Food no more!

My mother-in-law often quips that it was from eating all the leftovers my husband left on his plate as a kid, that she amassed all her flab! Whether the latter is true or not, the former is something I completely believe! Because, when I was growing up; it was my dad who was the” left-overs-person”. So was my mama (uncle), who was the favorite of my grandma to pitch all the left over in the pans after everyone had finished their meal. And I should probably mention that he is the thinnest person I know to date! Bottom line was food was never wasted!

I was a stickler for tomato as a child. I would pick every cooked and mashed tomato bit from my dishes and painted it along the sides of my plate before divulging into my meal. I don’t remember treating any other meal that way. I would gobble it all down pretty well. But I was terrible at understanding quantities. If I overate I vomited. If I didn’t eat enough, I’d go crazy with hunger. Over years my parents instilled the importance of choosing the right portions and not wasting, especially my dad. He initially backed me up by willing to take the extra portions if I felt full. But by the time I was a teenager and a voraciously hungry one, I don’t remember ever wasting food. If anything my mother had a hard time keeping up with my hunger pangs!

I am but glad my better half and I are on the same page on this and our upbringing in this regard has been identical. It has been ages since we ordered a “thaali” in Indian restaurants, simply because, we no longer feel young enough to dive and wipe all the bowls clean and it hurts to see so much food wasted which cannot be wrapped and taken home. We almost always end up ordering dishes we can wrap and take left-overs of, if we can’t finish it in one meal. Once we were served the blandest fried rice at a Japanese restaurant. My husband simply asked for the meal to be packed. And came home and tossed it in some oil, chilies and his favorite siracha sauce and gobbled it down. We both would have hated to see that bowl of rice dumped in the trash!

Of course we have had our slips too. I have tossed away veggies I have forgotten we ever bought and they sat long enough to catch a layer of fungus in the fridge. Or a week of stomach bug as a family and the grocery for that week sits idle. But over years we have been making genuine and relentless efforts in this regard. We have been planning our meals before doing grocery. We have a buffer day when we eat out, so that we can use it for leftovers if need be! We try to keep the meals as fresh as possible by cooking every night. On a Saturday morning, if I find the vegetable rack in the fridge empty, the fruit basket is empty and probably one dish cooked last night is in the refrigerator shelf, I consider it a victorious week.

Last year around this time was when we sort of hit a road block with our beliefs. Our toddler had started day care and they served him lunch. Going by the rules, at home too, he’d toss his bowl of food upside down when he feels he has finished his meal or ask for the trash. It pained me and to a great extent even angered me to see this behavior. But, we stepped back and looked at it from his perspective and eventually hatched a plan. Over months we made him understand that he had to get the difference between the two places he was going to be in a day. We had to make our peace with him wasting his leftovers at his place of care and not wasting his food whenever he was with his parents. It wasn’t ideal, but it was the best we could achieve given his age and our circumstances.

But over time, we have started to see hope. His meal sheet comes back with a (A), which means he ate everything and sometimes asks for more servings. He indicates beforehand that he doesn’t want a certain dish and asks it to be taken off from his plate before he eats his meal. If he doesn’t finish his fruits we send from home, he asks for it to be kept in fridge and eats it on his way home in the car. And whenever he is around with us at home and outside, he tells us when he is full and gives us the rest of his meal. Hopefully over years, we can teach him portion understanding too. We are still a long way from it. And I don’t know how many unknowns and challenges loom around it.

On one end, how many times have we not noticed an entire table of half eaten pizza slices, piles of fresh fruits and a nibbled on pieces of cake lying bereft on a birthday party table, left to be cleaned up and tossed away. And on the other end, was a friend who faced enough prejudice for taking a tough decision to help her child understand the importance of finishing what was served on her child’s plate.

Every other day we read articles about how in a few years, human race will not have this abundance of food or articles that are titled “if grocery stores closed one fine day”. I am failing to understand the import when I notice the amount of wastage all around us. Probably it is a ticking bomb like the climate change. And we are not going to do anything about it until it hits us. For now, practicing ourselves and teaching a child to not waste and finish what is served on his/her plate is probably is the best we can do as a human race.

And since when did “Don’t waste your food!” or “please eat what is served” become akin to child abuse? Ugh!