I started this blog, as I said, to goad me into actually doing a little work, and it has worked somewhat. I haven’t been posting as much as I’d planned, but I have been getting through some of the photo scanning I’d been meaning to do. I’ve also been baking. In the last week or two I’ve baked a tart, a torte, and a batch of cupcakes.
The baking started with a party. My wife decided to make an angel food cake for this party. I also wanted to bake something for the party, so I figured the best plan would be to make something that would use up the egg yolks that would be left over from the angel food cake. I decided to make a lemon tart. When I started to make the tart, however, I realized that I had misread the recipe I had intended to use. The recipe called for whole eggs, not yolks. At that point, however, I was more or less committed to the tart. So I went ahead and made it anyway. And it was good. The angel food cake was also good. Our desserts were a hit at the party.
But I was still left with all the yolks. I found a recipe for a chocolate torte that used only yolks. And buttercream frosting: more yolks. Not quite all 12 yolks, but enough to not feel like I was letting too much go to waste. However, the torte did not need all of the buttercream, which I had made with a coffee flavor. So after we ate up all of the torte, I made a batch of cupcakes. Chocolate, of course. Cupcakes seemed like a good idea, because I could bring some of them to work and get my coworkers to eat them. One of the advantages of a day job is having coworkers who will consume your excess production.
I guess if you always bake stuff from mixes, you never have this sort of problem. No leftover ingredients. But I hate to waste food, or throw stuff away unused. Even when it’s gone way bad. There’s a couple of eggs in the fridge and some cream that’s gone off that I really need to toss, and I’ll feel bad doing it. I failed to find a use for it all.
I feel bad about food waste at restaurants. Every Saturday morning we go to a local diner for breakfast. Some of the breakfast specials they make are quite a lot of food, and pretty much every time we go, there are lot of people leaving a lot of food on their plates (remember, we often sit at the counter, where you can easily watch everything that goes on in the diner). To be fair, many people take the leftovers, and it’s impossible on a practical basis for a restaurant to design a standardized portion that’s going to be good for everyone. I gather that this is part of the appeal of places like the Cheesecake Factory: customers more or less plan on taking home leftovers.
And yet, there it is: food that’s grown, harvested, packaged, shipped, cooked, and thrown away. I don’t quite understand why. Do people feel comforted by the enormous portions that they aren’t going to eat? Would they feel cheated if the portions were smaller? I know a little bit about how the restaurant business works: portion planning and control are essential to keeping a restaurant profitable. So these places wouldn’t routinely produce a wasteful amount of food unless they believed that the large portions were actually part of what brought in customers.
I guess it could be worse: people could actually eat all that food, and be even fatter than they already are. Clearly, the market system is not producing a very efficient distribution of food: enormously excessive quantities of food are being pushed out toward some segments of the market, while others get not enough. Admittedly, it has always been this way, to some degree, throughout human history, but at what other time has obesity been such a widespread problem? At what other time have we seen significant numbers of children being diagnosed with Type II (“adult-onset”) diabetes?
I wouldn’t expect much help from the government here. Congress and the regulatory agencies are too friendly to the food producers. A very large portion of the grain produced in this country goes to cattle feed and the commercial food processors to make HFCS and hydrogenated fats, the “food plasma” that ends up in various shapes in brightly colored boxes on the supermarket shelves. It gets federal farm subsidies so that the resulting meat and plasma will be cheap for the consumer. Eliminating these subsidies would help balance the food mix better, but the farm-state representatives and lobbyists will never let it happen. So the government mandate to produce cheap food contributes directly to weight-related health problems.
Okay, hardly an original observation. Nor do I have a particular solution to offer for it. But if I can’t have a pointless rambling rant on a blog, where can I?
Gahh. I think I need a cupcake.