One of the more interesting panels at Edible Institute this year, was all about recent non-fiction food books. Three authors, Barry Estabrook, Terry McMillan and Jonathan Bloom were all there to talk about their experiences.
Bloom wrote Wasted Food and maintains a blog of the same name.
I’ve read Tomatoland, and it was fascinating and educational. Angelique and I will be running an online book club of the other two soon. Right now we’ve decided to wander into fiction, as our last few books have been non-fiction food books. (Or non-fiction-type. I’m not sure how a book that’s somehow a cookbook with significant amounts of memoir thrown in is classified.)
Wasted Food is, frankly, my current interest right now. I’m really looking forward to reading it, because I expect to learn a great deal. I learned a great deal from Tomatoland and expect to from The American Way of Eating as well, but Wasted Food makes me think it will give me something to really put my hands in. Not just things I can buy, or not buy, or letters and emails I can write, but actual actions I can take in my home.
I’m hopeful, I must admit, that there will be at least a few tips that are new to me on how to waste less food at home. That’s what I’m really looking forward to.
I’m also curious to see how he defines “food waste”. Sometimes, it’s obvious, right? That bag of spinach you (I) bought awhile back that got shoved to the back of the fridge until it turned into a bag of black slime, for example.
But what about bones?
When I buy a whole chicken, I keep all the bones and trimmings in a plastic container in the freezer until I have enough to make chicken stock. If I buy chicken parts (which is incredibly rare these days), I also keep any fat, skin or gristly stuff as well. I also keep carrot peels, onion tops and bottoms, celery bits and potato peels to add to it. It makes a delicious stock.
So. Where do bones and carrot and onion peels fit into the equation? Carrot peels, I can kind of see being called “waste”, as the peel is perfectly edible AND palatable. Papery onion peels, less so. Bones? Bones have, all my life, basically been trash. Once they’re cooked, we couldn’t even give them to the dogs. And, frankly, given it’s pretty hard to eat bones (usually – I have had bone marrow, and loved it), I’m pretty comfortable with them going straight from the cutting board or the plate to the trash. Even if I no longer throw them away myself.
This is one of the burning questions I have about Bloom’s book. Are bones that are not made into stock or soup waste, or are they acceptably inedible as to be “trash”? Is there a grey area?
Anyway, this is all on my mind because I’m making a boatload of chicken stock tonight. It’s probably the largest number of carcasses I’ve ever put in a stockpot. I think I have four or five chickens worth of bones in there. Unusually, no veggie matter. I’m going to start veggie stock soon, and decided to keep the normal onion & carrot bits for that.
I hope your house smells as good as mine does right now, and I would really love to hear your thoughts on bones and other food waste grey areas in the comments.
1 Which totally reminds me, I should get the beef neck bones out of the freezer to thaw to make stock tomorrow. I know I’m “supposed” to roast them first, but I’m not going to. I rarely roast bones before making stock.
2 And let me tell you, it’s made me seem weird to people, because it’s prompted me to take home bones from restaurant meals. You’ve never seen a server look quite so perplexed as when you’ve asked them for a box to take home the “trash” of your meal. Okay. Okay. I guess by the definition of “weird” as “not within the norm”, it hasn’t just made me seem weird.