Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - February 18, 2011

Positively Green

Waste not: food conservation revisited

by Iris Harrell

In our home I am proud to be the "leftover" queen. As the sous-chef, I am responsible for putting away the food we prepared but did not yet eat.

We often cook a meal with twice the amount we will consume, so we purposely have leftovers to draw from for lunches or for dinner later in the week when we do not have time to properly prepare a good meal due to our busy schedules. With the aid of a microwave, voila! — a home-cooked meal re-appears on our dinner plates in minutes.

I take great pride in having just the right amount of leftovers needed for a few good lunches during the week without having to resort to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, unless I am heading off to the golf course.

For this approach to work out perfectly each week, our family has to be careful not to over or under purchase at the local markets. And if we don't look at our calendars for the upcoming week -- and I have three or four business lunches to attend -- the leftover plan could be all for naught, meaning at the week's end I would have to throw some wonderfully prepared home-cooked meals down the disposal.

This pains me as I hear the "starving children" mantra from my now-deceased parents. As an adult, I know somewhere in the world, probably even close by, people are going hungry while I am disposing of carefully prepared, organic food because it sat in the refrigerator too long.

Many of my friends don't eat at home as much as we do and they certainly don't cook as often, though they are good cooks. And not wishing to sound like I'm on a self-righteous rant, I should explain that having lived on the road for five years while in a traveling band long ago cured me from wanting to eat out on any regular basis. There is some kind of spiritual reward for me in sitting down at my own dinner table in my own home to eat a meal that was prepared in my own kitchen.

And the only way to truly know what is in the food you are eating is to buy locally and prepare as much of it yourself as you can. Most of us living in this area are so fortunate to have the opportunity to eat extremely well without consuming much of the food prepared at some corporate headquarters in the Midwest and shipped in gas-guzzling trucks halfway across the country.

Talking about how and where food is grown and prepared can become a very hot political discussion quickly. If we don't support the small local food producers for our own health and theirs, who will? Do we want to be eating more genetically modified food grown in places further and further away from where we live? The word "fresh" may soon lose its meaning in regards to food preparation.

We have big issues to resolve around food production and distribution, not only as a local and national community, but as a global community as well. The human population is expected to increase from 6 billion to 9 billion by 2050. In a recent interview, Republican Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana asked the question, "Where are there acres on Earth to supply this amount of food?" The Christian Science Monitor just reported that the global food price index just reached a record high and further stated that in 2007-08 30 countries had riots because of dramatically rising food prices.

Perhaps because of my growing up on a farm and watching my grandmother and parents lovingly and arduously prepare food for our family meals, nothing is more important to me than knowing when my next home-cooked meal is going to happen.

So what can we do personally to "green" our choices around our own daily food purchases?

Planning ahead for the family so there is time in the week to prepare and eat a home-cooked meal together could become a new spiritual experience instead of an inconvenience. Buying food from local produce farmers could boost their sales enough to enable them to stay in the business of farming. Otherwise, our food in the not-so-distant future won't be what we had in mind, because we were "consumed" with other matters that at the time seemed more important.

Iris Harrell is CEO and president of Harrell Remodeling, Inc. in Mountain View (www.harrell-remodeling.com). She can be reached at 650-230-2900 or irish@harrell-remodeling.com.

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