Midweek Delicacy Time: Pecan Crusted Oven-Fried Fish

Pecan Crusted Oven-Fried Fish

Pecan Crusted Oven-Fried Fish

Sometimes I have a craving, but a key ingredient will be missing. This doesn’t stop me from trying to come up with an alternative.  A couple of weeks ago I really wanted baked breaded chicken. However, there where no breadcrumbs where I was staying and the super market was all out. What was available to me were pecans. In lieu of breadcrumbs, I used the pecans and the results were delicious. The new coating needed refining. With a few more experimentations I got it down and added it as a coating over fish. I made sure to use a sustainably caught fish, and the results was delicious. The crust comes out perfect and super tasty. What’s best is how incredibly easy this is to make. Serve with a salad, and potatoes or rice. I made a homemade asian slaw to pair with the fish This could be your new fish and chips recipe.

I wrote the recipe using a wire rack when baking. This is the easiest way to ensure a golden crust all around. for my part I used my cast iron pan because it’s perfectly seasoned. I don’t even need to spray it and the crust is evenly crisped all over. If you have one, feel free to swap and skip lining a baking sheet.

Happy eating friends!


IngredientsPecan Crusted Oven-Fried Fish

Serves 4

1/2 cup Pecans
1/2 cup Cornmeal
2 large Eggs
1/2 cup Milk
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper (optional)
2 teaspoons Paprika
1 1/4 pounds skinless Cod fillet, or Haddock fillet, or other thick white fish fillet (1 to 1 ½ inches thick), cut into 4 pieces (see step 2)


  1. Position rack on top shelf in oven. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and set a wire rack on top. Lightly spray or brush rack with vegetable oil.
  2. Pat fish dry with paper towels. Slice fillets in half lengthwise to form long pieces.
  3. Pulse pecans in food processor until pecans is coarsely ground, eight 1-second pulses.
  4. In a pie plate or wide shallow dish, whisk eggs with milk. In another dish, stir cornmeal with, paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper.Pecan Crusted Oven-Fried Fish
  5. Working with 1 piece of fish at a time, dip into egg mixture, then  lightly coat with pecan mixture. Turn to coat evenly. Shake off excess pecan. Coat fish in egg and pecan mixture again. Shake off excess coating, then place on rack. Repeat with remaining fish, 1 piece at a time. Discard any remaining egg or pecan mixtures.Pecan Crusted Oven-Fried Fish
  6. Bake fish until instant-read thermometer inserted into centers of fillets registers 140 degrees, 18 to 25 minutes. The coating should be crisp and brown. Using thin spatula, transfer fillets to individual plates and serve immediately.Pecan Crusted Oven-Fried Fish

Food Deserts: The World’s Scariest Landscapes

food desert chicken

Most people associate ‘malnutrition’ with simply not having enough money to buy nutritious food. The image that comes to mind is of an impoverished family only being able to afford a loaf or two of bread or a sack of potatoes. However, what if the issue wasn’t a lack of funds so much as a lack of availability? What if the only fresh fruits and vegetables were at least an hour’s drive away?

Source: USDA (Department of Agriculture)

Source: USDA (Department of Agriculture)

Welcome to the horror of food deserts: generally low-income areas – urban or rural – that lack sources of fresh, healthy food. Rather than being peppered with grocery stores and markets to sell nutritious foods, these areas tend to be filled with fast food joints and convenience stores that only stock packaged and processed goods. Families are forced to derive their nutrients from boxed mashed potatoes, the scant lettuce and tomato slice on a burger, and fruits canned in corn syrup. Unsurprisingly, people stuck in food deserts are likely to develop obesity and/or diabetes due to their diets’ lack of nutrients and high sugar, salt, and fat content.

I’m surprised that I’d never come across this term until last winter, when I was reading Tracie McMillan’s The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields, and the Dinner Table. Sure, I’d passed through plenty of bleak towns where the only restaurants were McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts and there were no grocery stores in sight; but I had never actually considered what it must be like to live in those places. I’ve always been fortunate to have access to at least one grocery store with fresh products, not to mention higher-quality restaurants and organic markets. food desert market2When promoting all of the benefits of eating both healthily and sustainably, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that nutrition is, in some unfortunate places, a commodity. Not everyone has the garden, time, or knowledge to, for instance, grow their own vegetables, which would otherwise be my first recommendation to someone without a fresh produce source. Even cooking from scratch with unpackaged ingredients has become a luxury. There are glimmers of hope, at least, in the growth of the sustainable food movement and the continuous spread of nutrition science, both of which have called attention to the food desert problem. Food is Power’s page about food deserts describes how some American communities have demanded change, such as by launching fresh food co-ops or setting a limit on the number of fast food restaurants. There have also been reports from various regions of the UK analyzing the problem and suggesting solutions.

This Thanksgiving, remember to be grateful if you can buy an organic turkey, roast fresh butternut squash, or even mash your own potatoes. Recognize how precious good food is.


Bite sized wisdom: the path is the goal


Every seed comes with a purpose. Take the seed of a flower for instance. This seed has all the instructions on how to break open, ingest nutrients, drink water and soak in life.

saynotofoodwaste.sustainable.seed.life.purpose.future.happy.journey.2To fulfill its ultimate life goal, blooming and pollinating for the next generation, the seed realizes it purpose day by day as it unfolds into a beautiful flower.

To change its destiny would be impossible. A rose came here to be a rose and nothing else. So have we come here with a purpose of our own. We will achieve it one way or another, but enjoying the path through all its stages is something we forget to do.

We do have some control, such as the intake of three key elements: water, nutrition and energy, the portion and combination of which can either propel or hinder our development.  So, we do have input into what happens to us. Still, a rose by another other name will still be itself no matter how much water, nutrition or energy it takes in.

Nature shows us this message cycle after cycle, seasons after season, and yet we somehow forget that everything unfolds, changes and repeats. We cannot control what type of seed we are, all that we can do is accept the journey and enjoy the ride, because no one knows where it may lead to.

Right here, right now, life is happening.

Welcome life!

Bite sized wisdom: ET, an alien concept of connectivity


Take a seed, drop it in soil, water it consistently and watch the plant grow. This simple breakdown of a very complex interaction between soil and plant does not take into account some vital factors, which year by year affect our global food supply.

While the above process sounds simple, nature is not simple or straightforward. There are many factors that determine whether or not a plant receives enough water to produce crops, some visible and not so visible to the eye. The combined effect of all factors is known as the ‘evapotranspiration process’- ET.

saynotofoodwaste.sustainability.evapotranspiration.food.planet.water.1The biggest factors to impact ET are: solar radiation, air temperature, air humidity and wind speed. Each of these factors impacts the balance by which water transfers from soil to plant and to the atmosphere.

At the early stages of a plant’s growth much of the water is lost to evaporation from soil. At this stage the plant is small, has almost no leaves to provide shade for the soil, and has undeveloped roots, which don’t absorb a lot of water. During this development stage using drip irrigation (where water is distributed directly to the area where the seed is, or where the stem is starting to sprout), insures that water is not wasted and that the right amount is given directly to the plant.

As the crop matures it requires more water for development. Its roots multiply, it stem grows in height, and its foliage provides shade to the soil below, helping to minimize or lower the rate of water evaporation. In fact, “at the sowing stage of the plant, 100% of ET comes from evaporation, while at full crop cover more than 90% of ET comes from transpiration”

So what is transpiration then? It’s the transfer of water from plant to atmosphere.  A plant ‘breathes’ through its leaves. It takes in water with nutrients from the roots and transports it up throughout the system. At the end of this transfer gases and water vapor escape from the leaf through openings called ‘stomata’.

Due to climate change, temperature rise has put more stress on ET, increasing the rate at which water leaves the soil. Dry soil is unable to retain enough moisture and maintain a high nutrient level to feed the crop. Without enough water and proper soil conditions, crops don’t sprout evenly and yields are significantly cut down.

The ET concept might sound alien to most (pun intended), especially its technical aspects, but the idea in a nutshell is fairly simple. We live in a bubble where each system is connected and influenced by the other. The success of a crop doesn’t just stop at soil and water, it includes, wind, solar radiation, temperature, air humidity and much more.

In our own lives, the success of our development doesn’t stop at education and family status. Much of how we grow depends on our environment, the friends we’re exposed to, the role models we have, and the type of love we get from people that matter. Sometimes, when love is missing within a family we can find it in a teacher or friend who can guide us and steer us to enriching environments.

When faced with a problem, or dealing with individuals who are fighting their own battles, it is easy to jump to conclusions over basic aspects such as – economic, academic and other physical factors. The reality is usually more intricate and some factors are just not visible or comprehensible to us.

saynotofoodwaste.sustainability.evapotranspiration.food.planet.water.3Remembering ET can help us be more understanding of individuals and crops that don’t live up to their full potential. It reminds us that just because it’s the case now, it doesn’t mean that there is something intrinsically wrong with the object, but more often it’s the environment in which it grows.

A recent study showed that we learn best from direct examples, rather than arguments or reasoning (90% to 10%). And if we are not getting the most from what we’re trying to grow, crops or relationships, then it’s time for us to change the atmosphere in which we are developing them, not the plant or person itself. Here’s a quote to summarize the idea: “When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.”

And look at that – I just took a complex reality and simplified it to a quote. I guess certain cycles are difficult to change, but as long as we understand them we can have a more wholesome picture of our life on Earth and how everything is truly connected.

Here’s to connecting with the world and each other.

Midweek Delicacy Time: Sage Bean Spread with Tomatoes Bruschetta

Bean Spread with Tomatoes Bruschetta

Bean Spread with Tomatoes CrostiniUsing what is at hand can spark the greatest creativity. The beautiful country bread I had from the previous post  and the last of summer tomatoes inspired this weeks delicious appetizer/mid-day snack.

I love a good bruschetta or crostini. Older breads are good to use for this recipe. Be sure to adjust toasting time. For older dryer bread take off 2-2.5 minutes. The olive oil will give the toast a nice light browning. You can vary the toppings using cheese as a spread and cucumbers. Have fun mixing it up.

Happy eating friends!


IngredientsBean Spread with Tomatoes Crostini

Serves 6-8

1 loaf country Bread, about 12 by 5 inches, cut crosswise into 1-inch-thick pieces, ends discarded (reserve to use in other recipe)
2 pounds ripe Heirloom or Cherry Tomatoes, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 can (15 ounces) Cannellini or Garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
2/3 cup Good Olive Oil, divided
2 tbsp Good Red Wine Vinegar
1 tsp Garlic (about 1 clove), minced
2 tbsp Red Onion, minced
2 tbsp fresh Sage, julienned
3 tbsp fresh Basil, julienned
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1.  Up to an hour before serving, combine onion, garlic, and vinegar in a medium bowl. Set aside for 5 minutes.
  2. Whisk in 1/3 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Add the tomatoes, stir gently, and set aside for 10 minutes. Stir in the basil and taste for seasonings.Bean Spread with Tomatoes Crostini
  3. In a medium bowl place the beans, sage, 1/3 cup olive oil, and lightly salt. Mash with potato masher until smooth and well blended. Salt and pepper to taste.Bean Spread with Tomatoes Crostini
  4. Pre-heat oven to 350º. Lightly brush the bread slices with remaining olive oil and arrange on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until lightly toasted, about 15 minutes.Bean Spread with Tomatoes Crostini
  5. To assemble the bruschetta, spread each slice of bread with a generous amount of bean spread. With a slotted spoon, place the tomatoes on top. Serve with extra drizzle of olive oil and basil.Bean Spread with Tomatoes Crostini

Food Sustainability: Words to Know

field tractor

At Say No to Food Waste, we talk about food and environmental ethics a lot and don’t always take the time to define the phrases we use. Sure, we have some posts entirely devoted to things like “nose to tail eating,” but there are other phrases that we use off-handedly. Moreover, there are lots of words that are seemingly synonymous – like organic and natural – that actually have very specific connotations, and it can be difficult to keep all these terms straight. We’ve compiled this little sustainability vocabulary cheat-sheet to help you learn about and navigate the world of ethical food.

