It’s rare that I find a programme which I can wholeheartedly, without reservation, applaud – but last night’s offering by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall ticked all the (veg)-boxes. The divine Hugh may have lost some of his ragged-boy good looks but what he’s lost in hair he has gained in edge and authority. Without the brashness of Jeremy Paxman or the in-your-face-ness of Louis Theroux, he gets inside people’s hearts, minds and dustbins to launch a much-needed campaign against food waste. Hugh has a terrier-like tenaciousness coupled with a passion for his subject which makes this a total cheer-fest as well as a heart-sinking horror film. I can’t bear to repeat the statistics about how much food is wasted for totally spurious reasons (bent parsnips rejected by supermarkets, out-of-date bacon binned when it’s perfectly good) – it really does make the heart sink and the stomach turn; and that’s not a comfortable combination.
But there is light at the end of the polytunnel. By engaging with people Hugh was able to change their minds: it was great to see a recycling sceptic (‘it all goes in landfill’) totally converted and wearing a jacket made out of recycled plastic bottles; it was heartwarming to hear that Morrison’s, one of the big culprits in terms of rejecting bent veg, is now engaged in change, even if it did take Hugh setting up a stall and giving away bags of rejected roots in their car-park to make them listen. But it was desperately sad to see that the suppliers who talked to the programme have now gone out of business. As Hugh pointed out, we need the farmers much more than we need the supermarkets.
Supermarkets need to change – and we, as their customers, need to be a part of that. Yes, I use supermarkets – for the same reasons most people do: cost and convenience. But we do use small independent shops, and we get an organic veg box once a month, which I enjoy enormously. I like finding out about the farms and knowing that there is a direct and personal connection between the grower and the seller.
I was reading in the Riverford Cookbook that the farmer who started it all was once on the phone to a supermarket. They made him an offer and he paused. The line went dead.
He called them back. ‘I think we got cut off,’ he said.
‘No,’ said the guy. ‘You hesitated. When we make an offer, you don’t hesitate. You jump.’
Such arrogance must and will be challenged. Make a start here by looking at the Riverford site:
The programme was a bit of a smug-fest for us, to be honest, as regards food waste. We pretty much recycle everything, including sending clothes to charity shops (why would anyone throw away clothes???) and offering the rest on freecycle. Our dustbin gets emptied about once a month and we compost all food waste, which is mostly peelings and tea-bags. OH eats practically all left-overs; otherwise they are made into something with the addition of fresh veg to make them taste and feel better. Soups are a great standby.
I wish we used supermarkets less. But we all have to do what we can.
Are you a Morrison’s customer? Let them know how you feel.
Here’s the programme:
and here’s a link showing you how to make the most of your leftovers: