Small Apples and Pig Kidneys

More than 6,000 free meals prepared with 1,500 kilos of perfectly good food that was destined for the landfill. These are the staggering numbers given at the launch of the campaign against food waste in Brussels: Feeding the 5,000.

 The goal was not only to convert what was essentially trash into a meal, but to incite a discussion about the absurdity of food waste. This culinary act is one of political significance; with demonstrations of this magnitude, Feeding the 5,000 intends to draw local, national, and international media attention. In addition, they aim to convince Belgian and European institutions to implement concrete measures to counteract gross food waste in a world where one billion people suffer from starvation.

 Slow Food and Slow Food Youth Network Brussels participated in the event, offering insight into and evaluating how our everyday choices play a role in this dilemma. Hundreds of people put their senses to the test in a sensory journey; curiosity inspired them to see if they could identify all five tastes (do you know them all? Bitter, sour, sweet, salty, and ….?).  The volunteers participated in a blind test where they tried to guess the aromas of familiar foods, the shape, and the texture of more uncommon fruits that were partially disguised.

 One of these fruits was a local variety of apple. A blindfolded volunteer held it in his hand, unable to correctly identify the heirloom produce. When the fruit was revealed, he exclaimed with disbelief “Apples are larger, they can’t be this small!” Using the apple as a starting point, the discussion moved to a larger theme: Food waste is a by-product of our current system of agriculture. Uber-industrialized and standardized, it is oriented at producing excessive amounts of esthetically perfect products with unfailing consistency. And so, we are losing thousands of varieties in favor of the four commercial varieties (Golden, Fuji, Gala, and Pink Lady) that make up 90% of the world’s market. To lose these varieties is to lose our biodiversity, as well as the local economies that are dependent on the land and employ a respectful use of the natural resources.

 Chef Philippe Renoux, of the restaurant  Orphyse Chaussette and the Terra Madre network, took the stage for a cooking demonstration. To broach the subject of food waste, he took to a kilo of pig kidneys to make his point. While cooking them, he explained that beyond the noble cuts of meat, there are myriad others that often go overlooked. Lesser-known cuts and offal are often seldom taken into consideration, but with the right cooking instructions, one can easily learn to incorporate them into their portfolio. He offered that eating quality food and fresh, local and seasonal products is the first step in preventing food waste. Seasonal food is more flavorful and nutritious, and thus a smaller quantity is needed to satiate one’s appetite without compromising flavor. Going back to the discussion of apples, local varieties contain much higher concentrations of Vitamin C, polyphenols, and antioxidants than those of commercial varieties.

 The message is that we are all co-producers: With our own daily choices we all vote in favor of a certain type of agriculture, economy, and environment. This is the first step against food waste.

 Many organizations and volunteers collaborated to put on the event, and with this first effort, the Belgian movement battling food waste took a big step forward.  

Feeding the 5,000 Brussels works in conjunction with: 11.11.11, The Belgian Federation of Food Banks, The Center for Research and Information for the Consumer Organisations (CRIOC), Disco Soupe, EU FUSIONS, Eurotoques, Green up Film Festival, Komosie,Velt,  Oxfam, Slow Food, Slow Food Youth Network, and Social Groceries Flanders.

 Did you know that every year 1.3 billion tons of food are thrown away worldwide? That is the equivalent weight of 8,600 cruise ships. Of that enormous mountain of waste, 900 tons are squandered in the journey from the field to consumer, before the food even reaches the dinner table. Another 400 million are wasted by consumers themselves by overbuying and misuse.  Want to know more? Download the Slow Food guide!

 Sour, bitter, sweet, salty, and….?  Not familiar with the fifth taste? Click here to find out!

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