Week 19: I will be more resourceful.
Updated: Jul 28, 2020
There is a high chance, that whilst you are reading this, you are having a snack. Perhaps a biscuit, or a piece of cake. If you're being careful with your diet, an apple of another piece of fruit. Snacking is one of the luxuries of the modern world. It is the attitude of: I don't need it right now, but I fancy something salty to to tickle my lips, or something chocolatey to melt on my tongue. It is pleasure.
When we snack, and to an extent when we prepare food at mealtimes, we open a packet, or start something fresh. This also somehow feels part of the experience - to hear a rustle, or a pop, or a snap. A ready meal box, a packet of crisps. The first crunch of an apple, is a wonderful thing. We rarely want to return to a half eaten apple that has gone a bit brown around the edges, and if you are like me then you rarely think about heating up small bits of leftovers. I will definitely put them in the fridge, but that is simply where leftovers go to expire, or grow hair. I'm just not that resourceful with food.
Resourceful, is also a funny word when you think about what it means. In general, the idea of being resourceful, tends to embody the opposite to what it sounds like it should mean.
Being wasteful on the other hand, makes perfect sense. It means that you are creating waste in whatever activity it is that you are carrying out. A waste of energy, a waste of time, a waste of natural materials.
Being resourceful, does not mean that your activity is using resources, it usually means that you saving the resources in whatever activity you are carrying out. Being resourceful with your time, or resourceful with your mind takes on positive connotations of being able to save time, or save energy. When it comes to the planet - being resourceful, does mean using resource - but the resource you have inside you, to save what we all see outside. Using more internal effort, and more creativity and thought, to make what we have stretch that little further by using it in new ways, or by using that little bit less. It is a positive exercise, and one that can be fun, but is one that all too often we do not practice.
I don't think I am alone when it comes to a lack of resourcefulness with food. Food waste is a growing problem. We buy one, you get one free - you don't think that the zero monetary cost of the second item, might have a real cost in food waste. We get an extra lettuce just in case, because in the end it could be composted, even though the care and attention taken to grow it makes that feel like an ignoble end to something that could have fed someone else.
Statistics of food waste are so large that you can't really imagine it. 1.3 billion tonnes a year. It is easier to picture from stats that organisations such as WRAP give, who have analysed food waste and concluded that about one-third of all food produced in the World it lost or wasted. World food hunger statistics suggest that around one-in-seven people on the planet are going without enough food to lead an active and healthy life. It is not exactly fitting a square peg in a round hole to suggest that one of these numbers could fit twice into the other, but it is also not an insurmountable jigsaw puzzle. As far as illustrative purposes go, it is simplification of a complex global problem, but it does feel that a small change in our resourcefulness as human beings, could make a big difference.
This week, I am taking this inspiration, to make a permanent change. This week, I am going to become more resourceful.
Our collective lack of resourcefulness It is not really something that has blame attached to it, as it seems that resourcefulness is something that we only do when we have to. The stats were not really a surprise, as I can't remember the last time we needed to practice resourcefulness in our own food consumption.
We live at a time, at least in my lucky existence on this planet, where resourcefulness with food is largely a choice, rather than a necessity. If there is no reason not to have that extra biscuit other than perhaps your own perception of your body image, and no particular incentive to create up a way to use that slightly squishy tomato, then we don't bother to think about it. We eat the biscuit, and either throw the tomato away or put it on the compost. We then dial a pizza, which ironically might have slightly squishy tomatoes on it. Convenience has made us lazy, choice has made us privileged.
It tends to be times of hardship, when resourcefulness really comes to the fore. I can recall stories from my parents and grandparents, of times when hardship made resourcefulness a necessity. Times of war and rationing, or times of much more economic hardship than I can remember in my lifetime. These were moments where everything had to stretch further, or when certain items were not available.
You might be able to see where this is going, but please can I stress that I do not believe we are going through a period of real hardship right now. Nothing is really in short supply, that we really need. Perhaps the 24-hour supermarket is now only open until late evening, and perhaps there is difficulty in finding a slot for home grocery delivery, but that is not real hardship. Bread will be back on the shelves, and although we might not like it, we can open that tin of mixed bean medley salad if we really need to.
However, right now we have a choice and an opportunity to be resourceful with our food, for the sake of others. Right now, we have the opportunity to learn a new way and a new habit with our own resources, so that what we have stretches that bit further, and we don't have to go out as often. By doing this, we can begin to make a difference to the food waste numbers, gram by gram.
We can reach inside ourselves to exercise creativity and resourcefulness, and make it fun at the same time. We can invent new meals, learn the art of the freezer dive, the pick and poke buffet, or reach into the back of the store cupboard. We can cover our worktops with the contents of the crisper, and make a rainbow junk salad. And let's face it, if we get blocked in our imagination, then right on cue Jamie Oliver has a new TV show out, that can help you (https://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/category/books/keep-cooking-and-carry-on/).
Please can I also stress that I say everything above without sarcasm, and without disparagement. I genuinely believe that resourcefulness is needed right now and I am not making it a pure environmental issue, I just think it is the responsible thing to do, that might then teach us a helpful planetwise habit.
I also genuinely think that Jamie Oliver is an inspiration in these moments. There are individuals who are, and will, try to take advantage of situations for gain. I believe that time will be the judge of this. But true artists, take the feelings of others, and feel the mood of the nation or the World, and us their imagination or skills to create something tangible and powerful that we can all use to nourish us metaphorically and actually. War brings out the best poets, and just causes bring out the best in our musicians, and our lyricists. Why shouldn't a moment of cultural change lead to an opportunity to use any creativity for good? Pop culture is a wide spectrum, and our chefs, our tradespeople, our brands, can all be creative and practice art.
This kind of inspiration, can also be closer to home. Our parents, and Emma also, continually inspire me to be more resourceful. Emma has been practising the art of the soup for a few weeks now, and our new Sunday routine of making soup is something that makes me feel very proud and is a current memory that is becoming a fond tradition.
My mum, is also a disciplined and committed ninja of the big soup, and a tenth dan of soup karate. Walking into our house growing up, to the smell of a big soup in the slow cooker is an anchor in my memory. I am sure many of us have something similar, replacing 'soup' with other brimming pans and batch meals. For me it was a steaming broth of leftovers, pasta, and pulses - something that used to ignite the appetite and warm my nostrils after school or football practice, sometimes with half the class or the team in tow if they knew that big soup was on the menu. Sometimes as a teenager, frankly I would have preferred a burger, but after the first spoon you forget those cravings and before you know it you are scraping the bottom of the bowl and heading back for more. That is the secret art of soup; it is never the first craving on a wet afternoon, but gets you by delicious stealth.
The principle of resourcefulness, and the permanent change therefore begins here with an effort to create more soup, as homage to those I love in my life, and perhaps a homage to parents and grandparents everywhere. We are all connected as individuals, but as families these connections do not just create power in the present, but connect the past and the future. If we can become even a fraction of those before us and those that inspire us and have inspired us in our lives to be resourceful, then we can create the warm kind of change that only nostalgia and generational knowledge can give. We can elevate the stew, worship the curry, celebrate the scouse, pass on the pasta bake, for the good of each other and the planet. We are all connected.
Soup, at its most basic level, is also very easy to make. A kettle full of boiling water, can be combined with an onion, a few carrots, a stalk or two of celery or leek, and good dose of bouillon or seasoning, and presto you have the basics of a soup that can simmer away for hours and provide food all day for you, and anyone else who happens to pop round.
By remembering a few basics like the base to a good soup, you already have the start of a resourceful journey that can go into so many directions. With soup, once you have the base, then whatever is going off in the fridge can simply be thrown in. Bacon bits, broccoli stalks, old bit of cauliflower, all make excellent ingredients. A splash of cream or a handful of pasta give you something creamy or hearty, depending on your mood.
Or if you want to save the pasta, then roast a few old tomatoes with a slug of olive oil, a good helping of garlic, then blend it all with a few basil leaves, and you have a pasta sauce rather than a soup. It might not be bright red, but that doesn't matter because it is guaranteed to taste of sunshine, and will leave anything in a jar in its Mediterranean dust.
I'll stop with those ideas, as we all have a different ideas of what a leftovers meal can be, a different thread, that we can use to create a great tapestry of change, that can create happiness and attitudinal change. It also does not have to stop with learning how to cook with leftovers. The principle of resourcefulness, just like many of planetwise changes, if simply about thinking a little bit differently, and trying to learn new habits. It could very well be sharing two chopped up apples between three people, it could be donating the cost of that BOGOF to a charity that supports hunger, or donating that free product to a food bank. This is resourceful in the wider sense, and can bring the negative statistics down. It can help those with the resource and skills, to then redistribute the resources in a way that helps waste and hunger meet somewhere in the middle.
If we also remember some of these basic principles of resourcefulness, I also believe it might bring the world back from some of the complicated and unnecessary corners we sometimes occupy and find it hard to escape from. I always believed that soup is complicated, because it looks complicated and I never really persevered. We are sometimes told that it is not possible to make a delicious meal with less than twenty ingredients. We are told that because something extra is free then it is valuable.
There is balance in this, in the sense that a meal that has been cooked underground in rare herbs for two days is very likely to be delicious, but so is something that might have been thrown together with love in five minutes. Getting something free is valuable, if you need it. A soup that tests your abilities as a chef, can make you and others around you feel good. I do not want to make a blanket statement to the contrary, because everything has a place, and a time. The complicated and the simple, can share a common ground of love, and need, and can gracefully co-exist.
However, as a permanent change for me, starting this week, I will show more love, and consider more heavily our real needs, when it comes to resourcefulness. Finding love in being resourceful, and finding value in what we really need.
One day, maybe we will be the grandmas and the grandpas. We will be the part of the thread that connects the past to the future. We will be the ones who are keeping the memories alive, and telling the story of when we needed to stay at home because of coronavirus. We will be sharing the stories of all the things we did to make sure the experience was a positive one. We may also be able to tell our grandchildren, or the grandchildren of others, that the world never really went back to the way it was before. Wouldn't that be a wonderful thing?
And wouldn't it be great to be told that your broccoli stalk salad pie is just the best.