Cage-free: If a carton of eggs is labeled ‘cage-free,’ that means that the hens were raised in a hen house rather than in battery cages. In battery cages, chickens are penned so close together that they can’t even spread their wings. While the cage-free label means that the animals were raised slightly more humanely, it unfortunately doesn’t ensure that they got much space, as hen houses can also be densely packed. Similarly, free-range eggs come from chickens raised in hen houses that also provide access to the outdoors – but that doesn’t guarantee outdoor time for every hen. The system isn’t perfect, but cage-free and especially free-range egg options are better than their factory-farm-sourced alternatives.


Composting: Collecting organic waste to use it as fertilizer. In addition to weeds, fallen leaves, and grass clippings, compost can include food scraps, such as rotten produce, fruit rinds and cores, coffee grounds, moldy baked goods, and crushed eggshells. Composting is a great way to utilize inedible or unappetizing food to sustain soil rather than just throwing it out. Moreover, it keeps waste out of landfills, which are literally massive piles of garbage expected to disintegrate over time.

Doggy-bag: The English colloquialism when asking to take food home from a restaurant. It differs from ‘takeout’ in that it only applies to leftovers: you wouldn’t go to a Domino’s and order a pizza in a doggy bag. While the phrase implies that the food is going to be fed to a pet instead of eaten later by the diner, doggy-bagging is just an easy way to prevent waste and get your money’s worth out of your meal.

Farm to Fork/Table: Another term for the local food movement, which promotes buying food from regional producers because it’s fresher, doesn’t require the same amount of energy to be preserved and transported, and is otherwise generally assumed to be produced sustainably. This assumption comes from the idea that local farmers don’t use GMOs or hormones, keep their animals in factory farm conditions, or raise their crops on pesticides because, unlike national suppliers, they don’t have to produce mass quantities to send across the country. Many people also choose to ‘buy local’ to support their region’s economy.

Food Bank: Charitable organizations that collect food to provide it to people struggling with food insecurity (see below) for free. They typically act as middle-men between the restaurants, bakeries, stores, or farms that have donated the food and groups, such as soup kitchens, that then give or serve it to those in need. Donated foods are usually frozen (and then prepared by the soup kitchen) or non-perishable.

Food Insecurity: The state of not having reliable access to a steady supply of nutritious food. Food-insecure people aren’t necessarily starving, but the poor quality of food that they can afford can still lead to malnutrition. Food security is a question not just of personal income but of location: lots of low-income or minimally-populated areas don’t offer affordable, fresh produce so much as fast food joints or convenience stores selling heavily-processed packaged foods. A huge ethical paradox plaguing our world is that thousands of tons of edible produce gets thrown out when it could be feeding thousands of people suffering from food insecurity.

coffee beansFair-Trade: Fairtrade International puts its label on food products to indicate that they have met the organization’s lengthy labor and sustainability standards. The labor regulations are meant to ensure that workers producing the food haven’t been exploited, while the main environmental prerequisite is a pledge to reduce carbon emissions. Coffee and chocolate are the two products most commonly associated with fair-trade because their farmers are frequently exploited due to the high global demand and a lack of strong national labor laws.

Freegan: Someone who scrounges for edible food in dumpsters, usually behind restaurants or grocery stores, to make a statement about food waste. What differentiates a freegan from a regular dumpster-diver is that the former is primarily motivated by ethics whereas the latter is typically desperate for food due to poverty. Freegans highlight the fact that millions of tons of perfectly good food get thrown out before they even reach consumers due to excessively cautious health standards or the obsession with freshness.

GMOs: In terms of food, genetically-modified organisms are products that come from plants or animals whose DNA has been artificially manipulated. The goal of genetic engineering is usually to improve food’s nutritional content, to make the organisms resistant to specific viruses and/or pesticides, or to increase crop yield. There is a lot of controversy surrounding GMO’s, mainly the question of whether they cause long-term health effects due to the fact that the food has been altered unnaturally. Those concerned should look for “non-GMO” or “GMO-free” labels.

Locavore: Someone who “only” eats locally-sourced food (see ‘farm to table’).

