It breaks my heart every time I have to throw the fat parts at the top and the bottom of sliced bread in the bin so I don’t do it for ages and keep them in the cupboard thinking that I’ll take them and feed them to the ducks sometime but then when I don’t get round to doing that for a while and they get covered in powdery green dust and strange fungi, I’m left with no choice but to throw them away. Oh how I wish like in Iran, we had Namakis (Salt Men) in Oxford who would exchange dry and mouldy bread for crystal salt.
Bread has a lot of respect in Iran. Robab, my cousins’ nanny, used to say, ‘If you see a piece of bread in the street, pick it up, kiss it and then put it somewhere higher up like on a wall or a windowsill so it won’t get treaded on.’
Actually all food get a lot more respect there than they do here but bread in particular is much respected bordering on holly.
Growing up in Iran one of the first rules I ever learned was that ‘you finish everything that is on your plate’. When I see people leaving food on their plates, I feel so angry. Well it’s more upset than angry actually. To me it’s just sad that they see nothing wrong with wasting food. The funny thing is that from what I’ve seen, usually these are the people who are seen as righteous and whose behaviour is envied by others. Time and time again I’ve heard people (usually ones that are a bit on the chubby side) make comments such as, ‘Oh you are so lucky you’re able to leave food on your plate, I always have to finish everything, even when I’m full.’ And the other person, the rude one, the one Robab and my grandmother would not have hesitated to give a good telling off to, the one who has for many years been in charge of how much goes onto his/her plate but has not yet been able to calculate exactly how much he/she is able to eat, sits there with a massive grin on his/her face, looking very pleased with him/herself.
It’s like eating is such a bad thing that doing anything else with your food other than eating it is fine. ‘Just don’t eat it ok? Because eating will make you fat and that is bad’ seems to be the message.
Some time ago I was with a few friends; a couple of them with new babies, one with an older baby and me with no baby when I heard this (which I think is one of the strangest pieces of information and advise I’ve ever heard in my life), ‘It has been proven that mothers put on most of their weight from “let’s not waste”’ Said the older baby mummy in a knowing manner, ‘but you mustn’t think like that. As soon as you think your child has had enough, you must pour what’s leftover on the plate into the bin and pour washing-up liquid all over it.’
I felt the same look coming over my face as when people ask me questions like, ‘Just out of interest, exactly why do Moslems love to blow themselves up so much?’
‘Yeah I’ve heard that’ said one the new baby mummies, ‘I’ll definitely do that because I don’t want to get any bigger than this.’
The older baby mummy smiled and nodded sympathetically. I smiled and raised my eyebrows. Many questions were circling around my head. Some I figured I was better off not knowing the answer to (So is the washing-up liquid really necessary? Is it possible that if you don’t do that, you will at some point during the afternoon go looking through the bin for a little snack? And if you are the kind of person that does that, is a bit of washing-up liquid going to stop you?) and some I thought I would just get laughed at by asking them (Does it absolutely have to either go in the bin or be eaten? What’s wrong with putting it in the fridge and keeping it for later? It could make a nice little snack for you or the baby couldn’t it?) But most of all I was thinking ‘Exactly when did food lose all its respect in this country?’
Somehow between these girls’ grandparents’ generation (who without a doubt respected food after all the hardship they had gone through during the war) and now, it has become absolutely fine for someone like Gillian McKeith (of 'You are what you eat') to go to someone’s house, get a bin bag and throw anything sugary or fatty that she finds in the house in there, encourage the overweight person who has asked for her help to put muffins and éclairs on the floor and stamp on them, then set a table with all the things that person eats in a week (slabs of cheese, kebabs, burgers, cakes, chocolate, numerous glasses of beer and coke, biscuits, takeaways,…) and occasionally use other shock tactics such as making a chocolate gravestone and a human size grave covered entirely in chocolate bars.
I actually like this programme because it teaches people to eat well and be healthy but must they waste all this food in the process? Ok yes, cakes make people fat but cake is still food isn’t it? It has been made from flour, sugar, oil, eggs maybe milk, maybe nuts. These are all good food that our bodies need and should be treated with respect and not as the enemy. Yet people on this programme and others similar are encouraged to destroy them, throw them away and pour washing-up liquid over them, in short do anything but eat them. Maybe I’m being a bit naïve here but shouldn’t they instead be taught to respect food and try to control themselves so they won’t overeat?
Let’s say someone is a sex addict and whenever he/she sees a good looking person, he/she wants to…well you know. Anyway when he/she goes to get the help of an expert, does the expert 1- try to teach him/her to somehow get his/her desires under control? Or 2- tell him/her that whenever he/she sees a good looking person in the street, he/she should punch them in the face so they’re not pretty anymore and therefore no longer desirable?
This might seem like an extreme example but I’m sure if you were to put this scenario and someone destroying a skip full of cakes, cheese, bread and chocolate, to group of people in a famine stricken country, they would think that these were both equally ridiculous.
