After years of throwing my mothers gourmet sandwiches over the fence into an overgrown backyard, our neighbour came knocking.
After years of throwing my mothers gourmet sandwiches over the fence into an overgrown backyard, our neighbour came knocking. He had bought a lawn mower revealing my black and petrified meals in the freshly cut grass. I had been discarding eggplant filled pita bread for years because it was the only way I could legitimately eat honey soaked crumpets after school. Sometimes I swapped pate sandwiches for cold pizza in the playground but that was a hard sell, so I began to offload the gourmet goods in more creative ways. You might think I’m a bit of a freak at this point but I’m not alone, Australians waste over 4 million tones or 178 kilos per person of food each year.
My parents being the product of a post depression world, nothing went to waste, they kept bottle tops and jam jars full of rusty nails just in case they might be useful.
Dad would force me into showdowns with green vegetables, which could last an hour, before I conceded defeat so I could have a paddle pop for dessert. The emphasis my family put on finishing meals is still with me, ‘children are starving in Ethiopia’ my mother used to say. The world vision ‘sponsor a child campaign’ showed images of malnourished babies. It still makes my stomach churn with compassion but it was not a great way to stir my appetite.
Being aware that just a quarter of the food wasted in the first world would be enough to feed all the people starving in the third world continues to cause me internal angst at buffet restaurants.
The war between kids and kitchen continued with my brothers who developed aversions, not allergies, to certain foods. My youngest brother only eats white food. He will eat 12 pieces of white toast for breakfast, chips for lunch and ice cream for dinner. He has not enjoyed the taste of a new food group since he was six. My other brother holds a grudge against potatoes after a tense standoff at Dads place where he thought a potato could get the better of him.
Occasionally I threw my lunch into the bin at school, but I was a paranoid teenager, racked with a guilty conscience. The thought of a teacher or even friends seeing me being picky was enough to push me to more extreme locations to hide my shame. I developed hiding places for food, in trees and front yards on the way home from school, eventually moving into letterboxes because I though that people might like a surprise sandwich in the post, slightly toasted on a summers day.
After school I would take my lunchbox on the job to deliver local newspapers. I still feel guilty, especially on ‘Clean up Australia Day’, remembering where some of my lunches went to waste.
My job would be easy if people actually ate their $200 meals, but they don’t, I scrape kilograms of food off plates every week. I never thought I would be selling food for a living, waiting on tables, dumping expensive cuisine into scrap buckets. The unfortunate truth about the luxurious meals I serve is that they are wasted on a regular basis.
Those fifty goat’s cheese quiches discovered next door to my parents’ house, were enough to fill a plastic bag. I occasionally have pangs of guilt as I scrape a tea – smoked duck into the bin at work.
We waste up to half of our food supply between farm and fork, so when ordering your next a meal at a restaurant, spare a thought for the waiter and his guilt complex before you decide to leave room for dessert.
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