Waste Bread is the curious reincarnation of old bread into new

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Usually stale bread is turned into different things, but GAIL’s Bakery has figured out a way to transform it into delicious loaves.

What to do with old bread? This question has plagued people for time immemorial and has driven the invention of delectable dishes like panzanella in Italy, fattoush in the Middle East, skordalia in Greece, and bread pudding in Britain, among many others. But never before had I heard of old bread being turned into new bread, which is precisely what GAIL’s Bakery in London is now doing in an effort to cut down on food waste.

‘Waste bread,’ as its rather unpoetic and self-explanatory name suggests, is a loaf of freshly baked bread whose raw ingredients include, in part, leftover stale loaves. If you’ve ever baked a loaf of bread before, you’re probably scratching your head. How exactly would one do that? The process is quite interesting.

Roz Bado, development baker at GAIL’s, makes her dough with the usual Canadian wheat flour, malt, and sourdough starter, then adds something called ‘bread porridge’ – “a brownish, flecked mush of fresh breadcrumbs from leftover loaves which have been blitzed into tiny pieces.” The final result is a hearty 750g loaf that is one-third old bread. Another baker at GAIL’s, Roy Levy, told the Guardian,

“We’re calling it Waste Bread, which.. might sound a bit odd, but we think this is being honest and clear with our customers. It’s re-using leftover but edible bread from our own supply chain, which means we know exactly what is in it and where it has come from.”

Bado said it took her nine months to develop the technique and recipe, and one critic says it’s tastier than the non-waste sourdough made by the bakery. Bado added, “The beauty is that because every day’s leftovers are different, every loaf has its own slightly different taste.”

waste bread closeup© Gail’s Bakery

5 ways to discourage meat consumption

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These subtle ‘nudges’ can help push people away from meat and toward plant-based substitutes.

We need to eat less meat. As the global population explodes, pressure mounts on the food production system, and animal agriculture drives environmental degradation, that’s a no-brainer. But, as we know from personal experience, humans are weak creatures. Food choices are driven by a primitive “Homer Simpson-like” brain that caves to cravings, rather than logic. In other words, when a tasty hamburger appears in front of us, we’re more likely to think about how delicious it would taste than the acres of deforested Amazon it represents.

Can something be done about this? One group of scientists has put forward some suggestions. In a study titled, “Restructuring physical micro-environmental to reduce the demand for meat,” published earlier this fall, Filippo Bianchi of Oxford University and his colleagues offer some ways to reduce the average diner’s meat consumption. These are subtle yet effective approaches, outlined originally in an article for The Conversation.

1. Reduce portion size

Running counter to the American tendency to supersize everything, this strategy relies on restaurants and grocery stores to offer smaller default portions of meat, whether it’s a main course or prepackaged meats for sale.

2. Design greener menus

We know that creative ‘nudges’ can help people to make healthier food choices, but this same philosophy can be applied to pushing vegetarian meals. Bianchi wrote,

“Displaying the meat options on a separate restaurant board and only keeping plant-based options on the default paper menu made people four times more likely to go with a meat-free option, according to a study conducted in a simulated canteen.”

If that’s not possible, then mixing the plant-based options in with the meat ones on a menu is still better than separating them out and putting them at the end, which reduces likelihood of consumption.

3. Make meat harder to see.

Physical positioning does a lot. When meat is placed at the end of a buffet spread, after people have loaded up their plates with salads, soup, and vegetables, their meat intake is reduced up to 20 percent.

4. Show where meat comes from.

When meat is pictured as the animal it once was, it turns people off from eating it. “Research shows, for example, that presenting the image of a pork roast with the pig’s head still attached increases people’s demand for a plant-based alternative.”

5. Make the vegetarian options delicious.

It’s logical. The tastier it is, the more people will want to eat it. One thing I’d add is that developing hearty vegetarian fare is important, because meatless options are often limited to soups, salads, and wraps – not always enough to fill a ravenous person.

See the original article in The Conversation.

Lettuce is stupid and you shouldn’t be eating it now anyway

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It’s little more than “a vehicle to transport refrigerated water from farm to table.”

Romaine lettuce is being pulled off the shelves across North America right now because of E.coli contamination. The Centers for Disease Control are advising Americans to not only throw it away, but also to “wash and sanitize drawers or shelves in refrigerators where romaine was stored.” They haven’t figured out exactly where the contamination is happening yet, but most of the lettuce we are eating now is grown in California.

TreeHugger types on the east coast might think twice about drinking a plastic bottle full of California water, but in fact, if you eat lettuce, that is what you are doing. Tamar Haspel wrote a controversial article in the Washington Post where she noted that lettuce is 97 percent water:

A head of iceberg lettuce has the same water content as a bottle of Evian (1-liter size: 96 percent water, 4 percent bottle) and is only marginally more nutritious.

But shipping a bottle of Evian is easier. Katherine has described how, “By the 1950s, iceberg lettuce was the most commonly consumed lettuce in the U.S., with average per capita consumption around 20 pounds. Refrigeration technology developed to the point that iceberg lettuce was even shipped to American soldiers in Vietnam.” Haspel writes:

Lettuce is a vehicle to transport refrigerated water from farm to table. When we switch to vegetables that are twice as nutritious — like those collards or tomatoes or green beans — not only do we free up half the acres now growing lettuce, we cut back on the fossil fuels and other resources needed for transport and storage.

canning cottageLloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

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1. Argentina

Whenever I visit someone’s house, I have an intense desire to open the fridge and peek inside. I feel like I’ll discover more about the person I’m visiting based on the contents of their fridge than I will in an hour of talking.

That’s why the photo series by Admiral Home Insurance, titled “It’s a Cool World,” caught my attention. It satisfies my odd curiosity and offers a fascinating glimpse into the culinary lives of others around the world. Perhaps most profoundly, it reveals how many people feed their families with limited resources. It’s interesting to see what percentage of household incomes go toward food in different countries.

The full photo series features households in 20 countries, but we’ve picked ten to show you here.

This fridge belongs to a family of four, with two parents and two adult children. Miguel, the 33-year-old son pictured above, says,

“As a special treat we have dulce de leche (caramel jam) and sometimes dulce de batata (sweet potato jam). My mum and dad take it in turns to do a big shop once a month for non-perishable food. Then mum does a weekly shop for meats, vegetables, fruits and bread. We take a car 2 km to the supermarket, and from grocery stores we walk with items in bags or a trolley.”

Monthly income: US$1,475 / Monthly food spending: US$302

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Food: Buy it with thought

The United States may have joined the First World War late in the game, but they jumped in with both feet and everything they had. They were short of everything, either selling it to their allies who had been at it for two years, or supplying their own troops. Future President Herbert Hoover got the gig of running the US Food Agency, which produced a lot of motivational posters that still hold up today.

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Plant-based ‘Impossible Burger’ to hit grocery store shelves next year

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So far, this ‘bleeding’ beef alternative has been restaurant-only.

From White Castle’s Impossible Slider to my own local craft brewery and burger bar, the plant-based Impossible Burger appears to have spread almost everywhere in the United States in the last few years. (I even ate one at Boston airport.)

But it hasn’t yet hit grocery store shelves.

That, too, is about to change however—as Impossible Foods has now announced that the Impossible Burger will be available to buy from grocery stores starting in 2019. Details are scarce about exactly where, when and how widespread the retail-version’s debut will be, but Food and Wine carries a statement from CEO and Founder Patrick Brown suggesting there’s more than enough demand to go mainstream:

“By far the No. 1 message from fans on social media is, ‘When will I be able to buy and cook the Impossible Burger at home? We can’t wait until home chefs experience the magic and delight of the first plant-based meat that actually cooks and tastes like meat from animals—without any compromise.”

Of course, there will be plenty of our readers who would rather eschew processed plant-based meats, just as they eschew processed meats and other foods too. But given the public’s appetite for burgers—and the environmental benefits that could be reaped by cutting back—a growing availability of alternatives should probably be welcomed by all. I wouldn’t be surprised if the growing army of flexitarians start putting their secret powers to use by introducing unsuspecting carnivorous guests to this relatively realistic alternative.

Keep an eye on the Impossible Foods website to find out when and where the burger becomes available.

The secret power of the flexitarian

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The rise in not-quite-vegetarian eating has a ripple effect that shouldn’t be ignored.

As Katherine reported yesterday, one third of Britons has gone either vegan/vegetarian or now identifies as ‘flexitarian‘—meaning they are consciously reducing the amount of meat they eat and opting for more plant-centric diets. This statistic is not surprising to me. Whenever I visit the land of my birth, more and more of my friends are ordering plant-based meals and pubs and restaurants alike are increasingly catering to them. (I even spotted deep-fried, beer-battered halloumi in a regular old fish ‘n chip shop on my last visit…)

There’s obviously an immediate, direct power in the meal choices these folks are making, because cutting back on meat and dairy is a powerful way to reduce emissions that cause climate change. But I’ve been thinking recently about the ripple effect that such dietary choices have. Not only are vegetarians, vegans, and flexitarians reducing their own food-based emissions, but they are also subtly influencing the diets of those around them.

When a flexitarian goes to a dinner party, for example, it’s unlikely that the hosts will cook up an entirely separate menu just for that guest. Instead, we tend to tweak our menus to be more plant-centric in general—even if we serve some meat—meaning the rest of the party gets to eat a little healthier and greener too. Similarly, the growth in more veggie-leaning diets has meant a growing number of restaurants offering (increasingly good) vegan and vegetarian menu options that have never been near an animal. I’d be willing to bet that a fair few people try a vegetable stir fry or deep fried halloumi without ever thinking of themselves as ‘flexitarian’. And then there are all those schools and hospitals going just a little more veggie…

I’ve always argued that environmentalists focus too much on individual lifestyle change, when it’s systemic change that counts. But the growth in plant-based eating is doing a good job of undermining my argument—because when enough people adopt a lifestyle change, even partially, you soon see society-wide shifts taking root as a result.

The problem with a plethora of pumpkins

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After Halloween, most of these tasty, edible gourds go to landfill.

Every autumn, millions of pumpkins are purchased by people who want to add seasonal decor to their homes. Many pumpkins are carved into jack-o-lanterns for Halloween, while others are left whole and arranged artistically. But the sad reality is that most are never eaten, despite being a nutritious, delicious, and affordable food. They go straight to landfill in early November after serving their decorative purpose – 1.3 billion pounds of methane-spewing, rotting pumpkin in the United States and an additional 40 million pounds in the U.K.

It’s an odd industry, when you stop to think about it. No other kind of produce comes to my mind as being grown in such enormous quantities, with so few intentions of eating, while generating such tremendous income. Canadian pumpkin farmer Rob Galey experiences this firsthand. He has multiple pumpkin patches that attract thousands of paying visitors each year:

“We have hayrides going down to the pumpkin patch [where] you can pick your own. We got the petting farm. We got the train with a mile of track [that] takes you around the farm [and] shows you all the crops. We got the corn maze.”

Galey says he and his staff have to restock the pumpkin field each night so that visitors are happy with the sight of the bright orange globes among the vines. Galey told CBC,

“We don’t want to get picked down where there is very little selection. We have many other pumpkin patches. If we’re short a certain kind or size, we’ll bring some down here to keep a great selection going.”

As Galey points out, people are buying a metaphor, rather than food. He doesn’t mind the lack of consumption, since he says pumpkins get people out to the farm and into contact with farming and local food production in a way that potatoes and corn never do. But for anyone concerned about food waste – and we all should be, considering the growing issues with food security – our relationship with pumpkins needs a serious overhaul.

The solution? Start eating more pumpkin. Delve into this seasonal fruit in the same way that you do asparagus in spring, lettuce and tomatoes in summer, and carrots in fall. Make November your pumpkin season, when you cook everything from curried pumpkin soup to pumpkin waffles to pumpkin mac’n’cheese to pumpkin cheesecake. Any pumpkins that are whole and unspoiled, that were used to decorate your home, can be safely consumed.

