation-wide
- in the UK: WRAP is working on providing information, programs and influencing policies that impact food waste
Za’atar Eggplant Crisps with Yogurt
3-4 small eggplants, ends removed and sliced to 1/2″ or 1 cm
1 tablespoon Za’atar*
salt to sprinkle
olive oil to drizzle
1/2 cup Turkish or Greek yogurt (low-fat works great too)
Lay the eggplant slices out on the baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with salt. Drizzle olive oil over the slices, and then sprinkle each slice generously with Za’atar. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, cool slightly, and serve warm with yogurt that’s been sprinkled with additional Za’atar, if desired.
Serves 4 as an appetizer
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