Wasted (Hedonists Beware)

Text: Douglas McMaster Most Photos: Alexandra Genis

Douglas McMaster photographs a dish of otherwise wasted crabapples at EFS

Douglas McMaster photographs a dish of otherwise wasted crabapples at EFS

Every problem is an opportunity: not knowing what to do can be a beautiful thing... When looked upon from the right angle.

Bruised peaches, liver and wrinkly carrots are doomed... A definate problem, we create mountains of misunderstood food Waste, and it's too easy not to care...   

Today's food industry is a mess. Half of the world's produce is Wasted, and the food we do eat is often so plastic that it's actually worse than waste itself. The more you learn about it the more confused it all becomes. There are lots of people banging this drum, these people are usually a little bit annoying, pointing fingers, fear mongering, their clipboard information fills your thoughts with guilt and anxiety. Isn’t it easier just to look the other way?  

A cocktail pairing by Simone Caporale, with a zero waste dish of whey and rosehip, with shitake mushroom, homemade cheese and cress - cooked by Douglas McMaster at EFS

A cocktail pairing by Simone Caporale, with a zero waste dish of whey and rosehip, with shitake mushroom, homemade cheese and cress - cooked by Douglas McMaster at EFS

If you ignored somebody that waved at you, that'd be decidedly rude, I feel the same about ignoring food Waste - something which is often deemed socially acceptable. Superficial association with unworthy food is more of a condition than a conscious choice... Something to consider next time your boiled egg rolls on the floor. When the issue is soaked into the bones of our culture, no amount of rules will fix the beast.

I believe that all ingredients are productive, some just need a little extra love. Once, just another brick in the wall I was fortunate (or unfortunate) to become aware of this predicament. Awareness is the crux of the food's journey from farm to bin.

Once upon a time I decided to challenge this prejudice. I was in Sydney. In some quirky little cafe cooking for a group of strangers. This dinner was called Wasted.

Ten courses of food that would have otherwise been wasted; Nettles, back-fat, duck hearts, anchovy spines, dill stems were just some of the ingredients brought to the table.

A cocktail pairing by Alex Kratena, with a zero waste dish of venison, pear and celariac cooked by Douglas McMaster at EFS.

A cocktail pairing by Alex Kratena, with a zero waste dish of venison, pear and celariac cooked by Douglas McMaster at EFS.

Activism was not on the agenda, more so a delivery of ingredients condemned without a fair trial.

There was a beautiful moment that night. It was late and we were five courses deep. I'd had just served a course titled, ‘Blood, brain and skin‘...  I'd poached the brains into small nuggets coated with crispy pork skin cracking, the blood was cooked with spices similar in nature to a black pudding, but blended into a thick paste coating the crispy brains. I’d also used some apples deemed unfit for the supermarket, simply pickled to cut through the rich meaty unctuousness.

The forty floor tiles (we’d used instead of plates) came back into our kitchen... CLEAN. These guys loved it!

After hours of mayhem, I’d caught my tail and breathed it in. The energy in the room was overwhelming, dozens of people peaking with stimulation.  The irrational fear of the unknown had been bridged somehow. Was eating this food joyfully challenging? Taboo? Instead of denying reality they chose to eat it?... I like to think of it as a fortunate stroke of serendipity.

‘Wasted’ became a platform for ideas, a whole bunch of connected thoughts, a cognitive extravaganza where being aware was inspiring. 'Wasted' influenced food rationalism and superseded pessimism.

We are a product of a generation, of a time and place, of a million happenings, each conditioning who we are and the way we think. Our ignorance is not coherent, we can choose to open our eyes and see the negative reality not as a hindrance but as a muse. Let mankind's traumatised food system heal.  If we can learn to open our minds and accept reality with optimism, candour and a daily conscious sympathy ‘the devil may cry’.