I am ashamed of a process that I go through every weekend, as I put out the Sunday night rubbish bins to be emptied on Monday mornings.
What is shameful is the amount of food I chuck away in the little green caddy designated for food waste. Bread, vegetables, various kinds of meat, old bits of cheese not consumed – and more – fill two or three disposable food bags.
Each Sunday I wonder why I am throwing away so much food. First, it’s probably because I buy too much – subconsciously persuaded that we must fill our shopping trolleys each time we visit the supermarket. Better over-buy than be without.
Secondly, it’s because it’s quite awkward to purchase small amounts for those of us who are usually just catering for ourselves. Portions often come in larger sizes, sometimes accompanied by the enticement of “buy one, get one free”. Then all the extra stuff gets shoved to the back of the fridge and eventually thrown away, uneaten.
I’m obviously not the only offender. There is a “food waste epidemic” in Britain currently. It’s calculated that £20 billion worth of food is wasted annually, which adds up to £500 per household.
Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, has rightly described this food waste as an “environmental, economic and moral scandal”.
The bigger food retailers such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose have promised to halve the food wasted by 2030, by selling smaller portions and amending the frequently over-cautious “best before” labels. That’s welcome news – but maybe the rules should be even tougher about wastage.
When I first went to France as a young girl, I was told to observe the way in which everything is used in a French household. And so it turned out – I was faced with eating the brains and offal of every edible animal, as well as the tastier parts with which I was already familiar. Then, from the carcass, a soup stock was boiled up.
The French have continued in this laudable tradition by introducing a law that forbids supermarkets and grocery stores to throw away edible food. They can be subjected to a financial penalty for doing so.
Gove is right: this is a moral question as well as an environmental one. In a world where there is still hunger, wasting food is wrong: we should all increase our awareness of this and tackle the problem robustly.
My Maytime resolution is to try to reduce radically the amount of food I put into those Sunday night rubbish bins – and to stock up on less in the first place.
Yes, the French respect for the rituals of food is undiminished. Friends of mine were motoring through France recently when they were obstructed by those grassroots demonstrators known as the gilets jaunes.
But then the midday clock struck, and the activists, who claim that President Macron’s policies favour the rich at the expense of the working class, halted their activities for a two-hour lunch. My pals were fortuitously able to move on.
In France, nothing interrupts lunch. And we can bet that the yellow-cladded protesters finished up every crumb of their repast.
Brian Walden, the political television interviewer who died recently, told me an engaging story about President Ronald Reagan. Walden was on location in the US, doing a documentary about Reagan’s re-election in the 1984 campaign. The crew from ITV, being left-wing young Londoners, were predictably hostile to Reagan.
During proceedings, one of the young women – who happened to be very pretty – asked the president if she could have her photograph taken with him, to please her granny back in England.
“Why, of course, Ma’am,” beamed Ronnie, with characteristic charm. After the snap was taken, he beckoned over another young lass, also working with the crew. It happened that this girl was not so pretty, and rather shy.
“And maybe this delightful young lady would like a picture as well?” he asked.
She was thrilled. At the end of the shoot, according to Walden, every member of the crew was wearing a badge supporting Ronald Reagan for re-election.
“He had those old-fashioned, Midwestern good manners,” the tough TV interviewer said of Reagan. Yes, courtesy can go a long way!
Follow Mary Kenny on Twitter: @MaryKenny4
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