Food Galore
19 April, 2012
Food Galore

 

The first time I had ever eaten at an American restaurant, I was twelve. Coming out of eighties in Moscow, when the only people who went to handful of restaurants were foreign diplomats or KGB agents, I was excited and bewildered by everything from the friendly staff to the abnormally large plates of food.

 

 

We were in company of our American friends and I remember breaking out in cold sweat as the realization that in no way would I be able

to finish eating my food set in. I genuinely thought I would be shaming my entire family and kept trying to stuff my face until I happened to look over and see that our friends weren’t even half way done with their dishes. They smiled politely at the waiters taking their food and continued talking to my parents who seemed to take the whole event in stride. I put down my fork and a waiter took my plate and no one looked ashamed, but me.

When I was growing up, food wasn’t exactly a luxury. My mother is a fantastic cook so I never knew just how much we didn’t have. But remember, this was the time when sweetened condensed milk was the best desert a kid could hope for, and boy, did we hope for it. So we finished the food we had, because it wasn’t something we questioned. We needed food to live, and not the other way around. At least that’s what I thought.

Coming to America was an eye and mouth opener for me. The fact that Americans like everything big wasn’t lost on me. Even their measuring system, designed to measure larger and longer spaces spoke volumes. So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that they would like their meals larger than necessary. The interesting thing that I observed in eating habits of people in restaurants around America is that very rarely did anyone finish their food.

Which brought me to a question – just how much food is being wasted in the States? I did a little digging and came across a recent study from the EPA, Environmental Protection Agency that estimated the waste per year in the United States to be around 34 million tons of food. That is a staggering number to be sent off to the landfills when there is an actual shortage of food in some parts of the country. Stores and restaurants have a quick and legitimate response to throwing out food instead of donating it to homeless shelters and food banks. They don’t want to get sued in case of one rotten apple. In Los Angeles, the practice of leaving catering food out for the homeless after the movie shoot is done for the day had to be cancelled, because one homeless person sued for an allergic reaction he got from eating free food and won the case. That is one side of American society, and here’s another: when the door closed on homeless feeding, a company called Rock and Wrap It Up!, a global think tank working to reduce poverty, took it upon themselves to work with film companies and recover uneaten food for agencies that are in dire need of it. New York Times reported that there are ‘food rescue organizations’ that have sprung up and they have gotten a generous amount of restaurants and cafeterias willing to participate in the program. There is of course the food that isn’t edible and that food is offered to livestock farmers or is composted. Even the restaurants have started to offer smaller portions. Still the fight to rescue food and stop global wastage is continuing.

I, for one, am getting with the program. I shop for produce with my brain not my eyes; because I suffer from a syndrome a lot of people have – eyes being bigger than the stomach. And when I am eating out and a waitress tries to take my plate before I am done, I growl and she leaves me alone. It’s not a pretty sight, but it works. Bon appetite!

 

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