Nose to tail: To quote my aforementioned article, “nose-to-tail refers to the practice of eating as much of an animal as possible to minimize waste.” So, in addition to traditional cuts of muscles and fat, animal organs, entrails, and extremities are prepared as food. Nose-to-tail can be used to describe the range of food offered by a butcher or chef or willing to be eaten by a consumer.

produce onionsOrganic: Officially, organic foods are those that haven’t been subject to any synthetic manipulation. While both are free of artificial flavoring and coloring, preservatives, genetic manipulation, and radiation, foods labeled as organic or natural differ in that the latter don’t tell you anything about the kinds of pesticides, fertilizers, or hormones used. For instance, crops can be considered organically raised if they were fertilized with compost or manure but not with chemicals, whereas natural foods include both.

Sustainability: Environmental sustainability refers to engaging in practices that don’t squander the planet’s resources at a rate at which they can’t replenish themselves. When it comes to food, it essentially means raising crops and animals in an environmentally- and ethically-responsible way. Sustainable agriculture includes practices like crop rotation to prevent soil depletion, biological pest control so that chemical insecticides don’t contaminate groundwater, and managing animal manure so that it doesn’t pile up and release excessive greenhouse gases. Since there are no industry-set guidelines to certify food as ‘sustainable,’ consumers can’t check for any labels that confirm a product’s claim to sustainability.

Vegan: A person who doesn’t eat any animal products: dairy, meat, seafood, eggs, honey, and most gelatin are all no-no’s. Vegetarians, on the other hand, just don’t eat meat or seafood, while pescatarians do eat fish but not meat. People usually elect these lifestyles based on ecological concerns, animal welfare ethics, and/or religion.

Join the food conversation!


Bite sized wisdom: the case of potatoes


This weekend I set out on a camping trip to South Mountain State Park in Maryland. I’ve never been, but it promised hikes on the Appalachian Trail, incredible views from the mountain, and a nice lake near the campsite. After doing research, reserving a site and prepping my materials, I focused on food.

saynotofoodwaste.camping.food.sustainable.potatoes.eating.hiking.discovery.newgrounds.explore.1My grandma, being a great cook, saw me chopping up potatoes and asked if I was planning to cook them right away. I explained that this was for the camping trip and that I was chopping them up so as to marinate with onion, olive oil, salt and pepper. She raised a concern and said the potatoes could turn brown when exposed to air, but she was curious to see if my ‘invention’ would overcome this obstacle and let me proceed.

Having never prepped potatoes for a hike I had no clue whether the potatoes would last the night. All I had to go on was a sense of adventure and belief in the best. In fact, many of us have such moments, and not necessarily limited to food. Then, I thought deeper and my ideas floated to the past, to our ancestors. Many of these individuals made up their ‘innovations’ and created the ways we cook, preserve and present food today from trial and error.

There are many projects that get scrapped and don’t pass the test, but a lucky few do get passed down to new generations. That day in the kitchen I was exploring new ways to prepare potatoes, and I’m happy to say that the potatoes didn’t brown. They ended up being cooked on an open fire on a chilly weekend in the woods, leaving everyone who indulged in them happy, warm and full. In addition, I was able to teach my grandma, who is overflowing with knowledge on cooking, a new skill.

saynotofoodwaste.camping.food.sustainable.potatoes.eating.hiking.discovery.newgrounds.explore.3This idea of being open to innovation, to making mistakes and embracing uncertainty applies to things beyond the kitchen. In the real life it is easy to stick to regular routines and things we’re familiar with. But, if we don’t explore and be ok with making mistakes then we won’t reach new grounds.

For me, my exploration turned to success, yet even from the success I already deduced things I can improve on. For instance, I realized that chopping the potatoes into thinner slices will help them cook faster and more evenly. I also learned that hotter spices with bolder tastes, such as curry or hot chili, are better ingredients to marinate with. Especially because hiking outdoors leaves you tired and craving comforts of home. Food is always a good reminder of home, so why not make it spicy and hot, especially if it’s cold outside. Also, I will use less potatoes as they are difficult to keep fresh, even in cold weather, and really need to be used quickly, ideally in the first night, or maximum the second, but no longer as they can go bad and start spreading bad odors in the cooler.

If any readers have tips on what to pack and prepare for hikes please let me know. Even though camping doesn’t always entail gourmet food, I believe that there is always room for delicious meals, whether at home or in the mountains. The trick with camping is to pack filling, easy to prepare, and easy to carry food. With a happy and healthy belly there is nothing we can’t accomplish.

