I do not like throwing things away. The origins of this habit are deep and complicated; my mother used to swear it was a “Marquez thing,” (Marquez being my maiden name, and the name of my father, no longer married to my mother, so I always gleaned a shred of disdain as she said it). Passive-aggression aside, she was probably onto something; when my paternal grandmother died, we discovered hundreds of aluminum pie plates in the back of her house. Not to mention the stacks of newspapers, pantyhose, and plastic ice cream buckets with wire handles. So I’m willing to concede that some genetics are at play here. I also get unusually nostalgic about bizzare things; growing up, I kept every note I passed in middle and high school (this was a bad idea — a few years ago, my sister Amy delivered a box of these notes to my doorstep, and I read through some of them. It was both embarrassing and painful, and totally not worth the drawerspace for those 15 years).
Battling this tendency of mine is also my OCD side, that side of me that likes order and a lack of clutter. I think this internal battle is what keeps me from stacking up the aluminum pie plates of my life — where in the world would I put them? So since I have enough aesthetic sense to not allow stacks of reusables take over an entire room of my house, I tend to let the beast loose in my kitchen — I put forth inhuman efforts to not throw away food.
I get a freakish high when I accurately and precisely shop for groceries. I enjoy it a little too much when, on the night before grocery day, our refrigerator is almost empty because our family has so thoroughly consumed all the food I bought for the previous week. I add stress to my life by trying to find ways to use leftover food. I lose sleep over a spoiled, untouched piece of forgotten produce.
Being married to an Eco-Freak (the term used in utter endearment), I could easily jump on a bright-green bandwagon and say that all of this obsession and effort is underwritten with a true zeal for creating less waste, and for consuming fewer resources. And, truthfully, it’s a tiny little part of it. But the overriding factor is simply that I’m a cheapskate. I don’t want to pay for what our family doesn’t consume. After all, that money adds up, and could go to our retirement account. Or, that cute little set of plates from Urban Outfitters.
Last week, Tim and I separately heard a broadcast from BBC’s The World, and were both quite entertained by it. It was about a new approach to meat, sometimes called “nose-to-tail” cooking. You can listen to the podcast here, but it’s basically seen as the most ethical way to eat an animal; there’s no waste (of edible parts), so the animal’s life was not taken lightly. I’m not a huge animal-rights activist, but it makes sense to me. If I could just get past the part where you have to eat pig’s ears, feet, and cheeks.
I don’t know, though, it does prick my fascination with net-zero waste. If you’re reading this, and you still know me in 20 years, check back in and see what’s for dinner. I wouldn’t be surprised if it includes the slow-roasted extremity of a local farm animal, and if you dare to join us, you’ll hear all about it, from nose to tail.