After my college graduation I moved to France to eat. OK, to teach English—but mostly to eat. During my eight-month stint in the food capital of the world, I learned my fair share about food, from the proper ratio of buckwheat flour to water for perfectly crispy galettes to the laws (yes, laws) regulating baguette ingredients. But perhaps the most formative and unexpected lesson of all was about food waste.
Although this was a topic I was vaguely aware of before moving to France (mostly after reading about Dan Barber’s WastED pop-up with Sweetgreen), I’ll admit I never seriously thought about it. In France, though, almost every time I went to the local market, farmers would advise on their favorite ways to cook with underappreciated veggie scraps.
Carrot tops? Pesto is the way to go. Beet or radish greens? Try puréeing with potatoes for a hearty, warming soup. And broccoli leaves? A quick sauté is all they need.
Then, in a move that solidified its role as a pioneer in the movement to reduce food waste, France announced that it was banning supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food and encouraging them instead to donate it to local food banks or charities.
Needless to say, food waste awareness was everywhere I looked, forcing me to reevaluate how I grocery shopped, stored ingredients, and cooked. While food is about pleasure and nourishing yourself (something the French are obviously amazing at!), in a true You. We. All. spirit, it's also part of a greater system—it's us interacting with our environment. Every meal is a chance to help or hurt the Earth, and being conscious of food waste is one of the easiest ways to make a real difference.
Here’s a few things I learned in France that are actionable anywhere: