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Jonathan Bloom on our American Wasteland

2 June 2011 1,874 views 7 Comments

Today I had lunch at Lamberts with Jonathan Bloom, my favorite kind of Austin visitor. In town for the International Association of Culinary Professionals Conference (IACP) Conference, he’s a food nerd and isn’t squeamish about sharing with someone he’s never met before.

Jonathan is the brother of a former colleague of mine, blogger at Wasted Food, and author of the book American Wasteland. According to his blog, he “writes about why we waste food, why it matters and what we can do about it.”

Bloom will be participating in the IACP Culinary Book Fair tomorrow (Friday) from 1:30 – 3:30 p.m. and tickets are available to the public for $10 in advance and $15 at the door. UPDATE (6/3): Last night, American Wasteland tied for best food matters related book at the IACP awards banquet. Congratulations, Jonathan!

We ordered the hangar steak sandwich with a side of waffle fries.

Hangar Steak Sandwich and Fries

And the two meat plate (brisket and sausage) with collard greens and sausage. When the dishes came out, I was glad that we had ordered two entrees — instead of just one to share like I had suggested — because the servings at Lamberts are actually reasonable for one person.

When Adam and I go out to eat, we often try to share one entree and maybe an appetizer to cut down on waste and over-eating. While we dined, I asked Jonathan to give me some tips that I could share with you guys on how we can all waste less food.

Two Meat Plate wtih sides

Before I start, you should know that according to many estimates, a quarter to half of all food produced in the U.S. goes uneaten — left in fields, spoiled in transport, thrown out at the grocery store, scraped into the garbage or forgotten until it spoils.

And here’s some simple ways you can be part of this gigantic landfill of a problem’s solution. Jonathan’s been working on an acronym to help folks easily remember how they can avoid waste:

S hop smarter
P ortion control
O rganize your fridge/pantry/freezer
I gnore expiration dates
L ove your leftovers

And here’s Jonathan showing off the 1/2 sandwich I brought back to the office and ate tonight for dinner. Proud to say I showed those leftovers some lovin’.

Jonathan Bloom with To Go Half Sandwich

Jonathan talked with me about how to change behaviors and avoid waste by following the SPOIL acronym.

  • Shop smarter: Don’t buy too much food. You can do this by shopping more frequently, only buying what you need for the next day or two. Another option is to plan meals in advance and make a detailed shopping list.
  • Portion control: Don’t serve guests so much that they end up throwing a lot of food away (this applies to restaurants and home entertaining). This also has the side benefit of helping people avoid overeating. The best way for portion controlling to work is to make it physically and culturally easy to have seconds if desired.
  • Organize your fridge/pantry/freezer: Position older food in front of the newer food items. When older food gets pushed to the back of the fridge, it can get lost and go bad. Consider making one shelf the designated “use it up shelf.”
  • Ignore expiration dates: Trust your senses of smell and taste to know when an item is going bad. Jonathan says that most expiration dates can’t be trusted, and are often too conservative. He joked that even bottled water sometimes comes with an expiration date!
  • Love your leftovers: Save and eat your leftovers. Leftovers can be a time, money and calorie saver. You can also be creative and use leftovers in a new way for a different meal. For example, extra boiled potatoes can be used in a soup. You can also prepare foods with leftovers in mind — have guests dress their own servings of salad, don’t put mayo on the 1/2 of the sandwich you think you might take home, etc.

How have you either experienced/contributed to food waste or avoided wasting food? I’d love to hear your stories and/or tips!

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  • Laura H.

    Thanks so much for this post! I love the advice and hope everyone posts this far and wide. For me, identifying my weak spots has helped a lot. (i.e., I love buying different kinds of cheese but I've realized I buy them faster than I can eat them all.) Sharing meals is a BIG plus, and my husband and I could both do better at that. It's a great way to eat/live. Thanks again for the post! XOXO

  • jodibart

    Next time you buy a lot of cheese, just go ahead and invite Adam and I over. We'll bring wine and/or ingredients for a lovely cocktail.

  • jodibart

    Next time you buy a lot of cheese, just go ahead and invite Adam and me over. We'll bring wine and/or ingredients for a lovely cocktail.

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  • Bgoldinbecker

    Thanks for the great tips.  Although the portion control and shop smart strategies are still a work in progress, I certainly do love my leftovers.  In my mind, almost any type of leftover can be recreated into a soup, salad, stir-fry, sandwich or frittata. Occasionally, these leftover concoctions turn out better than the original dish!

  • Bgoldinbecker

    Thanks for the great tips.  Although the portion control and shop smart strategies are still a work in progress, I certainly do love my leftovers.  In my mind, almost any type of leftover can be recreated into a soup, salad, stir-fry, sandwich or frittata. Occasionally, these leftover concoctions turn out better than the original dish!

  • Bgoldinbecker

    Thanks for the great tips.  Although the portion control and shop smart strategies are still a work in progress, I certainly do love my leftovers.  In my mind, almost any type of leftover can be recreated into a soup, salad, stir-fry, sandwich or frittata. Occasionally, these leftover concoctions turn out better than the original dish!