Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Freeganism anyone?

Column this week

So I’ve just finished having my lunch which, at £2.50, is one of the cheapest that can be had, falling short of a packet of crisps (chips) or a pack of fries from McDonald’s. Since neither of them is a healthy alternative; you’re safer with the sandwich altogether, although, as my stomach is now telling me, you’re no more likely to be satisfied. Anybody that knows me well knows that I am not a bread person and I never was. Where classmates would bring to school cute little diagonally cut creations filled with meats and various spreads, come lunchtime I could be seen with bowl of food and fork in hand. When it comes to my belly, I don’t make joke.

So why this change? Well, the area in which I work doesn’t have that great a variety of eating places. Remove the pub lunch of fried eggs, beans and ham and then take away the sandwich places and there isn’t that much left really. The area I worked in before had greater variety but, what can you do, for better hours and better pay I’ll take the culinary downfall thank you very much.

As I was handing over my money to the cashier it occurred to me – as it almost always does – that with the Trinidadian equivalent of this £2.50 (roughly $28) I could have purchased one helluva meal back home. Visions of Patraj ‘strimps’ roti with plenty pepper, Mario’s (the chef, not the restaurant) upstairs Town Centre Mall, Café Creole on Park Street – any one of these would have taken my money in exchange for a meal that would immediately induce groans of delight and a serious macajuel syndrome. As it is, I’m already planning a snack run in the next hour – if I can last that long – and I’m hoping somebody brings snacks for the office. A co-worker brought some “Indian sweets” this morning but they’re all florescent green and I’m not feeling that brave today.

It’s not even that good food is hard to come by up here. London still isn’t Trinidad where you’re hard pressed to find a restaurant selling food that makes you vexed to eat but because it has become so cosmopolitan, it’s possible to avoid the standard English fare of mushy peas and vinegar soaked chips and get great tasting food. The heartbreaking thing is it’s usually so expensive! It’s not that often one can afford to eat out and if you don’t bring lunch from home, well, crapaud smoke your pipe.

As I’m writing this column I’m remembering an article I read this morning about the latest craze in the country, freeganism. For those of you who don’t know what this is, I’ll explain it. Freeganism essentially means eating without paying. Now, I know that most Trinbagonians have been practising some form of freeganism for a long while now. Most of us have a whole list people we know who have mastered it. Some of us might fall in the category ourselves! We ‘fall in’ by neighbours, family and friends as soon as they turn off the stove and thusly, get a free, home cooked meal. A freegan in this country is somewhat different, however.

The idea of eating for free is usually seen as a protest against the amount of food that is wasted in Britain. Approximately 17 million tonnes of food are buried in landfills every year in this country with about four million tonnes being edible. Freegans attempt to live off of this four million. Yes folks, they dig up in garbage bins and extract food that has been thrown there and eat it. I know everyone reading this is probably going “Oh geeed!” right about now and yes, the idea strikes me as being very nasty too but part of me agrees that it makes sense.

Four million tonnes of food is a lot of food. To put this in perspective, back in 2003 when 14 million Ethiopians faced starvation, the country received 1.44 million tonnes of food to avert disaster. Doesn’t look so ridiculous now, does it? A TV documentary on food wastage showed just how bad the situation is. The TV presenter attempted to live for two weeks on the food found in rubbish bins. He started the project sceptical; by its end he was disheartened. Every day he was able to go to bins at the back of supermarkets, restaurants and coffee shops and dine on such tasties as salmon, sushi, fresh fruit that was slightly bruised and salads. This food had been tossed out for various reasons, but most of it was still edible. When he calculated how much he would have spent if he had paid for these same meals, the tally came up to almost £100.

Now, this doesn’t mean that I’m about to start diving head first in the dustbin behind Sainbury’s but it does put things into perspective, doesn’t it? While I live in a country where people throw away a banana if the skin isn’t unblemished, there are people for whom a banana might be the only meal for the day. Or even the week. The last thing on their minds would be a brown spot on the skin.


saucydiva said...

and you know my friend who recently migrated to London likes to tell me how much CHEAPER it is to live there....:S

Hottie Hottie said...

Cheaper!!!?? Grocery shopping is cheaper and clothes if you know where to shop but on teh whole London is MUCH more expensive. Things like rent, eating out,gas are balls busters. The salaries are better but it didn't earn the title of 'Most Expensive City in the world' for nuttin.

Prettidolli said...

It didn't earn the title of 'Most Expensive City in the world' for nuttin.

You've got THAT right Hots! While I love the majority of what makes London Londres, it isn't cheapieville at all. Some people seem to forget that although it's lbs. allyuh mekking over dey, it's lbs allyuh SPENDING! De fella done know that when I hit up in dey is DOUBLE/TRIPLE de spending $$ I go need....London ent ez at all at all! I have meh lbs well and stash wey, they are so useful anywhere one goes. I doh give 'em up for nutting! The US dollar sucks...I doh get excited until I hear Euro or lb..IS NOW we talking!


Hottie Hottie said...

Exactly girl! When I told a friend of mine how much I was paying in rent for the week he start to bawl. Well, when he realised is week I say and not month he nearly dead! Yuh cyah convert nah. People does really forget you paying in £s too.

Island Spice said...

Heya Hotts. Yuh mash mi corn girl, yuh mash mi corn. I am one of the biggest contributors to food wasteage in the world. It started out of an eating disorder I had when I was younger. The doc told me to eat and stop when I am full. That was a tough one for me, my parents and worse my grandparents because you know we caribbean kids does get licks if we dont clean we plate.
So I have gotten into the habit of stopping when I am full. Great for my figure but often a waste of food. I have had to learn to order small portions (sometimes jus the appetizer and dessert) at restaurants and pretty up the leftovers.
Funny thing is I can remember my student days in London a few years ago where I had my own version of freeganism: eating in the back of Tesco's and walking out emptyhanded!
Thanks for the nudge yes. I promise to try to be more food responsible.

Mani said...

Hottie for $28, I could leave where I living, go in town, eat a chicken roti, and come back home.

Well yes, $2.50 for lunch? geez an ages...

Hottie Hottie said...

LOL! Trust Mani to put the right spin on things!

Hottie Hottie said...

Island Spice, you eh easy! Yuh eat the people dem food then leave?! It didn't have CCTV in dem days ah wha'?

Island Spice said...

yuh know they does have CCTV every blasted where in London. I wonder what % of the population of the city is seated in front of screens watching OTHER people have a life all day long.
Anyway, when I had no money, Tesco it was. Eat a sandwich, drink a ribena, maybe a malteasers for dessert.. buy 2 bananas or a muellers for breakfast.. and out!
That Tesco is right by the uni too.. they must have gotten that alot.

Island Spice said...

hmm... now I craving Jaffa Cakes!! Fed ex me a box nuh nice lady? :)