Tonight, as I frequently do when trying to use up extra barbecue pulled pork from a dinner earlier in the week, I made barbecue pulled pork pizza. It was a tasty delight, as always. (I'm becoming more and more convinced of Dr. Andrew Weil's belief that "our homes should be the best places to eat"…which could be its own blog post.) In addition to the requisite slow-cooked pork, barbecue sauce, and mozzarella, I always add thinly sliced red onion and a generous dose of fresh cilantro. But no matter how much cilantro I use to top the pizza, I never come close to using the whole bunch. So while I wait for our garden's cilantro plant to grow enough to provide me just as much or as little as I need for a given recipe, I always encounter the same problem: a 3/4-full bunch of cilantro that I don't want to throw out but which takes up space in my vegetable crisper. Inevitably, I end up pitching it in the compost once it's sat long enough to become a washed-up, old maid-y version of its fresh, spicy self. But it's always a shame, as food waste necessarily is.
About now I bet I know what you're thinking: "Really? A few measly strands of cilantro and you're whining about the shame of food waste? What are you supposed to do? Make a cilantro sandwich? It's not like you're throwing out some perfectly good all-purpose food like bacon, you hippie!"
I used to think the same way. Who cares about a random perishable smidgeon of food you can barely make use of? The obvious, only reasonable thing to do is toss it--or if you really want green points, put it in your compost. But then last Christmas (yes, actually on Christmas Eve, not sure why) Anthony and I watched a powerful documentary called Dive. Incidentally, the film is *mostly* about dumpster diving, not something I necessarily recommend and have never had the guts to do, despite the fact that the stuff these people get from Trader Joe's looks incredible. Long story short, the movie chronicles not only the director's experiences with dumpster diving, but the reasons he does it: food waste in this country and around the world is shocking. Appalling. STAGGERING. According to Dive, something like 50% of the food supply in the United States either spoils or is discarded rather than consumed. And still every day in this country people go hungry. One of those just-doesn't-make-sense social problems.
Watching this movie really made an impact on me. Previously I had never cared much about conserving food. Really, in our culture of excess, do most people? The clean-your-plate-sonny-jim! attitude always seemed a relic of the Depression generation. If you don't want it, throw it out. You paid for it; it's yours to do with what you will. It doesn't matter; there will always be more. But since last December I have found myself much more attuned to my responsibility to my food, so to speak. If I dispose of perfectly good food, what does that action say? That I take God's provision so for granted that I can just chuck it? That I don't take my family's finances seriously enough to save the expense of eating out "just because" when I could have made something abundantly edible at home? I won't say I now wouldn't get takeout when all there is in the house is ketchup and a can of tuna, or that I save every jot and tittle of extra enchilada sauce, but I do give these daily decisions much more thought in the last ten months or so than ever before.
So tonight, as I was lamenting my cilantro bunch's progress to its grave, Anthony suggested I do something with it. Like what? I thought. Cilantro cookies? Cilantro chips? Then I remembered that our basil plant, the garden cilantro's overachieving older sister, has been calling me to make pesto with its plentiful leaves. While I haven't gotten around to that yet, it reminded me that pesto is one of those vague terms (like "splartch" or "glüg") of which there are endless variations. Guess what one of them is? Bingo: cilantro.
Cilantro pesto it is. In about 15 minutes, I was able to whip up this recipe: http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/browse-all-recipes/cilantro-pesto-10000000524120/index.html (with the addition of some parmesan, according to the classic cooking acronym CGWWC: Can't Go Wrong With Cheese). It gives us something to snack on with crackers over the next few days and just might make my Christmas party menu this year.
There are probably a million other things I continue to waste without even knowing it, but it does make me feel just a little better knowing that my doomed cilantro bunch met with none other than a gustatory end. And now I feel all fancy because I made a food as trendy as pesto. Fifteen minutes well spent.