Plastic Free cookery Challenge
Plastic is ubiquitous and seemingly inescapable. The first man-made plastic compound, ‘Parkesine’, was unveiled in 1862, and since then plastic and its various types have evolved and grown. Light, cheap, hygenic, preserving and flexible in use, plastic eventually became intertwined with the modern packaged food industry. Go to your local supermarket and you’ll find just about everything in plastic, from meat to milk, bread to cheese, fruit to peas. According to National Geographic, of the 78 million metric tons of plastic packaging produced globally each year just 14% is recycled.
A leading justification for the use of single use plastics to package food is the role that packaging can play in extending shelf-life of food and consequently reducing food waste. However, per capita food and packaging waste rates in Europe remain amongst the highest globally, suggesting that packaging has not offered a silver bullet to the food waste problem.Institute for European Environmental Policy
In my home, we’ve been trying to cut down on plastic for about two-and-a-half years. But we still end up with thing in the rubbish bin, filled with the treats that we can’t yet buy plastic free from our local grocers. As Plastic free July is coming, I thought I’d undertake that long-needed audit of the rubbish bins to see what my weaknesses are, and if there’s a way to circumvent the plastic by making it myself. A quick dig through our bin revealed a few places for improvement:
Known as Crisps in the UK , reputedly the spiteful creation of an irritated chef in New York, and popular the world over, potato chips – those thin, crunchy slivers of potato come in a plastic bag that are a devil.
Before plastic, cheese could come wrapped in fabric (cheesecloth), covered in wax, or even in jars (particularly Stilton cheese). Dishes such as rarebit, raclette and fondue were dishes that specifically used the hard, dried ends of your cheese. And while waxed cheese is still seen, it is usually in wedges – and shrink wrapped in plastic.
To go with my cheese addiction, crackers come in loads of packaging. While in Florence last year, I was astonished to see towers of crackers at the local bakeries for sale. It struck me as symbolic of the relationship Italians have with their food, which seemed (to me) much more diverse in terms of suppliers, and more intimate with your foods origins.
Breaking the alliterative trend here, Spaghetti is the hardest pasta for me to source plastic-free. I imagine that it’s hard to sell without it breaking, but given the simplicity of the ingredients I should really be better at this.
During Plastic Free July, I m going to try to find recipes that I can use to replace the commercial version. In this attempt I’ll seek to use historic recipes to try and recreate the foods that people would have eaten before plastic became quite so entrenched in our pantries. That might mean a Victorian recipe for crackers, a modern recipe for pasta, or a made-up recipe for crisps. But what it means is that I can reduce my waste further, and I can explore the recipes for food that comes from a time when more was made at home, and when plastic wasn’t everywhere.
Join me on instagram or Twitter with the hastag #plasticfreecookery. Food and recipes can be modern, vintage and historic in the spirit of togetherness and of fighting a modern problem that people lived for thousands of years without.