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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:

Chips.

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.

Cheese.

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.

Crackers.

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.

Pasta.

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.

The challenge:

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.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. LOVE it!!! I’ve taken to saving the plastic bags from chips and frozen peas etc, and using them for other things even if only to freeze food scraps until rubbish day. I utterly refuse to buy any plastic bags as a stand alone item. And I look forward to reading your adventures in MYO ❤

    Like

    June 24, 2020
  2. I have recently started making crackers from my “discard” sour dough feeder. We really like them and they are super easy. Plus you can add whatever flavour tickles your fancy.

    Like

    July 13, 2020
  3. The pandemic meant, here in Canada, that we couldn’t take our own produce bags and grocery bags into the stores. We asked to have our groceries put into cardboard and bagged any veggies together that weren’t paid for by weight. I felt like it was a huge step back. In Prince Edward Island they have banned plastic bags a year ago and everyone adjusted well. I’d like to lobby our government to do the same.

    Like

    July 13, 2020

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