To be clear, you should NOT eat a carved jack-o-lantern, as its interior has been exposed to air and bacteria for days or weeks, as well as candle wax and smoke. Be sure to roast the seeds as soon as you carve it, but after Halloween all jack-o-lanterns should be cut or broken up and composted. (Read: How to host a pumpkin smash – and compost jack-o-lanterns.)

Here are some ideas for introducing more pumpkin into your diet:

10 inventive pumpkin recipes

7 squashes to use for pumpkin pie

How to eat a whole pumpkin

Couple lives off food waste for a month

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From gleaned apples to out-of-date produce, there are many ways to score a free meal.

From the dumpster diver who found 36 cans of free beer to Bristol’s pay-as-you-feel food waste restaurant Skiptchen, TreeHugger has long been interested in the topic of food waste, and those willing to live off food waste.

We’ve sometimes been asked, however, whether the whole concept of dumpster diving is counter productive—doesn’t the image of ‘dirty hippies’ digging through trash put off would-be environmentalists and undermine the idea of sustainability as an aspirational goal?

I tend to disagree. For one thing, as someone who has been ridiculed enough times in my life for my crunchy ways, I would argue that the ‘dirty hippy’ boat has already sailed. And for a second point, of all the topics around the broad subject of environmental awareness, I tend to believe the food waste comes second only to plastic trash in the oceans as a uniting force that can bring the most skeptical anti-environmentalist on board. A significant number of us have, after all, been taught from very early on that wasting food is bad, and perhaps even immoral.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that everyone is going to start actively dumpster diving overnight. But if we’re honest, that was never really the point of the dumpster diving movement. Instead, by demonstrating just how much perfectly good food gets thrown away, most environmentally-motivated dumpster divers are hoping to shift societal standards and create systems where food waste doesn’t actually happen. In other words, they are seeking to dumpster dive themselves out of existence.

The latest example of such selfless giving (err, taking?) is Sophie and Paul Collins, who live in Cambridge, England. The married couple behind the blog Vegan On Board recently pledged to live off nothing but food waste for a month. By using the food waste connector app Olio, visiting the Cambridge Community Fridge, eating out with food waste rescuing charities, and gathering waste food and windfall fruit from friends, neighbors and random fruit trees, the couple appear to have actually eaten quite well.

Sophie does confess that it was difficult at first to put together a meal from the seemingly random items that came their way, but Paul is quick to add that this is a feature, not a bug, of a challenge like this:

“The challenge has made us more creative with the food we eat. We now know so many great ways to use stale bread – French Toast, Breaded Mushrooms, Garlic Croutons… that we will never throw bread away again.”

Of course, as mentioned above, such efforts are unlikely to convert everyone into hardcore dumpster divers and urban foragers overnight. But that’s hardly the point. Alongside documenting their efforts and helping folks to be just a little more creative with whatever soon-to-be-waste they happen to have in their kitchen, Sophie and Paul also used the challenge to raise more than £1000 (US$1250) for food waste charities FareShare, Feedback and FoodCycle.

So here’s to Sophie and Paul. If they sold it near me, I’d raise a glass of beer made from recycled bread in their honor. Oh, but lest you start feeling too bad for these heroes and their sacrifices, keep in mind that they did get to eat this rather delicious looking windfall apple tart…

Man selling mint leaves in Morocco (photo)

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It took me hours, but I finally found this guy.

I spent a month in Morocco last winter, and I grew enamored with the country’s traditional Moroccan mint tea. I eventually decided that I just had to make it myself, and that meant finding fresh mint leaves.

Unfortunately, no one in the small village where I was staying sold mint leaves; I’d have to journey to a city to get my hands on some. So I took a bus to the nearby city of Essaouira and walked the city streets for hours. I passed plenty of spices, traditional hats and restaurants, but no mint leaves.

Just as I was about to give up, I took a wrong turn and spotted this guy sitting in a tent by the side of the road. He sold me a bundle of mint leaves, wrapping them in newspaper.

Something about the sight of the man and the leaves really captured the feel of Morocco for me, and I asked him if I could take a photo. I shared it a bit, but I didn’t get a chance to clean it up until now. As the U.S. once again gets colder, I hope it brings you a bit of desert luxury.