I don’t know what came first really; the wasting of food in our daily lives or in movies and television. But it does often feel like they are one step ahead of us, taking things to extremes. And it’s strange how they usually take every possible care to make everything appear so natural in movies yet when it comes to eating habits, they often fail miserably.
I’m talking about all the times someone buys a sandwich, takes one bite of it and throws the rest in the bin because he receives a phone call with good or bad news/sees a friend or enemy standing on the other side of the road/realises he’s late for something/has had amnesia for the past four years and then suddenly remembers (if what he remembers is that he doesn’t like pastrami and that’s what he’s bought, then I guess that’s understandable but it’s probably something lame like) he is a prince who everyone thinks has died in a yachting accident and now that his father has died, his evil cousin is about to be crowned as the next king unless he gets himself to the palace pronto. He could still eat the sandwich on his way there if you ask me. I would. I had to throw my half eaten tuna sandwich in the bin about a year ago because the bus driver said no food was allowed on the bus and I’m still thinking about that sandwich and cursing that bus driver every time I do. And it wasn’t because he had made me get on the bus hungry because the sandwich was huge and I had already eaten my fill (I was just keeping the rest for later).
There are so many examples of these unnecessary throwing away of food in movies and television that I could write a whole book on them. The depressing British soap operas (Eastenders, Hollyoaks,…) are full of them. No one ever eats on these programmes.
Scenario: A couple sit down to have dinner with plates of sausages and chips in front of them. Phone rings. The man picks it up (bad move), ‘Hello’
‘Your wife is cheating on you.’ Click, beeeeeeep
‘Hello, hello, who is this?’
‘What’s wrong Barry?’ Asks the wife, picking up a chip.
‘You’ replies the husband with an angry look on his face, ‘you’re cheating on me. I don’t ever want to see you again.’
Walks out. Slams the door behind him. Now the woman either starts crying and runs upstairs or starts crying and empties the plates in the bin. And I just think, Love, you cheating might have been shocking news to him but it’s not news to you, is it? So why not finish your dinner?
Another common scenario is this: A man/woman walks into a house. He/she takes care to come in quietly as it’s pretty late at night. He/she walks into the dining room to find a table set for two with two plates full of food that have gone cold and a flickering candle on its last breaths. In the living room, a woman/man sleeps on the sofa fully dressed, holding an empty glass of wine. She/he has been waiting for he/she to arrive and he/she is very late for their dinner date. Now she/he suddenly wakes up and starts rubbing her/his eyes and he/she starts to apologize for his/her lateness…Stop right there.
Let’s analyse this common scenario on television and movies for a moment. Would anyone in their right mind dish someone’s dinner and put it on the table before they arrive in the house? Because I’m thinking even if you have a date with the Incredible Timekeeping Man/Woman who always arrives at exactly the time he/she says he/she will arrive, he/she might still have a little something to do before dinner like washing hands, making a phone call or going to the bathroom. What if they want to have a little wine before dinner? What if on their way in, a neighbour starts talking to them?
The way I see it, it’s she/he who has done the wrong thing here. She/he has not only wasted all the food, but also finished all the wine. And now we’re supposed to feel sorry for her/him too?! No way.
If I were him/her I would give her/him a good telling off. If you can’t understand why I think what she/he has done is so stupid, let’s change this scenario a little for you. Let’s replace dinner with a baby or a puppy. Let’s say in the film, he/she was supposed to have come home at 7 O’clock to look after the baby/puppy so the other person could have a rest or go out. He/she arrives three hours late to find that she/he is sleeping with earplugs in (so not to be disturbed by the cries of the baby/puppy)/has gone out already and the baby/puppy is hungry and badly in need of a change/walk.
Again some might think this is an extreme example but I’m sure people felt exactly the same way when someone decided that animals should have rights (and a little further back,) that humans should have rights. So now what’s wrong with saying that foods should have rights?
The fact of the matter is that day by day, the food we eat has less and less nutrition in it on account of us overworking the soil so much. Apparently these days most of us (even the ones with a balanced diet) need supplements simply because there are a lot less vitamins in our food than there once was. But we still don’t think that food needs to be treated with respect.
There are always discussions about all the violence in movies and the effects of this on the society. Ok I agree; violence is bad. People die from violence. But every year masses of people are also dying from hunger while others are given standing ovations for stamping on éclairs.
It’s funny how it no longer seems to be acceptable to have a hero or heroine in a movie who smokes but it’s absolutely fine to have someone in a movie take one bite from an apple and throw the rest sexily in the bin or to have Brad Pit in Ocean’s Eleven, take one bite of a burger and then for no apparent reason, throw the rest away.
‘No food has been wasted during the making of this film’ that’s what I would like to see at the end of a blockbuster movie one of these days.
I would probably fight for this if I was a tad less lazy but unfortunately I’m more of a talker than a doer and so my height of Respect Food Campaign will probably be to glare disapprovingly at guests who leave food on their plates and maybe if I have a child one day, teach him/her to respect food too.