Happy eating and exploring!

It’s Midweek Delicacy Time: Pumpkin Bread & Butter Pudding

Pumpkin Bread & Butter Pudding

Pumpkin Bread & Butter PuddingThe first time I ever had bread and butter pudding I was in northern England. It was love at first bite. How can something this easy be so delicious. Well butter and sugar can work their magic on almost anything. I do not have much of a sweet tooth. For my part I usually want to fill up on something savory and healthy, but every once in a while it is fun to indulge.

The other benefit of this recipe is you get to use up day old bread starting to go stale. So often I buy a nice hearty bread to make a sandwich or dip in soup. I can never use it all up in one sitting. The better the bread the faster it starts to go stale. By the next day it feels more like a crouton. Instead of throwing it out, you can make this delicious dessert.

Fall happens to be one of my favorite seasons. The beautiful colors light up the landscape drawing you out promising wonderful weather. It is also a time where our harvest changes. Pumpkins are everywhere supplying an abundance of vitamin A and other nutrients. By adding pumpkin and nuts to this dessert we have made it healthier. Enjoy with ice cream or whip cream.

Happy eating friends!


IngredientsPumpkin Bread & Butter Pudding

Serves 12

5 large Eggs
3 large Egg whites
3 1/2 cups whole Milk
3/4 cup Light Brown Sugar
2 tbsp Light Brown Sugar
1 tbsp Vanilla extract
2 tsp Pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp Salt
1 can Pumpkin puree
2 tbsp unsalted Butter, divided
8 cups day-old Challah, firm high-quality Sandwich Bread, or Hearty White  Bread may be substituted – cut bread into cubes (1/2-inch)
1/2 cup Pecans, chopped


  1. Adjust oven racks to middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Spread bread cubes in single layer on 2 rimmed baking sheets. Bake, tossing occasionally, until just dry, about 15 minutes. Cool bread cubes about 15 minutes.Pumpkin Bread & Butter Pudding
  3. Whisk eggs and egg whites in a large bowl. Whisk in milk, 3/4 cup brown sugar, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice and salt until combined. Add pumpkin and stir until incorporated.Pumpkin Bread & Butter Pudding
  4. Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Coat a shallow 3-quart baking dish with cooking spray. Add bread and disperse 1 tablespoon of butter in small chunks among the bread.Pumpkin Bread & Butter Pudding
  5. Pour the pudding mixture over the bread and butter. Let stand for 30 minutes, pressing the bread down into the liquid a few times to help it absorb the custard.Pumpkin Bread & Butter Pudding
  6. Disperse remaining tablespoon of butter in chunks over the top. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of brown sugar evenly over the top.Pumpkin Bread & Butter Pudding
  7. Cover the pan with a piece of foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with pecans and continue baking until puffed and firm to the touch, 25 to 30 minutes more. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.Pumpkin Bread & Butter Pudding

Bite sized wisdom: taste the unknown


If you want to explore our world you can travel, forge new friendships, experience new events, try extreme sports, or simply take a bite of a new cuisine.

What always fascinated me is that despite a small number of basic ingredients, people in various corners of the world have come up with different methods of mixing them to create such an array of dishes with uncommon flavors, textures, and colors.

Another thrilling aspect is that each group has its own unique traditions of eating their national cuisine. In Asia individuals rely on the engineering of chopsticks to transport food from the table to their mouth. Yet, still, most of world prefers the use of knives, forks and spoons, as they provide a more secure structure to move food from point A to point B.

saynotofoodwaste.food.cuisine.world.global.sustainable.happy.live.love.discover.together.eat4So, when my co-worker invited me to attend a traditional Filipino dinner that would be served on banana leaves and eaten by hand, I jumped at the chance to experience a completely new adventure. The best part was that I didn’t have to travel far to get a taste of a country that is on the other side of the world. Instead, my friends and I drove to a local mall where the restaurant was and got to enjoy a live funk jazz band as we dug into the exotic meal.

