I was raised by women who were adult during WWII (and during WWI, one of them) and that has coloured my attitude to waste and recycling ever since. Their proverbial admonitions still ring in my ears: “Think of the Poor Poles” “Think of the Starving Russians” “Waste not, want not”. These phrases were contextless two or three decades after Stalingrad and the Warsaw Ghetto, and were never updated to “Think of the poor Biafrans” or “the Starving Sudanese”. But it is drilled deep in my bones that wasting food is ill-mannered at best, and wickedly profligate at worst.
So I want you to appreciate the trauma of spending the last two hours clearing out my kitchen cupboard. Why is it so hard to accept that I never will eat the fruit preserved in Brandy given to me for Christmas five years ago? I know and you know that the best and kindest thing to do is get rid of it. And the five packets of flavoured teas which are not only too disgusting to drink, but too stale to give away. And the packet of rice noodles I bought two years ago and never finished. (I lived off rice noodles for most of the summer of 2005, but suddenly one day I’d eaten enough of them and the remaining half-packet has been perking up hopefully every time I open my kitchen cupboard and then sagging back, disappointed and scorned, when I shut the door on it again. Well no more.) Oh god the guilt. I am throwing perfectly good food away.
The problem is not only that I under-utilise; I also over-stock. I have two packets of half opened and half used muscovado sugar. Now in what possible circumstances am I going to use a couple of pounds of muscovado sugar? It doesn’t make good crumble. I suppose I could mix it with the two packets of white sugar and a the pound or so in a jar with a vanilla pod, and turn the lot into rum. The last lot of sugar I kept with a vanilla pod was in there for half a dozen years at least. I do not need any more sugar.
Couscous? When will I remember, standing in Tescos, that I don’t actually like couscous that much? Or that one packet of Quinoa goes a very very long way. Sesame seeds. Why did I buy so many sesame seeds? And as for lentils: I have red split lentils, two kinds of yellow lentils, two kinds of brown lentils and two packets of Moth Beans which are “like lentils”. Oh, and three tins of the things in case I don’t want to do all that unpleasant boiling.
Note to self: “Lentils: enough, already”.
Probably best not to get downwind of me for a while, then.