Waste Not: How To Get The Most From Your Food by editors at James Beard Foundation, Photographs by Keirnan Monaghan & Theo Vamvounakis, Rizzoli, US $45.00, Pp 208, September 2018, ISBN 978-0847862788
In ancient China and ancient India and many other parts of Asia and Africa, people were aware of the concept of whole foods and how to add flavor and aroma to food. Eating whole foods was healthy and less expensive and adding flavor and aroma made them delicious. The concept of whole foods is relatively new to us in the West — only a few decades old. One of the advantages of eating whole foods is that we can add flavor and aroma to our foods with the usually discarded parts of our foods. In restaurant kitchens around the world, chefs use ingredients that home cooks often discard, from scraps to carrot tops, from fish bones to chicken fat to build layers of flavor and keep purchased products from being wasted. Under the influence of migrant chefs from different parts of the world, chefs in America have also adopted this practice in recent decades, although this tradition has not become popular among home cooks.
The editors of Waste Not say that this practice has become popular among restaurant chefs for two reasons and there is no reason why home cooks shouldn’t adopt this. It lowers food costs and adds more flavor to your dishes. They say that in our own homes, the numbers tell a different story. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, a quarter of the food we purchase ends up in the garbage, which means that the average American household is throwing away more than $1500 worth of food each year. And the problem has gotten worse: in the early twenty-first century, we waste three times as much food as we did in 1950.
Unlike the centuries-old culinary traditions of France, Italy, Japan, or any ancient food system, for that matter, cooks in the United States haven’t developed the deep repertoire of dishes that use up agricultural and culinary byproducts to full gastronomic effect. The ‘fromage de tete’ and ‘pied de porc’ of France, the minestrone and ‘Pappa al Pomodoro’ of Italy, the kimchi and ‘doening jang’ of Korea, and other dishes the world over that form the gastronomic heart of these rich culinary identities are often repertoires for ingredients and scraps that would otherwise be wasted.
Celebrated chef and ecological cooking advocate Dan Barber reminds us of the systems that purposely use the by-product of one thing to support the production of another: pigs that make the famous hams of Italy’s Parma region are fed the whey leftover from the production of the region’s other’s great offering, Parmigiano-Reggiano. This is not a coincidence; it is synergy.
At the James Beard Foundation, they believe that one of the most important things we can do to stem the flow of wasted food is to make flavor the solution. Waste Not is divided into five sections, featuring different kinds of recipes. The chapter with the title From Stem to Stem includes great recipes such as ‘Carrot Spaetzle’ while the section on Meat, Bones, Skin & Scales offers flavorful dishes such as ‘Fisherman’s Stew.’ Another chapter titled Tops & Bottom, Pits & Peels offers many flavorful choices like ‘Charred Broccoli Stems.’ You would surely enjoy the recipes in the Second-Day Solutions chapter that includes ‘Tuscan Bread and Tomato Soup’ while you would love the Prolonged & Preserved recipes like ‘Kitchen Scrap Kimchi.’
Waste Not is an extraordinarily accessible and practical cookbook that will lower your kitchen budget by making your food more delicious, flavorful and healthy. These techniques are not new but time-tested. Moreover, these techniques are not exclusive to the recipes provided in this book. In fact, you can apply them to most of the recipes you already know or come across in other cookbooks. Waste Not must be part of your kitchen. James Beard Foundation must be commended for producing this creative cookbook every foodie must have.