The assortment of food was spectacular! Cajun shrimp, fried milk fish, pork bellies, vegetable rolls, eggplant and rice (which served as the glue that kept the yummy ingredients together). For dessert we had purple yam and mango ice cream in a bowl with pumpkin, flan, and other delicious sweets that I couldn’t decipher, all cooled on shaved ice.

Having lived in the Amazon jungle, I was not a stranger to eating on banana leaves, but the food that was served and the ingredients that were presented to me at the restaurant made a huge difference. In the jungle, there is a lack of spices that bring out flavors of the meal and introduce magical notes to your taste buds. In the middle of the green forest, my lunch consisted of cooked yucca and plantain, dipped in salt (a luxury that my team brought from the city), and a piranha fish soup.

Eating the soup with my hands was not easy, especially as I am not good with pulling the bones from a fish bathing in hot water, so I mostly indulged in starch and carbs of the yucca and plantain.

saynotofoodwaste.food.cuisine.world.global.sustainable.happy.live.love.discover.together.eat2So much of what we do, what we eat and how we eat is determined by nature. In the jungles of the Amazon, as communities let go of their nomadic traditions and built communities, a rise in population makes it difficult for everyone to rely on nature. There is not enough time for the hunted animals to repopulate, and that leaves a shortage of food, leading to malnutrition in kids.

Living in DC I never had imagined that I would relive the experience of eating on banana leaves, but I did and the food that I tried was simply delicious. If we want to expand our knowledge of the world, learning about our food and trying different cuisine is a good option, especially if travel is not.

If you guys have any recommendations about other cuisines and restaurants that are worth giving a try on this gastronomic adventure, please let me know. Until then, I’ll keep looking out for these opportunities and share my experiences with you. If anyone reading this lives in Maryland, you should definitely try the traditional Filipino dinner at Lumpia, Pansit, Atbp.

Happy eating, friends!

A Culture of Waste

Jack-o'-lanterns facing each other

Food is a necessity. Since the beginning of time, animals have had a primal instinct to guard their food to ensure that they always have enough to eat. As humans, we ought to share these instincts to covet food as something precious – so why is it that cultures across the world have traditions of deliberately wasting food?

TomatinaConsider La Tomatina, the annual Valencian festival in which citizens and tourists from around the world gather to pelt each other with tomatoes in the city streets. One would think that the event might have originated one year when there was an excessively plentiful harvest, such that the townspeople found themselves with more tomatoes than they could possibly use. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. The story of the festival can be traced to 1945, when an angered man began hurling tomatoes from a nearby vegetable vendor at his friends. Bystanders quickly took up tomatoes as well, and the messy melee that ensued has since been repeated annually. So, the event is nothing more than a glorified food fight in which participants chuck perfectly edible tomatoes at one another.

GingerbreadLiterally throwing fresh vegetables is the most blatant example of waste, but there are plenty of other, less obvious customs that misuse food. In western culture, for instance, there are the holiday traditions of carving Jack O’ Lanterns and decorating gingerbread houses. While it is perfectly possible to eat the insides of the pumpkins hollowed out for Halloween decorations, most people just throw them away. In 2014, British newspaper The Independent even published an article about how Britons toss about 18,000 tons of pumpkin around Halloween every year. Similarly, gingerbread houses are perfectly edible in theory and probably were meant to serve as cute desserts when they first became popular in 16th-century Germany. However, the bland gingerbread pieces and the colorful icings and adornments sold today are usually so artificially sweet that it’s not only unhealthy but downright repulsive to try to eat the candy constructions. Moreover, they tend to go stale as they sit out as decoration.

No, I’m not trying to launch a global initiative to end all food-wasting customs and celebrations. The idealist in me would like to, but the realist knows that people would only consider abandoning these traditions if they were facing a severe food shortage. After all, these practices are defended as ‘culture.’ Still, the least I can do is urge you to keep this in mind as the food-wasting holidays approach. This page offers tips specifically for preparing a former-Jack-O-Lantern for cooking purposes, and you can find plenty of recipe inspiration in this gallery. When December rolls around, construct gingerbread houses that are actually appetizing and find people to share them with.

If you aren’t convinced that the concept of wasting food ‘just for fun’ is appalling, at least consider the money you could save by actually eating the food that you buy rather than just decorating with it.