An ode to my spatula

I don’t like waste, and wasting food, particularly very good food, ranks quite high on my list of things to avoid.  In some cultures, licking one’s plate is acceptable (or even expected) — in that sense, the privacy of our apartment is perhaps its own little subculture.

Licking your plate avoids food waste and ensures that you get every last bit of goodness, plus, you can put the plate straight into the dishwasher, no rinsing required (saving water), or set the dish aside to be reused.  But what about those pesky mugs and bowls where you can’t reach the bottom?

Enter the spatula.

Most any spatula will do, but a few years ago, I discovered the perfect implement at our local Italian grocer — a spoon-sized spatula with a silicone head and a wooden handle.  What started as a sometimes-used item quickly became an essential part of my place setting.

Eventually, I bought a second one to keep at my desk at work, and I often tuck one into my bag if I’ll be eating when out and about.  The spatula accompanied me to Portland, as well.  I still feel the need to use it discretely, but, where I would not lick my bowl in the lunchroom at work, I used my spatula with only minimal hesitation.  I believe I have yet to actually use the spatula in a restaurant, but that may only be because we don’t eat out all that often.

The spatula’s usefulness is not limited to the end of the meal.  You can use it throughout the meal to keep the sides of your dish clean — if you wait until the end of the meal to bust out the spatula, you’ll probably have you cooled, dried food that is impossible to remove.  Using the spatula as you go eliminates that problem.

While it may not be incorporated into dining etiquette books anytime soon, my place setting is incomplete without this useful, practical tool.

Do you go to great lengths to clean your plate or otherwise avoid food waste?  Please share your tips and ideas in the comments.

Human garbage disposal

So, here’s the thing: I really hate wasting food.  In particular, I hate wasting good food (a foodie has to have her standards, after all) or food that should be good because we put precious time and high-quality ingredients into it.

My feelings about food waste do not mesh particularly well with introducing solid foods to a baby.  Whether you start with self-feeding (like BabyLed Weaning) from the beginning or spoon feeding, there will eventually be a time when your baby learns to feed him/herself, and this time will involve a learning curve.

The process is inherently messy and wasteful: food on the face, partially masticated food drooled onto the bib, food smashed in little fists, food dropped on the floor, food in the seat . . . .

Of course, since we try to only put high quality food in our bodies, we offer The Dude the same.  We take some normal steps to minimize waste:

  1. Only put a small amount of food in front of him at once.
  2. Make sure the floor is [relatively] clean, so we can hand back dropped pieces.
  3. Offer food when he’s not starving (i.e., AFTER he’s had mama’s milk), tired, or otherwise fussy.
  4. Minimize distractions during mealtime.

But there comes a point when the food is crumbled in pieces too small for The Dude to grasp and/or he loses interest in the meal.

Enter the human garbage disposal, AKA mama.  Yep, I unashamedly pick up the bits of food (including some that have been in his mouth and rejected) from the table, floor, and chair.

Upon first witnessing this, Matthew commented that baby birds typically eat food from the mama bird’s mouth, NOT the other way around.

I do have my limits — some items I rule out as too mushy, slobbery, etc.  Sometimes it goes straight into my mouth, other times, I dress it up a little, adding some nut butter to the leftover piece of bread, or tossing some partially chewed veggies in with some other food I’m going to eat.

I just can’t let good food go in the trash!  What extreme actions do you take to avoid food waste?

Wrangling the refrigerator

Sometimes I open it and nothing falls out.  Other times, I’m not so lucky.  Stuffed-to-the-gills refrigerators really stress me out, and this represents the norm when the garden produce rolls in this time of year.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for the bounty, but this chaos and disorder causes my brain to go into overdrive and shut down in self-defense.  Can’t.  Focus.  Make.  It.  Stop.

I hate to waste any food, don’t want one little bit to go bad, but at this point, waste is almost inevitable.  For one thing, poor air circulation in over-full fridges creates cold spots, freezing and ruining tender veggies, like lettuce.  Then, there’s the food that just gets lost, pushed back in some deep, dark corner, only to be discovered a month later, a special science experiment, green and fuzzy, fresh from your fridge.  Sometimes this almost makes me cry — I recently discovered a  jar of really delicious, locally grown and produced salsa, that came none too cheap, still one-third full and subjected to the mold bug.  So sad and such a waste.

I try to make mental lists of what we have and prioritize use, and we generally minimize our losses.  As my husband likes to remind me, when I look in the refrigerator and my brain almost explodes, any garden goods that go bad can just go into the compost pile and feed future crops.  But then why are they taking up space in the fridge in the first place?

Deep breaths.  Count to ten.

I created this lunch around our homemade dill gravy and some leafy greens that top my current mental “use it or lose it” list.

What are your tricks for taming the refrigerator and minimizing food waste?