written by Sam Webb

My first full day at Veintidos has been so pleasant. I slept well last night after we all shared a meal prepared by Floor, a previous guest who came by to visit and pick up her knife. I awoke in time to enjoy a magnificent sunrise. Breakfast with Brio, a departing guest. Some time to catch up with some messages. An hour or so walking around Mijas to familiarise myself with the town. Time spent reading through the blog and catching up with Veintidos particulars on the project management system. Now… I’ve cleaned the kitchen so time to make dinner.

And here comes my inspiration for my first blog post. Upon opening the fridge my eyes are immediately drawn to a potential disaster! There is a broccoli in this fridge. But why the horror? It’s turning yellow, it will soon be too late to get it into the pot. Two carrots are also starting to develop some furry soft spots and a couple of ends of other roots are also present and looking a little shriveled.

Now I describe this as horror and disaster but in a way it was actually quite an exciting discovery also. You see I’m a food waste obsessive. Once described in the opening of a note left for me in the following terms - “Dear vegetable saver”. What a great opportunity to jump to the rescue and then talk about why I think it’s important to care if the odd carrot gets left a little too long and ends up uneaten.

So how did I save these particular vegetables? A great way to make use of veggies on the turn is to make a soup. You can simmer them down until the flavors have blended and the different ingredients aren’t so separate anymore anyway, so it doesn’t really matter if they are looking pretty or not. A couple of onions (obviously picking the one that was softest to use first) and some garlic finely sliced and in the pan. A little olive oil to fry them for a short while, not looking to brown them for a soup but just release the flavors. Then the urgent veggies. Water, just enough to cover the veg and no more. Bring it to the boil. Reduce it to a simmer. Season with black pepper, cayenne pepper and salt. A pretty simple recipe. Amounts are not overly important for this one, just use what you need to use up.

I don’t believe for a moment that I have changed the world with this single act of heroism. As we do not currently have any of our own broccoli or carrot from the garden these had come from the supermarket. Transported, no doubt, using plenty of fuel. Wrapped in plastic. Most likely grown in monoculture. No doubt already leaving many siblings in piles of waste before we, as the end consumers, obtained them. Actually, when one considers the amount of waste present in the system that brought us these vegetables it seems like a pretty small deal if one more carrot should bite the dust. Especially as we will at least compost them here and add nutrients to our own garden.

Having said that. Waste is part of a consumerist culture that has been bred into us as we have grown up. It has become accepted and even encouraged to throw things away unnecessarily. When it comes to food, use by dates on packaging encourage us to throw things long before they actually become inedible. This is in our mentality and our group social psychology. Of course add in the fact that we all are persuaded by clever tricks of advertising and packaging and price deals to buy far more than we need. Pack our fridges and don’t worry, when it all goes off the supermarket shelf will be waiting, filled with plenty more.

Permaculture, as I understand it, can work on the system around us in one way by the changing of our own mentality and psychology. If we really learn to hate waste, using everything perishable before it perishes, then we are developing a culture from the ground up that can empower us in the fight against unsustainable living practices.

So in a small way I consider it a triumph every time I use something up before it’s too late. Even if it’s not looking the most delicious before cooking you can do your best with it and then ask everyone what they thought of the results.

In the case of yellow broccoli soup the only negative thing Aimee could say was, please, next time, use a little less black pepper and cayenne, that’s far too spicy! Alas, one day I will learn to introduce my love for spicy heat more gradually and carefully, being sure it is appreciated before I go all out. Actually I didn’t think I was going all out but I certainly won’t now!

PS Note from Aimee:
I loved this soup and it warmed my heart (not only with the pepper) to think that nothing was wasted :-D